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Posts Tagged ‘Mendocino’

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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TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:

On Friday we left for Mendocino and the celebration of my sister Maryann and George’s 40th wedding anniversary. Despite my illness, the drive from Sacramento to Mendocino was pleasant enough. It was made more tolerable by listening to an audio disk of a book. A book that I had read before and perhaps have even written about here.

It was the first novel in the Arthurian Trilogy by Bernard Cornwall called, The Winter King. Listening to the narrator drone on helped the time pass rapidly. The trilogy is set in the latter part of the Fifth Century about 80 years or so after the Romans had departed Britain and the indigenous inhabitants had begun their devolution into rural barbarism. During this time, raiders from the area around Denmark eyeing the land now made empty by the Roman retreat arrived and settled in the East. They were, at the time of the novel’s setting, driving the Britons before them off the fertile lands and into the mountains. History records a British warlord named Artur active then. Also, there is evidence of a series of battles at about this time between the Saxon invaders and the British won by the Britons that halted the Saxon advance for about 40 years — a fairly long time by the standards of history. The author places the medieval legends back at this time but provides the shining heroic characters with a more gritty and less exalted story than the Medieval bards did.

Anyway, we arrived in Fort Bragg in good order checked into a motel, settled the dog comfortably and left for the Anniversary dinner.

The dinner was held at the Noyo Harbor Inn an attractive fairly newly remodeled hotel overlooking Noyo Harbor.

In addition to members of the family friends of Maryann and George from the East Coast were there also.

Fred and Ellen

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George and Mary made speeches about the happiness of their marriage and George gave Mary a ruby ring to celebrate their 40th Anniversary.

The following day Naida, I and Boo-Boo went for a walk along the beach and the bluffs.

We then set off to Mary and George’s home for a Barbecue. When we arrived, I was amazed at the additions to their house that had been completed since the last time we were there. They had constructed an all-new patio and garden enclosure at the front of the house. It seemed to bring the house into the garden or the garden into the house I could not tell which.

The Barbecue featured meat and a lovely salmon prepared by Quinn, Katie’s intended.

Several of our friends from Mendocino joined us — Nancy and Duncan, Ester and her husband and a few others who despite the relatively few times were have visited each other, I feel have become as close friends as I have ever enjoyed. There was even a hedgehog who joined us that night. I never really met him in person (in hedgehog?) before.


The next day we returned to The Enchanted Forest. I decided to try driving down Highway 101 and up 80 since on paper it is the quickest drive. Alas, as I feared, the traffic, especially as we approached Petaluma was horrendous.

B. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST

Monday was my birthday. My daughter sent me three interesting books. Hayden surprised me with a nice gift. Many friends sent me their best wishes through email and social media. Even my grandson Aaron texted me. Naida took me out for one of my favorite things, a root beer float. We went to Mel’s. They even put a candle on it.

Happy Birthday Pookie

Some additional notable events that occurred on my birthday, October 15, during the 16th and 17th Centuries:

1552 Khanate of Kazan is conquered by troops of Ivan Grozny.
1581 Commissioned by Catherine De Medici, the 1st ballet “Ballet Comique de la Reine” is staged in Paris
1582 Many Catholic countries switch to the Gregorian calendar, skip 10 days
1598 Spanish general strategist Bernardino de Mendoza occupies fort Rhine
1641 Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve claims Montreal
1654 Prince Willem III appointed viceroy of Overijssel
1655 Jews of Lublin are massacred
1660 Asser Levy granted butcher’s license (kosher meat) in New Amsterdam
1674 Torsåker witch trials begin, largest witch trials in Sweden, 71 beheaded and burned

All and all, except for Asser’s butcher’s license, those were not very good or notable days.

Note also, on the day I was born in 1939:

1939 LaGuardia Airport opened in NYC
1939 Yeshiva of Mir closed after 124 years

So on my next birthday raise a glass to LaGuardia (The mayor and the airport) and shed a tear for the Yeshiva of Mir.

