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Posts Tagged ‘Humor’

 

Days go by like a Cole Porter tune, smooth and easy with the hint of a Latin beat. The weather has been sunny. A slight breeze cools the air forestalling the blistering heat of the coming summer for a few more days. Every day, I drive from the Enchanted Forest into the Golden Hills for breakfast, exercise and my chauffeur duties with the Scooter Gang. HRM leaves for Thailand this weekend so my usual schedule will change somewhat. I plan to depart for Italy on the 17th of June. Professor Hank, who I will be traveling with from Venice to Croatia and on to Calabria, tells me we will be stopping for a few days in Puglia (where I have never been) to attend a party. I look forward to it.

Today it rained. I sat in the house, watched television and listened to Naida play “Sorrento” on the piano. Last evening it was Jerome Kern tunes. I also looked at old photographs of my family.

Memorial Day weekend arrived. The summer season begins. HRM left for Thailand. I am very sad. Two medical students at UC Davis moved into the empty bedrooms of the house in the Enchanted Forest. The women spent Saturday cleaning the two bedrooms to apparent ICU specifications and moved most of their belongings in on Sunday. I also watched innumerable old movies on the Turner Channel as I audited the move in. This seems more like ordinary old age than any adventure. Well, I guess old age is an adventure in itself. Isn’t everything?

In order to avoid terminal boredom, I decided to take the dog on a long walk to explore some of those parts of the Enchanted Forest I had not yet seen. It was mid-afternoon and hot. We soon got lost on the endless pathways. One thing I discovered during the walk was that children lived here. I had thought they were prohibited by the HOA like many other things such as cats, parking cars on the street, and altering the outside of your house. I was surprised, however, to find one of the 10 community pools awash with splashing kidlings. Anyway, we made our way back tired, exhausted (aren’t they the same?) and thirsty. We drank a lot of water and napped. Adventure indeed.

Recently Madelyn asked me where is home for me now. It reminded me of Josiah Bancroft’s observation, “‘Home’ is an exaggeration made true by distance.” In that case, my home may still be in Thailand, or the Golden Hills or the Enchanted Forest or Mendocino. Perhaps, it is the Gypsy in my soul or, I am a Tinker and my home is wherever I can sharpen edges or, perhaps where my heart is or perhaps hearth. Ha, my hearth has been lost to me for many years now (do we even allow hearths today?). I used to carry around with me a little metal statue of a Boar (why a wild pig?) that I had found somewhere when I was a child. I used to tell myself, “Home was where the pig was.” Alas, I lost that too a few years ago. I carry a tent and a sleeping bag in the back of the car. I consider that home also. I guess, a home could be where you keep your stuff out of the rain. You know “stuff” the accumulated detritus of your working life. I used to keep a lot of my stuff in several storage containers. I gave it all away almost 10 years ago now. Home used to be more or less your mailing address. Now it is your internet address — no-place but wherever you happen to be when the router finds you .

I guess the fact is for me now home is where those I love reside. That will do — even when I’m not there — I’m not homeless but multi-homed. Where do I sleep? Now that is a different story.

Today, I drove back into the golden hills. Pookie’s adventures, other than in my mind or with my body, recently seem to be limited to sitting drinking caffe latte in a Starbucks somewhere and then eagerly driving to another Starbucks. In between, I walk around a lake or through some woods for exercise. Nights, however, are quite pleasant — adventures of their own. I’m not complaining. At a certain age, one must take excitement how and where one finds it otherwise it becomes a chore. Even television has its moments. Recently I saw La Dietrich again — in a western this time. She was teamed up with a young John Wayne with Randolph Scott as the villain. I forget its title. Lots of people were shot.

While sitting at Bella Bru this morning I could not find my Smartphone. I suddenly felt as though I did not exist. Well, that’s not quite right. I exist, mostly. I felt more like my cell phone was my home and I was homeless. Perhaps I was lost. So, I returned to the Enchanted Forest and found my phone. Now I was no longer homeless or lost but I was left with a greater existential problem — why would something good for only upsetting me with fake news on Facebook and finding a cheap plumber be considered home? I have to remember to discuss this with Peter. He is very good with existential crises in the Age of Kali.

This evening the air was comfortably warm. We went for a walk along the American River.
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The American River

We found a spot on the bank that was not too damp and sat there watching the geese struggle against the current to get to the island they seemed to be nesting on. Across the way, a large group of adults and children were spending their Memorial Day afternoon splashing in the water or having picnics on the banks under brightly colored umbrellas. In the middle of the river, an old man was gracefully fly casting. We sat there until dusk then returned home.
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A few days later, I visited with my chemo-oncologist. He looked into my mouth for a moment, felt around my neck and declared me still in remission. Good for me. It was the first day that the air was so hot that it was unpleasant to be out and about. Summer’s arrived, I guess. Instead of exercising, I headed off to Starbucks for air-conditioning, coffee, and a breakfast of egg McMuffin with sausage. I stayed there for a few hours, reading my latest novel on Kindle (Red Sparrow) and going through Facebook posts.

On my way back to the Enchanted Forest, I decided to stop for a root-beer float. While ordering, I got an urge for a hot dog and ordered one. Half-way through the dog, a large piece of it got stuck in my throat. I began to spit and spew food and my root-beer all over the booth and the floor, gagging. “Oh my God,” I thought (or something like that), “I’m going to be embarrassed or maybe even die.” I tried to drink more of my root-beer float in hope that it would help. It did not. It just ended up all over the table as brown gunk. I looked around to see if anyone would come to my rescue. Fat chance. Everyone looked away. “Well,” I thought, “thankfully the hospital was nearby.” “But, if I can’t breathe I will be dead before I could get there” I realized. So I tried to breathe. I could. Hooray! “It’s stuck in my throat and not in my esophagus” I rationalized, “therefore I was not going to die right away of anything but terminal embarrassment.” I tried to swallow again — great pain. Suddenly, I felt a lump in my throat move. My throat was clear again. I sat there amidst the dripping bits and pieces of my hot dog spread all over the table and calmly resumed nibbling on what was left of my hot dog and finishing sipping my float. Then, I cleaned up the table and myself the best that I could, got up and walked out of the place with as much dignity as I could muster. Adventure is where you find it. I mean, choking on a hot dog and living is almost a good an adventure as being attacked by a lion and escaping, but is much easier to carry out. Instead of packing for a safari and traveling god knows how far to get to the place where I escape death, I only have to pull into a local fast food joint.

