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Posts Tagged ‘Health’

 

A. CHRISTMAS IN MENDOCINO:

Peter and Barrie returned to the Bay Area the day after the Christmas party. I resumed spending my days sitting by the window watching the waves crest over the bluffs and a hawk hunting gophers in the backyard. When not daydreaming by the window or amusing myself on Facebook, I wander about the town Christmas shopping, searching for the appropriate and affordable gifts for those on my list.

Nights are another thing. I sleep ok but, before I fall asleep and after I wake up, I feel an existential malaise that is difficult to describe to those who have not felt the night that never ends bearing down on them like an out of control train. It isn’t fear, I think. More like the sad wonder of a sunset.

For the past few days, they have been removing some of the large trees that menace the house. Over the last year or so, two of those trees have blown down, one of which destroyed the pump house. During my walks, I sometimes stop to watch them work. I find that watching other people work relaxes me. I wonder if Gautama sitting under his bodhi tree observed some people working in the fields when he decided to live a life of contemplation was a good thing and we should all do it if we could figure out a way to get away with it.
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People have begun arriving for the Christmas Eve celebration my sister holds every year. A few years ago about twenty of us, friends and family, gathered together at a house that she rented for the holidays a few miles up the coast. Some of us slept on the floor. I slept on a sofa. We all cooked most of the day and ate and drank in the evenings. A great storm blew in Christmas Eve, throwing up giant waves that crashed on the beach, driving us all inside where we sang carols and opened presents.

That was a far cry from the Christmases of my youth when uncles, aunts, and cousins would gather with our family. The women would prepare endless amounts of food while the men napped in the living room. Dinner was a loud affair with everyone shouting and drinking wine until the arguments and tears erupted among the adults while the children hid in quiet corners and learned to hate the holiday for which they had spent weeks in eager anticipation.

Anyway, this year it was planned to be a smaller affair than usual. First to arrive late Friday evening were George and Maryann’s children Brendan and Katie with their significant others, Ashley and Quinn. The next morning we all got up, fitted a Christmas bow on Bingo the dog and watched Brendan, dressed in fuzzy brown PJs, make us all breakfast.
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Chewbacca and MaryAnn Rule the Kitchen.

That afternoon, I went to Fort Bragg and my favorite bar in the area, Milano. They were having their Christmas party and it was crowded. Most of the regulars were there. The old man who owned the place and always sat on the stool by the wall at the end of the bar, however, was missing. Perhaps he died. He was not looking well the last time I saw him well over a year.

I took an empty stool and ordered a Stella. There was food at the party, a potluck. The bartender urged me to get some food but I demurred for some reason or another. The noise in place was almost defining, There were several little groups talking loudly, others pounding their dice cups on the bar-top. A few people sat quietly staring at their drinks. I made a friend.

I Usually, I do not talk to anyone preferring to watch. But Gene, who sat down next to me, insisted that I engage him in conversation. “What’s your nationality?” he asked. “Italian,” I responded. “I’m Bohemian,” he said. I thought he was playing with me, but since I could not figure out the joke, I ignored it. I then asked him what he does for a living “I’m a stone contractor,” he said. Not knowing what a stone contractor was, I ignored this too. “I’m retired,” he went on, “but I still work 5 hours a day.” How one can work five hours a day and still consider himself retired I could not comprehend but I let that pass also. “I like my clients,” he then declared. “I did not like mine,” I responded. He stared at me a moment then said, “Attorneys are the most difficult to get to pay their bills.” “I can understand that,” I replied. “After all, they spend most of their working lives helping people to avoid paying their debts, financial or otherwise.”

I was happy when I left and drove back to my sister’s house. Shortly after I got back, two additional weekend guests, Debbie and Shelly, arrived. We had risotto for dinner.

The next morning, it was the day before Christmas. We had a long breakfast where we talked about many things that made us laugh and some that did not.

That evening, we gathered for Christmas Eve dinner. Maryjane (she who had married a clown) and her current husband Jovan, and Nancy and Duncan joined us. Before dinner, we snacked on stuffed calamari, baked eggplant, crab cakes, shrimp cocktail and a lot of other things — too many for me to remember.
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Debbie and Katie.

At dinner, we toasted to good friends and holidays and then dug into the marvelous cioppino my sister had prepared.
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Happy Holidays to All.

I sat between Nancy and Shelly. Nancy told me about her father (or Duncan’s, I forget which) who led a wonderful and exciting life and at 95 years old lives by himself in a house in Oregon, still drives and cooks his own meals and refuses to go to a senior home. Shelly, a potter by trade who’s studio is at the Women’s Pottery Studios on Noe in San Francisco told us about her good friend and studio mate who died at 105. She began her ceramics career in her late 40s. When she was 80, she was “discovered” by the critics and became a bit of a celebrity. She made well over 5 million dollars from her pottery in about 5 years. Because so many of her clients and friends were in the entertainment business, she began being offered roles in the movies. She was the voice of the grandmother in “Titanic.”

Following these uplifting tales and several different desserts, I went to bed.

The next morning, Christmas, it was Panettone and presents, coffee and wrapping paper, giggles of happiness and moments of silent contemplation of fleeting pleasures that penetrated the veneer of joy like no-see-umm pricking your skin.
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Christmas Morning with Bingo and George.

