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Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 
I spend many of my days sitting here and marveling at the amount of time and effort Naida expends preparing her most recent book for publication — talking to book designers, editors and the like, reviewing photographs, re-editing drafts day after day. Even if I had the talent to write a novel for publication, I do not think I could or would put myself through this. She seems to enjoy it, except when things go wrong of course.

Her new book, a memoir, entitled “A Daughter of the West — Herstory” can be obtained at her booth at the California State Fair (During July) or at http://www.bridgehousebooks.com/ or in the future on Amazon.

While she was reviewing the most recent edits to her memoir, Naida commented that she may have misspelled the plural of dwarf. She had learned to spell it in grammar school as dwarves but had spelled it dwarfs in the draft memoir. She wondered why spell-check had not caught it. I immediately searched the net for an answer to her concern. I discovered the traditional correct spelling indeed was dwarfs but recently a popular misspelling has begun to be commonly used. The reason for this, I found both odd and amusing. You see it all began with J. R. R. Tolkien. Yes, that J. R. R. Tolkien of “Lord of the Rings” fame. In a fascinating blog (https://jakubmarian.com/dwarves-or-dwarfs-which-spelling-is-correct/) I learned:

“Tolkien himself admitted that ‘dwarves’ was a misspelling. In a letter to Stanley Unwin, the publisher of The Hobbit, he wrote (emphasis mine):

‘No reviewer [that I have seen], although all have carefully used the correct dwarfs themselves, has commented on the fact [which I only became conscious of through reviews] that I use throughout the ‘incorrect’ plural dwarves. I am afraid it is just a piece of private bad grammar, rather shocking in a philologist; but I shall have to go on with it.’”

A fine example of how now and then scholarly mistakes become accepted over time as right and proper. There must be a phrase or word for cultural evolution caused by the errors of those who ought to know better.

Exhausted, I went to bed early that evening. Usually, because of my failing eyesight, I read books on Kindle since I can adjust the size of the text for my reading comfort. Nevertheless, I keep some books by my bed out of a stubborn and I suspect, sadly forlorn, belief that I am observing some metaphysical notion that by reading books on paper I somehow am contributing to the preservation of civilization. Before falling asleep, I picked up Overstory by Richard Powers. I read its first two chapters. Suddenly, I felt as though, despite a head full of factoids and opinions gathered over almost 80 years of existence, I, like Jon Snow, know nothing. Whether I felt fear, despair, or elation over this insight, I do not recall. Somehow at sometime in our history, we humans, we blobs of consciousness, began to believe we were important, unique. That we understood things. I realized, at that moment, we were none of those. We, individually and collectively, were only a tiny insignificant entity within that great collection of things we call life. Insignificant true but capable of great mischief and savagery.

The next morning, I watched He Who Is Not My President, once again, play the press for fools by getting them to convert an insignificant photo-op with the Butcher of North Korea into an earthshaking event driving all other news off the airways and requiring platoons commentators to tell us whether and how this may alter the geopolitical landscape.

A few days have passed by. I do not recall anything worth recording here. Yesterday evening we did walk to the monthly Jazz by the Pool concert at the community center. We got there just as it ended, ate a piece of cold pizza and returned home.

One evening, we watched the marvelous “Thief of Bagdad,” a silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks. The sets and costumes alone were worth the price of admission. Fairbanks and the other actors hamming it up was the whipped cream and cherry topping on the art-deco wedding cake.

Today, after a morning of indolence, I decided to leave the house, walk to the car and drive to eat lunch somewhere. I had taken only a few steps from the door when I noticed the wonderfully sweet smell of flowers, the perfect temperature, and the still air. I quickly decided it was too glorious a day to drive to someplace in the middle of a parking lot for lunch. I needed to walk through the enchanted forest, take some photographs of the flowers and the trees along the paths and breathe the sweet air. And, so I did.

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Naida and I Live Here.

 

That evening we watched the 1955 movie “Trial” starring Glen Ford as an inexperienced law professor defending a Mexican teenager accused of killing a white girl. The white supremacists and Nazis in the town threaten violence against the boy and attempt to lynch him. I thought this was going to be like an early version of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but suddenly and strangely, the focus of the movie changed to featuring Communist leader’s self-interested attempt to take over the issue for personal gain. It all ends with the Mexican kid being wrongly convicted but the bigots, upon seeing the error of their ways, and being good Americans, agree with the African-American judge that he should be shown leniency, more or less. The evil self-serving and corrupt Commie, and self-serving and corrupt he clearly was, was sentenced to jail for 30 days for contempt of court. According to the judge, he received a shorter sentence than the kid so that he and he and his Commie brethren could not use his sentencing as a cause celeb. Everyone looked as though they were happy with the outcome but for the Commie, who scowled. It all seemed like something that could be happening today. Little appears to have changed in the past sixty years here in the land where we all are created equal except for Commies and Mexicans and homosexuals. African Americans are accepted, more or less, as long as they were educated Uncle Toms, lived in their own neighborhoods, excelled in sports, and voted Republican.