That night I watched an old “Boston Blackie” movie on the TV and then went to bed feeling it had been a day well lived.

The weekend approaches and I am off the Mendocino and the film festival.

 

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“It’s never treason if you win.’”

Stross, Charles. The Traders’ War: A Merchant Princes Omnibus. Tom Doherty Associates.

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESSICA
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TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SACRAMENTO:

It was a balmy warm spring day. I walked around the lakes at Town Center taking photographs of the flowers now in full bloom and reminiscing about things past and present.
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The Roses at Town Center

For all extents and purposes, I live now in the midst of a forest near the Capitol City in the center of the Great Valley and travel every morning back to the Golden Hills to eat breakfast, exercise and discharge my duties to the Scooter Gang (soon to be renamed the Adolescent Bicycle Riders from Purgatory).

I live in the middle of a deep dark seemingly enchanted forest near the center of Capitol City. It is like living in Capital Park except here, tiny little houses are grouped around curving flower-lined pathways snaking beneath the branches of the trees. There is no horizon visible here like there is in the golden hills, only the trunks and branches of the great trees, redwoods, cedars, and pines and the little slip of sky above. Like all forests, it is quiet, only the slight hum of the nearby freeway penetrates the shadows.
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The Enchanted Forest

In the mornings, I still walk around the lakes in Town Center but in the evening, I now return to stroll along the banks of the American River and through the Enchanted Forest.

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The American River at Dusk

Last night after dark, I watched Marlene Dietrich vamp her way through Shanghai Express, feathers flying, eyes flirting and smoke rising from the cigarette clutched between her fingers like an orchestra conductor’s baton.

On Saturday, I helped Naida set up her table at the semi-annual flea market in Campus Commons where she sold some books. Residents of the subdivisions browsed through the unwanted ephemera of their neighbors. Surprisingly, there were a number of bicycles for sale. It seems bicycle thieves strip the bicycles of desired objects (a gear shift, wheel and the like) and toss the remainder into the neighborhood bushes. The derelict cycles are then sold by the HOA at the market.
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Naida (in the hat) in Discussion with a Potential Customer

I took the time while waiting for the market to close to continue my exploration of the Enchanted Forest. This time around the lakes in the center of the Forrest. I sat on a bench and stared at the water. I was soon joined by another elderly retired gentleman who used to work for a local real estate development company that just so happens to have developed both Serrano the major subdivision in El Dorado Hills and most of Campus Commons. We swapped tales of developments past and discussed at some length the many difficulties and few joys of being old.

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The Lake in Campus Commons

That night, we attended a concert in downtown Sacramento that featured a new choral work by a young composer. We believed we were to attend a performance of Tosca but unfortunately had the week wrong. Attributing it all to another example of creeping dementia, we decided to make the best of it and cadged some tickets from a nice couple whose friends could not join them that evening. We enjoyed a presentation of religious-themed music including “Ancient Airs and Dances” by Respighi, Dvorak’s “Te Deum” and “Jubilate Deo” by Dan Forrest (the young composer). The latter contained hymns in Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Mandarin, Zulu and Spanish accompanied by some of their traditional instruments.
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The Concert Finale. (It looks more like the Triumphant March in Aida)

 

B. A BRIEF SOJOURN IN THE BAY AREA:

On Monday, my sister was to be operated on for breast cancer at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. She urged me not to take the long drive to be there since she would probably be too medicated after the operation to appreciate my effort. I told her that I was not coming to see her but to accompany George who I was sure would be quite distressed waiting for the operation to be completed. When I arrived at the hospital, I found George well attended to by Brendan and Katie.

The operation appeared to be a success. Maryann emerged looking well. After they all left the hospital to spend the night in the hotel, I left for Peter’s house in San Francisco. That evening, Peter’s band, Blind Lemon Pledge, played a gig at Green Tortoise, the well known SF hostel featuring the beginning point for the hippy era cross-country bus trip to NYC. I attended as the band’s temporary roadie. During the performance, the management of the hostel, suspicious I might be some homeless person who slipped into the hostel to get out of San Francisco’s spring cold and snag a free meal, questioned me closely. I managed to persuade them that I really was a roadie so they left me alone.

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Blind Lemon Pledge

 

The following morning Peter and I met with my grandson at Bernie’s for coffee and pastry. Anthony has had what is known as a troubled adolescence that included several convictions for marijuana offenses and the like. For the past few years these offenses have centered on his attempt to develop the technology for distilling the essential ingredients from the cannabis plant, a complex, dangerous, and previously illegal activity. His passion has led him to be hired as laboratory staff by the major (and right now only) approved dealer and developer of cannabis products in SF. The laboratory is virtually indistinguishable from a traditional chemical lab, with gleaming new machines, meters, switches and cautionary signs of the wall. He distills from the plants the various active ingredients that are used to make several products. He replaced two trained college educated chemists. Good luck Anthony.

(JP — Since that meeting I received the following from Anthony:

Thank you, that means a lot. Im happy in this field. And you know.. i have been in this field since i was 13/14 yrs old. Its great to be able to do things legally now.

Remind me, what are your current symptoms now so i can find a cannabis product that will work for you. I remember you said edible maybe 2:1 ratio 2 cbd: 1thc (so higher cbd) are you interested in tinctures and tropicals as well?)

 

C. BACK IN THE GOLDEN HILLS AND THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

One of the more significant problems that arise upon reaching my age is that I often soon forget whatever I may have been recently up to. Like now, I am sitting in a nondescript Starbuck somewhere in Folsom writing this. It is raining outside. I met with my oncologist a few hours ago. He declared me still in remission. Hooray for me. I cannot remember what else I have done since my return to the Great Valley a few days ago. Perhaps, I napped a lot. I recall having a late lunch-early dinner at Subway with HRM a day or so ago. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: How are things going with you?
HRM: Good.
Me: Anything interesting happen in school recently?
HRM: Everything.

