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Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

melfibeka

“We’ll keep a crystal vase near our pink and blue pillows, and after we wish and then after we kiss, we’ll lower our faces to the very brim, the very delicate edge of the crystal vase, and then we’ll let the syrup flow from our eyes into the gentle crystal vase. And every Christmas and every Easter and every other holiday known to man, we’ll feed the syrup to our seventeen children, and they will remain children forever. Their imaginations will be in full bloom forever…and they will never die. Everything will be forever…”
-Leonard Melfi from TIMES SQUARE.

Melfi, the well known off-Broadway playwright, an old friend who I last saw in the mid-sixties when we got very drunk in a friends apartment in Greenwich Village and believed in our boozy stupor that we had solved a notorious mass murder of the time only to discover a few years later we were utterly wrong. He died alone in 2002 at Mount Sinai Hospital of congestive heart failure due in part to his alcoholism. His body was misplaced and discovered four months later in a potter’s grave in Queens. His brother had him exhumed, flown to his home town of Binghamton NY, and following a funeral service and Catholic mass buried in his family plot. He would have appreciated the melodrama. Alas, nothing is forever.

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Today I went swimming for the first time since last October. I walked to the Nepenthe pool here in the Enchanted Forest and sat on one of the reclining beach chairs in the shade of some redwood trees until I felt ready to swim. It was not much of a swim. I couldn’t complete even one lap, but I paddled around a bit and did some walking back and forth across the shallower end of the pool. It’s a start.

That evening after we went to bed, I remembered that I had not driven the car from the overnight no-parking tow-away zone in front of our house to where I normally park it during the night. I jumped out of bed, threw on Bill’s red velvet robe and ran out the door to attend to the problem. Now Bill was a big man, much bigger than I am, five or six inches taller and about 100 pounds heavier so his red velvet robe hung down to the tips of my crocs and draped loosely around my body. It appeared more like a paint tarp thrown loosely over an armchair than a robe. I looked like a disheveled dissolute medieval Cardinal newly returned from the grave running around at night searching for heretics to burn at the stake. I got into the car and drove it to the proper parking area and then walked back home through the paths and streets of the Enchanted Forest like a crimson specter carrying a Shillelagh. I suspect I will be brought before the HOC to explain why I had chosen to haunt the neighborhood.

As Frank tells us, “Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few.” The last precious few days have not only dwindled down to smokey memory but most of those memories have disappeared.

I swam again a few days later — more vigorously this time. That evening, we watched Anatomy of a Murder with Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remmick, George C. Scott, and Ben Gazzara. The Gazzara family (Ben’s relatives) owned the shop, a grocery store, in Canicatti, Sicily next door to my family’s “Tabacci.” How is that for a remote and inconsequential factoid? (Another inconsequential factoid is that the presence of Zs in the last name of southern Italians signifies that they are descended from the Arab and Moorish settlers during their more than 300 years (Ninth to the Eleventh Centuries) occupation of the Island and the southern mainland. OK one more: Jews were the only ones to migrate to Sicily instead of invading it. In 1492, the same year that Columbus arrived in the Americas beginning the conquest, genocide (ethnic cleansing), and repopulation of those two continents, the Spanish Kingdom of Aragon, recent conquerors of Sicily and sponsors of Columbus’ expedition, expelled those Jews, many of whom resettled in those parts Germany beyond the reach of the Christian crusaders and thus became a major component of the stateless Jewish nation of the Ashkenazim.)

This morning, I took a shower. I know that’s nothing momentous, but while my PICC line was in, I could neither shower nor swim. I thought to myself as I stood there for a long, long time with the water crashing down on me, how wonderful it was to shower again after eight months of sponge baths. That, in turn, reminded me of when I was a kid, in the second grade. We lived in a storefront with a soaped-up window. We had only a toilet and cold water, so every evening my mom would heat up water in a kettle on the stove and pour it into a galvanized tub in which she bathed my brother and I. Yes, it has been a long time from May to September.

Later, Naida and I discussed something amusing and interesting that I wanted to write about here but I forgot what it was. Only the sense that it was amusing and interesting remains. That’s good enough for me.

On Thursday night, we went to the B-street Theater housing Sacramento’s premier live theater group. We saw The Last Match, a one-act play about a tennis match at the US Open between the aging US champion on the verge of retirement and the young upstart Russian challenger, and their wives. It was a well-staged fascinating comedy-drama. The only problem with the show was that even with my hearing-aid turned up, I could only make out about a quarter of the words spoken by the actors. I blamed it on the failure of modern acting schools to focus on projection and diction and not on any deficiency in me or my auditory equipment.

The next day I planned to spend the morning swimming. Instead, I occupied the entire day extending well into the evening watching old Red Skelton movies. I know, I should be shot and put out of my misery. Who watches Red Skelton movies today? Whoever watched Red Skelton movies? I didn’t when I was a kid —not even Saturday mornings at the Tuckahoe Itch where for 25 cents we watched a double feature, a bunch of cartoons and Movietone News of the Week. OK, I admit, I enjoyed watching them this week, especially “The Whisperer” series — truly an adventure in silliness.)

hayden… teenage forgetting — grandparents v parents — Bella bru — sunglasses — lake — zumba pool — condo — rose garden — bookstore — Hamilton quote — epstein

I wrote the above as a mnemonic device so I could come back after a few days and hopefully recall what happened. It is now a few days later. Let us see how well it worked.

Hayden — I recall leaving home at 8AM and driving into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM and Jake in order to drive to a large skatepark camp near Tahoe. I stopped in the Bela Bru parking lot and called H because I suspected he would have changed his mind and forgotten to call and tell me.