I then left drove five hours back to the golden hills where I opened more presents.

A woman, Wanni, who I assisted in the sale of her business, gave me a lovely blanket, fleece on the inside and smooth and soft to the touch on the outside. Adrian also gave me a number of great gifts as did Dick and Hayden. We then had dinner and I immediately went to bed where clutching my marvelous new blanket I thankfully quickly fell into a deep almost dreamless sleep.

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An Aging Childe Harold.

 

 

B. MOLLY HAD A BABY ON CHRISTMAS DAY:

On Christmas Day, Molly had a baby. I was not there at the birth, but I had been there over 20 years ago at Molly’s birth along with her father Maurice, a dear friend and a kind gentle man. When the nurse brought tiny Molly into the nursery, Maurice. for a long, long time, stared through the glass at her with a wonder and love that stayed with him for the rest of his life. Molly soon became the child of all of us, our family and friends. She was a quiet waif of a child. Usually, she sat silently at the edge of things — an innocent in a cynical world. She wore large round glasses and had a shy smile. Often, she babysat my grandchildren, traveled with them and at lived with them in their house when Maurice worked.

When we awoke on Christmas Day, we learned she had given birth — to a boy, a Christmas baby she named Amir, Emmanuel, Duncan Trad (Trans: Prince, Messiah [God is with us], Dark Warrior [dark of visage, not of heart] Trad) a fitting name for someone born on this day. A few years ago, Molly wrote a prescient poem that she shared with me. Read it slowly.

A New Years Poem
I have a desperate attraction to new beginnings
Sometimes the numbers on the calendar look so beautiful
I think
Today’s the day I drink less and run more
No smoking, all veggies
Honesty, integrity, self-reliance, perseverance, creativity,
No fear, live large,
Dream big, be bright, believe in love and believe in yourself!
And I do
Today is an auspicious day
Today is my new beginning
Sometimes I just feel it, on a Tuesday
Today’s the day I keep doing yoga
I don’t back down when I’m right
I go to bed at a reasonable hour, pay my bills on time
Clean out the toe jam, learn all those languages
All the little steps start here and I’m climbing
I can feel it now, right now, and I won’t look back
This is it!
Today is an auspicious day
Today is my new beginning
Then I find myself making the same mistakes
Who manufactured the grooves in my record?
How would it feel if the dj scratched me across the turntable?
The dissonant rip, like a zipper coming undone
A cut away from the 4/4 time that I was trying so hard to hold
But this is why the crowd came to the club
To hear the sound of the universe tearing into a new song
The maligned has become music
We throw our hands up and we dance
I am scratched across the turntable and the crowd is screaming
We are scratched and screaming
And the dj takes it back, and the song plays
All of it is beautiful
Every moment new
Every moment auspicious
Every moment beginning
Molly Trad

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Molly and Amir Emmanuel Duncan Trad

 

 

C. SORROW.

Within minutes of finishing the above joyous account of a Christmas birth, I received the following distressing email from Naida regarding my dear friend Bill:

“I have been sitting with Bill next to his bed. His coughing woke me at 5 a.m. He asked me what my name was. I told him and, when asked what I’ve done all day, explained that I am his wife and I’ve been taking care of him. He said he’d been put away into in some attic. I told him he’s downstairs. He said he wants to see out the window. I explained that the sun wouldn’t come up for a couple of hours. He said, “OK. When it’s light I want to see out the window.” He also said, “I feel weird like I’ve been separated from all civilization” — followed by his characteristic sarcastic “huh” of a laugh. Then he asked if any of his relatives were coming to see him.”

Bill, a gentle giant of a man, has been my cherished friend for more years than I can remember — always cheerful and always seeming happy to see me when I visited he and Naida at their beloved ranch along the Cosumnes River near Sacramento.

Few people know that Bill was quietly responsible for the passage of the California Coastal Conservancy legislation, a key element of California’s Coastal protection program over 40 years ago. We were on the floor of the Senate. We clearly did not have the votes. Bill privately spoke to Senator Denny Carpenter a vocal opponent of California’s Coastal Protection legislation. He asked Carpenter to speak in favor of the legislation when it came before the Senate for its final vote. Carpenter agreed and did so, turning enough votes to pass the bill. So, whenever you visit a beautiful section of the California coast or San Francisco Bay that the Conservancy has had a hand in preserving, please remember Bill, Geyer.

I will miss him greatly.

And, the Great Wheel grinds inexorably on.

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POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:

Feeling a mix of anger and fear caused by the doctor’s report, I set off to Mendocino and my sister’s house for the weekend and hopefully some solace. Not too much of the drive penetrated my fog of worry, but I remember passing through the lovely Anderson Valley in what was a relatively fast trip. My sister and George were entertaining some friends staying in the Tower House. The woman was a professor of psychology, I think, and her husband a fireman somewhere in the East Bay. They had two delightful little girls that insisted on demonstrating how well they could do splits. I learned that they had once lived in EDH just a few blocks from where I live now.

I did not do much while I was there except walk around the town and eat the great food my sister and George prepared. One afternoon the sunlight was so clear, I walked about the town taking photographs of the houses.
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Angela Lansbury’s house in “Murder She Wrote.”