And so on — the conversational rhythms of the emerging adolescent.

One evening, we went for dinner at a nearby Ethiopian restaurant. It was enjoyable, especially accompanied by honey wine. That night, I had a dream so loaded with Jungian overtones that to attempt to describe it could lead to madness. I struggled, eventually successfully, to wake myself up but could not get back to sleep again for fear the dream would return.

 

D. AN INVESTIGATION AND AN ADMISSION:

Recently I learned that someone may have investigated my background and concluded that I was somewhat of a libertine. I am incensed. Not because I had been “investigated.” Nor am I upset because privacy in modern society seems to be as outdated as garters. No, what chaps my hide is that they failed to discover or disclose that I am also a “ner’do well,” bipolar, an only partially reformed doper, and am fond of walking sticks, straw hats and Hawaiian shirts. I firmly believe that when my privacy rights are violated, I deserve the right to be assured that those interested be completely informed of as many of my peccadilloes as possible. Otherwise, I feel others will be left believing I am only half as defective as I actually am. I believe that in a free country, we have as much a right to be acknowledged for our defects as for our abilities.

 

E. SEARCHING FOR “SPITFIRE”:

When one loses a word from memory or from a computer-saved document, it can be quite distressful. Especially if like “Spitfire” it is difficult to replace. We recently lost, or perhaps not lost but misplaced, the word “spitfire.” We were understandably upset and spent a considerable amount of time and effort looking for it — alas, to no effect. It did, however, make quite a story. Unfortunately, it was a story with no end. After all, once you’ve lost your Spitfire, what can you do?

Actually, “Spitfire” was what two full grown men called the 14-year-old girl who fought off their attempt to abduct and rape her. Twenty years later another man tried the same thing with the same woman with the same results. She is not a “spitfire,” she a Heroine because none of the men were punished by anyone but her alone.

“Spitfire” is not alone in her experience. As “me too” movement demonstrates, it is a tragic event in the lives of all too many women.

 

F. ENNUI AND ME:

In life, it is a truism that no great euphoria or great misery goes on forever. Sooner or later they all return to the mundane mean. This morning, after yesterday’s emotional roller-coaster, I, once again, sit in Bella Bru Cafe with my cafe latte and toasted cinnamon-raisin bagel with cream cheese trying to decide which exhibit of life’s amusement park I will visit next.

The sky is overcast, not dark — a light covering of clouds, all silvery light, just waiting for the sun to break through — ambivalent. Sort of like my mood. Should I go for a walk, swim or should I stay here, sipping on my quickly cooling coffee and staring off into the distance? I decide to move — not molt in the darkness. So, I drive to a nearby Starbuck’s, get a warm cafe latte, plug in my Mac, and stare off into the distance. Of all human emotions, I like ennui best.

 

G. SAME OLD GRIND:

Had a great morning. Got out of the house at about eleven-thirty singing “Shaboom” and skipping down the path to the car. The day got even better when I found the car’s windshield did not carry a nasty note warning me I risked receiving a ticket for parking there overnight. The sun was shining as I drove the 20 miles or so up Route 50 to Bella Bru. It was too late for my usual breakfast so I ordered a hamburger. While I waited for the burger to be delivered to my table, I thought about how best to take advantage of my current good mood. I decided the best thing to do was to do nothing which is the same thing I do when I am in a bad mood. Ennui and indolence go together like mac and cheese.

After transporting two members of the Scooter Gang from the Skate Park to Zach’s backyard pool, I returned to the Enchanted Forest. A long walk along the levies of the American River and through the university campus followed. Then an evening around the piano singing old show tunes until September Song brought tears to my eyes.

And the days dwindle down
To a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days
I’d spend with you
These precious days I’d spend with you

Ain’t it the truth.

It had been a good day and so I went to bed and hoped for a dreamless sleep.

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MENDOCINO ON MY MIND:
On Tuesday morning, I emptied my room and packed up the car. I drove HRM to school. It was a sad parting for both of us. I have no idea when or if I will return to my part-time job as dedicated Uber driver for the Scooter Gang. He said that in my absence he would do his best to arrange transportation for himself and his cohort to the various skateboard parks and fast food restaurants, but I knew he was worried. I said, “I know you can do it, kid.”
He stood for a moment on the sidewalk in front of the school, put the decal laden crash helmet on his head and hopped on to his tricked out scooter. I watched for a moment as he one-legged the scooter up the path to the school and then, I drove off.
I stopped in Sacramento for breakfast and stories with Naida after which I set off on the long exhausting drive to my sister’s house in Mendocino.
After a great dinner of tuna-burger covered in pickled cucumbers and ginger, I went to bed and slept fitfully. The next morning, I sat with my coffee and exhausted myself staring out at the yellow-flowered lawn and the sea and so, went back to bed and took a nap.
IMG_4330    The Morning View from the House on the Mendocino Headlands,