Teenage forgetting — He answered the phone and said they changed their mind and had forgotten to call and tell me.

Grandparents v parents — I have no idea why I added this except perhaps grandparents and the very old (alter cocker?) tend to be more forgiving of the foibles of the young than parents because, I guess, but for a vague sense of one more disappointment among many, they have little enough to do anyway so there was usually nothing else they had to give up.

Bella Bru — so, having little else to do, I entered Bella Bru ordered my favorite breakfast of Cafe Latte and a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with Cream cheese.

Sunglasses — for the rest of the day, I believed I had lost my favorite sunglasses. I tore the car apart and searched the house for them. That evening, as I sat in the recliner, I looked down and found the glasses had been hanging from one of my shirt buttons all day.

Lake — After breakfast, I went for a walk around the lakes at Town Center.

Zumba pool — I walked past the morning Zumba dancing class exercising in the health club pool.

Condo — and past the construction of the new and controversial 200 unit condominium project. It was not the best planned and designed concept. I would have preferred a walking street through the site with additional commercial on the ground floor. In any event, I support adding residential units to large shopping centers like Town Center so it had my silent approval for however much it is worth.

Rose Garden — After my walk around the lakes, I sat there and enjoyed myself contemplating something I no longer remember.

Book store — After meditating or whatever in the rose garden I walked to the bookstore, A Clean Well Lighted Place For Books. I seem to recall there were a few books that interested me. I no longer remember the titles of any of them.

Hamilton quote — I have no idea what this relates to or to what quote I was referring to unless it was this one I had read a few days ago:

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Epstein — Given the current news surrounding everything about this man, this could refer to almost anything.
A strange and mysterious thing came flying over the back fence today — a small box. In that box nestled a coffee cup filled with candy. It is sitting on a cabinet next to where I am typing this. I wonder about it. Perhaps it is a magic cup. Maybe if I rub it three times, a coffee genie will pop out and offer me three wishes. This requires some deep thought.

On Monday, I drove again into the Golden Hills. It was HRM’s first day of high school. I stopped again at Bella Bru, this time for lunch. As I was ordering, to my surprise N, Hayden’s mom, called to me. She was there with Jake’s mom. I joined them and we spent most of the lunch discussing the problems of teenagers. I then picked up H and Jake at the skatepark. They were very excited and happy about their first day of high school. I dropped them off at D’s house and returned to the EF.

A few more days have passed by. I assume I must have done something of at least moderate interest. Yesterday, I felt sick and spent most of the day in bed. Today, I felt better. That interests me even if it does no one else.

Well, today is Wednesday. Last night Naida could not find her wallet. We tried to remember when she used her credit card last. One of the places we considered she may have left it was at the Theater. In our attempts to recall the day we attended the play, I was convinced it was Saturday. She was not sure and thought we went there on Friday. Today at the theater we discovered it was Thursday (as I had written above but had not checked). My memory failures are going beyond simply humorous stories about the foibles of aging.

How about that, It is Friday evening already. It is Irene Dunne day on TCM.

We attended the Saturday Morning Coffee. I am beginning to enjoy talking to the people there rather than just sitting in the corner observing them and writing about it here. Perhaps I am growing up. Winnie, who is on immunotherapy, seems to be doing well. She was distraught when she first was diagnosed with brain cancer. Now that it seems to have been halted, at least for a while, she tries hard to enjoy every day as much as possible. Good for her. I also had a lengthy conversation with another woman, She worked in the legislative bill room while the Coastal Act was going through the process. Later, while working for a workman’s comp. company, she retained one of the attorneys from my firm for some legal work. This is another example of the “small world” aspect of coincidence. She also told me that one of Senator Henry Mello’s sons often attends the coffee but was not there today.

After that, I left again for the Golden Hills and picked up HRM, Jake, and Kaleb and drove to Placerville where we had lunch before I dropped them off at “Joe’s Skate Park.” While they were skating the cement hills of the park, I nosed around through some of Placerville’s shops. Later on the way back to EDH, the chattered on about their excitement over starting high school. I tried to leave them with Pookie’s Ten Cent Words of Wisdom for Adolescents by explaining that their high school years would be among the most memorable of their lives, but they should understand that because this is the time in one’s life most open to deep feelings and emotions inevitably they would find some things as bad as they had ever experienced before but they needed to know and remember that they will pass. Pretty mundane if you ask me.

The next day, was Ice Cream by the Pool Day where many of those who attend the Saturday Morning Coffee sat around the pool, ate ice cream and talked. Naida and I had an enjoyable conversation with Winnie about life and loves past. On the way back to the house we ran into the new neighbor who had worked for Lehman Brothers and now sells memberships in some sort of a travel club. He told us the man who had moved into the other side of us (The one who tried to chat up Naida) used to be an immigration lawyer in the Bronx. Small world indeed.

On Monday, I picked up HRM and Jake after school and took them to lunch. Alas, they wanted to go to Chick’a’fil which I am trying to boycott because of their support of Trump and their stance on LGBT. I decided to remain silent about political issues and went with them.

This morning, Naida and I woke-up and began chatting to each other about our dreams. We had both dreamt about summing up our lives, our successes, and failures. She on the difficulties, successes, and failures of being a woman trying to make her way in the world and me about the places I have been and the things that I have seen and the places and things I would never see and experience.

So, now it is time to travel again to the Big Endive by the Bay for my immunotherapy infusion.

Take care of yourselves.

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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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