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The weather was warm and sunny today, the temperature reaching into the 80s. We decided to go out wander along the edge of the nearby American River. Although we were breaking confinement, we were sure we would not violate social distancing guidelines because usually there were not too many people wandering around there. We walked to our favorite spot on the riverbank. Along the way, Naida, as usual, instructed me on the local flora.

We sat on some dry grass and watched people on the opposite bank launch a boat and the birds taking off and landing on the water. Naida recited a part of a love poem that featured rabid cormorants. She also, for some reason, sung an old Sam Cooke tune:

Every day, along about evening
When the sunlight’s beginning to pale
I ride through the slumbering shadows
Along the Navajo Trail

 

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The American River by the Enchanted Forest.

 

Before she became an accomplished novelist, Naida obtained a Ph.D. in sociology. Her 1978 thesis was entitled Leadership, and Gender: A Comparative Analysis of Male and Female Leadership in Business, Politics, and Government. She had previously published a book on the early results of her study entitled, Leadership With A Feminine Cast. She interviewed for her book and thesis such people as Ivy Baker Priest US Treasurer in the Eisenhower Administration who famously quipped, “I’m often wrong, but never in Doubt”; Ruth Handler of Mattel fame; Jess Unruh the powerful leader of California’s Assembly and over 70 other well known civic and business leaders.

We spent much of the day reading sections from the thesis. It was fascinating for me to learn that an overwhelming majority of these leaders, most of whom were and still are household names, were the children of immigrants or, in the case of African Americans, had migrated from the South. Another consistent element in almost all of their lives was the presence of a strong mother. One female leader commented:

“My grandmother never wanted to come to the United States. She made my grandfather unhappy some of the time. For instance, she wanted to see the Panama Canal. So she left to see it. She said. “If all these kids can’t take care of him, something is wrong (fourteen children) My grandmother went off to more places than you can imagine in those days when traveling was difficult.”

 

What seemed to differ in the lives of the women leaders from the men, other than the resistance of the latter to the aspirations of the former, was that women generally worked harder to get where they were. As for management and leadership skills, the men mostly learned and honed their skills in the military and tended to manage their institutions in a hierarchical top-down manner. The women, on the other hand, generally tried to encourage a feeling of family in their organizations with her as the matriarch. In fact, the woman leaders overwhelmingly reveled in being considered different in how they dressed, behaved, and led.

(Note — because women leaders overwhelmingly were the children of immigrants Naida specifically choose male children of immigrant parents to balance it out. She said, in either case, women or children of immigrants [including people of color] had a more difficult time of it than white males [and they were aware of it])

Days have rolled on by with little to comment on other than that the days of our confinement have increased. We have begun losing track of the days of the week. We have been in self-quarantine for about 50 days now — almost 15% of the year.

Interesting — the retirement village not too far from the Enchanted Forest that has been actively promoting us to choose them when we inevitably decide it is time to enter an assisted living facility, called today and offered us a free dinner from the local restaurant of our choice delivered to our home this evening. We chose Zinfandel a somewhat expensive Italian-American restaurant that we enjoy eating at.

In the afternoon, I drove up into the Golden Hills to see Hayden. I arrived just as he returned with SWAC from buying flowers for planting around the house. I put on my mask and rubber gloves and kept my social distance as he proudly showed me what they had been planting these past few days. In the side yard, they had planted about eight trees — a Japanese Maple, an orange tree, a lemon tree, apricot and peach trees, pomegranate, and some Thai fruit trees. I do not know how well some of these trees will do in that environment.

The front yard, actually a slope from the garage up to the road, has been planted with many flowers and an olive tree. On a bare area between two massive redwood trees next to the driveway had been used for burying pets — Pepe and Pesca the two Bichons, a crayfish, a couple of lizards, a tiny snake and a large goldfish named Sharky — they planted few clumps of flowers on that hallowed ground.

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I then returned home.

Shortly after my arrival, our free dinner that I had been eagerly anticipating arrived. It was a hamburger for me and chicken tacos for Naida. I was disappointed and pissed. What’s worse, the meat looked and tasted like it came in a can.

This afternoon we took Boo-boo the Barking Dog on a long walk through the Enchanted Forest. It was sunny and warm, in the upper 70s. We tried to find paths we had never walked before and we did. At one point we found ourselves by the lake and sat there awhile enjoying the view.
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Land Park is a large park in Sacramento. The Sacramento Zoo is located there. According to Naida, the developer of the area originally created it as an amenity for his real estate development. He went on to be elected mayor of the city.

We decided to visit it today, taking all the care necessary to avoid breaching social-distancing guidelines. Equipped with masks and rubber gloves we walked around a lake and through the rock garden.

The story about the rock garden: In the late 1930s a woman began planting the garden in the public park. The city did nothing to stop her. They even gave her an award for her efforts. After she died, the garden she worked so hard on was taken over by the city. I do not know if any of this is true, but history is a story and if the story is good enough then it is good enough. As Pratchett writes, “We make up our world according to the stories that we tell ourselves, and each other, about it.” (Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.)

For the next few days, the weather hovered in the mid-80s. Sunny with a slight breeze. I placed a folding camp chair in a spot of shade in the back yard and spent much of the afternoon dozing with the dog lying at my feet and now and then typing things like I am doing now. I wonder why lazing away outdoors in sunny weather is so pleasant and not boring at all, while sitting indoors often feels tedious and uncomfortable. Perhaps Peter knows. He understands things like this. I consider him a master keeper of obscure and unconventional notions.

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I think I will go up to bed. Napping also is neither boring nor unpleasant.

That night after I got up, we watched The Sunshine Boys for perhaps the fifth or sixth time in the last month. I did not want to. I thought of going back to bed. I couldn’t. I love that movie. One could say I liked it because of the timing between the actors, the directing, Neil Simon’s script, seeing Gorge Burn’s again on the screen, or Matthau tearing up the scenery. No, I liked it because it was about old guys. Also, because once, at a Coastal Commission meeting, I was mistaken by the press for Walter Matthau. I would have preferred being mistaken for Rock Hudson.

Last night, I had a dream. No not a dream about freedom from four centuries of oppression. Instead, I was riding the bus. I do not know where that bus was or where it was going, but something about it made me think it was somewhere in San Francisco. I was sitting as usual in one of the reserved for seniors and handicapped seats that are generally filled by 20 somethings or the mentally ill. Anyway, the bus was full of men — stuffed full. They started hassling and ultimately punching me. Eventually, I fought back, swinging my cane and discovered they were all ghosts because when struck they each disappeared in a puff of smoke — except for four big heavyset men. They were real and, hopeless as it may have seemed, I waded in, punching them with all my might only to wake up and discover I was punching Naida. Having experienced this before, she knew enough to avoid my punches and calm me down until I fell back to sleep.

The next morning I felt physically, mentally and emotionally like dog shit so after breakfast and a bit of news about our Commander in Chief recommending we shoot up with Clorox to cure us of the plague and stop us from criticizing him, I drove into the Golden Hills to visit HRM in hope that it would cheer me up. Donning my mask and gloves, I met him and Jake in front of the house and accompanied them on a walk through their most recent plantings at the back. Haden now has a bedroom on the bottom floor with a large deck extending into the backyard. He has festooned his deck with flowering plants everywhere, hanging from the rafters, on the floor, and in the backyard. He has included a large wisteria bush that he plans to train to extend onto the deck.

The next day or perhaps the day after, we packed some soft drinks, a box of Fig Newtons, some coffee and Boo-boo the Barking Dog into the car, and set off for a ghost town on the banks of the Mokelumne River Naida had visited a few years ago. We drove through the Gold Country on Route 49, until we came to the turnoff to the town. Alas, the road was closed. “Let’s walk” I suggested. “How far can it be?”

So we parked the car and set off. The walk started out delightfully. The route ran along the banks of the river that snaked through the foothills of the Sierras. California Poppies, Lupine, and many other spring wildflowers covered the hills. A blue oak and Digger pine forest grew along the banks of the river.

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The Mokelumne River through arches of blue oak.

 

 

The town we were heading to was originally built to house the workers building a hydroelectric project on the river. Now and then small groups of hikers passed us along the road some of them looked like they had been bathing in the river. As the walk lengthened, I began to grow tired. I asked a group of young men coming down the path how far it was. “Not far,” they responded. Of course, “Not far,” for some 20-year-olds and “Not far,” for an eighty-year-old are two entirely different concepts.
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My plan was to walk as far as I could. Not too far (80-year-old far) from where we passed the young men, I had reached my limit and sat, exhausted, in some shade at the side of the road. I realized my plan to only walk as far as I could was flawed. I still had to walk back.

Naida, being healthier and more athletic than I, felt no such fatigue. Nonetheless, She agreed we should head back. And so we did. I walked from shadow to shadow and collapsed at just about everyone we came to. At one point I considered keeling over and forcing Naida to call for an ambulance.

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Naida discovered an unusual poppy along the way.

 

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She also found some bush lupine growing by the road.

 

 

Once we left the path to walk a few steps to the river so the dog could get a drink. (Did I fail to mention that despite bringing copious amounts of water and juice and Fig Newtons along, we left them all back in the car) While the dog was drinking his fill, a big black snake with golden stripes slithered out from under some detritus just after they passed. I thought it might be the California version of the east-coast deadly coral snake except 10 times larger. Not being much of a woodsman, I did the only thing I could think of. I screamed. “What’s the matter?” Naida responded. “A big snake,” said I. “What color?” she inquired. The snake had disappeared into the grass by now. “Yellow with black stripes,” I said. “Oh, no problem, they eat baby rattlesnakes” she explained. Not knowing if that made me feel any better, we slowly and for me agonizingly made our way back to the car without further mishap except for me almost stepping on an evil-looking thing that Naida said was an alligator lizard that she said grew much larger than the specimen I almost stepped on.
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Just after taking this photo, the snake appeared from beneath some fallen piece of bark at the foot of the tree.

 

 

(In case you wonder about my relationship with the natural environment, I am a city boy. As Neuwirth said, “We get nose bleeds if our feet are not touching cement.” We may love the wonders of nature but still prefer to sleep in our beds at night. We like the wonder better than the feeling of nature on our skin. That is why for some of us, our knowledge may be deficient but the wonder never dies. Sort of like, believing in God is a lot more pleasant than actually meeting the bearded old bastard.)

Back at the car, we drank copious amounts of water. Naida drove us back while I dozed and recovered. Back home we discovered the Fig Newtons were missing. We had not eaten any. We suspected the culprit was Boo-boo the Barking Dog, but we could find no evidence. (He is a very sloppy eater.) Perhaps it was the alligator lizard.

The next day, fully recovered from my adventure, I set off for SF for some CT scans. Traffic was so light, I was able to get back by early afternoon in time for lunch. After lunch, I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting and dozing on a chair in the back yard. I one point, Naida woke me from my reverie to inform me that she had just discovered a nest of black widow spiders in a cranny in the wall near where I had been resting.

That evening we watched every episode of Ricky Gervais’ network series After Life. It was great. One of the best things I have seen in a long long while. It was about a man with deep unrelieved depression and a group of extremely odd but often engaging characters with whom he was involved. It resonated with me. It seemed to say a life of pathological depression is livable and amusing. See it you’ll like it.