Regrettably, I had to return to the golden hills on Monday because I had scheduled an emergency appointment with the supervising oncologist. The drive back was as uneventful as the drive up.

BACK IN THE GOLDEN HILLS:

I had two doctors appointments scheduled for the week. One on Tuesday and another on Friday after which I had planned to return to Mendocino until Christmas. Unfortunately, SWAC had arrived for the holidays and had invited some guests to stay at the house during the holidays. Her strenuous complaints to Dick prompted me to make alternative accommodations to save him from ceaseless tsuris. Although it really does not bother me too much since I have made my life such that I can just float above such discomforts but, I cannot help but wonder what sort of person would want to force someone who may be dying of cancer out of his home in order entertain some guests.

During the two days there, I continued my daily walks but did not swim or exercise at the health club.

On Tuesday, I saw my supervising oncologist for a second opinion. He said that there was only a slight swelling of the lymph nodes and that there was at best a small chance of a reoccurrence of cancer. Nevertheless, he thought I should have a biopsy just to be safe. I agreed.

On another point related to the foregoing paragraph, I was pleased and humbled by the number of people who had read through the last issue of T&T, expressed their concern and offered me their support and good wishes as I dealt with my health problems. Thank you all.

A BRIEF SOJOURN IN SACRAMENTO:

So, on Tuesday, I left for Sacramento to hole up with Norbert and Stevie until my Friday doctor’s appointment. My first stop was at Sacramento Campus Commons where Naida and Bill Geyer live. Campus Commons is a marvelously well-done subdivision on the banks of the American River built in the 1960s before developers learned that they could eliminate all amenities and open space in their products and people would still buy into it in their panicked rush to escape the growing presence of minorities in the cities. Bill and Naida moved there to avoid the burden of managing their ranch nestled along the banks of the Cosumnes River in Rancho Murieta.

Naida was recuperating from recent heart surgery but was in good spirits. Bill’s doctors told him there was little more they could do for his spreading gangrene that would prolong his life. Nevertheless, he seemed quite cheerful and accepting of the diagnosis. We talked about old times and joked about our fears for the future. Then we took a walk (Bill in his motorized chair) through the grounds.
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Bill Prepares to Set Off on His Motorized Scooter.

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Campus Commons.

Then I drove to Stevie and Norbert’s home to spend a few days before my next medical appointment. The first evening we had a delightful meal at a restaurant in Freeport. There are people one meets in life whose kindness to you goes beyond understanding and whom you could never repay. Stevie and Norbert have been that to me over the years.

The next day, I spent the afternoon strolling around Capitol Park a place I have grown to love.

Then came my Dr.’s appointment. He indicated that although he did not believe there should be a problem, he did feel swelling in one of my lymph nodes and confirmed the prior doctor’s recommendation that a biopsy be performed. Directly after the appointment, I set off to my sister’s home in Mendocino.

MORE MENDOCINO DREAMING:

I do not remember much of the drive occupied as I was with a mix of anger and depression that only dissipated when darkness fell as I drove through the redwoods and my malaise was replaced with a fear that I would surely drive off the road in the gloom.

After a not very restful sleep at my sister’s house, I walked through the town of Mendocino and that evening accompanied Maryann and George to the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department’s Annual Christmas Dinner. It was pleasant and enjoyable.

During the pre-dinner drink fest, a woman came up to me and said, “Hi, my name is MaryJane and I married a clown.” I eventually learned that she grew up in Queens NY in a very large and loud Italian family and when she arrived in her mid-teens promptly ran away — she did not run away to the circus, but she did get a job as a ticket taker at Madison Square Garden where, when the Ringling Bros. Circus came to town, she met her clown and after a brief but I am sure fun filled courtship married him. Alas, “He was a good clown but, a bad husband,” she told me and so they soon divorced. She traveled about the country married and divorced a second time and eventually found herself in Mendocino. “With a name like MaryJane where else would I end up other than where the best marijuana is grown.” Here she married a carpenter who also doubled as a volunteer fireman and who was retiring that evening. “I finally got the turnout outfit I wanted and now I am retiring,” he complained to me. (A turnout outfit is the gear provided by the department that a fireman jumps into when he goes off to fight a fire.)

There were many other stories from that evening I could relate but I think that one is enough.

The next day I walked through the town taking photographs and trolling the shops for Christmas presents. I was told, later, that Christmas sales are down because most of the shops depended upon the expenditures of the dope growers spending their gains from the harvest but now with legalization, they are wisely hoarding their profits.
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Mendocino in the Morning

That evening Mary and George had their Christmas Open House. Peter and Barrie and Norbert and Stevie drove up from San Francisco and Sacramento respectively. There was plenty to nibble on including something delicious called a taco-ring and plenty to drink including Champagne and Prosecco. At one point I was talking to a local artist who was aware of my health problems. She told me here previous husband, a well-known sculptor, had the same cancer I have and described in detail the horrible three years of intensive suffering he went through before he died. He had been someone who had always exercised and was a bit of a healthy life fanatic and could not understand why he became so sick. During the period of this turmoil, their 17-year-old son was discovered to have an abnormal heart and had to endure a series of heart surgeries. After her husband died and the son finally had recovered, she began to suffer from PTSD and after two years was hospitalized in an effort to cure it. After she was discharged, she married a local fireman and woodcutter and now lives happily in a large house in the forest with a 10,000-foot studio where she makes large elegantly dressed dolls that are sold at Neiman Marcus for $5000 each.