Today, I drove up into the Golden Hills to visit HRM and pick up my mail. My mail consisted of a bunch of junk mail and letters from a few collection agencies threatening to hang me by my thumbs unless I pay up. I threw all of those in the trash. There were also two postcards from Barrie. Every week or so Barrie sends me a postcard with a fascinating picture on the front and an entertaining message. I love receiving them. I keep them all stored in a box by my bed.

HRM had three of his friends over. They were lazing around on the sofa watching a Sponge Bob Square Pants cartoon. They have now reached that point in their teenager-hood where they spend more time supine and draped over the furniture than upright and moving about. They eat a lot also.

I have just read in the newspaper that Lee Iacocca died (Iacocca developed the Ford Mustang, later became CEO and Chairman of the Board of Chrysler and was chosen as among the top 20 greatest business executives in American history.) A number of years ago, Suzzie and I traveled to Auburn Hills Michigan to visit Lee and his then new wife Darrien, a good friend of Suzie’s. We had dinner with Lee and Darrien. I remember the red velvet slippers with the gold embroidered design on top that Lee was wearing. I also remember Lee as a nice guy and gracious host, although at dinner he seemed a little grumpy— (he complained about the pasta). I think he and Darrien had just had a slight contretemps before we arrived. Today, I received a very nice email from Suzzie in which she wrote about our trip and her memories of Lee. Here is a portion of that email:

Earlier today I learned that Lee Iacocca had passed away. I’ve remained friends with his ex-wife Darrien, who maintained a relationship with him to the end. I spoke with her this evening and after our conversation, I recalled many fond memories of the times I spent around Lee. One of them was with you.

I’ve learned my memory is quite specific about certain things but not necessarily accurate. However, I do remember when you and I decided we needed to go to Auburn Hills where Lee and Darrien lived to pitch business, what business I’m not entirely sure, but I liked the idea of convincing the lobbying firm I was with at the time to pay my way to auburn hills to see my dear friend Darrien. You were game to go along for the ride. What a team!

I also remember Dick McCarthy was a big Mustang fan and gave me a poster of a Shelby mustang for Lee to sign. As I further recall, we were at dinner at Lee’s house and his friend Carroll Shelby happened to be there. I was so happy I could return to California with Dick’s poster signed by both. I’m quite sure neither of us returned with any business but we sure had a great time! I’m glad I have that memory of a really fun time with you…

I was very fond of Lee. He was a good man with a sparkle on his eye. He treated me with respect at a time when as a young woman in Sacramento I experienced the opposite from some men… He was one who helped build my confidence (along with you and Terry and Bill Geyer) and have made me the evil person I am today. Lol!

Rest in peace Lee Iacocca. I hope you are still wearing those bitchin slippers wherever you are.

On the 4th, I picked up HRM and Jake for lunch. We went to the Old Spaghetti House. I watched them stuff a ball of blue cotton candy into a glass of something green and wondered what something like that was doing in a so-called Italian restaurant, what it must taste like, and why teenagers seem to take such pleasure in doing things like this? After lunch, I drove them back home, returned to the Enchanted Forest, picked up Naida and drove to her daughter Sarah’s house for their annual 4 of July party. There, we played ping-pong and badminton, ate a lot, drank a little, watched a tennis match on television, and left to return home before the teenagers began their neighborhood fireworks war.

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Naida (in blue) and Sarah (in Pink) in Sarah’s backyard.

 

I sit here today, the next day, writing this. Somehow, somewhere far at the back of my mind, I feel an itch, a sense that something happened that I should record here, or there was some idea that needed telling — but nothing comes. My memory over the past few years has become like an ancient curtain more holes than fabric, or whispers too faint to understand. Perhaps that is a good thing, live for the day, forget the stories. On the other hand, my memories were the raw material of the stories I revel in. I like to shape them for their sake — for my love of a tale.

That evening, we watched Charles Laughton in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” followed by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Cary Grant, and Victor McLaglen tearing up the scenery in “Gunga Din.” The next morning while eating breakfast Naida and I enjoyed the old Wallace Beery and Jackie Coogan version of “Treasure Island”. I guess, as long as I am in the more sedentary period of my existence, old movies and fantasy novels will have to do as a replacement for the adventure and travel I may have enjoyed earlier in my life. I certainly experience fewer blunders and horrors now than I did then. Maybe that is a good thing too.