Finally, this morning I awoke, the room was dark, Naida’s body was pressed against my back. “It must be early,” I thought. Boo-boo the Barking Dog had not yet barked his wake up bark. I turned over to give Naida a hug and as I did so I heard a low growl. It was the dog in my arms. I looked up at the clock it was almost noon and the shutters on the window were still closed.

Later the doctor called about the results of the CT scan he said cancer in my neck has not grown but a nodule in my chest had thickened and he will be speaking with the surgeon about removing it.
That was how my day began today. I wonder how the rest of it will play out…

And, that was my past week or two of self-confinement. How was yours?

Take care.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

Naida dropped me off at the train station Wednesday morning. I boarded the train to San Francisco to spend the night at Peter and Barrie’s house. Tomorrow I am scheduled, as I am every three weeks, to go to UCSF in Mission Bay for my immunotherapy treatment.

After arriving in downtown SF, I took MUNI to Noe Valley where I met Peter for coffee at Bernie’s. It was unusually warm for the City by the Bay, in the mid-seventies, so we sat outside on the Geezers bench. We had a long and interesting conversation, nothing of which I remember.

Later, Jason, Hiromi, and Amanda joined us at the house for another one of Barrie’s great dinners. It had been Amanda’s fifteenth birthday last week and I had bought her three designer silk scarves as a present. Anthony then arrived. We talked and ate and took photographs until they all left after which Peter and Barrie retired and I spent a few minutes on the computer before I also went to bed.

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Amanda tries on here new scarves.

 

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Jason, Pookie, Amanda, and Peter.

 

The next day, Peter dropped me off at the hospital in Mission Bay where I was scheduled for my immunotherapy infusion. The treatment went off without a hitch. After, I boarded the train back to Sacramento and had a good night’s sleep.

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Suisun Marsh from the train.

 

 

B. OFF TO THE GOLDEN HILLS FOR LUNCH WITH HRM.

The following day, I drove into the Golden Hills and picked up HRM at the skatepark after school. We drove into Folsom to have lunch at KFC/A&W. Hayden wanted to try the new fried chicken with donuts he had heard about somewhere. It seems odd to me that the youth of today follow the developments in the fast-food industry with all the passion that people of another age (mine) followed the awarding of Michelin stars to restaurants. I had a hotdog and a rootbeer float and he ordered the fried chicken with glazed donuts

After lunch, we drove to the nearby T-mobile store where they fixed my phone problems. I dropped H at Dicks’s house and returned home to the Enchanted Forest. Naida and I watched East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. They have not aged well.

 

 

C. HOME AGAIN HOME AGAIN HOME AGAIN JIGITY JIG:

I spent Saturday avoiding things. Specifically not doing anything about registering the Mitsubishi. I think if I procrastinate enough it will resolve itself.

While doodling around between watching The Graduate for the umpteenth time, following the results of the SC primary, and surfing the internet, I came across an interesting site, Art Odyssey. It’s a site containing works of hundreds of interesting artists worldwide. After spending an hour or two rummaging through the site, I decided to add a new section to T&T to be called unsurprisingly Art Odyssey (see below).

The next two days passed by like a whisper in a thunderstorm.

This evening Naida and I went to Zocalo’s for dinner. After dinner, we walked a few stores down from the restaurant to shop for the week’s groceries. On the way there Naida suddenly became weak and faint. I suggested taking her to the emergency room but she refused. She insisted on sitting in the car to rest while I did the shopping. When I returned, she had the seat-back down and was barely conscious. She still refused my insistence that we go to the hospital. When we got home she was hardly able to stand up. I helped her out of the car and up the stairs and put her to bed. I now sit here typing this and being very worried about her.

At about 10:30 Naida returned downstairs to the studio apparently having weathered whatever ailed her and feeling much better. I am relieved.

Today is election day and for some reason, I woke up on the positive side of deliriously happy. I felt like a character in those 1940-50 screwball comedies full of happiness without reason. Like despair, irrational joy is a form of short term mental illness. In my advanced age, I have learned that if I just wait awhile feelings of either happiness and despair will pass to be replaced by the usual boredom and minor physical ailments that existence imposes on us. It could be worse. Imagine being inflicted with ceaseless giddiness or eternal gloominess.

Although I had already voted by mail, Naida had not, so along with Boo-boo the Barking Dog, we set off walking through the Enchanted Forest to the community center where the HOC had set up a polling station.

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Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I on our way to the voting place in the Enchanted Forest.

 
The weather was warm, and the trees in bloom. Naida voted, Boo-boo barked, and I shuffled along.

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The trees in bloom on the street where we live.

 
That night we watched the returns from the Super Tuesday Democratic primaries. It seems that Biden has done surprisingly well and Sanders not so much. Warren, who was my choice, did not do well at all. Oh well, like after the recent Super Bowl, I will put myself to bed and sleep off my disappointment. After all, tomorrow is another day, and with it another round of grief and joy to mitigate the barren stretches of life.

What happened during the rest of the week? Time passes too quickly for the aged and the decrepit to fully enjoy the leisure that society imposes on us. I commit to doing more next week, meanwhile, I get back to TCM and pass the remainder of the day with the Academy Award films of the 1960s and 70s.

Saturday, the rains came in meager drops and mist. We attended the Saturday Morning Coffee as we usually do. Nothing to report there except that during the get-together Frank called from Florida to let me know he expects to be in California in April. After the Coffee, we took off with Boo-boo the Barking Dog and drove into the Golden Hills to bring Hayden his birthday presents. We arrived at the house and proceeded down into the Teenage Cave where Hayden, Jake, Kaleb, and Ethan were assembled for their usual Saturday gathering of the gang. After opening the birthday presents we brought him, we all piled into the car and drove to McDonald’s for lunch. Following lunch, we dropped the boys off at Kaleb’s home and returned home. That evening we watched among other movies an excellent noir mystery called The Pink Pony starring Robert Montgomery followed by a Miss Marple movie entitled Murder She Said.

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A photograph of the early spring flowers in our backyard with the dog pooping on the lawn.

 
Sunday passed with little to say for itself. Monday arrived. Naida and I set off for the DMV in order to finally register the Mitsubishi. After four hours, we were successful and went on to the Tower Restaurant to celebrate. Later, after returning home, we walked with Boo-boo the Barking Dog to where the Mitsubishi was parked, placed the sticker on the license plate, and went for a celebratory drive through the Enchanted Forest. Now that the car is legal, Naida would like to sell it. So, if you or someone you know wants to buy a 1991  sports car please let us know.

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Late last night, somewhere in the Enchanted Forest, two 80 years olds stark naked and in love danced.

The Azaleas in front of our home are blooming now. The time of the Camellias is passing. So has the time of this post. It seems to be going on far too long.

Take care.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

Well, with the reality show that was the SOTU, the tragic comedy of the Senate Republican’s acquittal of He Who is Not My President and the unending melodrama of the Iowa caucus behind me, I decided I had enough entertainment overload for a while and set off to the Big Endive by the Bay and the peace of my immunotherapy infusion.

We traveled by train and arrived at Peter and Barrie’s home in the late afternoon. We spent a delightful evening together. Barrie cooked her usual wonderful meal after which we spent hours telling stories. Most of the stories that evening were about travel — Peter and Barrie’s time in India and my experiences in Israel. I told about the wonders of the old city of Jerusalem, of my friendship with the Bethlehem Muslim antiquities dealer who had purchased the original Dead Sea Scrolls from the Arab tribesmen that discovered them. I also spoke about the mysteries of Masada, Qumran, and the Negev. We also swapped tales of Paris (We’ll always have Paris) with a side trip to Bordeaux, and Rome ( The Eternal City) and its environs.

The next day Peter drove Naida and me to UCSF for my immunotherapy infusion. After the appointment, we went to the Mission Rock Cafe for lunch. Mission Rock, located on the shore of the Bay a few blocks from the hospital at Mission Bay, was a favorite dive during Counter Culture times. It has now been converted to a somewhat upscale restaurant. After a reasonably good meal, we left and returned by train to the Enchanted Forest.

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Naida at Mission Rock Resort Pondering the Menu.

 

 

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Pookie by the Salesforce Tower.

 

 

 

B. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 
The next day, I drove the Mitsubishi into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM from school and to fetched this month’s medicines from the pharmacy. The sun was shining and the weather pleasant, in the upper-sixties. Hayden and I had lunch at Subway’s and he once again impressed me with how rapidly he is becoming an adult.

I am distressed at the state of my memory. Throughout the day, my mind is bubbling with ideas about what I would like to write here in T&T, but when I sit at my computer to actually write, nada, nothing. We did watch “The Irishman” on Netflix last night — vintage Scorsese. It was a story about two bygone eras. The first described the power and decline of the Italian Mafia. The second seemed to me to celebrate the end of the Actor’s Studio’s influence on movies and theater as DeNiro, Pacino, Scorsese, Keitel, and Pesci (Pesci was not Actors Studio trained, but may as well have been) flaunting their ancient acting chops across the big screen. We will not see their like again.
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Today, Saturday, we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee once again. We met a woman who taught photography in Sacramento and Florence, Italy. Earlier in her life, she attended a two-week photographic safari in Montana. She volunteered to cook because the existing cook’s cooking was despised by the campers who had paid good money for the trip. She worked for the company for many years. Later, in Italy, she opened a bread bakery of some sort in Spoleto. We spoke about photography for a while. I gave her my view of aesthetics and art, “You do the best with whatever you got unless you have got to make a living out of it. Then you do whatever sells.”

Later I took H, Jake, and Ethan out for lunch at the Relish House in the Golden Hills. We ate hamburgers with complex toppings and talked about things of interest to teenagers, cars mostly.

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Ethan, Hayden, and Jake

 
Still later, back in the Enchanted Forest, Naida collected some camellias. Some were placed in a shallow bowl to float on the water. Others were used for adornment.
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Naida of the Camellias.

 

 

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On Tuesday, we were visited by Lillian Valee a friend of Naida’s, a fellow author, a poet, and a renowned translator of things Polish. She had been the student assistant to Czeslaw Milosz, a Polish writer, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for literature (poetry). She had assisted Milosz in translating his book Bells of Winter and other writings into English. Her book, Rivers of Birds, Forests of Tule is a marvelous collection of her columns written for the local museum publication describing the history of the flora and fauna of the Central Valley around the Mukouleme River and Modesto.

We walked the few steps from the Enchanted Forest to the banks of the American River. There we sat on a log for a while and watched evening drift down upon us. Naida and Lillian spoke of things literary while I threw stones into the water and petted Boo-boo the Barking Dog who lay dozing at my feet dreaming dog things.

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The American River at Winter’s End.

 

img_7905Naida West(http://www.bridgehousebooks.com/) and Lillian Vallee sitting on the banks of the American River discussing things literary while Boo-boo the Barking Dog enjoys the late afternoon sun.

 

 

IMG_7892 - Version 2Lillian and Naida. 

 
The next day we had a pleasant breakfast and discussed, Modesto, Eugene O’Neal, cooking, family, things Polish, Naida’s early life, native Americans, and a lot more. I eventually left Naida and Lillian to their chitchat at the breakfast table and with Boo-boo the Barking Dog in tow retreated to the study where I wrote this while Boo-boo napped. For some reason, I felt ill, chilled. I put myself to bed and slept for a few hours. When I had awakened, Lillian had already left to return to her home in Modesto.