But for some walks along the bluffs and through the town and eating, I spent the next few days mostly asleep. Tomorrow, I pledge myself to either hike through the hills above Big River or visit the Rhododendron exhibit at the Botanical Gardens.
So, off I went for my stroll along the bluffs above the Big River Estuary. I walked further than I planned. I kept walking along a path that appeared to climb constantly upwards. I thought I would walk to the top of the hill hoping I would have a great view of the river from there. But, I never got there. I walked and walked and still, the path climbed upwards, Finally, I gave up. I turned around to head back and noticed the path behind me also curved upwards. How could that be I asked myself? I then realized the upward slope was an optical illusion. All the way back, I would trudge up the hill and after struggling for about a hundred yards or so, I would turn around and see the path behind me also climbing upwards and I would start giggling. And so, I made my way back exhausted but in high spirits (It takes very little to amuse me now).
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Pookie at the Big River
On Friday, I rushed back to Sacramento. A close relative of Naida’s had died in Oregon. I expected to either accompany her to the memorial service or to dog-sit her dog, Boo-Boo. For reason too complex to relate here, neither occurred and so, I spent Saturday in Sacramento. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I have entered it on my calendar as Joey’s Happy Day so that now I will remember and celebrate April 21 for as long as I live.
On Sunday, I returned to Mendocino. On that same evening, we had some friends of Maryann and George over for dinner. I enjoyed it very much. We ate Harissa chicken and talked a lot, told stories, laughed, discussed Mendocino art, politics, and gardens, the benefits, and evils of economic development on rural lifestyles, books we liked and politicians we didn’t, and reviewed the obsessions of our youth.
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George, Maryann, Marilyn, Bill, Nancy, and Duncan.
In many ways, coastal Mendocino County, by virtue of the coastal range making transportation difficult and separating it from the rest of the State, is as remote a community as a village on the Asian steppes. It has developed its own interests and obsessions, cultural identity and way of life. As a result, it resists change to that way of life, its environment, and its beliefs. I have seen this before in other communities and have found that often change is something best done slowly.
The next day I strolled through the town, shopped, took pictures had lunch at the Good Life Cafe with George and Bingo the dog and generally lazed around for most of the day.

 
B. SACRAMENTO AND SAN FRANCISCO ODYSSEY:
An Odyssey is generally considered a voyage or the travelogue that accompanies it— usually including some extraordinary adventure. There is also an odyssey of the mind where the mundane waxes magical like in Joyce’s Ulysses in which the humdrum became enchanting. Then, of course, there is the made-up odyssey, like the one I wrote about in a past issue of T&T where bandy-legged freak Ulysses has to explain to Penelope why he disappeared for twenty years and killed all her boyfriends on his return. As the goddess, Athena said of that short, sly, hirsute Greek, “He is odd I see.” (https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/a-lengthy-digression-on-traveling-and-old-greeks/)
Anyway, I intend to approach the next few days as a mini-me-odyssey. Whether, it will be adventure filled, mundane or simply made-up, I am oddly eager to see. (If you cannot see that I had fun writing the above two paragraphs, please skip them.)
On Wednesday morning, I set off for Sacramento. After a brief stop for cheap gas at the Pomo Pumps at the Robinson Rancheria near Clear Lake, I turned onto Route 16 through Cache Creek Canyon (Scylla and Charybdis?) a two-lane road to Woodland that I had never taken before. The road passes through a narrow valley running parallel to California’s great valley. Cache Creek, a pretty little stream, and the canyon it runs through, although not as dramatic as some in the Sierras is pleasantly attractive. The road passes through several tiny towns ( Ramsey, Guinda, Cadenasso, Capay, Esparto) — a few random buildings that would not qualify as a hamlet anywhere else (actually they are officially called, “Census-designated communities” whatever that means).
IMG_4441Cache Creek
At its lower reaches, the canyon broadens into a small valley about a mile or two wide. There amidst the bucolic landscape of farms and ranches looms the monstrous visage of Cache Creek Casino an edifice that would not be out of place in Las Vegas (Cave of Cyclops?). I quickly passed by the giant structure not brave enough to explore the riches that may exist within.
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Cache Creek Resort
I arrived in Sacramento, strolled along the river, listened to some Cole Porter, enjoyed a sleepless night of contentment and delight (Circe?) and left the following morning for El Dorado Hills (The Land of the Lotus Eaters — or is that San Francisco?). After a thoroughly frustrating morning and an afternoon shuttling the Scooter Gang around, I set off for San Francisco and Peter’s house where shortly after my arrival I went to bed.
The next day, Barrie, Peter and I joined my sister and George at the French Restaurant at which Peter and I usually have lunch when I’m in town. My sister had just received news that her cancer had not spread so we celebrated a bit.
Then back to Sacramento, a trip that took more than four hours.
A week of bliss passed — as could be expected memories of those times melt together into an indistinct mass. Joy is a timeless blur, anguish a distinct pulsing image.
After receiving a positive doctor’s report on my cancer recovery, I slipped back into the Golden Hills later in the week to resume my chauffeur and parenting duties, stealing off now and then to assist Naida in the production of her memoir.
The school year is coming to its end and the Scooter Gang members are busily planning their summer vacations as am I.
On Saturday, I attended the Cinco de Mayo party at Campus Commons. I did not speak with the ex-spies who were there, but I did have an interesting conversation with a retired executive of Blue Diamond and managed to down two Margaritas without burning my throat.
One day, I strolled through Capitol Park with Naida. I love it there. We sat on the bench dedicated to B.T. Collins, a friend I had known since we were classmates together at Stepinac HS in White Plains NY. As a Green Beret in Viet Nam, he lost an arm and a leg. Returning to the US, he became Governor Jerry Brown’s chief of staff. He eventually was elected to the legislature. He was a lifelong Republican that every Democrat could support. While we sat there some tourists asked me what had he done to warrant a memorial in Capitol Park. I told them.
Time passes, I do not recall how long or what events transpired other than I have been deliriously happy. This morning the air was delightfully warm as I walked around the lakes at Town Center. It was that time of year where the flowers were the brightest and the leaves of the trees viridescent. It is the time just before the hills turn golden and the heat of the day rises from the ground forcing one to seek the shade of an oak or magnolia tree or an air-conditioned coffee house.
IMG_4465Morning at Town Center Lakes

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THRAX

Maximinus Thrax Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus Augustus, (Emperor Maximinus I), Emperor of Rome 235-238 because he was Born in Thrace (hence the name Thrax) he was the first emperor never to enter Rome.

Contemporary sources, including Historia Augusta, depicted Maximinus Thrax as a man of immense size, with large eyebrows, nose, and jaw (a symptom of acromegaly). His thumb was so large that he often allegedly wore a bracelet of his wife on it as a ring. The historian Herodian noted:

“He was definitely a man of such frightening appearance and colossal size, that there is no possible comparison at all with any of the best-trained Greek athletes or the most fierce of all barbarians.”

According to historian Cordus, he stood approximately 8 foot 6 inches(2.5 m) tall but exhibited normal proportions. Cordus also notes that Maximinus was so strong that he could pull a fully loaded ox cart on his own.