Then, it was off to the Golden Hills to pick up HRM and Big, Tall, Long-haired Jake. We drove into the Delta, to Rio Vista and Foster’s Restaurant. Haden, Nikki and I had been there years ago and H wanted to show it to Jake. During the drive, I was entertained by teen-talk — the dreams (To become famous race-car drivers when they are old enough to get a drivers license), the annoyance with anyone or anything limiting their desires (“I want to be rich enough to get the government to remove speed limits just for me so that I can drive my car as fast as I want.”), adolescent gossip (about the teacher who wears sexy clothing to school). This is that age when the explosive growth of their forebrain containing the ego assures them that the universe is there for their pleasure. It is only when they reach their middle twenties that the rest of their brain catches up allowing them to acknowledge that there may be others with similar claims. Strangely, they seemed to believe that if you were rich enough you could get away with anything. Trumpism poisons everything.

Foster’s Restaurant in Rio Vista is known for its display of the stuffed heads of just about every large mammal known to have roamed Africa and North America in the past one hundred years or so. All slaughtered by a bootlegger, turned taxidermist, turned publican who owned the bar from the walls of which he hung the severed heads of the hundreds of animals he butchered. But that of course was another era when things like that were more acceptable, like slavery and concentration camps. But, from a historical perspective, it does preserve the visage of those animals soon to become extinct so that we, if we survive, can have a drink, stare at their remains and ponder what we have wrought.

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At Foster’s Restaurant in Rio Vista.

 

I ate an elk hamburger. I was sure the elk that provided the chopped meat was old and at the point of death (or perhaps already dead) before it was harvested, because it was as dry and tough as one would expect the aged to be.

Then it was off to Locke the historical old Chinese town in the Delta. We walked around the town, visited the shops, explored the alleys and dropped into Al the Wop’s Italian Restaurant and bar and gaped at the hundreds of dollar bills stuck into its ceiling.

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HRM and Jake in Locke California.

 

When I first arrived in California in 1970-71 and was taken to that restaurant, I was still shocked and repulsed by anyone uttering that word. As a person of my generation and upbringing “Wop” was as repulsive to Italian Americans as “N****r” was to African-Americans (although without the same bloody history) or “spic” to Puerto Ricans. Use of the word, even by Italian-Americans, was grounds for instant mayhem being inflicted on the speaker. I could not even say the word without feeling disgusted with myself and yet here in Locke there it was, up there in a sign on a business no less, as well as falling lightly off the tongue of everyone around me. California was certainly an odd place, I thought.

After that little adventure, we drove through the Delta and back into the Golden Hills. The next morning, Naira and I drove to Denio’s Auction in Roseville where I purchased this year’s Hawaiian shirt and Naida bought a shovel.

The following day, Naida left early to play tennis. After she returned, we sat at our respective computers all day and did nothing more except walk the dog in the evening. I did not even take a nap.

Today, Tuesday, I did not walk the dog nor did I watch movies on Television. I did, however, begin reading Vital Question by someone named Nick Lane. It is not a mystery novel. It is a non-fiction tome about, as the cover points out, Energy, Evolution and the Origins of Complex Life. As I mentioned in a previous post, after reading about ten trashy novels, I like to curl up with something non-fiction. I guess it is something like cleaning one’s palate.

Some review copies of Naida’s memoir arrived today. We spent a few hours together reviewing them for typos and other errors. She said she was thankful there were not too many of them as there sometimes is. I thought there were a lot. I found participating in the process pretty exciting. I cannot remember ever assisting an author before. Usually, it was politicians, bureaucrats, and other lawyers and as everyone knows that is neither exciting, nor interesting, nor fun.

Wednesday, the day before the State Fair begins, Naida busied herself addressing last minute crises. I did nothing but read and answer her questions whenever she thought my input might have some value.

Tomorrow, after helping Naida drive copies of her books and sales material to her booth at the fair, I leave for the Big Endive by the Bay and my immunotherapy treatment. The pendency of that trip did not require I do anything to prepare, so I didn’t, happily. I did read more of Naida’s memoir and another chapter of The Vital Question which was all about chemical reactions in the earth’s primeval oceans. I did not understand it so I quit and consoled myself with Oreos and milk.

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POOKIE’S LIFE IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 
(I have temporarily changed the heading here from the usual “Pookie’s Adventures…” to, “Pookie’s Life…” because I understand that many people believe adventure and life to be very different things. I do not, unfortunately. Still, my life here in TEF would be considered an adventure only if the novelty of being happy and content in one’s life could be termed an adventure. I guess, given my history, being happy and content may very well be an adventure — it is certainly novel.)

At the end of the month, we are planning to leave for Mendocino to visit my sister husband Maryann and her husband George and to see some of the films being shown at the film festival that weekend. I look at it as a vacation, although what it is that we are vacationing from I can’t imagine. I guess a change of scene would be a more appropriate description.

While driving into the Golden Hills a few days ago, I thought of something that seemed to be very insightful and that I should include here so that I don’t forget it. Of course, I forgot whatever it was before I got back to my computer. It went wherever those brilliant ideas go that one gets while driving, on drugs, or during the muzzy confusion of waking up in the morning.