Tomorrow, people will be coming to put in new flooring for the house. While moving some things around in preparation, Naida opened and old chest. In it was some of the clothing her great-great-grandmother had worn when she arrived in America in the 1840s almost 180 years ago. She decided to do dress up.

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Naida as the well-dressed Scottish immigrant of the 1840s.

 

 

IMG_7921A more formal version.

 

 
After watching a silly movie featuring a classical pianist, a singer and an all harmonica band, we went to bed. Not a bad day at all. I have had far worse.

Today the workers arrived at 8AM and immediately began tearing up the floors in the house in order to put in new floors and carpet. The racket and confusion of activity drove the three of us from the house like refugees from war — homeless and looking for refuge. We ended at Naida’s daughter’s house, sat on the back porch, drank some tea and talked, and talked. The dogs, (Sarah’s two and our one) played frenetically throughout the yard and upon the tool shed. Eventually, we all left except for Sarah’s two dogs, Sarah back to work and Naida, Boo-boo the Barking dog and I, returned home, navigated the noise, mess and apologies and ran upstairs to change for this afternoon’s Happy Hour with the members of the Saturday Mornings Coffee Group at someplace called Clubhouse 56 because it happens to be located on 56th Street in Sacramento. We drank a few Margarita’s. I ate a Hot Dog. We talked with a lot of people but I remember nothing about what we may have talked about. I did talk with Winnie. We compared maladies as we usually do when we meet. Her’s seemed much more distressing than mine.

We returned home after the workers left, made our way through the detritus and materials left behind pending the workers’ return tomorrow and up to the bedroom on the second floor. The floor installers had not yet attacked that floor. We crawled into bed.

Oh, I remember one other thing about the day. The Good/Bad David called from South Dakota to tell me that the temperature there reached one degree Fahrenheit today. I mentioned it was about 70 here in the Enchanted Forest. I invited him down to enjoy some California weather. He said he would think about it as soon as he finishes doing something or other with the cows or something like that.

It is Valentine’s Day. The house is in shambles as various teams of workmen continue tearing up the floor and hammering down new flooring. Naida and I have fled to the studio room to escape the noise of the tools and the Serbian, Chinese, and Mexican shouts of the workers as they lay down the floor. Happy Valentine’s Day to you too.

On Saturday the clattering of the workmen as they put down the carpets upstairs continued. Naida sentenced me to the big recliner in the living room while she cleaned out the studio before they began working in there. In rejecting my assistance, Naida said that there were a lot of personal papers and things lying around she wanted to go through. So Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I happily dozed in the recliner while everyone else worked.

Sunday, I drove into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM and Jake and bring them to The Enchanted Forest to help me move some furniture around the house. After completing that chore we went for lunch at a small family-owned Arabic restaurant. The food was surprisingly good.

After a few days of which I remember very little, Naida and I took Boo-boo the Barking Dog to the dog park. While there, some dog pissed on my cane.

It is now Wednesday evening, Naida and I are watching the Democratic Presidential Nomination debate on MSNBC. We sit here talking to the TV set like we were watching a football game. I hate the moderators. They seem more interested in pushing their personal agenda and gotcha games than in encouraging a debate. How about a question like “how do you propose to defeat Trump?” Or, “how is your position on ______ different from that of the present administration?” Nevertheless, there is a lot of shouting, self-justification, and a few apologies. Overall it is enjoyable, like watching a street fight.

It is now Friday evening, things have happened in the past two days have disappeared through the holes in my memory. Tomorrow is another day.

Another Saturday morning at the coffee in the Nepenthe Club House. Winnie’s husband Paul and I have a long talk together. He had been an accomplished architect in Los Angeles until he was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Wanting to spend the last few years in an idyllic setting, he along with Winnie moved to Salmon Idaho. Their house, designed by Paul, sat in a pretty little valley a few miles north of the town. A portion of the Lewis and Clark Trail crossed their property. Close by the Middle Fork of the Salmon River rushes by their home. It is the location of the book Murder On The North Fork written by Naida’s uncle who used to be the Methodist minister in the town. Naida had helped her uncle to write the book, edited and published it. The book told the true story of a murder that occurred in the area about 100 years ago.

Sunday was a day of rest and rest we did.
Tomorrow I leave for the Big Endive by the Bay for my immunotherapy treatment. Today, during our walk around the Enchanted Forest, I noticed the ornamental fruit trees were in bloom — the Japanese cherry trees a brazen pink and the whites and reds of the others bursting out here and there along with the camellias adding the blush of color to the lingering shades of winter. I expect, by the time I return from the Big Endive, our back yard will be a riot of spring colors.

Until then, take care of yourselves.

“Crivens”

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A. CHRISTMAS:

 

Christmas morning arrived dark and dank in the Enchanted Forest. Last evening, under a crystal clear sky, we attended a Christmas party at Naida’s daughter’s home in Land Park. It was fun. We sang Christmas carols, ate Chinese food, and opened presents. For a present, I got a throw blanket to remind me how old I am while keeping me warm in the evenings watching old movies on TCM and sipping egg-nog laced with brandy. I also received a book by Donald Hall entitled A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety also to remind me how old I am becoming. The book contains a series of short essays by the author, who also used to be the nation’s Poet Laureate, about how it feels to be ninety and still alive, the famous and not so famous people he has met, and his sometimes trenchant thoughts on various unconnected things. To quote the author on the nature and tenor of his opinions, “Why should the nonagenarian hold anything back?” I loved the book.

Today we drove into the golden hills to give HRM and Dick (or as we refer to him Uncle Mask) their Christmas presents. When we arrived, we learned they were both down with the flu. Hayden was nestled in bed in his teen cave. I went downstairs and gave him his Christmas presents, eight 5 by 7 wood-backed photographs of him and me over the years, also a pocket all-purpose tool, all separately wrapped. He unwrapped them one and a time and thanked me profusely after exposing each one.

Leaving him to ponder the meaning and significance of my presents and wrestle with the physical and psychological miseries of being sick on Christmas Day, I returned upstairs to find Naida and Uncle Mask in the kitchen making coffee laced with Kailua. For the next 3 or 4 hours, we sat around the table and discussed ancient Native-American society, the origin of bees, turkeys and grapes in California, petroleum development, coastal regulation, Willie Brown and related subjects. About halfway through our round-table discussion, Hayden, having resolved whatever quandaries I had left with him and suddenly cured of his maladies, emerged from his sickbed and told us he was off to the skatepark. The skatepark I concluded must be a miracle remedy that can cure certain adolescents of whatever psychological, physical, or existential issues they may have to wrestle with during that brief and certainly not beloved few years of raging hormones before recognition sets in as to how bad life can really get.

Eventually, Naida and I returned to the Enchanted Forest and watched a thoroughly silly movie starring William Powell and a far too young Debbie Reynolds. I wrapped myself warmly in my throw. It was warm. I was happy.

 

B. BOXING DAY:

 

(“In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect ‘Christmas boxes’ of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year… This custom is linked to an older British tradition where the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families since they would have to serve their masters on Christmas Day. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.” [WIKIPEDIA])

 

Boxing Day (or if you will St. Stephen Protomartyr Day or the first day of Kwanzaa) broke, as our mornings usually do, with Boo-boo the Barking Dog, our reliable alarm clock, barking. Every morning at 9AM he begins at the upstairs window then running as though his fur was on fire down the stairs, high pitched almost hysterical barking following, to the living room window for a few moments then to the sliding glass doors by the garden and finally back again to the upstairs window where he then sits quietly and, it seems to me, smugly waiting to see if one of us responds and lets him out for his morning pee and breakfast. If not, he leaps onto the bed pawing at Naida’s arm until she gets up and staggers down the stairs to do his bidding.

Thus, unless we wake up at 7:30 or 8:00 this leaves little time for shagging. For those who wonder about shagging over 80 be advised while perhaps the more athletic positions are a dim memory, we decrepits remain quite able, at times, to enjoy all the pleasures of that activity with little of the self-consciousness of youth.

This morning, for my viewing pleasure, Naida provided me with a brief fashion show of the tennis outfits she had received as Christmas presents from her daughters. After this, she presented me with a nice cup of cocoa.

Later we went shopping for pants for me — a belated Christmas present. All this excitement so exhausted us we went to bed at 8PM. St. Stephen Protomartyr would be proud.

 

C. SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST DAY OR FOR THOSE NOT OF A RELIGIOUS BENT YOU MAY CHOOSE TO CELEBRATE ONE DAY OF THE FEAST OF THE WINTER VEIL OR LIFE DAY (THE WOOKIE CELEBRATION OF LIFE) OR NOTHING AT ALL AND JUST CHILL OUT.

 

What was different this morning than all other mornings? This morning Boo-boo the barking dog did not bark. I woke up alone in bed. Naida and the dog had slipped out of the room without a sound and were enjoying an early breakfast together in the downstairs studio.

The only thing that happened today that may be of interest to Johnny the Saint or Chewbacca the Wookie is that I learned that today’s adolescents are experts in the gastronomical merits of various fast food joints.

 

D. HOLY INNOCENTS DAY:

 

(“On this day it is custom to give the youngest child in the household the power to rule the day. From what to eat, where to go and what to do, the youngest is in charge. In Mexico, it is a day for children to play practical jokes and pranks on their elders.” National Day Calendar.)

 

Today also happens to be National Download Day. I do not know what that means. It is also Saturday, the day of the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House here in the Enchanted Forest. Alas, we missed it. Naida was having a long, long conversation on the phone with someone, so I decided to make my breakfast and write this.

I did nothing the rest of the day — not anything notable, nothing, not even a nap. Nothing is hard to do. Try it sometime. We did walk the dog this evening, however.

 

E. TODAY, DECEMBER 29, I HAVE LEARNED IS: BARBIE DOLL’S BIRTHDAY, SECRETS DAY, SENDING SHORT MESSAGES TO UNKNOWN NUMBERS DAY, INTERNATIONAL NUTCASE DAY, AND, SPARKLER DAY.

 

(Note: I can find no reference on the internet for any of these days. I did find a site that indicated that this was, Still Need To Do Day. [I thought that was every day.] If one were really interested, one could check the Catholic Saints Calendar and find about 50 saints whose celebrations are listed for this day including Albert of Gambron, Trophimus of Arles and Ebrulf of Ouche [Ouch?] Ouche is a river in the Cote-d’Or in France.)

 

At about 11 AM today I set off for Peter and Barrie’s home in The Big Endive By The Bay to spend the night before my appointment at UCSF for my treatment. Naida stayed home to work on Volume II of her memoir and attend to the needs of the dog.

That evening Jason, Hiromi, and Amanda joined Peter, Barrie and I for dinner. Barrie prepared a delicious shrimp and Polenta dish for dinner. Unfortunately, she added jalapeño peppers making it too hot and spicy for me to eat, so I contented myself with a banana, a pear, a Japanese yam and a slice of coconut pie. I was happy and sept well.

