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war is a racket

I wonder why I keep writing  T&T. Maintaining a journal in order to record one’s stumbles from event to event or from adventure to adventure is probably a good thing. Unfortunately, in my case, there are a limited number of times one can write about walking the dog, the beauty of the flowers along the path or complaining about my health or boredom. I usually spend only about half an hour in any day writing. Why not more? Well, primarily because I refuse to spend time and effort editing what I write or struggling for excellence in expression. Why would I? It’s boring and I’m not getting paid. I spend most of my time instead reading or searching the internet for my favorite blogs, entering bits and pieces of some past T&T in various blog sites, watching MSNBC, CNN, old movies on TCM, walking the dog, looking at the flowers, eating, taking naps and so on.

This morning I woke up depressed. I did not know why. I did have odd dreams during the night. I remembered them for a while then, as the morning wore on, forgot them. Maybe that is why I was depressed. Not forgetting the dreams, although that could be depressing I suppose, but because of the nature of the dreams themselves. All I recall about them was my frustration, like when I was younger dreaming about being unable to get to a class on time or something like that.

Today the nation celebrated D-day. This evening I watched, “The Longest Day” and “Overlord” on television. That’s a lot of killing and dying. Of the two, I thought Overlord was the better movie. It told the tragic story of one callow young man who was a tiny cog in something he neither understood nor controlled. It was not a vehicle for aging cinema stars who avoided combat and young wannabes to strut their stuff in an epic glorifying war. As many of those soldiers who survived Omaha Beach said, “There were no heroes at Omaha Beach, only those who were lucky and those who were not.” If one adds to that the fact that some believe, myself included, the allied decision to pursue the difficult amphibious invasion in Normandy instead of continuing to push into Germany from the existing allied bases in Italy was as much a political, as a military one, the suffering and death of those forced to charge directly into machine-gun fire along the Normandy beaches that day seem even more tragic and unnecessary. As the two time Medal of Honor recipient, Marine Major-General Smedley Butler said, “War is a Racket.” There are no glorious wars, only effective propaganda. We fight to preserve the rulers we have and know, rather than submit to tyrants we don’t. Or, more likely, we are forced to fight by the rulers we have because they fear replacement by the tyrants they may know but we do not.

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Recently, one of my aging and by now well-aged friends sent me the following:

Now that I’m older, here’s what I’ve discovered:

1. I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.
2. My wild oats are mostly enjoyed with prunes and all-bran.
3. Funny, I don’t remember being absent-minded.
4. Funny, I don’t remember being absent-minded.
5. If all is not lost, then where the heck is it?
6. It was a whole lot easier to get older than it was to get wiser.
7 Some days, you’re the top dog, some days you’re the hydrant.
8. I wish the buck really did stop here; I sure could use a few of them.
9. Kids in the back seat cause accidents.
10. Accidents in the back seat cause kids.
11. It is hard to make a comeback when you haven’t been anywhere.
12. The world only beats a path to your door when you’re in the bathroom.
13. If God wanted me to touch my toes, he’d have put them on my knees.
14. When I’m finally holding all the right cards, everyone wants to play chess.
15. It is not hard to meet expenses . . . They’re everywhere.
16. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth..
17. These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter . . I go somewhere to get something, and then wonder what I’m “here after”.
18. Funny, I don’t remember being absent-minded.
19. It is a lot better to be seen than viewed.
20. Have I sent this message to you before…or did I get it from you?

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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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haudenosaunee-gathering

One day, I think it was Memorial Day, I spent several hours reading a Ph.D. dissertation by Eric Jones about the Iroquois Population History and Settlement Ecology, AD 1500-1700 (https://etda.libraries.psu.edu/files/final_submissions/1734). I came across this while I was researching the background to a poem that was reputed to be the opening lines to the Iroquois Constitution, The Great Law of Peace. While I failed to confirm the provenance of the poem, I found the treatise fascinating. It attempted to determine if evidence existed that proved there had been significant decline in the nations population post contact with European settlers (there had been, but it took over a decade before manifesting — just prior to contact (1634) the entire population of the Iroquois nation totaled 20,000 people and by 1660 it had decreased to about 7000). The author also tried to discover what, if any, were the factors that prompted the locations of the over 50 settlements that made up the Confederacy (distance to trails and well-drained farmland).

While searching the internet for information about the number of European settlers who populated NY in the 1660s, I came across a very lengthy letter by an Episcopal minister John Miller to the Bishop of London that after railing on at length about the general immorality of the colonists detailed his suggestions for the conquest of Canada and the conversion of the Indians. When it comes to conquest, murder, and destruction of indigenous societies the dolorous activities in the name of religion by men of the cloth never changes.