Ugh! I just found out that, unlike my chemotherapy appointments which were scheduled automatically, my immunotherapy appointments are not and therefore I will not be going to SF this week. I still plan to travel to Mendocino this weekend, however.

It was a good morning today lazing away in bed. Naida brought me a cup of coffee that we sipped together while we told each other stories, played a little geriatric hanky-panky and discussed our plans for the weekend. It was all very pleasant until I tipped over the coffee cup and flooded the bed causing a great deal of mutual hysteria to erupt.

I know that I often complain here about my more sedentary life now that I am well into my declining years, but with the state of my rapidly deteriorating memory, I wonder if it is more likely that I still am quite active but when I sit here at my computer intending to write about it, I forget whatever it was that I did.

 

 

OFF ONCE MORE TO THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

 

On Thursday, we set off for Peter and Barrie’s house. The usually boring drive seemed to pass more quickly and pleasantly than usual. We listened to the music of Leon Redbone whose death was reported that day. Redbone never recorded a song that one could not sing along with or dance to. So we passed our time on the drive listening to that deep voice of his singing funky jazzy renditions of such tunes as Shine on Harvest Moon, Ain’t Misbehaving, Please Don’t Talk about Me When I’m Gone, and Moonlight Bay and singing along with old Leon.

After we arrived, Peter and I went to Bernie’s in Noe Valley, ordered coffee and sat on the Geezer Bench (See Photo above). We were joined by Don Neuwirth and spent some time catching up on our lives and various maladies as well as reminiscing about people and events during our time when we all worked together protecting California’s coast. A friend of Peter’s walked by, he was a drummer in some of the band’s that Peter also played in. He told odd and interesting stories about his life that began in the Riverdale section of New York City, and attending high school with Ruth Galanter, continued with traveling around the US holding odd jobs and engaging in radical politics. He ended up becoming a drummer in a few geezer bands and rabble-rouser here in the City By The Bay. An admirable life.

 

 

MENDOCINO DREAMING, MOVIES, FLOWERS, AND MARYJANE:

 

 

Following my morning immunotherapy treatment at UCSF, Naida, Boo-boo the dog, and I left for Mendocino. Although it was a foggy morning in SF, the weather during the drive remained sunny and warmth until once again we reached the coast. We stopped for lunch at a nice restaurant in overcrowded Healdsburg. Healdsburg used to be a pretty, little, laid-back town. Now it is a booming gourmet ghetto with too much traffic and too little parking to go along with the rapidly escalating prices for a slightly better than average meal.

That evening at Maryann and George’s house overlooking the ocean in Mendocino, we enjoyed a nice meal featuring Mama Petrillo’s secret recipe ditalini. Following dinner, Mary and George left to see one of the films in the movies competing in the film festival, a film entitled A Tuba to Cuba about members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the son of that group’s founder who was also the director of the film. His father had played the tuba and loved Cuban music, hence the name of the movie. Meanwhile back at the house, Naida and I watched four episodes of the HBO’s series, My Brilliant Friend based on Elena Ferrante series of novels about two women growing up in Naples. It was fantastic.

The next morning, after breakfast, my sister, Naida, and I went for a stroll through the town. We strolled by the Mendocino Art Center where we saw this imposing sculpture.

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It was warm and sunny. The marine fog had not yet arrived on shore. Flowers bloomed everywhere. I decided flowers to be the theme of the trip.

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We stopped at Maryjane’s shop, one of my favorites. There, we shopped for a long time. I complained that men’s fashions seem drab compared to the brilliant colors one sees in women’s wear. “Why can’t men were women’s clothing,” I complained. “You can.” replied Maryjane“Try something on.” So, I did.

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I called it unimaginatively  Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors. I desperately wanted to buy it and wear it to the movies that evening. But, alas, a faint heart gains nothing but regret and regretfully I demurred.

After buying some very attractive clothing for Naida and listening to a few of Maryjane’s stories and jokes, we left.
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Naida and Maryjane in the dress shop.

 

By then the marine fog layer had arrived on shore turning the air chilly and misty so, we hurried on home.

That evening, we saw two of the films featured at the festival. The first, directed by the woman who was staying in Maryann and George’s tower house during the festival, was called “Guardians”. It depicted people in British Columbia Canada who count salmon for a living and who are now being phased out by the conservative government. It was marvelously photographed and directed. The second movie, called “Amazing Grace,” a filming of the recording session back in the 1970s that produced Aretha Franklin’s great Gospel LP, the largest selling LP featuring Gospel music ever. Because of technical difficulties, the film was never released and had been thought lost. Recently rediscovered and along with advances in sound technology allowing it to be remastered, it was able to be released. Wall to wall Gospel music, it presented Aretha at her most magnificent.