 

F. DECEMBER 30, NATIONAL BACON DAY:

 

(It is also National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, Falling Needles Family Fest Day and the last day of Hanukkah. Or, if you would prefer you can celebrate the feast day of Saint Raynerius of Aquila Bishop of Forconium (modern Aquila), Abruzzi region, Italy who was noted for his excellent administrative skills, but little else. Does this make him the patron saint of bureaucrats?)

In the morning, I drove to Mission Bay for some CT scans, meetings with the doctor and my infusion. As I walked through the newly built areas of Mission Bay, I could not help feeling like I was participating in a movie about a dystopian world of the future. I strolled through long narrow public spaces with monolithic facades rising on each side. The view of the new development along the shoreline with their bulges and sharp edges looked like cartoon renderings of the city of the future. Unlike most cities, there were fewer people drifting along with you as you walk down the streets and sidewalks. Instead, they seemed to pop in and out of various doors of the buildings as you walk by. There was a small market at the edge of the bay where shaggy Dead Heads sold their wares, mostly dope paraphernalia. Strange tents filled a few spaces that appeared to have been intended to be parks. One seemed to require playing a round of miniature golf before shopping in the tents for something to eat. Odd I see.

My meeting with the doctor went well — no evidence of the cancer spreading.

After my infusion, I met my grandson Anthony. We walked to The Ramp one of the two old hippy hang-outs that still cling to the edge of the Bay. Today they are filled with somewhat less colorful patrons. We sat outdoors and enjoyed the view of the bay, boats and the old shipyard that included a large tanker under repair.
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I then set off for the Enchanted Forest and ran into a traffic jam as soon as I crossed the Bay Bridge in Emeryville. I heard on the car radio the entire freeway had been closed in Vallejo for a “police action” and drivers were advised to find alternative routes. I took 680 and eventually arrived home three hours later. There were no news reports that evening about what the “police action” was all about.

 

G. HOGMANAY AND NEW YEAR’S EVE.

 

On New Year’s Eve, we attended a party at the Nepenthe Club House. It was scheduled to end at nine PM when the ball was dropped on Times Square in New York. It was planned like this so that we decrepits could get home at a decent hour. Even so, most of the people had left long before the Times Square ball did its thing. We stayed to the bitter end, however. At some point, we danced. A relatively young woman insisted I dance with her. Later at home, Naida told me that the woman was trying to seduce me. I had not noticed. I thought she was just tipsy. Anyway, I was pleased to learn that.

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H. NEW YEAR’S DAY, AND ST. ZYGMUNT GORAZDOWSKI DAY.

 

I did nothing at all today. I took a long nap in the afternoon. Watched a bit of television. Perhaps I was resting up from 2019 and getting ready to tackle 2010 — then again perhaps not.

 

I. NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY, NATIONAL PERSONAL TRAINER AWARENESS DAY, ST. BASIL THE GREAT DAY, ST. BLIDULF DAY AND ST. CASPAR DEL BUFALO DAY.

 

This morning broke sunny and relatively warm for this time of year. The arrival of the garbage trucks and the leaf blowers drove Boo-boo the Barking Dog into paroxysms of hysterical barking and sent him running like crazy throughout the house.

Determined to approach the new year with greater vigor and determination than I evidenced yesterday, and to escape the unholy racket both inside the house as well as my realization that we were out of my beloved English Muffins, I left the house and strode vigorously and purposefully through the Enchanted Forest to where I had parked the car. I drove to the nearest shopping center where I stopped at Starbucks for breakfast after which I went to Safeway to buy the English Muffins, a few other necessities (e.g., frozen ravioli and several bars of dark chocolate with sea salt) and a bouquet of flowers for Naida. I then returned home with a sense of accomplishment that I was convinced equipped me to successfully face whatever the current year throws my way.

I put the groceries away and went upstairs for a nap. I had enough vigor and determination for the day.

 

J. TODAY JANUARY 3 IS 10TH OF THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. IT IS ALSO THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS AS WELL AS OF KURIAKOSE ELIAS CHAVARA IN THE SYRO-MALABAR CATHOLIC CHURCH.

 

On the 10th day of Christmas, I picked up Hayden, Kaleb, and their snowboards and drove them to Northstar near Lake Tahoe for a day of caroming down the snow-covered slopes. It was a sunny and surprisingly warm day, about 50 degrees. After we arrived, the boys set off for the slopes and I set about seeking amusement in the pseudo-alpine village at their base.

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Ready to hit the slopes.

 

I was hungry so before beginning my exploration I searched for someplace to eat. I found a modest place where I ate a breakfast of pancakes that cost as though they were made of gold and tasted like it also. I then wandered about and ran into Jake and his family. They were leaving because Jake’s friend from Arizona, Kaden, had fractured his arm snowboarding yesterday. Jake’s mom said the emergency room when she visited yesterday looked more like the results of a terrorist strike than a room full of holiday vacationers. Skiing seems to be a hazardous duty for recreation seekers.

I then found a Starbucks where surprisingly I was given a free cup of coffee. I took my free coffee over to a seat by a window and watched the crowds strolling by while slowly sipping my drink. This was not my first cup of coffee that morning. I had consumed enough coffee that morning that I amused myself by contemplating the possibility of dying here of caffeine poisoning.

After a while, I left and strolled through the faux village and inspected the wares in a few shops. Tiring of this, I sat on an upholstered bench by a fire pit near the skating rink. I watched the skaters, some gliding by and others whose by was something less than gliding. I also listened to a female twosome singing western tunes on the stage next to the rink.

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Just as I was about to drift off into a mindless reverie, HRM called to say that they had finished snowboarding and were waiting for me nearby. I found them and we were soon heading off for home.

K. TODAY WE CELEBRATE THE DAY OF THE FALLEN AGAINST THE COLONIAL REPRESSION (ANGOLA), DAY OF THE MARTYRS (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO), HWINUKAN MUKEE (OKINAWA ISLANDS, JAPAN), OGONI DAY (MOVEMENT FOR THE SURVIVAL OF THE OGONI PEOPLE), AND WORLD BRAILLE DAY.

 

 

It is Saturday today and Naida and I attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Clubhouse. It went as usual and I paid little attention, drifting off into a semi-dream state while the others talked. Winnie sat down beside me. We discussed the state or our health. She observed that I needed a haircut and recommended the stylist she uses. She then invited me to join her and a few of the girls for a drink after the meeting.  I declined. Naida and I returned home and vegetated for the rest of the day. We did not celebrate those who had fallen opposing colonial oppression in Angola. But I did think about them. I, however, did not think very much about the martyrs or the Ogoni I am afraid.

 

L. TODAY IS THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS AND THE TWELFTH NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS, NATIONAL BIRD DAY, AND HARBIN INTERNATIONAL ICE AND SNOW SCULPTURE FESTIVAL (HARBIN, CHINA).

 

The Twelfth Day of Christmas arrived in the Enchanted Forest as bright as springtime. After breakfast, I felt the need — an itch — to do something, anything, even to just take a walk. And so I did. I hooked up Boo-boo to his leash and set off. It wasn’t much of a walk but it will do for me.

It is now a day after writing the preceding paragraph. I tried to recall what else I did yesterday. Failing, I turned again to Naida and asked, “Do you recall what we did yesterday?”

“Not much” she replied, “and I enjoyed it.” After a moment of reflection, she added, “We did see a marvelous movie with wonderful music.”

“Do you remember its name” I inquired.

More reflection. “Fiddler on the Roof,” she eventually declared.

There you have it. Pookie’s Twelve Days of Christmas, such as it was.
You have fun too and remember to always keep on trucking.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:

 

With a weather report for a week of rain and a steady drizzle slicking the streets and turning the landscape gray, Naida, Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I set off for Mendocino. I have done this trip so many times I no longer either notice or remember much of the drive other than where Naida and I switch driving duties and walk the dog.

I do recall stopping at Williams for lunch at a tourist restaurant that was not too bad, whose name I no longer remember but whose food was not so good that I would spend the time to look up the name on the internet in order to post here. After lunch, at the deli attached to the restaurant, I bought a panettone (Italian holiday bread) and a large jar of beautiful Sicilian olives for the party my sister was having on Sunday. Alas, when we arrived at my sister’s house and I was removing the jar of olives from the paper bag, I dropped the jar on the counter and it broke. I was so upset that I stalked off into a corner and sulked while Naida struggled to save what was left of the olives.

The first evening or perhaps the second, both Naida and George were suffering migraines and went to bed early, so my sister Maryann and I set off for dinner and caroling at the North Coast Brewery Pub and Jazz Club in Fort Bragg. The Club is usually a jazz venue but that evening the jazz had been set aside for a night of caroling. I ordered a delicious plate of sausage and peppers with polenta and washed it down with a glass of the brewery’s stout followed by a special seasonal berry-flavored light beer. Everything was delicious.

The meal was followed by entertainment. A local guitarist played and sang a few Christmas tunes. He was Followed by the main event, the carolers, a local group dressed in faux 19th Century costumes that spent the rest of the evening singing many of the familiar carols of the season, enthusiastically and slightly off-tune

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The next day the sun played hide and seek with the clouds. Naida, Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I went Christmas shopping in Mendocino and Fort Bragg, after which we had an excellent lunch at Maya Fusion in Fort Bragg. She had a mushroom soup to die for and I a sampler that included Arancini.

Arancini, one of my favorite things, originated in 10th Century Sicily when it was under control by the Arabs. It is a deep-fried rice ball usually filled with ragù (meat or mince, slow-cooked at low temperature with tomato sauce and spices), mozzarella and/or caciocavallo cheese, and often peas, and al burro or ô bburru, filled with ham and mozzarella or besciamella. It is a traditional Italian street food ranking right up there with pizza.

Later, at the wonderful Mendocino shop where our friend Maryjane works, Naida purchased a marvelous scarf. It was woven in India out of wool and silk by women who had been sex workers and were now attempting to break away from that life. Maryjane, who usually has a joke for us, when I asked for it said that she did not have one. It must be the season. Christmas season was no laughing matter in the Petrillo family I grew up in.

That evening, after Naida went to bed, Maryann, George and I watched episode two of the television version of Phillip Pullman’s novels in The Golden Compass series. In one of those strange coincidences that have you believing that you may be living in Pullman’s world, at the moment my sister suggested watching the show, I was in the midst of reading the second novel in Pullman’s second series on the same theme.

Another evening, we all piled into Maryann’s car and drove to the Festival of Lights at the Mendocino Botanical Gardens a Christmas event that I always enjoy. The gardens are lit up with thousands of lights arranged in strange and astonishing tableaus that surprise you at every turn along the dark paths.

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Here, I managed to erase about a week’s entries. Given the current state of my memory, erasing what I have written means most of it is lost. This makes me sad — not because anything I had written was either important or memorable but because for me once gone it is gone forever. Worse, I have the vague recollection that what I had written I enjoyed. Anyway, here below is my best recollection of that week.

On Sunday Maryann and George held a Christmas party for a few friends and the staff of WEST Company, the non-profit she runs. The food was delightful, varied and copious. The special egg-nog prepared by Maryann was unusual and delicious. We enjoyed ourselves immensely.