Three years after his rise to power his soldiers assassinated him, his son, and his chief ministers. Their heads were cut off, placed on poles, and carried to Rome.

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The week began with a series of warm sunny days. Last week, the wind and rain stripped many of the trees of their blossoms. Now, seemingly overnight, leaves wrap the naked boughs in a bright green crepe. (A wrinkled fabric, not a pancake. I am not too good with metaphors.) During the day, deep shadows hug the sidewalks where only last week the sun peeking through spindly branches left the ground cracked in shadows like thin ice beneath a skaters blades. (I’m not so good with similes either.)
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The Anguished Oak in Springtime.

Things moved on day by day pocked now and then by chilling fears of the lengthening shadows of fast approaching night. Thankfully, the weather imparted a feeling of a new beginning — a time for love even for those ancients warming themselves on sunny benches waiting.

Dick was gone to San Diego for most of the week and I watched H slowly drift into adolescent adventures leaving me free to slip away to visit Naida or to sit in the sun and wonder at the power of life to make one lust for happiness every moment even knowing failing is the default setting for us all.

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EDH Students Return to School after Spring Break.

It is Easter Sunday morning. The weather is sunny and warm. Alas, yesterday I did not get what I wanted, so this morning, I pouted feeling like everyone hated me. I sat in my car in the middle of a shopping center parking lot having a discussion with my self:

“I feel all alone.”

“You spend half your life alone. What’s so different about this time?”

“Nobody likes me. No one wants me around.”

“Hmm… how many people would like you around but you do not want to be around them?”

“Maybe you are right. Perhaps, I am overdoing it, But, why do I feel like I’ve got zits on my psyche?”

No answer.

So I went to a movie. Sometimes entertainment can cure most ills — especially those you force on yourself. I saw “Ready Player One.” A few days ago, I saw “Isle of Dogs.” If you want to experience the pinnacle of the animator’s art, these are two movies you should not miss.

El Dorado Hills is no place for introverted, cynical, sarcastic, grumpy old men. Sure, it can be pretty in its artificial well laid out way. But, it’s no place for the introverted and cynical. You have to go out of your way to meet people and if you cannot do happy talk, you soon will find yourself shunned — who likes a sarcastic cynic after all. Happiness here is as manufactured at the landscape.

Me, I’m a city boy. In a big city when you leave your home in the morning, there are people out and about all around you — some snarling and distracted — noise, urban smells — rushing here and about — tension and anxiety. You stumble into someone. He responds, “Hey, watch where you’re going old man.” You counter with something like, “Up yours.” So it goes all day, like the steel shot in a pinball machine rudely bounced around here and there until finally, if you are an introverted, cynical, sarcastic, grumpy old man like me, when you return to your home that evening you can consider the day well lived. Too much happiness is a precarious state, it inevitably leads to anxiety.

By the weekend, I had begun to slip deeper into depression — obviously. Adrian arrived and would leave Monday for Thailand so that he could shlep SWAC back to the US. Bob was to rip out the kitchen this weekend so that the remodelers could work on it next week. HRM had his two best buds staying over doing teenager things. Naida was busy preparing her taxes. Although I was not alone, I felt isolated. I began to plunge into an obsession about the hopeless state of the world. I needed to laugh soon or I feared I would be forced to flee into the bathroom and flush my head down the toilet. So, I got into the car and drove for three hours to San Francisco, dragged Peter out of his house and off to lunch at a Peruvian restaurant where I ate tarted-up scallops and drank some piss-yellow soft drink supposedly native to Peru but bottled In New Jersey.
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Peruvian scallops, cola and I somewhere on 24th St.

Eventually, we ended up drinking coffee while sitting on the Geezer’s Bench outside Bernie’s where we laughed a lot and I felt much better.
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The next morning, I returned to EDH swearing that next week would be better than this one was. Not that this week was all that bad, it’s just that I could not remember any of the good parts. I will try to remember things better next week.

I just looked up from my most recent book, Hearn’s “Scourged,” laughing at something stupid that I had read there. No wonder I can’t write a lick when I spend so much time reading about and enjoying things like the antics of that merry band of Fae deities Morrigan, Manannan, Fand, Brigid, Aenghus Og and a few others as they stumble around a muddy fen. (Not a bog. There is a difference. Fens look better. Fae deities do not stumble around in bogs.)

Few people realize their whole life is an adventure and as some explorers know, if you are traveling through the jungle, you’re going to be stung by mosquitos, may come down with malaria and have to keep on the lookout for tigers or other predators and if you’re lucky you will end the day with a few stories to tell around the campfire.

My dreams during the past week or two suck — short, annoying and unmemorable. Gone are the long fantasies and adventures that follow me through the day like iridescent hummingbirds. Mostly, my current dreams swarm about me like no-see-ums biting me into madness and raising welts on my subconscious. This morning, I dreamt about some small furry animal I was supposed to protect — perhaps it was a rabbit. I failed.

Speaking of rabbits, my Chinese zodiac sign is the rabbit. That always embarrassed me. I would have preferred to be a bear or a hawk or something heroic or coldly rapacious like that. Rabbits signify fecundity. That’s ok but my days of fecundity are long gone. Outside of that, all they seem good for is prey. If “Watership Down” is any authority, they may well have an interesting and complex social life, except for their unfortunate tendency to “Tharn.” That is, when confronted by a predator they tend to freeze up and die of heart failure before being devoured.This may be a good thing. It certainly seems better than waiting for teeth and claws to tear out your heart.

(What would humanity be like if we had that ability? Instead of shooting people or dropping bombs on people for whatever reason, we could instead just hide in dark alleys, jump out and shout “boo” when someone walks by. It would certainly lower the defense budget. Think about the terrorist on the subway. He jumps out of his seat and yells “BOO.” No one hears him because they are all ear-phoned up and staring at their smartphones. The terrorist runs up and down the aisle screaming “boo, boo, boo,” until he either scares himself to death or gives up and goes home, lights a joint, watches late night television and falls asleep. Imagine the second amendment — “A persons right to say, ’boo’ shall not be infringed.” Would a person’s right to bear a megaphone in a crowded subway be protected? Hmm… does a person have a right to bare arms? Do bears have a right to arms? Is it only limited to when they’re in the woods? So many issues, so little time.)