The next morning we saw Ron Howard’s Pavarotti. It may be one of the most magnificent movies I have ever seen. How he was able to get the shots, assemble the story, use the music as part of the story while also being entertaining I could not fathom since Howard admitted he knows nothing about opera. At one point, shortly after Pavarotti learns he is dying of pancreatic cancer, Howard has a lone violin in the background playing the Neapolitan song O Sole Mio when the orchestra swells into the music of Pagliacci and Pavarotti appears in clown costume and makeup to sing Canio’s great bitter and tragic aria Vesti la Giubba. Pookie says, “Whatever else you do in the next few years no matter whether you love or hate opera, see this movie.”

Following the movie, we went to the newly opened wood-fired oven outdoor Pizza place linked to The Beaujolais restaurant in Mendocino. We were joined my Maryjane and her husband Johan. Maryjane, in that low expressionless voice she effects, told us a number of jokes. One of them was, “Why did the shark not eat the clown? ——— “Because he thought it would taste funny.” I am thinking about creating a new section in T&T, “Maryjane’s Joke of the Week.” OK, here is another one, “Three Irishmen walked out of a bar. ——— That’s it. That’s the Joke.” After downing some of the best pizza I have eaten in years, we returned to Maryann’s house and I took a nap.

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Naida, Johan, Maryjane, George, Maryann and the Pizza.

 

The following morning we arose early, packed and left for home. We stopped for breakfast in Ft Bragg then set off to cross the coastal range on the way to Sacramento. We had gone a little way up into the mountains when Naida noticed she had forgotten her phone. We retraced our drive, picked up her phone and set off again. By then it was noon. We stopped at Lakeport, walked the dog and enjoyed the view of Clear Lake for a while.
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Old Baldy at Lakeside
We arrived home at about 5PM and went to bed almost immediately.

Travel is exhausting for oldies like us.

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I’m a hat guy. I don’t know why. Throughout my life, I have collected and worn hats. Every five years or so my hat collections have disappeared like all the other things I have collected whenever in a fit of despair or of some other absurdly irrational emotion, I have abandoned, given away or sold them all.

I have also worn many different kinds of hats from the elegant black Homburgs I wore 50 years or so ago whenever I would go to court on the day I was to sum up my case to the jury, to ascot caps, Australian bush hats, balaclavas, beanies, berets, boaters, bowlers, coonskin caps, deerstalkers, turbans, fedoras, ghutrahs, yarmulkes, Panama’s, Stetson’s, pith helmets, Santa hats, sombreros, Toques, Trilbys, and many others.

I should not have been surprised then when 14-year-old Hayden began wearing a hat regularly. It did begin to worry me, however, when this began to seem like the beginning of an obsession like mine.

It all began a few weeks ago. The early summer heat settled on the Great Valley. The morning’s springtime breezes began slowing beneath the light caress of the warming sun. It is a fine day. I was looking forward to a day of blissful indolence when I received a message from Hayden insisting I pick him up at the skatepark after school.

I became worried. He rarely demands my assistance. So, I drove off into the Golden Hills to find out what was going on.

On the way, I  stopped for lunch at an upscale Italian restaurant near Town Center that I had wanted to try for some time now. Its interior reeked of suburban elegance. and its menu was limited but expensive. The wine list, however, was extensive but overpriced. I ordered gnocchi in a squash and butter cream sauce along with a glass of prosecco. The meal was tasty but too heavy for my liking.

After lunch, I drove to the skatepark picked up Hayden along with his friends Jake and Caleb. As he was getting into the car, I asked him what was so urgent. He said, “I want to buy a hat for my trip this summer to Cozumel with Jake and his family. I picked one out at Tilly’s in Folsom.” 

So, off we drove to Tilly’s in Folsom to buy the hat. following which I drove them back to Dick’s house where, after warning them not to get into too much trouble, I drove out of the foothills and back to the Enchanted Forest.

Here is a photograph of Hayden in that hat:

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A few weeks later, I drove once again into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM after school and drive him home. It was the first day in about a week that the sky was neither mostly overcast nor actually raining. Instead, the sky was filled with big giant cottony battleships of clouds, floating on a sea of bright blue. It was warm — not the warmth of late spring, light and with a promise of warmth, but more like the warmth of autumn, sharp-edged and resisting the march of winter cold.

As he entered the car he told me he had ordered a new hat and was waiting for it to arrive.

“I thought you bought a hat when I drove you to Tilly’s last week,” I said.

“I did,” he responded, “But I wanted another one also.”

When we arrived at the house, we saw a package leaning against the front door. Hayden eagerly tore open the box and pulled out his new hat. Here it is:

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Being a hat guy myself, I liked it.