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B. OFF TO LAKEPORT AND BEYOND:

 
Monday we set off for Lakeport where Naida’s brother lives with his son Bob. From Fort Bragg to Willits, the shortest route from that area of the Coast over that portion of the Coastal Range is Route 20, a wickedly curvy road that passes over the Mendocino Ridge portion of the Coast Range on its way to Route 101. This road is a main route from that part of the coast to Ukiah the Mendocino County seat and relatively heavily traveled. As we turned from Highway 101 (Pacific Coast Highway), Naida told me that at the prior evening’s Christmas party one of the guests who drives that road daily told her that she and other similarly situated drivers actually counted the curves on that 35-mile road and numbered them so that as the drive them they could report to each other the nature and location of any problems along the route.

Another thing, perhaps several more things, that I learned while I drove that road was prompted by the fact that I usually drive as fast as I safely could (at least in my opinion). I believed it would get me to where I was going faster, and of course, confirm my manliness by proving that I was the most testosterone poisoned person on that road that day. Naida, however, protested. Actually, it was more than a protest. She screamed and insisted that she drive rather than me.

It seems, she had been in a number of automobile accidents in her life, including, she told me, once while riding in a car filled with her high school cheerleader teammates, it skidded on a curve, spun as it flew through the air and smashed into the ground tires up. These experiences so affected her that she would become ill when sitting in a car going too fast especially on a curvy road. So, I slowed down a lot and discovered not only was the drive time not appreciably longer, it actually appeared shorter to me. It also allowed me to enjoy the drive more — the dark redwood groves, the glimpses of the valleys between the trunks of the trees, the pretty little bottomlands, lakes, and marshes.

In Lakeport, we met with Roger Smith, Naida’s older brother and his son Bob who seems to suffer from Asperger’s syndrome a condition that appears common in the Smith side of her family. Roger is an accomplished artist, set designer, and singer. Now, because he suffers from macular degeneration, he can no longer paint. Nevertheless, he showed me a number of paintings that he had previously done. They ranged from photorealism to modern impressionism. Of the latter, he favored Cezanne like muted hues with a strong dash of red or another vibrant color.

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At the bottom of the page, I have posted Roger’s homage to Governor Jerry Brown. He would like to bring it to Jerry’s attention. If anyone has any idea how he can do this, please let me know.

His set design pieces were quite dramatic and fascinating.

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A backdrop for the opera Aida.

 

 

Naida, Roger and I then went for lunch at Park Place restaurant by the lake. I had gnocchi stuffed with mushrooms. It was as good a meal as I have had in months.

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Naida and Roger

 
After lunch, we drove back home to the Enchanted Forest.

 

 

C. A NIGHT OF PROTEST:

 
The next day, we attended the Indivisible’s Impeach Trump Rally in Sacramento. It was held at the Capital. I had not been to a protest rally in over twenty years. There were between 3 and 5 thousand people there. There was the usual coterie of long-haired, bearded, shabbily dressed men and colorfully attired women carrying signs. We listened to impassioned, inspiring and at times incomprehensible speeches, sang a few songs, and generally had a good time.

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A protesting dog attended and some children also.

 

 

D. ALAS:

 
Unfortunately, especially at this season, Mark’s mother died a few days ago. Mark is the husband of Naida’s daughter Sarah. She had been suffering from severe Alzheimer’s disease for several years now. We attended the memorial. It was a family affair. I suspect I may have been the only non-family member there. Josephine, Naida’s granddaughter sang a splendid version of Ave Maria. Anna’s children each gave a brief eulogy and remembrance of their mother. After a few more recollections and reminisces, a prayer and a joint singing of a Christmas carol, the memorial ended. Most of those who attend left for a reception at Sarah and Mark’s home. For some reason, I felt exhausted and depressed by the ceremony so I had Naida drop me off at home before she went on to the reception.

I dropped exhaustedly onto the bed and slept until the barking of the dog made such a horrible racket it woke me up. Between barks, I could make out the sound of the doorbell. I rushed downstairs and threw open the door and saw a slightly frazzled Naida standing there. She had returned from the reception but had misplaced her keys to the house.

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1. From Boise to Idaho Falls:

 

The next morning after breakfast we left for the long drive across southern Idaho. Upon leaving the city precincts, we crossed the bleak high desert covering eastern Oregon and Southern Idaho. During the hours and miles, Naida kept up a running narrative about the pioneers who traveled the Oregon Trail along the same route and their hardships, technology, and social relationships. She told about the Native Americans who lived in the area prior to the arrival of the pioneers, how they lived, their horse breeding prowess, and their initial reactions to the arrival of the white immigrants. Eventually, as we approached the Snake River patches of green cultivated land, some of which were on the bottomland of the river and others on lands watered from the massive irrigation projects of the New Deal.

We eventually arrived at Shoshone Falls, about halfway between Boise and Idaho Falls. Until the installation of the nearby hydroelectric project diminished them, the falls were reputed to be higher than Niagara. Directly downstream from the falls the Snake passes through the steep canyon where in 1972 the entertainer Evel Knievel attempted unsuccessfully to jump across the canyon on a rocket-powered cycle. Although I had watched the failed attempt on television way back then, I had no idea how wide a canyon it actually was.
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Shoshone Falls

 

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Knievel attempted to jump this canyon.

 

Following the brief diversion to the falls, we continued on. About halfway to Idaho Falls, we came upon a poorly signed detour on the Interstate. We became confused and took the wrong road and found ourselves traveling along a ten-mile detour, five miles out and five miles back. There appeared to be no place to turn around. After about two miles, I noticed an automobile parked at the edge of the road. As we approached, I realized it was a police car and mentioned it to Naida who was driving at the time. She tried to move into the left lane but couldn’t because a truck was passing us. Just as we approached the police car, its backlights began blinking. We passed it. I then watched in the mirror as the cop pulled out, caught up to us, and motioned for us to pull over. This annoyed me since I suspected this was just a speed trap, especially since the rental car had California plates. We pulled over to the verge with the police car directly behind us. He walked over to the car, motioned to me to roll down the window and announced that we had failed to move over one lane when passing an emergency vehicle parked at the side of a road. After my failed protest, he gave us a ticket and returned to his vehicle.

Our rental vehicle was a new RAV4. It came without an owner’s manual. As a result, we could not figure out many of the intricacies of its operation. So, as Naida started up the car and while trying to determine how to put it into drive, it began rolling back and panic ensued. We crashed into the police car. Naida was mortified. I found it the amusing high point of the whole trip so far. The cop was non-plussed and since there was no serious damage simply told us to drive on carefully.

A few miles after returning to the Interstate we arrived a Rupert Idaho, a small town where Naida spent part of her childhood. Almost every storefront, many of which were empty, had a plaque affixed to the facade declaring it a historical landmark and telling a bit about its history. What fascinated me most was a massive fabric shop catering primarily to the quilting crowd.

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Naida at the Rupert town square.

 

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Pookie in the fabric shop.

 

We returned to the interstate and arrived in Idaho Falls at dusk and drove directly to Naida’s half-sister Christy’s home. After a few minutes of relaxation, Christy got into her camper and we followed her in the Toyota for about 45 minutes until we arrived in the mountains to the east of the city at an area called the Palisades. There, we turned into a box canyon that terminated at the foot of Sheep Mountain and after a brief climb on the curving, unlighted dirt roads that snaked up the side of the canyon we arrived at Christy’s small but comfortable A-frame cabin where we would spend the next few days.

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Sheep Mountain.

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The cabin.

 

 

2. Christy and the Cabin at Sheep Creek.

 

Christy a hard-living, hard-drinking, dope-smoking, gun-toting, Mormon hating, radical woman of the Continental Divide spent her life hunting, marrying, selling real estate, boating up and down the Snake River, raising children and cooking the greatest pancakes I had ever tasted. That first evening as we got settled, Cristy mentioned that moose, grizzly bears, and other large mammals visit the cabin now and then. I told her about my pathological fear of bears especially those of the grizzly kind. She responded, “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you,” and immediately strapped on her pistol which she kept on her hip the entire time I was there. How can you not bond with someone like that?

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Christy, her pistol and I.

 

We spent the next few days eating pancakes in the morning, sitting on lawn chairs by the cabin staring at the palisades across the valley, smoking, drinking and telling stories. Christy spoke mostly about her third husband. She loved him very much. He shared her lifestyle, carousing, boating, racing their ski-mobiles through the forests in winter and the like. She was devastated when he died in an unfortunate accident.

One morning Christy drove us in her van around the valley. We stopped at the base of Sheep Mountain. Naida told me that the canyon and Sheep Mountain had been leased by her grandfather from BLM when he was raising sheep on a ranch somewhere near Idaho Falls.

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Naida and I at the head of the Sheep Creek Trail.

 

During the summer, he would drive his sheep into the canyon where they would graze along the creek on the way to the slopes of the mountain where they would spend the season. He would spend most of the summer there with his sons and ranch hands and his sheepcamp.
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A Sheepcamp.

 
We also walked along the trails and dirt roads. Naida would try to identify the flora that we passed by.

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At one point she mentioned that she thought the mountains thereabout were part of the Grand Teton mountain chain. If they were they were not particularly imposing. I decided to call them the Puny Teton Mountains.

On our last day there, Naida and I met with some more of her relatives who we met in the nearby town of Swan Valley.

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Naida and Brian Miller and his family.

 

and then, after saying a sad goodbye to Christy, we left the Puny Tetons and headed to the Grand Tetons and the second half of our trip.

 

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The Palisades and Christy’s Boat.

(To be continued)

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 
I am sitting here this morning in my favorite chair in Peter and Barrie’s house typing this. Naida sits at the table across the room reading the newspaper, her coffee cup at the ready by her right hand. Barrie has gone out into the misty morning to walk Ramsey. Peter has disappeared upstairs to prepare for the day. Boo-Boo the Barking Dog has just finished barking at imagined threats to the safety of the household and now lies quietly, head between paws, on the black sofa to my left. It is a good beginning to the day.

Naida and I arrived last night and today I intend to spend most of the day at the hospital for my immunotherapy infusion.

We agreed that Naida would spend the day here tending to the dog while I went to the hospital. I got into the car and had driven part of the way from Noe Valley to Mission Bay when I decided to check my wallet for my identification and credit card. I could not find either of them. In a panic, I returned to pick up Naida so that at least I would have someone with me with the means to pay for whatever may be needed. Later I discovered the missing cards were in my wallet exactly where they were supposed to be. And so, another senior moment passes through my life.

The only interesting thing that transpired at the hospital was the doctor informing me that my previous CT scans seemed to show cancer spreading. Adding that it was so small he could not hazard a guess at to what it may mean. So, he ordered new scans to be done before my next infusion and assured me that even if they do show some spreading of cancer he has me scheduled for participation in some clinical trials.

The next morning, after we left Peter and Barrie’s house, we stopped at Red’s Java House on the Embarcadero for breakfast with Anthony and his girlfriend. Anthony asked me to tell some stories as he has begun to take an interest in family history. I told a few of them including my midnight knife fight in the dark alley’s of Istanbul in the early ’70s. We then returned to the Enchanted Forest.