The next day, Peter, Barrie, and I toured the firehouse while George explained how the various pieces of equipment were used and told us stories about brilliant rescues of people who had fallen off the cliffs and into the ocean and about fighting fires and paramedic techniques.
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Peter, Barrie, and George at the Firehouse

Then, we visited with MaryAnn at the West Company economic development center in Fort Bragg. After that, we walked along the magnificent Ft. Bragg shoreline park that extends about 10 along the coast. Later, we had lunch outdoors in a restaurant at Noyo Harbor where a young man was cooking freshly boiled crab that he shared with us.
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Barrie and George Enjoying a Crab Lunch

That night, Peter and Barrie, and George and MaryAnn each described and argued over the specifics of their long and amusing courtship. I had little to say since most of my marriages were spur of the moment affairs.

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It’s been ten days or so since my last post before I got around to begin this one. Usually, I at least print out the headings for a new post when I send out the previous one. I do not know why it seems so hard to get started. Perhaps I need to adjust my medicines — or maybe it is the coming holiday season. I always found the holidays to be more stressful than joyful.

The intermittent rains have stripped the leaves from most of the trees except for the Indomitable Oak which the remains fully clothed while the other oak trees all around it stand spindly and naked.

On the weekend I traveled to SF — stayed the night with Peter, Barrie, and Ramsey. On Sunday I had a thoroughly enjoyable lunch with Peter, Ruth, and Don at a local French restaurant in Noe Valley. We discussed, old times, old friends and getting old. We laughed a lot.
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Ruth and Her Boys

Meanwhile, back in the Golden Hills life crawls on. HRM, now in the first blush of adolescence, spends his free time among his peer group in what now is referred to by most as “the Scooter Gang.” When not touring the fake hills and valleys of the local skate parks they gather in one or another’s family garage endlessly disassembling and reassembling their outrageously expensive scooters.

For the past few months, my dreams have been especially enjoyable. The difference between the usual ennui of my days and the excitement of my nightly dreams were such that I could hardly wait to go to bed in the evenings. Last night things changed.

I dreamt I was at a very enjoyable party. Eventually, some friends and I decided to leave to get something to eat. After walking through some dark but crowded San Francisco streets, we passed through a busy elegant cocktail lounge where I somehow got separated from them. A youngish (anyone under 60) man with sandy hair called me over to his table. He was a psychiatrist —mine apparently. We discussed my psychological problems at length which I will not bother you with here. Eventually, his sister arrived at the table. She was attractive but blind in one eye which was all dark and milky. This should have warned me.

Anyway, she left and the psychiatrist and I and another gentleman departed from the bar to go somewhere else. As we walked along, I tried to talk to the psychiatrist but he ignored me and continued walking on like he was in a trance. He then climbed up an outside staircase of a building and disappeared inside (second warning). I and the other person continued on and then the shit hit the fan. As I write this, I no longer remember what happened but it was enough sufficiently frighten me that it forced me to wake myself up.

Since I could not go back to sleep fearing I would fall back into my nightmare, I decided to read a book.

The book concerned a man working for a secret British agency combatting the depredations on humanity by beings from the supernatural. The agency’s offices were accessed through a secret door behind a toilet stall in a London train station. Our hero was attending an agency training session when a creature of the underworld, or another dimension or something like that escaped and took over the body of one of the other students (“there were luminous worms writhing behind his eyes”), an agency accountant attending the class to better familiarize himself with the agency’s activity and procedures. Our hero had to kill the accountant in order to save the professor and the other students and was promptly suspended from active duty pending a thorough review of the matter. He arrived back home distressed only to find his roommates, Pinky, and Brains by name, attempting to cook an omelet without breaking the eggs.

At this point, I decided the dream could be no worse than the book so I turned out the light and slept soundly until morning.

Sometimes I speculate whether or not there is any difference between dreams and awareness, reality and fiction, mind and matter. After all, consciousness is located somewhere at the base of our brain stem. The brain stem controls our perception and thought. Didn’t the poet say, ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.’ I wonder if we dream after death, the sleep from which we never wake.

Will we eventually know what is consciousness? Do we care? Will we eventually be able to break it down into some irreducible bits like the Meletians insisted comprise reality? Even if we do, it is basically simply descriptive and perhaps even predictive but it does not tell us what it is. Like quantum theory when it tells us that time is broken into bits and in the space between the bits there is no time. Well, what actually is no-time?

The theory certainly is descriptive, we can assign numbers to it, and it has proven to be predictive. Beyond that, whether it makes any sense to anyone remains a question. Maybe that is one of the failures of a pure science like physics, it is only descriptive and predictive and sometimes we somehow feel that is not enough. Mostly, I think most of us don’t care. Some people believe in God in order to avoid the effort of thinking about things like this. Others probably think that those who think like this need a little God or a drink. Certainly, God is little more than place-saver for whatever we wonder about but do not know and do not want to spend too much time on it. Perhaps, Science, as we have come to perceive it, has become an itch deep within our minds. It may be inventive, provide physical comfort and expanded knowledge and more efficient ways of producing the energy we require to survive as a species, but do we really feel we know what we always have wanted to know — why us and who am I? On the other hand, does anyone really care? Perhaps we need to consider a “NEW SCIENCE.” On the other hand, perhaps ennui and disassociation many of us are feeling have less to do with who we are than what we are. Or maybe I just read too much fantasy fiction.