I pondered over H’s emerging fondness for hats and recalled several years ago when he was five or six years old, I had promised him that we would write a short comic book together entitled “Hayden Without a Hat.” Each evening thereafter he asked me if I was ready to write the story with him and each night I gave some excuse or another. Finally, being tired of my evasions and convinced I would never get around to it, he decided to write the store himself in a notebook and one evening instead of asking me again he handed it to me. The notebook contained the following (everything is as he wrote it including the punctuation, except for the quotation marks which I added). I promised him I would “publish” it. So here it is:

“Story for little boys, girls!

Hayden Without a Hat
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Hayden Without a Hat.

“Oh, no!” says Grandpa Pooky. “Oh no!!!” Grandpa Pooky says “You need a hat.”

“A hat…” says Hayden, “a hat.” “Let me think. Hmmm, ok” Hayden says. “I do need a hat!!!! “Hey, we can go to the hat store.”

So Hayden picked out his favorite hat. It was just like Grandpa Pooky’s hat.

Remember kids always have a hat!!! And mom’s and dad’s.”

For those who may have some interest in the various head coverings I have chosen to wear recently, here are a few:

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And one not so recent:

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I have just finished reading the second installment in the series of my current book crush, The Adventures of Auntie Poldi. Although the books purport to be detective stories, I, frankly, do not recall in either of the two novels of the series I have read so far who was killed or why. Nor can I claim they are great or even good literature. So, what attracts me to these books?

Perhaps it is the magnificently exuberant and shameless bit of overwriting with which the author begins his novel:

“Although in the past few months Poldi had temporarily thwarted death thanks to solving her handyman Valentino’s murder, her romantic encounter with Vito Montana (Polizia di Stato’s chief inspector in charge of homicide cases), her friendship with her neighbours Valérie and sad Signora Cocuzza, my aunts’ efforts and, last but not least, her own love of the chase, we all know the way of the world: peace reigns for a while, the worst seems to be over, the sun breaks through the clouds, the future beckons once more, your cigarette suddenly tastes good again, the air hums with life and the whole world becomes a congenial place pervaded by whispers of great things to come. A simply wonderful, wonderful, universally familiar sensation. And then, like a bolt from the blue, pow! Not that anyone has seen it coming, but the wind changes. Fate empties a bucket of excrement over your head, chuckling as it does so, and all you can think is “Wow, now I really need a drink!” And the whole shitty process starts again from scratch. So it was no wonder my aunts became alarmed when Poldi still had no running water after two weeks and Lady was murdered. No doubt about it, the wind had changed and the ice was growing steadily thinner.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

 

Or perhaps, it is Auntie Poldi herself, a lusty sixty-year-old German woman who had married a Sicilian immigrant to Bavaria and who after his death retired to her husband’s ancestral town on the slopes of Mt Etna there to “drink herself to death with a view of the sea.”

Poldi wears a wig, dresses usually in brightly colored caftans, enthusiastically and vigorously enjoys sex, and as the daughter of a Bavarian chief of detectives is compulsively drawn to solving crimes, photographing cute policemen in uniform and bedding dusky and hunky Sicilian detectives (well one in particular).

On the other hand, Poldi was a woman of strong opinions as well as strong appetites. As she explained to her nephew whom she had appointed to be the Watson to her Holmes:

“I’ve never been devout,” she explained later before I could query this in surprise because I knew that Poldi harbored a fundamental aversion to the Church. “I’m spiritual but not devout, know what I mean? I’ve never had much time for the Church. The mere thought of it infuriates me. The males-only organizations, the pope, the original-sin malarkey, the inhibited cult of the Virgin Mary, the false promises of redemption, the proselytism, the misogyny, the daft words of the psalms and hymns. Mind you, I’ve always liked the tunes. I always enjoyed chanting in the ashram, you know. I screwed every hippie in the temple of that Kali sect in Nevada, I’ve meditated in Buddhist monasteries, and I believe in reincarnation and karma and all that, likewise in people’s essential goodness. I don’t know if there’s a god and if he’s got something against sex and unbelievers, but I can’t help it, I’m Catholic. It’s like malaria: once you’ve got it you never get rid of it, and sooner or later you go and make peace with it.”
Giordano, Mario.Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

Or on even another hand, perhaps it is the authors alter ego, Poldi’s 34-year-old unmarried nephew, the narrator in the books, a self-described but inept author who works at a call center in Bavaria. He has been attempting to write the great Bavarian novel for years now but seems to have only recently gotten inspired to write the first four chapters the last of which he enthusiastically describes in a blaze of overwriting:

“I was in full flow. I was the adjective ace, the metaphor magician, the sorcerer of the subordinate clause, the expresser of emotions, the master of a host of startling but entirely plausible turns of events. The whole of my fourth chapter had been completed within a week. I was a paragon of self-discipline and inspiration, the perfect symbiosis of Germany and Italy. I was a Cyclops of the keyboard. I was Barnaba. All I lacked was a nymph, but my new Sicilian styling would soon change that.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

He found himself periodically called to travel to Sicily and reside in an attic room in Poldi’s house whenever the Sicilian relatives believed Poldi was skating on the thin edge of reality or whenever Poldi herself demanded his return because she felt she needed someone to beguile and complain to.