 

B. THE SATURDAY MORNING COFFEE.

 
The following morning we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House. It was our “dear leader” Gerry’s birthday and so we had a cake and sang happy birthday to her. Later Winnie and I told each other a few stories. She told me that Ducky, the woman in the group whose white hair was always perfectly coiffed had some interesting stories also. Ducky lived and traveled in many places in the world with her husband who was in charge of a US submarine squadron. One of Ducky’s stories about her being kidnapped at knifepoint in Japan, she felt was worth hearing. So, she called Ducky over and left. I asked about the kidnapping. Ducky, said “it was nothing as serious as a kidnapping. It was more like being taken hostage.”

She explained that they were living in Japan at the time and she had gone to the bank. As she approached the teller, a Japanese man rushed up behind her, grabbed her, put a knife to her throat and demanded the teller give him money or he would kill the American lady. Ducky was proud of the fact that somehow for some unknown reason she had the presence of mind to signal to the teller to call the embassy. The teller cleverly gave the thief two large bags heavily filled with coins to slow him down as he tried to get away. The thief then dragged Ducky and the bags of coins across the floor of the bank and out into the street where he threw her down and tried to make his escape. Unfortunately for him, weighted down with the coins, he was quickly subdued by two policemen armed only with batons.

What happened later was the most interesting part of the story. Everyone, the thief, Ducky, the tellers, bystanders, and the two policemen were all taken to police headquarters, placed in a large room together where they sat around a table and each gave their account of the events. Then they were all taken back to the bank where they each, in turn, had to reprise their role and movements in the drama. They then were all returned to the station to review their statements once again. After about 12 hours of this, the embassy secured Ducky’s release. But wait there is more.

A few weeks later, Ducky received a visit from the parents of the thief. Apparently, following the trial, the parents were ordered to beg her forgiveness. Much to her embarrassment, they then crawled across the floor to lie at her feet and apologize for their son’s behavior.

Still later, she was ordered to appear at the prison to view the cell in which the miscreant was imprisoned. It was a small room. Ten prisoners were kept there. There were sleeping mats on the floor and a bucket by the wall. The jailer assigned to the room, she was told, checks the prisoners very closely every night because if one escaped, the punishment was for the jailor, himself, to take his place. Finally, she was informed that when the thief in question was let out of prison he would be prohibited from appearing in public without a member of his family accompanying him.

 

C. SMOGY THINGS.

 
Naida drives a white 1991 Mitsubishi sports car. It is the model that allows one to choose a touring or sports mode as they drive. In sports mode, the car can reach into the 180 mph range. Alas, while seeking to re-register the car for 2019 (yes, we are grossly late), it failed its smog test. As a result, we agreed to switch cars (she the Toyota Forerunner and I the Mitsubishi) while I set about doing whatever needs doing in order to secure the smog clearance. We first sought the opinion of something called a “smog referee.” That worthy, we were told, was supposed to assist people whose automobiles fail the smog test. “Not so,” he said. His job, he informed us, was to do the same smog inspection as had previously been done. And so he did with the same results. So, after that I enlisted the assistance of my grandson, who had worked for a few years in an auto repair shop, as well as Hayden and the Scooter Gang — they being at that age when adolescent boys obsess about all things automotive.

On Monday, I drove the Mitsubishi into the Golden Hills to confer with my automotive consultant, Hayden. He informed me that he and the gang reviewed the referee’s report and believe that the repairs to the engine needed to bring it into compliance should not be too expensive. He agreed to seek out some estimates.

While driving back to the Enchanted Forest, I realized how much I enjoyed driving a sports car and decided to try to persuade Naida to make the switch of automobiles permanent.

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D. AT NIGHT WITH NAIDA AND ANNABELL LEE.

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One night, perhaps it was the same night, I drove the Mitsubishi into the Golden Hills, Boo Boo the Barking Dog lay strangely quiet on the chair beside me. Naida sat at her computer happily pounding the keys in order to produce the paragraphs making up volume two of her memoir. I, in my black vest over a red sweater, sat in my favorite reclining chair, my laptop set properly upon my lap, flipping through the poems in one of my favorite poetry sites (PoemHunter) when I happened to strike with the curser a tiny arrow and a somewhat reedy voice with what sounded like a British accent emerged and filled the room with a recitation of Edgar Allen Poe’s Annabell Lee.

t was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought

Than to love and be loved by me.I

And so on.

The dog raised his head for a moment then returned to sleep. Naida suddenly stopped typing, turned from the computer and began reciting the poem word for word along with the narrator. When they both had finished, she sprang from her chair and exclaimed:

“He said it all wrong. He sounded like he was selling aspirin. He is no poet or actor. To Poe, this was highly emotional. There were angels and demons and sadness and loss.”

She then sat back down and returned to her typing. Shortly thereafter she got up and took the dog for a walk.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

I type this while riding on the train on the way to my tri-weekly immunotherapy infusion at UCSF. Later we will spend the night at Peter and Barrie’s house. We are approaching Suisun-Fairfield. The sky is overcast, gray and dark. Next to me, Naida naps. I think I will join her.

It is now the following morning. We’re sitting around Peter and Barrie’s home eating breakfast and watching Marie Yovanovich’s testimony in the impeachment inquiry. My treatment yesterday was same old, same old. They did discover my thyroid continues to underperform so they upped the dosage of whatever magic concoction they had me on. After the treatment, we headed off to Peter and Barrie’s. I enjoyed traveling around the Big Endive by the Bay on public transportation observing the antics of my fellow riders and watching the brief melodramas of the City as we pass by.

We arrived at Peter and Barrie’s home and spent a pleasant dinner together telling stories and laughing as we often do. The following morning, after breakfast, we all set off for North Beach. None of us had been there for many years. I used to live in North Beach for a few years but had not been back in over a decade. We passed the restaurant where I used to sit at one of the outside tables and eat lunch or dinner several times a week. It is also the site where, in my unfinished and never to be finished mystery novel the main character, Dragon, would sit and conduct business lacking an office to do so. The novel opens with Dragon sitting at one of the tables when Mavis the beautiful Tattoo artist retained him to find her missing boyfriend. Dragon leaves the restaurant to pursue his first clue only too return a few minutes later bloody and frightened having been beaten by two mysterious fat guys. And so, the novel continues on to its non-conclusion. (If you wish to read one version of the novel it can be found here: https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/here-comes-dragon-an-unfinished-novel/)

We also passed several of the sites where Carol Doda, she of the large naked breasts and hydraulic piano and I during her declining years would meet now and then for dinner and tell each other stories, reminisces, and lies and laugh a lot.

We stopped first in front of a restaurant I intended to have us all eat lunch at owned by a man who immigrated from the same town near Avellino in Italy where my grandfather grew up. His wife was the chef and cooked some of the best Neapolitan food in the area. Unfortunately, it was closed.

Ultimately, we chose Cafe Sport on Green Street. Fifty years ago, when I first visited it, the place was a simple cafe with a pool table in the back room. Antonio (perhaps his name was Franco. I do not remember which), the owner, eventually began also serving some full meals and added some brightly colored tables. He also began decorating the place with whatever oddities he could find. Eventually, the pool table was replaced by more tables and more odd decorations. It became one of the favorite hang-outs of the Prop-20 Coastal Commission staff. For a short period, another room was added. To get there, one had to pass through the kitchen where Antonio, a cigarette in his mouth with its long ash drooping over the large pots of sauce simmering on the stove, held court. We would joke that it was the ash that made to food taste so good. That room became an unofficial meeting place of the Coastal Staff until the Fire Department realized the room lacked fire exit and closed it down.

The four of us had a good meal, talked a lot and joked with the waiter. We then piled back into Peter’s car and he drove us to the Downtown Transit Station where we boarded the bus to the Emeryville train station to catch the train to Sacramento.
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B. A DREAM BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

 

For the past two nights, I have been having a pleasant dream set in the dream world of my ancestral home in Sicily. It is nothing like the real place I have so often visited. In my dream lives, I have several places that over the years I return to now and then. They appear in my dreams nothing like the real places they are supposed to represent. For example, San Francisco in my dream world has no Golden Gate Bridge. Instead, when I look north, I see a crowded harbor filled with large ships and pleasure craft. Further north, there is a mountainous island or peninsular. I sometimes climb those mountains and stare at the endless ocean beyond.

Another dream place I sometimes visit seems like a combination of Mendocino and Eureka. Strangely when I face north the ocean is in my left as though I am on the East coast. I spend a lot of my dream time here. On the way to the town, there is an old hotel or resort sited a short way from the ocean. It’s a bit rundown down and the owner is a mysterious dyspeptic man who alternately frightens and annoys me.

The Sicilian town of my dreams appears like it had just emerged from the middle ages or had just been bombed during WWII. Both the women and men wear dark clothing — the woman generally long dresses, the men old working men’s clothing. My friend Vittorio, Naida and I were in a tumble-down house. A middle-aged woman (perhaps the owner) acted strangely, maybe she was angry at us for some reason. Fortunately, she took a liking to Vittorio and pulled him off into the bushes. At the back of the house, there was a large shed open on three sides. The shed operated as an impromptu cafe and meeting place for the neighborhood. In the evening, parties were often held there with a lot of singing, dancing, and storytelling. We had a great time and I woke up happy.

 

 

C. A FEW TRIPS INTO THE GOLDEN HILLS TO MEET WITH HRM:

 
HRM and I got together several times during the past few days. The first time we met, while sitting in Subway’s eating a meatball sandwich and discussing his schooling, he mentioned he was enjoying High School and liked all his teachers because they each keep a toy for him that he is allowed to play with in class.  He had been diagnosed with ADD while in grammar school and prescribed medication to keep it under control. Last year he refused to take his meds and longer. This year the teachers have decided it was best to allow him to release some of his excess energy by fiddling with the toys during class.

A few days later, I returned for the opening of the newly remodeled skatepark. A large herd of young boys and a few girls on scooters and skateboards crammed the place. After, watching things for a while, Naida and I went to lunch in Town Center.

One day I picked him up at the skate park. On the way to lunch at Subway, I inquired about his welding class. Some time ago I had told both him and my daughter Jessica that between adolescence the onset of adulthood they should develop competence in science, art, math, sports, social science, as well as a trade. I believe that given the changes we go through in our lives and the changes the society we live goes through, flexibility is needed for our sustenance, health, and happiness. In my daughter’s case, art became photography, science got to be virology, math (the statistical analysis necessary for her virology doctorate), sports grew into soccer (she continued to play competitively until very recently), and for social science her minor was semantics.

H then showed me his unfinished steel cube designed to look like a die. It was quite heavy and obviously unfinished. He explained he still needed to file down the welded joints.

On Friday, we went to have lunch a Panda’s a fast-food place we favor. He showed me his finished cube. It looked great. We discussed his upcoming Thanksgiving vacation and the possibility of he and I going away somewhere for a few days.

Another time, I picked up Kaleb and him and took them to the hot dog place in City Center for lunch. They had buffalo wings and an Italian sausage sandwich called “The Godfather.” Like teenagers everywhere they seemed at sixes and sevens about things to do, a bit bored but unwilling to give up the general comfort of home and running off into the woods or onto a ship and sailing away into an adventure.

 

 

 

D. ODDS AND ENDS:

 
Days pass, my short term memory slowly continues to shred. I have read a number of books these past few weeks. This is notable because, for about a month or so, I, for some reason, had substantially slowed my normal reading regime.