The next evening Dick returned from wherever he had been the past two days and suffering from a bad cold. HRM, after a day of scootering, arrived with three members of the scooter gang for a sleepover. They were very well behaved. In the morning HRM cooked breakfast for everyone. HRM was fascinated by one of the new members of the gang. He lives on the top of the hill in Serrano “where the rich people live.” “All the houses have double doors,” he marveled

This is all new to me. When I grew up boys never had sleepovers, girls had slumber parties, however.

Anyway, Dick retired to treat his cold. The scooter gang piled into HRM’s room, the heavy stench of pre-teen sweat and emerging testosterone crept out from under the door like miasmatic swamp gas. I returned to reading the adventures of the silly supernatural spy until I could feel bits of my brain turning to rot. So, I closed the computer, shut the light and went to sleep.

When I go for my morning walks lulled by the click of my walking stick on the path and the rasp of my breath in my ears, I sometimes pass into a state a lot like dreaming, except here my mind-voice keeps up a patter of words into my mind, like a boring lecturer going on about something until you pass into a trance hearing only the buzzing of the phonemes — click, breath, words —click, breath, words and so on. Sometimes these lectures I give myself seem quite good and I try to remember them so that I can post them here in T&T. At other times they are just trash, detritus to be left on the side of the path like a pile of leaves.

On Friday morning, dawn flung its delicate rosy fingers along the eastern horizon above the golden hills. As I drove HRM to school we played silly buggers and laughed a lot. Then it was off to breakfast at IHOP followed by a short trip down Bidwell for my doctor’s appointment before heading off to my sister’s house in Mendocino. I was in a great mood looking forward to the drive and the week on the coast.

After a bit of an annoying wait, the doctor arrived and announced that the CT scan I took last week showed the lymph nodes in my neck were enlarged. “This is bad, very bad,” he said. He sounded like he was angry and it was my fault his precious chemotherapy may not have worked. “You will have to get a PET scan, probably followed by a biopsy of the lymph nodes and if the biopsy is positive we will have to do immediate invasive surgery on your neck.” I was, to say the least, thunderstruck. Only two weeks ago the doctor managing my treatment, after shoving a tube through my nose and down my throat, announced that I was still in remission. What the hell happened in those two weeks?

The doctor then told me that everything has to proceed very quickly because if cancer has spread it will move rapidly throughout my system. I was devastated. I have appointments with my other two doctors on Tuesday and Friday of next week and await a call to set up the PET scan. I am worried, frightened depressed and angry.

 

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN TRANSIT:

The last few days before leaving on a trip are usually part of the voyage itself, even if, like me, you just fuss and fume about not doing anything to prepare. A few days before departure, I did manage to throw some clothes and medicines into a suitcase.

Usually, I have no anxiety about going on a trip — no matter how long and arduous it may be. This time, however, I was apprehensive. Perhaps, it is because of the state of my health or maybe it is my age. In any event, whenever I think about my travels this summer an indefinite shadow of concern rattles around the back of my mind.

On Wednesday evening, Dick drove me to Sacramento Airport for my overnight flight to New York. After saying goodbye to him and to HRM, I walked into the airport. I decided to act the part of a bent and befuddled and creepy old man. An easy task since I am, in fact, a bent and befuddled and creepy old man. So, leaning heavily on my imitation black thorn shillelagh cane, I stumbled around and forced everyone to repeat whatever they tell me twice. I did this because I thought it would help me get assigned better seating and boarding preference (it did), and also because many, many years ago when introduced to “method” acting one of the exercises was to stumble around like an old man. Now that I am an old man, I thought it would be interesting to see how accurate we had been. It was great fun.

In New York, I managed to spend a bleary-eyed day at Kennedy Airport waiting for my flight to Milan. It doesn’t matter how old, bent and befuddled you may be, in New York they will still tell you to “go fuck yourself” or the like if your responses are too slow.

No matter how tiring and uncomfortable traveling may be, especially by airplane, there is usually something interesting to watch. That is probably because unlike passing strangers on a street or in a restaurant, on a plane or waiting around an airport boarding area you are involved in a short term community and with people with similar goals— to survive the trip.

While waiting in New York’s Kennedy Airport at what I thought was the correct gate, I noticed that the boarding area across from me was fitted out with tables and chairs decorated as though a party was going to be held soon. Waiters spread out among the other gates in the area offering everyone free fruit juice. Soon strangely dressed people began to drift in outfitted in various odd costumes usually including a strong dose of sequins. It all began to resemble a Fellini film. Then the star of the show arrived. At least I think it was the star since almost everyone in sequins and some without would come over to her, smile and then kiss and hug her. She was about six feet two inches tall with one of those tight skinned expressionless faces like Trump’s wife’s that are the frightening wonders of modern cosmetic surgery (you wonder how and why). Her breasts were out of a porno comic, her butt something that would make JayLo’s appear malnourished and her dress easier described by what it did not cover than what it did.