According to the Chinese horoscope, I am an earth rabbit.

“…Earth… Rabbit[s] are very frank and straightforward; however, they also give an impression of rudeness and stubbornness to others….”

“They are very strict with themselves… they always change from one job to another… and always pay special attention to details, being willing to do something trivial but soon getting tired of it.”

“Earth Rabbits actually have an excellent physical quality although they look unhealthy….”

Well, I certainly agree I look unhealthy, change jobs a lot and am obsessed with trivialities.

What got me on to this rabbit thing was during my walk around the lakes this morning a rabbit ran across my path. I have seen a lot of birds of all sizes, turtles (generally matte black) during my walks and assume lizards, snakes, rodents, and moles abound in the bushes but I never expected to see a rabbit. I wonder if it was “frank and straightforward.”

Another week goes by in a blur. Today, Thursday, the day was clear and warm. I walked my full three miles this morning then cleaned my room in preparation for my departure next week.

Family contretemps or why I prefer to travel alone:

When traveling with someone, one of you must assume a passive and agreeable role or the trip will soon become a nightmare. I learned this truism from a distinguished psychiatrist I had gotten to know many years ago when I ran the New York State Mental Information Service for the Bronx, Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland counties. He was distinguished not only for his intellectual attainments but his idiosyncrasies as well. For example, instead of an overcoat, he wore a cloak that he would dramatically swing off his shoulder when he entered a room. He and his family lived in a large 5 or 6 story brownstone just off Riverside Drive on the Upper West Side. One of the floors he converted into a basketball court so he and his young sons could shoot hoops on his days off. Off of his formal dining room, he had a room devoted exclusively to his large collection of native African art, every statue of which featured either enormously exaggerated boobs or elongated penises. He told me he got them so that whenever he had a dinner party he could walk his guests through the room and when they try to avoid staring at the protuberances he could tell them “It’s OK to stare. I’m a boob man myself.”

Anyway, he explained to me that in his long experience in marriage counseling, he found the only marriages that lasted were those in which one party assumed an accommodating role while the other was left to believe he (it was most often, but not always, a he) was in charge — whether or not in fact he was is irrelevant. So it is even in traveling.

Anyway again, about a year ago when I was in Sacile near Venice an American friend who lives there during the summer months, invited me to accompany he and his wife (who was born and raised in Calabria) to join them next summer on a trip through Croatia to Calabria. Sometime previously, I mentioned my wish to drive through Italy from north to south ending in Sicily but that given my age, I would probably need someone to drive me if I were to visit all the places I would want to visit. My granddaughter got very excited and volunteered to learn how to drive and drive me on that trip. A month or so ago, when my friend told me the dates for his time in Italy (July-) I notified the family only to discover that arrangements had already been made for them to travel to Italy in late August and September and that my granddaughter would be traveling in August with others and needed to be in central Italy one day during the last week and would be on the Amalfi Coast during the first week in September, so our trip was limited only to Sicily during the second week. I still tried to arrange my plans in order to accommodate theirs. Alas, it would cost too much for me to hang out somewhere in Italy for over a month, so I explained I was disappointed but perhaps we could try again next year. Since then, I have been bombarded with accusations of disappointing family member and more nefarious things. Thankfully, I finally have learned, after a long and tumultuous life, to ignore emotional outbreaks like these (especially among family members) and to understand the two guiding principles for a happy life:

“It’s always something.”
Roseanne Roseanna Danna.

“Tomorrow is another day.”
Scarlet O’Hara.

On Friday night, I attended a “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” dinner at Campus Commons in Sacramento. Apparently, these themed dinners are held every month there. The dinner featured baseball food (hot dogs and crackerjacks). Everyone was dressed up in baseball-themed costumes (except me and a few others). A moment of silence was held for the volunteer bartender who had worked there for the past 20 years and recently died. I was one of the younger attendees but still had a great time. I met two people who were reputedly retired spies. For whom they worked and what they did, I never found out.

HRM and the Scooter Gang (Now the Scooter/Mountain Bike Gang) took full advantage of Pookie’s Chauffeur Services this weekend to travel from park to park in the area to try out their various moves on the slopes and hills.
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The Scooter Gang at Sunset in the Springtime of Their Lives.

SWAC arrives on Tuesday and in order to avoid an unseemly contretemps, I spent the next few days packing up my things and storing them away. It was a bittersweet time for me. My beloved sister had been diagnosed with stage one cancer, I was moving from my home, separating perhaps forever from HRM, family conflicts swirled about me like gnats and the ravages of age weighed heavily on my thoughts. On the other hand, I have experienced things like these before and probably will again so I know they too shall end one way or another. And love, like springtime, promises a new beginning and hopefully a blazing autumn.

And so, off to Mendocino.

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ADVENTURES IN SEBASTOPOL:

St. Patrick’s Day weekend arrived. On Saturday, I attended a memorial in Sebastopol for Persia Wooley, the author of a fantasy trilogy focused on Guinevere, King Arthur’s wayward wife, as well several other books. The affair was held in the community room of the senior housing project where Persia lived before her death. The housing project had been built on a portion of the Luther Burbank Gardens where the great botanist made most of his discoveries. Having a little time before the event began, we strolled through the nursery enjoying looking at the flowers and examining Burbank’s grafted fruit trees.
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At Luther Burbank Gardens.

As well as being an author of note, Persia was also a well known Bay Area radio personality who for many years interviewed various celebrities on her show including Norman Mailer with whom she was reputed to have had a long love affair. The affair ended after Mailer proposed to buy Persia a house next door to the one in which he lived with his wife and family — I guess so the great author wouldn’t have to travel so far for hookups. Persia refused and ended the relationship. A child of the counter-culture, she loved life, writing, wore diaphanous clothing, enjoyed partying and married often.