Or perhaps, it is the denizens of my beloved Sicily, like the three aunts fascinated and often shocked by, and at times participants in, Poldi’s escapades. Or her partners in crime, so to speak, sad Carmina and the local priest. Or, Poldi’s French friend, Valerie her forlorn nephew’s love interest who Poldi steadfastly refuses to allow him to meet.

“For Valérie, like Poldi, happiness possessed a simple binary structure, and the whole of human existence was suspended between two relatively distant poles. Between heaven and hell, love and ignorance, responsibility and recklessness, splendour and scuzz, the essential and the dispensable. And within this dual cosmic structure there existed only two kinds of people: the deliziosi and the spaventosi, the charming and the frightful. Rule of thumb: house guests, friends and dogs are always deliziosi, the rest are spaventosi. At least until they prove otherwise.”

“‘You see,’ Poldi told me once, ‘Valérie has understood that happiness is a simple equation. Happiness equals reality minus expectation.’”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

 

Or perhaps, it is just that I am a child of Sicily, have lived as well as visited there many times and loved that large rocky Island whose citizens have suffered almost two thousand five hundred years of continuous occupation by a host of invaders— Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Germans, French, Spanish, Bourbons, Nazi’s, and even British and Americans. Where the inhabitants were considered so irrelevant by their foreign overlords their cities, unlike the rest of Europe, were built without defensive walls. Where the people are reticent with strangers but boisterous and generous with friends and family, where Bella Figura reigns supreme, the cuisine extraordinary, people speak in gestures and revel in the mores of their medieval culture and where “Being Sicilian is a question of heart, not genes” (Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna, An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2. HMH Books.)

Whatever, the reasons for my own enjoyment of the books, Pookie says you should check them out, after all, as Auntie Poldi says: “Moderation is a sign of weakness.” (Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.)

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June 2011

The following morning we left for LAX and our flight to Italy.

The depressing state of the American airline industry is additional evidence that the terrorists won. It was not the taking down of buildings, the killing of Americans or airplanes falling from the sky that was the goal of their attacks, but the subtle certainty of their understanding of the American psyche was their actual weapon. Their focus was to destroy the American economy by knowing precisely the reaction of America’s conservative elite’s thirst for power and profit. And we fell into the trap. Instead of making ourselves even stronger economically at home we wasted American treasure and dollars in unnecessary wars in the deserts of the middle east until we rewarded our attackers their victory, destruction of our economy. I consider the architects of our response nothing less than cynical traitors who wrapped themselves in the flag for personal benefit and power.

The American sad state of Airline travel is small but significant evidence of the extent of the terrorists’ success.

Anyway, following an especially uncomfortable flight, I arrived at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport with swollen legs, aching back and a foul temper. We were met by Nikki, who had arrived from Chicago a few hours earlier.

After about two hours of trying to secure a rent-a-car for our trip to Milan during which we experienced the full fury of Italian efficiency, we set off.

Within minutes it became obvious that we were not going to make the 4 or so hour drive to Milan that evening as both SWAC and I began to complain to Nikki of our various discomforts. At my suggestion, we agreed to spend the night in Orvieto a small hilltop city not far off the Autostrada.

As we entered the town, SWAC became quite excited. She thought she recognized the town as the site of George Clooney’s escapades in the movie “The American” or some such.

We located a pleasant B&B called “Las Palmas,” dropped off our luggage and set off in search of dinner which we found at an attractive restaurant a few doors away. Following a very enjoyable meal and the downing of two liters of local red and white wines among the three of us, we stumbled back to our respective rooms and to sleep.

The next morning we checked out of the B & B and set off in search of the Duomo as well as to hunt for the locations of scenes in the film that SWAC might recall.

Orvieto’s Duomo is an interesting church with a large Romanesque interior and Italian gothic façade decorated with large bas-reliefs, statues, and glittering mosaics. On the piers, about 30 feet high are carved a series of Bas-reliefs depicting biblical stories from the Old and New Testament that along with the view from the city walls are the towns glory.

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The Facade of the Duomo in Orvieto
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Orvieto

Orvieto like many of the hill towns in this part of Italy specializes in a type of pottery called Faience. Each town promotes in a slightly different design on the pottery and ever since Faience pottery became beloved of collectors, each town has developed its own pottery “artist.” In Orvieto, the renowned artist is the daughter of the owner of a pottery shop on the Plaza del Duomo called Giacomini.
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Giacomini’s

For those with knowledge and experience with the California Coastal Commission, yes they are the relatives of the late beloved suspender wearing, rotund, ex-Marin County Supervisor and Coastal Commissioner, Gary Giacomini sometimes also referred to as “Farmer Brown”.