Anyway, eventually they all gathered at the tables and after about 20 minutes or so of partying and picture taking, they all got up, including the super-star, and marched through the gate marked “Vienna.” So, if you read or hear about anything unusual happening in Austria during the second week in June, I’d love to hear about it

Shortly after the carnival departed, I learned I that I had been waiting at the wrong gate. So, I rushed across the airport to the correct one where I was met by Frank Cozza, an Alitalia employee, who Nikki arranged to take me through security and generally ease my transit. He told me that he had paged me for an hour or more. But, I guess, with my diminished hearing and all the partying, I did not hear it. Frank arranged for me to decompress for a half hour in the first class lounge.

The most interesting thing about the flight was that sitting a few rows from me was about five deaf Italian women who had been visiting the US and were now returning to Italy. Although I cannot read sign, I could understand them easily since I am proficient in Italian facial expressions and hand gestures. In the US and most other places, I guess, signing carries the message with facial and hand gestures used for emphasis. In Italy, or at least among these women, facial expressions and hand gestures carried the message while the signs seemed to be used only for emphasis.

They were loud also. At the luggage carousel, everyone’s eyes were drawn to them as they talked or argued in sign over the various pieces of luggage that trundled by.

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B. TAMIL AND SACILE:

 

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Pookie a Child of the Corn. 

 

The following day, I arrived in Italy, the land of expressive hands and dramatic noses. Nikki met me as I exited the plane at Malpensa near Milan. He was scheduled to fly a plane to Tokyo in a few hours. We had lunch. I ate spaghetti and lobster. I actually could taste the lobster. Perhaps my taste is returning. Or, perhaps I can only taste things that come packed in their own slime.

Then it was off to northern Italy by train to Sacile where I was met by Vittorio who promptly drove me to a cafe where the two women owners implored me to assist them with drafting their proposal for developing a techie way of assuring artist profits in the face of discount sales. I agreed. At a little after one AM, I finally got to bed following well over two days of traveling with little sleep.
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Sacile

At 8 AM the next morning, Vittorio and I drove across the Veneto farmlands toward another town where he was to play in a marching band during a commemoration ceremony for the town’s Alpine troops who died in the two world wars. As we drove, on our right the pre-alps rose above the fertile plain like a Roman shield wall before an assault by the Gauls. It was a lovely day.

Vittorio plays tuba in a number of bands and orchestras in the area. Like with Peter Grenell, who I often follow along to his various gigs, I happily follow Vittorio along to his whenever I am here. I guess I can be viewed as a “geriatric groupie.”
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Vittorio and His Tuba

Vittorio’s band mates and the Alpini veterans all wore their distinctive hats with one stiff erect eagle feather jutting above each. I learned that the dark feathers ment the person had been an enlisted man and the lighter stiff erect eagle feather signified an officer. I could not help noticing that the stiff erect feather of the officers was, on the whole, distinctly smaller than those of the enlisted men’s except for one or two of the officers whose stiff erect feathers were larger than everyone else’s. You may make whatever sociological conclusions from that you want.

Upon our return, we stopped in Sacile for Prosecco at Lucia’s “Le Petite Cafe.” Disney-world is not the happiest place on earth, Lucia’s “Le Petite Cafe” is.
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Lucia and Vittorio at “Le Petite Cafe” in Sacile.

Following an afternoon nap, we set off for a bon voyage dinner in honor of Vittorio and Teacher Brian’s impending 30-day walking pilgrimage to Compostela in Spain. But, that is for my next post.

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As most of you know by now, I am a hypochondriac. I overreact to the slightest bodily unease with visions of my imminent demise. I guess you can say I am a melodramatic hypochondriac. What follows is my experience during my recent travels to Thailand.

With SWAC’s 20 kilo suitcase to deliver to friends and family in Thailand in tow, Dick dropped me off at the Capital Corridor station in Sacramento. About four hours later, I found myself standing at the Air China counter at SFO listening to the attendant tell me that there were no aisle seats available. I responded that if I did not get an aisle seat I would die of a pulmonary embolism like I almost did once before and I would bleed all over the plane from my recent operation and then my estate would sue the airline for all they were worth* and there would be a lot of trouble. She laughed, repeated “trouble” and gave me an aisle seat.

(* As my old torts professor told us that the victim in a lawsuit is worth far more injured and in permanent horrible pain than dead. So if you are ever at fault in an accident make sure your victims are dead and not injured. You will make your insurance company very happy.)

In the plane, a Philippine-American woman of indeterminant age (clearly too old to be young and a few years short of being old) sat in the middle seat next to me. She asked if I would be willing to change seats with her. I laughed and said, “I fought too hard for this seat to give it up now.”

During the flight, as I watched the movies (mostly cartoons), I noticed the woman next to me talking to the movie on her screen. So, I shut down mine, watched hers, and listened to her non-stop dialogue with the actors.

About two-thirds of the way across the Pacific, I realized I had not taken my blood thinner pill. Convinced I would die of an embolism if I did not do so, I rooted through my carry-on, found the bottle, and swallowed a pill. Alas, after I had done so, I recalled that I normally break the pill apart and take only about one-quarter of it. Believing my now super-thinned blood would soon leach into my body cavity followed by the bursting of the scars from my recent operation, I was sure I would be dead before we landed in Beijing.