For those of you over 70 and well into the great decline, you probably already experience this. Even as my body weakens, the voice in my head that talks to me all the time seem always to be as young as it was when I was a teenager. Oh, a bit more cynical perhaps, but every bit as vigorous as ever when I feel I have done something that rises to the level of the barely adequate, letting me know how foolish I really am. One would think that at this age that voice would give up and feebly warble, “I no longer give a damn. Do what you want. Who cares?”

The remainder of the week drifted off to same old, same old. Sitting at home playing with the computer, watching old movies on TCM (not much to write about there) and reading the novels Jessica sent me (One was by JK Rowling using her nom de plume, Robert Galbraith. It was a mystery and quite good). I also went to a few pre-op examinations. And, of course, attended to the needs of Hayden and The Scooter Gang.

Speaking of H, he recently acquired a new mountain bicycle to replace his other mountain bike that he said was inadequate. (He was insistent that I understood that the old bike was an “off-road bike” and not a “mountain bike” — Whatever.) It was quite something — complex hydraulics on the seat and well as the front and back wheels. He recently joined the school mountain bike team along with several other Scooter Gang members.

Hayden and His Mountain  Bike

On Tuesday, I had a stress test in preparation for my operation. A stress test for those who have never had one is where you fast for a day and dive to the lab where they the load you full of radioactive substances, lie you on a cot under great machines that make odd humming and clicking noises and then tell you to relax for the next hour or so. I was stressed out.

And so the week played itself out. Finally, after many phone calls, I managed to arrange an appointment with my surgeons. The growth in my neck seems larger and more uncomfortable. The Scooter Gang has begun to evidence teenage bravado and male aggressiveness. So it goes. Most days I sit in the studio with the Mac on my lap watching Naida tap away on her computer editing her memoirs.

The weekend also passed by quietly. On Sunday N decided to bake a pumpkin pie the way the Native Americans taught the illegal immigrants coming ashore a Plymouth or Jamestown — baking the pie in the pumpkin.

It did not turn out that well because, while emptying the pumpkin of its seeds, we inadvertently punctured a hole in the bottom and much of the custard filling drained through during the baking. It tasted pretty good nevertheless. I wonder if the colonists faced that problem.

On Tuesday, I meet with the surgeons.

Have fun. Be cool. Keep warm. Stay hot.

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ADVENTURES IN SEBASTOPOL:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

MENDOCINO ON MY MIND:

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

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

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

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

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BACK IN THE GOLDEN HILLS:

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

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

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

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OFF TO THE CITY BY THE BAY:

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

 

Report from the Geezer’s Bench:

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

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

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The Geezer Boys on the Geezer Bench

 

SF JAZZ, Oh Yeah.

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

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

 

 BACK IN THE GOLDEN HILLS WITH TEA AND OLIVE OIL:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yes tomorrow is another day.

 

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A. CHRISTMAS IN MENDOCINO:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Aging Childe Harold.

 

 

B. MOLLY HAD A BABY ON CHRISTMAS DAY:

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

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

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

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Molly and Amir Emmanuel Duncan Trad

 

 

C. SORROW.

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

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

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

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

I will miss him greatly.

And, the Great Wheel grinds inexorably on.

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.POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

 

The skies over the golden hills have been a clear brilliant blue for the past few days. The temperature has gotten a bit chilly recently. Fall colors have been out for a week or so but they seem less vibrant than usual. I guess that muting is caused by the dry weather these last few months.

The slight chill in the air combined with the warmth of the water in the pool make swimming delightful. This afternoon while swimming, I noticed a snake, large centipede, and a spider in the water with me. I was startled. Then, I realized today was Halloween and someone was just messing with me. I, nevertheless, still moved to another lane. When it comes to creepy crawlers, I am a wuss.