The great, most proper, & as I conceive effectual means to remedy and prevent all the disorders I have already mentioned & promote the settlement & improvement of Religion & Unity both among the English subjects that are already Christians & the Indians Supposed to be made so is That his Majesty will graciously please to send over a Bishop to the Province of New York who if duly qualified empowered & settled may with the Assistance of a small force for the Subduing of Canada by God’s grace & blessing be Author of great happiness not only to New York in particular but to all the English plantations [colonies] on that part of the continent of American in general. . . .

When I speak of converting the Indians ⎯ by Indians I mean principally those five Nations which lie between Albany & Canada & are called 1) Mohawks or Maquaes, 2) Oneidas, 3) Chiugas, 4) Onundagas & 5) Senecas, of whom though most of the Mohawks are converted to Christianity by Dr. Dellius & Some of the Oneidas by the Jesuit Millet, yet the first not being yet established in any good order at all & the last being converted to Popery, I look upon the work as yet wholly to be done & if what has been already done is not a disadvantage to it, yet that little advantage is gained thereby except a demonstration of the inclination of the Indians to embrace the Christian religion. . . .

1. The first thing then to be done in order to the conquest of Canada is to pitch upon a General for the conducting & carrying it on. The General then is to be but one to come & all forces both by Sea & land that are sent or appointed for this purpose: for long Experience has taught us that equal & divided commands have ruined many noble Undertakings & great Armies. . . .
2. The Second thing to be provided for is forces & warlike Provisions Sufficient for Such a design & those to be either sent for England or prepared in America. . . . (http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/becomingamer/growth/text1/newyorkmiller.pdf)

Miller then continues his letter with extensive and detailed plans for the invasion of Canada and its settlement by English colonists.

And this is how I spent Memorial Day instead of exercising, feasting, listening to music and enjoying whatever other amusements would make my declining years more pleasant.

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This morning, while watching on MSNBC the latest outrage by he who is not my president, I disgustedly turned to Facebook on my computer. To my surprise I discovered the following photograph posted there:

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That is me on the left, Peter Cirrincione in the middle and Freddy Greco on the right. The photograph was posted by Peter’s wife Loretta also a dear friend of mine. We were at Playland by the Beach in Rye New York sometime during the 1950s when this picture was taken. Although I was a bit skinny back then, I agree with the comments to that Facebook post — we indeed were handsome devils. Alas, no longer.

My cousin Lou Bronico to whom, among others, I sent a copy of the photograph wrote back that he had a similar photograph taken at the same place with two of his friends also from Tuckahoe. I recall that my father and uncles also had taken a similar picture in the same setting years before I did.

I also sent a copy of the photograph by email to a few friends here in California. One of them was Peter Grenell with whom, whenever I am in San Francisco, I share a coffee and reminisces while sitting on the bench we named the Geezer’s Bench located in front of Bernie’s Cafe in Noe Valley. After seeing the photograph, Peter opined:

“Those were the days! Pretty spiffy. Could do a retake at the Geezers Bench with canes, walker, Prosecco, and family size bottles of pharmaceuticals — and hats. Or not….”

Here is the photograph Peter mentioned of him and me on the Geezers’ Bench, more than sixty years after the photograph at Sloppy Joe’s Bar had been taken. Alas, time has taken its toll.
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iroquois-constiution

This poem is a translation of one of the opening paragraphs of The Great Binding Law, Gayanshagowa of the Hauduonasee (Iroquois) nation that was given to that nation by Dekanawidah and written down by Hiawatha. The poem here was written by someone (I do not know who) who put the words of Dekanawidah into a somewhat western-looking poetic format.

“From the Iroquois Constitution”

“The Tree of Great Peace”

Roots have spread out
One to the north,
One to the east,
One to the south,
One to the west.
The name of these roots
Is the Great White Roots
And their nature
Is
Peace
And
Strength

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Musings on a Peter Grenell comment about something in the previous issue of T&T (Here).

In response to my remark:

Last night, Naida described how that morning she marveled at the many odd angles I had contorted my limbs into while I slept. We agreed on a new nick-name for me, Pythagorean Pookie. I like it.

Peter wrote:

Now, the alliteration is cool, but “Hypotenuse” is fewer syllables simpler and elegant. And lends itself to the nickname “Hypo”.

If I should choose this nickname, perhaps it might qualify me to become a Marx brother. Then there would be six Marx brothers, Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo, Zeppo, and Hypo. Alas, that would make me the last of the Marx brothers still living.

It saddens me to think of a world without the Marx brothers. Hayden and his cohorts probably have no idea who they were or their importance to civilization. Groucho and Harpo were, in my opinion, two of the greatest philosophers humankind has ever produced. Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, and all the others may have been admirable and brilliant men but could any one of them demonstrate the heights of the ideal contemplative life as did the mute Harpo playing the harp. Could anyone of those worthies of the past match the succinct reasoning regarding the mysteries of existence as did Groucho when he declaimed:

“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

Or,

“I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.”

And,

“What have future generations ever done for us?”

Yes, it is a far less interesting and amusing world now that they have left us. Sob!

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