Gary was an ardent environmentalist as long as it did not interfere with his and his family’s economic and political ambitions.

I spent about a half an hour swapping “Gary” stories with the family before we departed to search for the supposed locations of scenes from the movie, take photographs and return to the Autostrada to complete our journey to Milan.

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My partially completed but never to be finished novel, Dominion, can be found at, https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/dominion-an-unfinished-and-never-published-novel/. Below is one of the draft chapters in which the main protagonist, Vince Biondi, is confronted by San Mateo County Sheriff Megs Polan.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL: “Dominion.” When Vince Meets Megs.

Chapter whatever:

Vince took into the office washroom the overnight suitcase he always kept available in his office in case he had to make a sudden short business trip or pulled an all-nighter like this one. He washed as best he could, shaved, changed his clothing and returned to his office just as Ray arrived to accompany him to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office. Ray had obviously been called by Ike and was dressed in what for him passed for business attire, pearl button earrings, a military-style camouflage jacket, matching camouflage pants and neon green Crocs on his feet.

When they arrived at the Sheriff’s office, they were immediately ushered into the office of Sheriff Megan (Megs) Polan, former beauty queen, bodybuilding champion and a rising star in local Republican politics. Vince and Ray sat in chairs across the hygienically clean desk behind which Megs sat enthroned like a medieval duchess. Her still super toned body so filled out her tan uniform that it looked painted on. She had curly auburn hair that hung down to her shoulders and the steely blue eyes of either a stone cold killer or paranoid schizophrenic. She did not rise to greet them or speak but leaned across her desk and pushed a transparent evidence bag containing a small piece of paper towards them. As she bent forward, Vince caught a glimpse of cleavage struggling to escape the casually unbuttoned shirt. He also noticed the large black pistol riding high on her hip. Vince disconcerted that he found himself turned on, covered his embarrassment by dropping his eyes to the proffered evidence bag and studying its contents.

Inside the bag was a piece of paper torn from a small spiral bound notebook and on it, written in a shaky hand, was the message, “If anything should happen to me, call Vincent Biondi,” along with Vince’s personal mobile phone number.

“So Mr. Biondi,” Megs intoned in her surprisingly whiskey edged voice, “what can you tell me about this note and what may have happened to Mrs. Stephanie Coign last night?”

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Prince Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy, Prince of Naples pretender to the crown of Italy.

 

Dick just returned from a ten day trip to Italy. I spoke to him a few days after he arrived back in EDH. Among other places, he spent a few days in Florence which he enjoyed a lot. That reminded me of one on the many times I visited that city.

It was about fifteen years ago and I was driving along the Lungarno on my way to The Hotel Principessa something or other.  I usually stayed there whenever I visited Florence because of its wonderful view of the Ponte Vecchio and the Boboli Gardens that rise up behind the Pitti Palace.  While passing a small plaza on the way to the hotel, I noticed a crowd milling about in front of an elegant old hotel (I no longer remember its name). There also were television cameras sent up in the plaza. I suggested to the woman I was traveling with that we stop and find out what it was all about. We parked and got out of the car and walked over to the crowd.  I asked one of the cameramen what was happening. He told me that the son of the deposed King of Italy had just married some Italian heiress and they, the King himself and his court were staying at the hotel. Everyone was waiting for the happy couple and the King to arrive.

Now, at that time the King who lived in Spain was prohibited from visiting Italy, but the prohibition was waived for the wedding and everyone there was eager to get a glimpse of him. So, we decided to stay also.

A few minutes later, two large limousines and several other cars drove into the plaza and parked. From the back of the first car the bridegroom, (the Prince), and the bride (the heiress) exited. The Prince, who was reputed to be gay, scurried quickly into the hotel. His wife, the heiress, who I had learned could be quite demanding, began loudly ordering some of the people from the other cars about the luggage.

From the front of the limousine from which the bride and groom decamped, a tall grey-haired man wearing a blue blazer and a shirt without a tie exited and stood by us watching the activity. Believing him to be the chauffeur, we began talking with him. He spoke English quite well. I thought it would be fun for us to stay in this hotel with the royal family. It certainly would make a good story.

The old gentleman urged us to do so and volunteered to help us get a room. So, in we went and after a few whispers to the man at the desk we had a room. It was then one of the harried retainers approached our new friend and humbly said, “Your Excellency, your room is ready.” And that was when we realized that he was not the chauffeur but the King pretender himself.

Anyway, we checked into our room, a rather large lovely old elegant room. The room was directly above the newlywed’s suite. While standing on the balcony we could hear the bride shouting at someone for a while.

That evening we went to dinner in the hotel. The newlyweds had left for a party in their honor somewhere else. The King and his court, however, did not join them but instead sat at a large table in the center of the dining room. We were placed at a table near them. We ate a fabulous meal while the King shamelessly flirted with my date.

The next morning we left having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and with a story as well.

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