On Halloween night, HRM took an autistic boy from the special needs class at his school trick or treating. It seems H has been especially kind to the boy in school and the boy was able to express his wish for H to take him out on Halloween.

Adrian left for the week. He went back to Sunnyvale to resume work on the tech start-up he is associated with. Dick returned from Thailand that evening. I sat by the door with a bowl of candy waiting for some kids to ring the doorbell. Only about three groups showed up all evening, so I sat there and ate most of the candy myself.

Shortly after Halloween, the weather turned cold in the Golden Hills — not winter cold, but chilly and overcast enough for sweaters and jackets.

Recently at the Health Club, I observed an exercise on one of the exercise machines I had never seen before — the exercise of pelvic thrusting muscles. I never knew there was a need to exercise those particular muscles. But, I guess if you think about it, it might come in handy someday. Anyway, a young woman approached the hamstring strengthening machine, the one where you lie prone on your stomach and lift a roller with the backs of your ankles. She squeezed her body between the bench and the roller, placing the roller across her pelvis and her hands behind on the bench and commenced to vigorously and salaciously trust her pelvis forward and up. Silence descended on the club as everyone, male and female alike, stopped what they were doing and, not wanting to be accused of voyeurism, watched the performance out of the corner of their eyes. Old guys like me have no shame anymore so we just gaped. The exerciser, a trainer at the club, was retained by a young man immediately after she completed her workout.

It is too cold to swim alas, so I work the treadmill and the weights at the health club and watch the thrusting expert whenever she chooses to perform. I read a lot now that even going for a walk is unpleasant. A few days ago, I read a novel by Terry Pratchett that I do not recall reading before. It is called “The Thief of Time”. I thought I had read all of his “Discworld” novels, but I do not remember this one. Reading it confirmed my belief that Pratchett, like Vonnegut and Pynchon, is one of the great novelists in modern English literature. In the age of quantum physics and the fall of the American empire, only fantasy and humor can capture the sly absurdities of our times.

Time goes on. I do the same things day after day. Ennui sets in so I decided to spend the weekend with my sister and George in Mendocino.

 

B. MENDOCINO DREAMING:

The drive to Mendocino was uneventful. Little traffic, mostly sunny. I stopped for my usual ice cream sundae in Lucern on the shores of Clear Lake, passed some of the burned over the terrain of the recent fires and arrived in Mendocino about four and a half hours after I left the golden hills.

Some walks through the town and along the bluffs and on Friday night we dined at the next door neighbors house and discussed the fence erected by another neighbor that had everyone upset. The neighbors, who are also committed travelers, told stories about their recent boat trip along the Arctic Circle and their planned trip to Asia in March.

The next night we traveled to Elk, about twenty miles down highway 1 from Mendocino to visit Bobby Beacon’s bar. Bobby resembles a rustic Sidney Greenstreet only taller. His wealthy parents left him a piece of property in Mendocino about 10 miles on each side. There on a hill from which one can see far up and down the coast (all which we were informed was Bobby’s) sits his bar in which Bobby lives in a few rooms off the barroom. In one of those rooms, open and accessible from the bar sits a grand piano on which, now and then, Bobby plays for his guests. In another room, there is a large ergonomic chair surrounded by the latest computer equipment and a 78-inch screen. The bar is not open at regular times like an ordinary gin mill. When Bobby feels in the mood to converse with friends, he turns on a bright light on a long pole sticking above the roof of the bar. It can be seen far up and down the coast. It informs those who are interested that Bobby is in a mood to talk with his friends old and new. In effect, Bobby makes his friends pay for the pleasure of his company. Bobby is very conscious of the value of money. When he tells his stories, he tells them at length and they are also interesting. They tend to be about money or outsmarting the government. He also tells stories about animals that wander around his property or that he sees in the ocean from his bar.