Naida and I continue our regular routine of spending most days and evenings sitting on our reclining chairs and watching either the impeachment hearings or old movies on TCM. In the early evenings, we walk Boo-Boo the Barking Dog through the Enchanted Forest or to the nearby dog park where instead of playing with the other dogs and running around with them helter-skelter he just sits and waits at our feet staring at us until we give up and take him home for his dinner. When we do go out somewhere to shop or to dinner and I get a chance to see us reflected in say a shop’s glass window I see two slightly dotty old people shuffling along on one of those mysterious errands the aged seem to enjoy.

One evening we watched the movie “Marty” on television. I had always liked it for its dialogue and portrayal of the social lives of young Italian-American men in the 1950s in the Bronx. And yes, I found Marty’s relationship with Clara endearing and appreciated the loneliness experienced by the two central characters, but I had not recognized or appreciated the fear of isolation that pervaded all the characters in the film. Angie’s anger and desperation at losing Marty’s companionship, the mother’s fear of abandonment by their sons and so on permeate the film making it less a comedy and more a caution.

It has been raining and cold for the past few days. The weather reports describe it as an atmospheric river flowing across California bringing with it the weather change. One morning when I went outside it was quite misty. The mist appeared almost solid giving in bulk what it takes away in substance.

We have spent the past few days inside, avoiding the cold and the rain. Naida works on editing portions of Volume II of her memoir while I write this or read a novel on Kindle. At other times we watch the news and political commentary on television. In the evening and at times during the day, we watch the flood of holiday movies on television. We also saw the Battle of Algiers, Giant, the silent film version of Joan of Arc and several other non-holiday fare. I am bored. If the rain and cold keep on much longer, I think I will shoot myself.

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 A. IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

 

As I type this, I am also watching Ethel Waters sing one of my favorite songs, “Happiness is a Thing Called Joe” in the 1939 movie, “Cabin in the Sky.” A little ego boost every now and then is a good thing.

Before turning on the movie and writing this, I had just returned from lunch in the Golden Hills with HRM, Jake, and Kaleb at their favorite fried chicken places — for me it is not so much a favorite.

This morning, we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House. Gerry, our leader, who usually runs these get-togethers, had been taken to the hospital yesterday evening with a heart problem of some sort. Nevertheless, following an exchange of information about how to contact Gerry and express our wishes for her speedy recovery, we shouldered on. Someone described the elaborate Halloween party we were throwing for the young children who live in the subdivision and the much more numerous children of the children of the old people who live in it. Those sponsoring the party have created an entire Halloween town out of cardboard for the children to frolic in. Someone else discussed the problem of termites and described the free termite inspection service provided by the HOC. It is pleasant, every now and then, to be reminded that there are people everywhere trying to do nice things for no other reason than kindness — well, perhaps a bit of comfort, self-interest, and guilt come into it as well, but those are merely like spices added to a good meal.

There being no more announcements, we broke up into small conversational groups. There were only three males at breakfast. Each of us sat in chairs as far removed from one another as possible. None of us moved from our chosen fortress. The significantly more numerous female attendees seemed to comprise two sociological groups. Those who remain alone or sitting in small groups and those who moved around engaging the others in conversation. Naida and Winnie were of the latter cohort. They moved from group to group like bees gathering pollen.

Winnie eventually got around to me. She and I compared photos. She of her former home in Salmon Idaho and I of that portion of our trip to the same area. Winnie and her husband, a distinguished architect from LA, moved to Idaho when he was diagnosed with incurable cancer. He wanted to die someplace surrounded by nature. They lived there for over twenty years. He did not die. They then decided to move into the Enchanted Forest. I do not know why. He is now in his nineties and remains vigorous but cantankerous. Interestingly, he designed the Methodist church in Salmon who’s minister was Naida’s uncle, the children of whom we had traveled to Salmon to visit. He also designed the Sacagawea monument in the town.
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Sacagawea and I in Salmon Idaho.

 

Sunday evening, we decided to drive with Boo-Boo the Barking Dog to Discovery Park, at the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers, where the Spanish explorers first landed in the mid-sixteenth century. There they discovered the largest Native-American settlement in the area. They also noticed that the grass on the top of the mesa was so cropped by the roving herds of Elk that they considered it park-like (This had some significance but I no longer recall what it was.) Naida told me the Native-Americans from the other villages in the area would periodically gather here for dances and parties. Now and then dances and parties are still held here. We walked around for a while, then set off for home.
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Boo Boo the Barking Dog and Naida Under the big Cottonwood Tree at Discovery Park.

 

On the way home, we decided to stop for dinner at a restaurant among a group of night-clubs on J. Street. We ordered squash filled ravioli. It was quite good. While we were eating, a young woman with very long blond hair and very short shorts sitting at the bar left her seat, came over to our table, and asked if we were married. I responded that this was only our first date.

After registering her squeals of surprise, we admitted that, in fact, we had been together for about one year and a half but had known each other for over forty years. Following a few more rounds of chit-chat, she returned to her place at the bar. After finishing our meal, we returned home where we watched a reality TV program about gangbangers who found redemption.

Last week, Naida was not feeling well so on Wednesday she stayed home while I took the train alone to the Big Endive for my immunology treatment at UCSF. It was the first time I had taken the train to my appointment. I wanted to see whether traveling by train back and forth every three weeks would be more convenient and less exhausting for Vecchi like Naida and me.

 

 

 

B. BACK IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 
The train trip along with various public transport connections took about three hours to get me from Sacramento to Peter’s house — about the same time it takes by car with moderately heavy traffic. I was more relaxed and rested when I arrived as well. Since Barrie was in LA visiting her sister who was quite ill, Peter and I decided to have dinner at Bacco’s. I ordered my usual Gnocchi. We were joined by my grandson Anthony and his girlfriend.
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They brought me some product from the boutique cannabis store that soon will open in Dog-patch of which Anthony’s GF was manager. It consisted of samples of higher-priced, expensively packaged products that they hoped I would try and evaluate. They included a topical salve, a flavored drink, mints, chocolate, and the like. The cannabis industry is being rapidly veblenized. That is, marketing more expensive goods when there are cheaper alternatives available because most consumers think it will impress others in one way or another. One side effect of the Veblen Effect is that profits to the producers (growers) are reduced while those to the packagers and marketers soar.

The following morning Peter drove me to the hospital for my scheduled immunology infusion. Following my appointment, I walked from Mission Bay to the bus terminal where I caught the train back to Sacramento and home. The walk to the terminal was interesting. I had not walked around this part of downtown San Francisco in a long time. Some places I recognized, but most had changed beyond recognition.

 

C. TIME GOES ON LIKE IT OR NOT:

 

 

On Monday, Naida was depressed about forgetting her tennis match. So in order to cheer her up, I took her with me to pick up HRM from school after which she and I had lunch at Selland’s in Town Center. We sat at a table on the veranda overlooking the lakes. Following that, I gassed up the car and decided to have it washed. While driving into the washing facility, I crashed the car into a wall crumpling its left fender. On the way home, Naida was no longer feeling depressed, but I was. Upon arriving home, I went straight to bed hoping tomorrow would be a better day.

And it was. I got to drive HRM to his dental appointment where he had six cavities filled. In the evening, Naida and I, having given up on the day’s news, watched several movies none of which I really recall, but I do remember that I enjoyed them.

On Saturday, Boo-boo the Barking Dog, for some reason failed to wake us up in time to attend the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House. Naida and I decided to spend the morning in geriatric hanky-panky. I find geriatric hanky-panky superior to juvenile hanky-panky because it lasts longer and one never knows what can or cannot happen. Later we had a breakfast of pancakes and then watched Andy Griffith ham it up in “A Face in the Crowd.”

I do not recall what happened between Wednesday and Saturday except that on Friday night I dreamt I was dying. Strangely, I was neither unhappy nor frightened but instead content and resigned. Naida who woke me up during the dream told me she had done so because I had stopped breathing. Strange.

Saturday evening, Naida, Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I went for a walk along the American River. As we walked along, we noted the extensive blow-down of trees and tree-limbs throughout the Enchanted Forest and along the river caused by the heavy winds of the past few days. When we got to the clearing by the river where we like to stop for a while and take in the view, we sat on a log and watched while some people in the picnic area across the river tried to get a car that was half-submerged out of the water. After several failures, they did. A little later, flocks of Canadian geese flew in and out of the setting sun and paddled their way to the little wooded island in the middle of the river where they would spend the night.
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Monday, we spent the morning doing what has become our favorite pastime, sitting next to each other holding hands, listening to Boo-boo the Barking Dog bark at anything that moves within 50 feet of the house, watching television and reading or playing on the computer. Perhaps it is just our age catching up with us. Still, we sit here passing the hours singing at times and laughing a lot. It could be worse.

 

 

 

D. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:

 

 

On Tuesday, Naida spent the Morning playing tennis and I sat alone fooling around on the computer. After Naida returned, we turned on the news and learned about the killing of nine people six of them children traveling in an American car caravan in Mexico. The news reports initially seemed to blame a Mexican drug cartel connection to the murders. Naida commented that she believed the caravan was composed of members of a fundamentalist Mormon family traveling from the US to their home in one of the sect’s communes that had been set up in the area by polygamous Mormons following Utah admittance into the Union as a State at the end of the 19th Century on the condition polygamy be banned.

Naida told me about a writer friend of hers who was a “sister” wife at one of the communes. The friend, Irene Spencer, the second of 10 wives and mother of 14 children, wrote a book about escaping from the community. Spencer also wrote another book about the almost ceaseless violence among the sects. She told Naida about the horrendous carnage between the communities that began by a falling out between two brothers (each claiming “Prophet” status), one of whom was her husband, They commenced an internecine war with each other over control of the sect. Over 50 people have been killed during the past 25.* Both brothers now are dead but the feud continues.

Sometime later the news broke the name of the dead and of the community they were heading to for a wedding. It was the same community as the one her friend fled from. She tried to call her friend who had moved to California but discovered she died two years ago.

(*In the 1970s and 1980s, Ervil LeBaron, brother of the leader of the LeBaron community, launched his own Mormon offshoot sect in which he and his followers believed they had a right to kill those who had sinned. The group murdered at least 25 people, one expert told the LA Times. (https://news.yahoo.com/more-hundred-years-ago-mormons-205004653.html))

Later, while walking the dog through some of the dark pathways of TEF, we met another elderly couple who recently moved into the area after spending much of their lives living in the woods beyond Nevada City. They invited us into their home. While touring their kitchen they suddenly forced us into their large-sized micro-wave, cooked us on high for 90 minutes, placed us in a pie-crust, added a bit of cinnamon and sugar, baked us in the oven for another hour and had us for breakfast the next morning.

It’s Friday, neither Naida nor I recall much about the last few days other than they have been mostly pleasant. I think, given my general inactivity and shredded memory, I should give up writing T&T (https://wordpress.com/view/josephpetrillo.wordpress.com) as a journal. Maybe I should just write strange short-short stories. You know, like this old fucker who is so distressed about being old, forgetting everything, immobile and dyspeptic, he spends his days on his computer sending emails to the friends about sitting in his chair and sending emails to his friends or better yet weird Facebook postings to his Facebook friends. Can one have electronic friends one either never sees or never met? I have a Facebook friend who I know has been dead for six years. Children used to have imaginary friends. Now that they are aged decrepits more and more of their friends are just electric pulses.