I did not die. Instead, I experienced the Chinese international flight transfer passengers ritual. In the USA, the TSA continues to add more and more personnel to stand around and bully passengers but they never seem to increase the number of lanes for processing. The Chinese, on the other hand, place a single functionary at each end of several long halls through which the transferring passengers are forced to walk. Each functionary slowly checks over the same traveler’s documents (passport and ticket) as they pass from hall to hall. Finally, the travelers having had their passports checked by several functionaries, arrive at a place where many signs are posted requiring the passengers to empty their luggage of just about everything they could possibly carry and place them in separate bins to pass through the security equipment. This whole procedure so slows down the process that only a single security apparatus is adequate to handle the dribbling in of passengers as they emerge from the lengthy bureaucratic gauntlet.

Anyway, off I flew from Beijing on a much smaller aircraft. One without personal TV at each seat. About an hour into the five-hour flight, I developed a need to use the lavatory.

When I was discharged from the hospital after my recent operation, I was given a number of sheets of paper describing what I should or shouldn’t do as I recuperate. On one, in bold type, was written: YOU MAY EXPERIENCE AN EPISODE WHEN YOUR URINE STREAM IS THE COLOR AND TEXTURE OF CATSUP. THIS IS NORMAL. DO NOT BE AFRAID. At my post-op meeting with the urologist three days before my flight, the doctor repeated the warning and urged me not to be afraid if this happens. So here I was in the tiny restroom of an airplane 35,000 feet above China and I looked down to see a steady stream of catsup flowing out of my body into the bowl. Despite all the warnings, I was afraid — very afraid.

I made my way back to my seat and sat there somewhat rigidly, persuaded I was sure to die before we arrived in Bangkok. We arrived in BKK at about midnight and I was still alive. I took a taxi to my apartment and upon entering it went directly to the bathroom. The catsup was still flowing.

Now, convinced death certainly would overtake me before morning, I contemplated the possibility of spending my last night on earth running up Soi Nanna, dashing through the ladyboy center of the universe at Nana Plaza, climbing to the top of the building and throwing myself off to crash through the roof of Bangkok Hooters or Bangkok Bunnies night club as a demonstration of my opposition to the corporate commercialization of what used to be simple two-part exchanges. Alas, like most people when confronted with the end having not completed their bucket list, I went to bed — and dreamed:

I dreamt I was a very very rich and very corrupt man who realized that the world was rapidly going to hell, primarily because of the activities rich and corrupt people like me. I could, I thought, use my wealth and power to protect myself and continue living the high life while the world careened to its end. Perhaps even building a huge underground bunker somewhere in the Rockies where I could live with my mothballed yachts and automobiles until it all blew over.

Alas, I realized instead, sooner or later things would get so bad that the proles would grab their guns, break into my bunker and shoot my sorry ass even before the rest of the world ends. So, I decided the best way to protect myself was to save the world myself and while so doing become even richer and more corrupt. As an added benefit, should I be successful, I, eventually, would be considered a saint or hero by the public who survive along with me.

The next day I woke up at about noon and found that I was still alive. In the bathroom, I checked and found the catsup gone replaced by something that looked more like year old green tea dregs. I took this as a sign that I would live for a few more days at least, so I decided to eat a breakfast of instant coffee and some buns from 7/11 that were renowned for their lack of taste. By the time I finished eating and staring at the wall, it was 4 o’clock and almost time for dinner, so I dressed, went to a small restaurant near the apartment and had a pretty good plate of sweet and sour pork. I returned to my apartment and was struck with jet-lag so I went back to bed. And I had another dream:

I was riding in a car driving along a ridge near the California Coast and as I looked our over the ocean I saw, far off, a wave building that was higher than the ridge we were driving on. The driver said it looks like we were going to be hit by several giant tsunamis and we must get over the mountains and into to the Central Valley to be safe. He drove me about five miles inland where he dropped me off to meet my brother. We planned to ride our bicycles across the coastal range and into the valley. But, unfortunately, my bike was lost. So my brother (who was nine years old) and I ran for our house. We climbed to the third floor hoping to ride out the Tsunami. The first wave hit. I protected my brother with my body. We survived. I knew we had to leave before the next wave arrived.

I went to the front of the house where some relatives lived to see if they survived. I despised this family — no that’s not strong enough — I loathed them. Even that is not strong enough. I hated them since I was two when I went directly from the security of my baby bottle to loathing these people. (I have many unresolved anger management issues in my dreams.)

During my youth, not knowing where my parents were, I spent much of my time being passed around to various families among whom were these particular relatives. Among the many reasons for my hate of them in addition to their generally detestable behavior was that they told me told me Santa Claus was not real then laughed at my disappointment. Actually, there was one member of the family I could tolerate. He was always very nice to me. Many years later I learned he became a serial child molester.

They all survived the tsunami except for my uncle by marriage’s mother. “I had hoped you all were dead” I screamed at them. “I’m glad the old lady is dead. Now we don’t have to drag her wretched boney ass across the mountains.” I ran back up to the third floor and picked up my brother who had shrunk from a nine-year-old to a three-year-old.