The audience, mostly made up of people from my generation, were dressed in their layered clothing. It included relatives, friends and a few residents from the senior housing complex who had gotten to know Persia during her stay there. Persia’s daughter hosted the event and along with several of the guests spoke lovingly about her and took us through the various stages of Persia’s life.

Persia’s son was there also. When he was in his late thirties, he fell in love with and married a 100-year woman who owned a bull breeding ranch near to Sebastopol. Her name was Beatrice but she preferred to be called Bea. She had originally hired him to assist her with the ranch because she was getting too old to ride herd on the bulls. They fell in love and the rest, as they say, is history. After the memorial, we took a ride out to the ranch. We saw their cottage and barns but no bulls.

At the end of the memorial, an elderly woman in long flowing clothing performed what appeared to be an American Indian song and dance. Then, after enjoying the refreshments that were laid out and toasting root beer floats to Persia’s memory, we left.
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Persia Wooley —A Celebration of Life.

That night, we stayed at a Motel 6 in Santa Rosa. It must have been located in the high crime area of the city. A police car cruised the parking lot during the evening, a group of young men decided to hold a barbecue in that same parking lot and in the morning one could almost see, and most certainly could smell the cloud of marijuana floating over the place.

 

MENDOCINO ON MY MIND:

We drove to Mendocino. Naida spread Bill’s ashes onto the Pacific Ocean below the Mendocino Headlands. The next day, the sun came out. The ocean was a lovely shade of slate blue and the early spring wildflowers were in bloom. We walked along the bluffs above the water.
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Later we strolled through the town, browsed the books at the bookstore and ate lunch in a restaurant with a view
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In the evenings we enjoyed my sister’s special meals followed by a glass of Limoncello and talked well into the night with Maryann and George. We also laughed a lot.

On Tuesday morning, I attended a reenactment of an automobile accident as part of a presentation on drunk driving given by George and the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department at the local high school. Except for the few students who were chosen to play the victims of the drunk driver, the rest of the students were not informed of the event.

On a street by the school, the fire department placed automobiles in what looked like a serious accident. The selected students, made up to look like victims (blood and stuff), arrayed themselves on the ground or in the crumpled automobiles. Then everyone left but the students trapped in the cars or injured and lying on the roadway and someone wearing lumberjack boots dressed up as death and carrying a scythe who creeped around the crash site all morning. Along with a few of the other onlookers, I hid in the bushes. The emergency school bell rang and the students exited the building only to see the accident scene below them just as the sound of the sirens could be heard in the distance.

The fire trucks, ambulances, and police vehicles arrived. The first responders got to work extracting the victims from the vehicles (or out from under them) treating them, putting them in ambulances or body bags and hearses that then went screaming off into the distance. It was all very exciting and dramatic. Eventually, having completed their jobs, the first responders left leaving only the remains of the forlorn demolished vehicles and death in his lumberjack boots and scythe. The students trudged back into the school, there to enjoy further lectures on avoiding drinking and driving. Alas, they being teenagers, I am sure it all fell on deaf ears and those that survive their adolescence and decide to remain living there in their little town, I expect will eventually join the MVFD and participate in a similar performance a few years from now.

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BACK IN THE GOLDEN HILLS:

It rained during the long ride back home. It took almost nine hours to drive from Mendocino to EDH.

By Thursday the rains had let up and by Friday the sun was shining and the green hills and white clouds sparkled in the sky.
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The Green Hills of El Dorado.

I hadn’t exercised for quite some time having persuaded myself to accept all the good and sound reasons not to. Alas, the sunshine having stripped me of my last excuse, I went for my walk around the lakes. A carnival had been set up in the parking lot at Town Center. I diverted from my walk to explore it. It was early and the Amusement park was closed and empty. The Carneys were just waking up and shuffling about outside of their trailers. There is nothing more spooky (spookier) then an empty or abandoned amusement park — except for a seeing lone clown wandering the streets in your neighborhood at dusk.

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OFF TO THE CITY BY THE BAY:

I left the golden hills early Saturday Morning to travel to San Francisco in order to attend the Dave Holland concert at SFJazz that evening. It was raining when I left but turned sunny and warm by the time I arrived in The City. After dropping off my overnight bag at Peters house, he and I walked to lunch at Chez Marius a delightful French bistro in Noe Valley that Peter and I enjoy. It is also where Peter’s band, Blind Lemon Pledge, plays on the last Tuesday of the Month. I had an excellent Quiche Lorraine. After lunch, we walked a block or so down 24th Street to have some coffee at Bernie’s.

 

Report from the Geezer’s Bench:

In front of Bernie’s Is a bench, in fact, one of several benches, on which he and I sit and drink our coffee and discuss weighty matters. We call the bench, The Geezer’s Bench. While we were busy discussing important things like the fate of the world, our decrepitude and the benefits of olive oil and laughing, I noticed a car quickly turn into the parking lot next door, the driver, a woman, staring at us the whole time. We continued laughing and talking. We had just been musing on creating a television show about two old men sitting on the Geezer’s Bench stopping passers-by and asking them questions and engaging them in conversation. Suddenly the woman who had been driving the car appeared in front of us. She said, “I was just driving by and I noticed the two of you were having such a good time that I just wanted to sit on the bench and listen.” And so she did.

Eventually, she left, soon to be replaced by my daughter-in-law, AnnMarie who came by to discuss my summer travel plans with her and my grandchildren to Italy, Sicily and perhaps Morocco and Andalusia. But, that is another story. We did, however, laugh a lot more until Peter and I left to return to his house in order to rest before leaving for the concert.

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The Geezer Boys on the Geezer Bench

 

SF JAZZ, Oh Yeah.

Peter had tickets for the first row of the theater not more than 10 feet from the musicians. This was especially good because I had forgotten my hearing aids back in the golden hills. Dave Holland the bass player was the featured performer and composer. The performance was without breaks, the musicians playing for over two hours straight. It was thoroughly enjoyable, the bass often carrying the main line. The guitarist played an instrument that sounded more like a jazz violin than a guitar and the drummer was terrific. The audience seemed to love the performance as much as we did and some guy in the balcony seats played air-guitar and jumped around throughout most of the concert while his mate played air drums and bounced his head around as though he was watching a tennis match on speed.