Ah, one day later, things changed. Well, perhaps not so much. Let’s begin with my receiving an email from one of my dearest friends in Thailand with two little stories about recent events in his life. Much like the stories I write about here in T&T. Stories far far better than I could ever hope to write. Here they are:

The other day I was sitting with Sultan Ishmael Nasir at the bar we frequent watching the R. Crumb characters file past when a young man, built like one of those muscularly overburdened bare-knuckled tattooed cage fighters wandered in. He was hopping on one leg and asked to join us.
Seems he is a mercenary doing the devil’s duty in Fallujah Iraq. It is easily believed. I asked him why he is limping?

Turns out he tripped on a curb in Bangkok and tore a ligament.

Sheesh!

The other night we went to a movie theater here to see Joker. The theater was black with only a semblance of light on the stairway. My hands were full with a tub of fresh buttered popcorn and a cold Singha Beer. My eyes hadn’t adjusted and I fell tits over tea kettle down the stairs. I wondered if I had hurt myself, but stood upon the well-padded stairs and realized the beer was intact and I had lost only a small scattering of popcorn.

I ascribe this inane skill to being knocked on my ass a thousand times during karate.

Whatdaworld!

Richard Diran

 

It was Saturday again. Naida and I set off for the Saturday Morning Coffee. We walked from our house to the Nepenthe Clubhouse. We walked through brown, red, and gold leaves that covered the paths. Like kids we giggled while kicking them about, stepping on them and hearing them crackle. We both wear hearing aids. Although the hearing-aids may not work so well helping us understand what someone may be talking about, the snapping sounds of the leaves as we crushed them underfoot was ideally suited to whatever frequency the hearing aids were attuned to. We heard them like firecrackers a Fourth of July and we laughed.

About 30 people attended the coffee, eight men and about 22 women. More i Vecchi (old people) then I had ever seen at these events. Gerry, our leader, had returned from whatever hospitalization prevented her from presiding a few weeks ago. Announcements were made. I could not make out what they were about so I just sat there smiling like the village idiot. Later Naida told me she could not hear much either.

After the announcements, Paul the architect, Winnie’s husband came by and described at length how he designed the Sacagawea park in Salmon and picked out everything in it. I recalled that except for the two statues, everything else seemed to be just rocks.

Then off to the Golden hills. HRM called asking me to drive him and the Scooter Gang to COSTCO in Folsom so that they could eat their pizza for lunch. They think COSTCO pizzas are “the best.”

It is autumn in the Enchanted Forest. Naida, Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I went for a walk through the forest this evening. We walked further than we usually do along paths I had not been on before. It was a lot longer walk than I had attempted for many months except for that trek in SF from the hospital to the bus station a few weeks back. It tired me out, but I was pleased I did it.

 

 

All youse guys take care, ya hear….

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Today is my 80th Birthday. Perhaps I should reflect upon the meaning of reaching that hoary age or something like that. No, I’d rather write about parties. Over the past week, I attended three birthday parties and in a few minutes, I will be off to the fourth party in the Golden Hills.

The first party occurred last week at Peter and Barrie’s house. We had driven there a few days after returning from our trip through the Pacific Northwest. My granddaughter Amanda, her mom Hiromi, my son Jason and grandson Anthony arrived Wednesday evening all bringing gifts.
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The Gang.

 

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Amanda and I.

 
The next day, I drove to the hospital for my infusion. I also met with my oncologist. He told me that recent tests have been positive enough that, should they continue like that for a while longer, he may be able to terminate treatment even if the existing growth remains.

The second party, more or less, occurred on Saturday evening. Naida’s son-in-law Mark had traveled to Bodega Bay and returned with bushels of fresh oysters for his annual oyster get together. Naida had purchased a birthday cake for me. It had green icing and imbedded in a circle on the top, Oreo cookies with candy eyes. After shucking the oysters and downing our fill of delicious bivalves while sitting under the great mulberry tree that covers the deck, Naida brought out the cake with four candles aflame and everyone sang Happy Birthday. I looked appropriately bemused, blew out the candles and along with everyone else ate the cake. We later shared photographs of Jennifer, (Naida’s other daughter) and her husband’s recent journey through Provence as well as those of our recent trip. I enjoyed myself immensely.
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Pookie blowing out the candles.

 
One odd thing occurred that evening. While enjoying devouring the oysters, I suddenly felt that a glass of the sparkling wine everyone else was drinking would go well with my meal. So, I got up to go into the kitchen to get a wine glass. When I walked into the house, however, I suddenly could not find the kitchen although I had been here many times.

I stood confused in the middle of the room for a few moments before I regained my bearings. This was the first time that had happened to me and it frightened me a bit. Was this the onset of Alzheimer’s. Nevertheless, after the initial shock of my confusion had passed, I was able to amuse myself trying to find my way back to reality.

The third party happened the next day, Sunday. My beloved sister Maryanne threw a party for me in Oakland. Naida and I decided to take the train from Sacramento to the Bay Area instead of driving. On the train, we ran into our dog walker (Boo Boo the Barking Dog was being minded by the dog walker’s daughter) and her girlfriend on their way to SF for a two-day mini vacation. They managed, much to my embarrassment and I admit pleasure, to get everyone in the car to sing happy birthday (should this be considered another birthday party, making it five in all?). Naida and I got off the train at the Richmond station where my sister picked us up. She drove us to her son Brendan’s new home in the Richmond Hills.

Shortly after their marriage, Brendan and Ashley purchased a house previously owned by a landscape designer who left behind a fantastic garden including a few fig-trees, the ripe fruit of which I happily plucked from the trees and greedily devoured as we walked about.

We then drove to Jack London Square on the Oakland waterfront where we had lunch at a southeast Asian restaurant called Farmhouse Kitchen. After lunch, the wait-staff surrounded our table accompanied by clanging cymbals and banging drums sang an odd version of Happy Birthday.

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The party in Oakland

 
After the party, Maryanne drove us back to the train station and we returned to Sacramento.

On Tuesday, my actual birthday, I drove into the Golden Hills where HRM and some members of the Scooter Gang (Kaleb and Ethan) baked me a birthday cake. The ingredients included crushed Oreo’s. I thought it was delicious.
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Hayden, Ethan, Kaleb, Pookie, and the cake.

 

The days since my birthday have passed leaving little behind in my memory. The passing days often leave little behind in my memory now. I wonder if that means only that which remains in my memory exists or, for that matter, ever existed. As I wrote the previous sentence, I turned to Naida and asked her, “Just what have we done since Tuesday?” She replied, “We recovered from our trip and your birthday parties.” She also reminded me that we went to Goodwill to buy this year’s collection of Hawaiian shirts as her birthday present to me. I then recalled that we did (an act of creation?). We had bought a smashing green shirt with an unusual oriental motif and a silk shirt with glorious large red flowers on a black background. (Note: I insist on buying my Hawaiian shirts second-hand at either Goodwill or Denio’s Auction.) Naida also reminded me that this week she paid many thousands of dollars in income tax. Me, I no longer pay tax or for that matter even file — it is sort of like my insistence on buying only second-hand Hawaiian shirts, paying taxes or even filing when one has no income after retirement other than Social Security offends me. We oldies should neither pay taxes nor be forced to tell the IRS that we are living off SS and buying second-hand Hawaiian shirts.

One day, Naida was invited to a nearby retirement home for lunch with an author residing there. I tagged along because of my interest in meeting the author and because in the same facility there was to be held a Renaissance Society lecture on Plate Tectonics we both were interested in. The author was a husky-voiced woman of 87 who had written about 30 books mostly fairly popular historical romances. You know, seduction and sex among Elizabethan nobility and the like. She struck me as being remarkably and pleasantly mercenary about her artistic career.

After lunch, we sat in on a gathering of residents at the home at which some of then recited from journals they had written. It was the day commemorating the Kent State Massacres. One woman had been a professor at that University and there on campus that day with her husband. She read a fascinating account of the events. Near the end of her reading, she broke down crying when speaking of those that died, she read the line, “They were just children. For God’s sake, they were only children.”

We then moved to another room to listen to The Renaissance Society lecture. The Society is a program offered by Sacramento State University that we had joined a few months ago. It allows old people like us to attend University level classes and lectures, often taught by retired professors probably bored by retirement. It was very interesting. The lecturer had been a US AIR Force officer who had been sent by the military to study plate tectonics when it was still an emerging science in order to better understand how the movement of the plates affects the accuracy of mapping satellites and to examine their impact on the underwater terrain in order to improve submarine navigation.

Dick and I had breakfast this morning to bring each other up on things Hayden. After an eighth grade of worrisome incipient adolescent rebellion, HRM’s grades have improved to mostly A’s and his behavior in class has returned to the type of conduct that consistently led to school awards for deportment. Perhaps this change can be explained by a story his guidance teacher told Dick.

At the beginning of the school year, there was a new student in the class. He was an upperclassman from Thailand. He could not speak or understand English. The teacher tried to use Google Translation to communicate with him but each time she showed him the translation the student would shake his head. The teacher grew frustrated and impatient. Hayden raised his hand and when the teacher called on him he said, “The translation is wrong.” “How do you know?” the frustrated teacher barked at him. “Can you speak Thai?” “As a matter of fact I can,” Hayden responded. Dubious and annoyed she said, “Let’s see you try,” obviously believing he was putting her on.

Now, Hayden’s first language was, in fact, Thai, but he hid it because when he began school in the US he was classified as a nonEnglish speaker and as a result, some primary school teachers thought he was slow. He then turned to the Thai student and to everyone’s amazement they both began speaking rapidly and extensively in Thai. He now remains the unofficial translator for the Thai student while he learns English. The teachers are pleased. Hayden is pleased that his classmates are impressed with his linguistic prowess and Dick and I are pleased that the teachers see him as a good kid again and that HRM appears confident once more.
B. Odds and Ends:
1. One day while I was discussing politics in general and Republican politics during the late sixties and seventies in the eastern suburbs of Sacramento specifically, the friend I was talking to exclaimed: “Out of Orangevale came the John Birch Society,” and “In Sacramento Rush got his start and the Lovers of Limbaugh were born.”

2. On another day while talking on the phone to a friend who lives on the East Coast, he mentioned that an ex-client of mine who I believed was a good friend as well as a client, “Hates your guts.” I was taken aback by this especially since, among other things, I had saved him (the client) from being indicted and rescued a major project of his two weeks before he would have lost it as a result of ignoring my advice for two years. “Why?” I asked.

“He said you fucked up, lost all your money and squandered your career,” he answered.

I thought about this. True, I had fucked up and lost my money, but I had done this before, several times in fact and always came back, but this last time I was 69 years old and I had to decide whether to struggle once again or spend my declining years in genteel poverty in a foreign country, raising HRM, and living a pleasant dissolute life by the sea or in the mountains or among the seedy dives of Bangkok. I chose the latter. “He’s probably just jealous,” I decided. After all, “Life is what it throws at you.” (Ivan Doig. “Last Bus to Wisdom.”)

 
Take care of yourselves.

 

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