We stood there by the window looking out at the mountains. We saw our father driving what looked like a 1925 Rolls-Royce Phaeton racing a 2016 black Lexus down the mountain. They drove straight at the house. At the last moment. they swerved off in a wide circle around the house. When they appeared again, they seemed to be heading back up the mountain. Suddenly my father’s car slid on a puddle of water, skidded across the road, bumped over the curb careened through a large parking lot and over another curb, smashed through a fence and climbed up a billboard where they stopped teetering on the edge. My mother and father exited the car and climbed down from the billboard on which it hung. My father stood there, arms upraised shouting, “Why me God? Why me?” My mother, furious, stalked away. They were dressed in 1940s style. My mom in a smart floral print dress and a tiny hat and my father looking a bit like Clyde Barker.

I was distraught, I imagined that we would have to walk up the mountain with the slight hope of crossing it before the next tsunami. In addition, I would have to carry my now screaming and urine soaked brother. I also would be traveling in the company of relatives I despised and wished were dead while being forced to listen to my parents argue. I imagined my mother saying something like, “Why God? I’ll tell you why God. Because you’re stupid, no you’re a fucking idiot, that’s why God.”

Suddenly I started laughing uncontrollably and the laughing woke me up and it woke up the Little Masseuse who was sleeping on the floor at the foot of the bed. She said, “You crazy. You very crazy.”

I lay back on my pillow and tried to figure out what the dream meant. I remembered that I had read somewhere that dreaming about water had something to do with sex. Putting that together with the rest of my dream, I realized I did not want to go there. So, I practiced my breathing exercises and contemplated the words of that great American philosopher and wry observer of antebellum Georgia society Scarlett O’Hara who, following Sherman’s laying waste to everything important in her life, opined, “Tomorrow is another day.”

At least, I certainly hope so.

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TODAY’S FACTOID:

1548 – The Hispaniolan Edible Rat becomes extinct.

The kitchen of our Bangkok apartment is infested by rats (the non-edible kind) that at night after the lights are out gaily scamper about the room. Recently the maid put out an anti-rodent device that consists basically of a plastic sheet covered with a glue type substance that traps the rat unlucky enough to step on it and results in what appears to be a cruel and painful death of the creature.

My feelings about the Rodentia situation in my apartment are somewhat ambiguous. I feel neither fear, sympathy or disgust for the circumstances of either the infestation or the rodenticide. It is more like the feeling one has when one seeks to avoid meeting with someone one prefers not to meet, on the one hand one feels a bit cowardly skulking away while on the other-hand one also is generally aware that forcing a meeting through some misplaced moral sense is probably as stupid a thing to do as can be imagined.

This ambivalence about rats I find strange given my history with the species. Growing up in New York I generally fell asleep with the sounds of rats scurrying through the walls. As a child, I was never able to settle on whether these sounds in the walls by my bed frightened me or comforted me.

When I was about Hayden’s age my family was homeless for a while. Ultimately we found an empty store that we moved into and soaped up the glass front for privacy. There was neither heat nor hot water and at night the large Norwegian roof rats would enter the room through the spaces between walls and ceilings of the store and the various pipes and plumbing servicing the residential apartments above and the grocery store next door.

Every night my mother would remain awake armed with a knife to chase away the rats while my brother and I slept. One evening while so armed and on guard she fell asleep sitting beside the kitchen table. She was suddenly jolted awaken by the sound of the rats scrabbling to get into a cake box on the table. The rats startled by her movement, leaped on to her face and head as it was the highest point in the room between the floor and the exposed pipes available to them to make their escape. She fell to the floor in an epileptic seizure beginning a 10 year period of seizures and hospitalizations.

After her being taken away in an ambulance that night, I spent the next four years living with various relatives and strangers who took me in but mostly with my grandparents. I never knew where my brother lived during this time.

After a few years and hospitalizations we began living together again but her periodic fits continued until I was about 17 years old and in a surprise to everyone mom became pregnant again with my sister and the seizures stopped. She considered both the pregnancy and the curing of the epilepsy a miracle. I was not so sure.

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“Lentil Soup and Lent

Yesterday I made a pot of lentil soup as well as a loaf of bread, since the weather demands it. I realized that while my back was screwing with me last week, I missed out on Mardi Gras on Tuesday. I have not been a practicing Catholic for . . . yikes. That would be over a half a century. I do dig McDonald’s having cheap Filet o Fish sandwiches (YEEE-Hah!!) during Lent, so naturally I will take advantage of that for the next 5 weeks.

But here’s the thing. Stay with me on this: When the kids were still in elementary school and their mom was on the dating scene, which I called the “Boyfriend of the Month Club,” I decided not to date. One parent dating like a rat in heat and dragging impressionable young kids to these men’s homes was bad enough; it didn’t need to be repeated by me.

I knew that the dating cycle was about 5 weeks is because that is how often I’d be asked for my recipe for scaloppine alla Marsala, the dinner she’d prepared for those guys. And I wouldn’t date.

It got to the point, though, that those years were adding up. Because I did the celibate parent thing voluntarily, I believe I should be allowed to give it up for Lent. Got it now?

So in Rome, we’ve got Il Papa, Pope Francis, who reflects virtually political and social position I have. I’m going to throw myself at his mercy and see if there is a special dispensation in his heart to allow me to give up celibacy for Lent. I’m guessing that he’d go for it. Hell — he can even live vicariously through me, if he wants. So I am confident.

Do I have any volunteers?
Pete Xander

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