The next morning, after coffee and croissants at Bernie’s, I returned home.

 

 BACK IN THE GOLDEN HILLS WITH TEA AND OLIVE OIL:

I was going to end this T&T post with my time in SF, however, something happened today notable enough to make me add it here.

The next day the weather broke clear and warm over the golden hills although a strong wind kept things cool and comfortable. After my morning walk and root beer float reward, I attended to my duties as personal Uber driver for the Scooter Gang. At about 4:30 I left them at the Folsom Skate Park in the hopes that they would exhaust themselves and their hormones and I returned home to await their call to pick them up and return each member of the gang to their respective homes.

On the way, I remembered a conversation I had with Peter regarding a book that extolled the health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil. I decided that since drinking a glass of Port at bedtime was no longer a pleasure for me since the alcohol irritated my throat too much, a sip or two of extra-vergine olive oil with its supposedly preternatural health benefits would be just what the doctor ordered, or more precisely just what the doctor never got around to ordering. So, Peter and I scurried over to the famous (among Olive oil aficionados) local extra-virgin olive oil shop in Noe Valley, but unfortunately, it was closed. Having remembered that conversation now, I decided to drive to Town Center before going home since I recalled there was a shop I thought sold designer olive oil. And in fact, there was just such a shop.

I entered the shop and was directed toward some shelves containing a large number of olive oil bottles and some tiny plastic cups for tasting. I set to it and tasted them all including one labeled “Olive oil with Truffles” which was my favorite but I learned cost a small fortune — $30 dollars for a one and one half ounce bottle. I concluded that rather than being put on food or mixed into a salad, it was only to be applied behind the ears like perfume. I ended up buying a bottle labeled “Tuscan Herb” olive oil. The woman that owned the shop explained that everything was mixed by them personally in a small room in the back that when I glimpsed it looked less like a laboratory than an alchemist’s hideaway.

The shop, not only dealt in designer olive oil but other designer foods, like designer vinegars (one was cranberry flavored), designer honey, designer spice mixes and the like, but given its name, “Tea Exotics” what the shop was most noted for was its teas (also mixed in the back). I was shown a list of three hundred or more teas that were for sale and contained in large tins that covered one wall of the shop. There were tables and a bar where aficionados and perhaps addicts could drink their tea. One fellow sitting at the bar said that he comes in one day a week to drink a 14-ounce glass of his favorite tea which he also drinks at home — one cup, no more no less, every night, otherwise he explained it would get him too excited. You see, these are not the arrogant bitter teas that the British use to demonstrate their breeding or the Japanese delicate beverages requiring an elaborate ceremony to make you aware that even if you hated the stuff you were participating in a long-honored tradition, like say human sacrifice. No, these are health food tea.

The tea itself is sold mostly in little paper bags that cost about as much as a kilo of heroin. So I decided to taste some. I tasted about six different blends. It was a revelation. I had never tasted anything like it or so good. Eventually, I settled on a Japanese Matcha (they explained Matcha to me. I do not recall their precise description except is seemed they extracted the tea leaves from the plant before they had even emerged from the twig and crush them between the tender breasts of a Japanese virgin). Added to the organic Matcha was dark cocoa, coconut milk (supposedly better for you than cows milk or camels milk, although I recall reading somewhere that coconut milk can kill you quicker than strychnine) and cane sugar (very little they promised me). And so I walked out of there significantly poorer but a bit happier and went home.

And yes tomorrow is another day.

 

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I have just completed reading a mystery novel entitled “Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions” by Mario Giordano. Surprisingly, the author is not Sicilian. He is German. A descendant of a Sicilian laborer who had left the Island seeking work and a better life in the Colossus of the North. The novel itself is no classic work of literature. In fact, it barely makes it as light summer reading. I liked it, however, because of the kind-hearted way it plunges into the history, landscape, and foibles of the people and places that I have grown to love.

 

The main conceit of the novel lies in the author’s alter ego, a young struggling writer recording, at the behest of his Auntie Poldi, her adventures, and misadventures in Sicily. Auntie Poldi a dipsomaniac, over-sexed, bi-polar, caftan-wearing, overweight, sixty year old widow from Bavaria who, after the death of her Sicilian born husband, buys a home in a small coastal village in Sicily in the shadow of Mt Etna where she intends to “drink herself to death with a view of the sea.” Unfortunately for everyone, Auntie Poldi is also loud, pushy, nosy and her father was chief of detectives in some city in Germany. As a result, when she discovers, on the beach, the dead body of her part-time handyman, the handsome young Valentino, she drafts her dead husband’s three sisters and goes on a hunt for the murderer. Along the way, she also shags the handsome but mature local detective with the improbable name of Vito Montana.

 

Pookie says, “Check it out”

 

“[T]he worst thing that can happen to any Italian male, especially a Sicilian. Economic crises, volcanic eruptions, corrupt politicians, emigration, the Mafia, uncollected rubbish and overfishing of the Mediterranean—he can endure anything with fatalism and a bella figura. The main thing is never to present a brutta figura, a figuraccia. Bella figura is the Italian credo. The basic equipment for this includes a well-groomed, unostentatiously fashionable appearance, a pair of good shoes and the right make of sunglasses. Above all, though, bella figura means always looking good, never foolish. For an Italian this is a must, not an option, and quite indispensable. It also means you don’t embarrass your fellow men. Impatience is unacceptable and direct confrontations are taboo. You share restaurant bills with your friends, don’t put your foot in it, never receive guests in a dirty or untidy home, ask no intimate questions, address anyone with a university degree as dottore, bring some dessert with you when invited to dinner and—even at the risk of rupturing your abdomen—finish everything on your plate. You put your faith in beauty and proportionality and try to make the world a better place. Sometimes you even succeed.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (An Auntie Poldi Adventure). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

 

Note: The Sicilian language has no future tense. It is scary to think about a culture that lacks the ability to express the future. It does have a special tense to express the remote past that has ended. Sicilians use it a lot in their conversations — Everything is in the present or the far past and there is no future.)

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