Bobby collects fire engines — real fire engines not toys. They sit on his property and rust. It seems that many years ago when the local fire department presented Bobby with the estimated cost for them to his property in their district, he decided it would be much less expensive to form his own fire department for his property alone. Shortly thereafter, a surprising piece of legislation was passed requiring Fire districts funded with public money to offer at a discount any equipment they consider obsolete to a fire district not funded by public money. Bobby’s district was the only one that could qualify. What a surprise.

Anyway, we had a good time.
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The next day, it rained. I sat by the window and watched the slate grey ocean fling it’s white spume upon the black rocks. When I tired of that I read. The day after, still raining, I left to return to the golden hills.

 

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Why are these people smiling?

 

So, I spent the Memorial Day weekend at my sister’s house in Mendocino. The sky was overcast and the ocean calm and gray. It was abalone hunting season. Parked cars filled the side of the road along the bluff disgorging their black-rubber suited occupants and their tire irons. The divers lined up and marched down the sinuous steep paths that snaked along the bluff face to the water below. From the top of the bluff, they looked like a dark ant army covering the rocks and invading the kelp beds. A lot of them were Asian, Japanese and Chinese tourists. I guess they were flown over here for the abalone hunting season. I suspect, if they were Muslim the current administration in Washington would suddenly become abalone conservationists.

Most of the time, Mary, George and I sat in the house talking and laughing among ourselves by the large windows overlooking the ocean or buried in some book or reading the NY Times.

On Sunday, we went to the Casper Community Breakfast and Flea Market. Mary and George set up a few tables in the grassy area at the side of the Casper Community Center. On the tables, we placed a few things they had lying around their garage to be sold at the market.
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I headed off for the community breakfast leaving them to their commercial endeavors. The community volunteer waitpersons sat me in a middle seat at a rectangular table seating six. I did not know anyone else at the table. Having as a result of my cancer therapy an upset stomach, lost most of my hearing and taste, and blurry eyesight, I had little expectation of enjoying either the food or the company. Suddenly across the room, I saw a nose — Not just any nose but a magnificent nose. The nose was appended to the face of one of the women volunteers waiting on the tables. As noses go, it was extremely well shaped. It was also huge as though insisting we all acknowledge its magnificence. It moved through the dining room like an icebreaker through the Arctic. I was enthralled.

As many of you know, I abhor the cult of small noses and people who have them. It is insulting to those individuals proud of their prominent noses to know that others are encouraged to cut theirs off so they may become fashionable. Why are tiny-tot noses so fashionable anyway? What are they hiding behind those tiny nostrils? How do they enjoy the full aromas of life around them? Where is the facial drama — the character — the pride?

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Now that is a Nose to Remember.

 

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One day, after a brief sojourn at my sister’s house on the Mendocino coast, I stopped at Booneville’s bakery and coffee shop for a breakfast. I ordered a coffee and a scone. As I sat down at a table by the window, I noticed a copy of the local newspaper that someone had left behind. I picked it up started reading as I ate my breakfast.

The newspaper’s masthead identified it as the Anderson Valley Advertiser. Its motto Fanning the Flames of Discontent sounded to me more like a call to scratch an itch than to a revolution. The paper also claimed that it was the Last Newspaper in California. I had no idea what that meant.

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The office of the Anderson Valley Advertiser and its Editor.

On the front page,  a lengthy article appeared entitled, The Courtroom As Porn Parlor. I surmised it would prove diverting and began to read. It reported on a trial recently concluded in Ukiah, the Mendocino County Seat.

It seems that a 15-year-old girl from the coastal hamlet of Point Arena was, as has been common with teenagers forever, unhappy with the behavioral restrictions imposed on her by her mother, a single mother, who worked nights and whose husband, the girl’s father, lived in another state. The mom, in the running for mother of the year, responded to her daughter’s complaints by threatening her wayward daughter with being sent off to live with her father with “all his rules.”

The daughter, as teenagers will, sought solace elsewhere. In this case, on the internet, and in social media, especially rap sites and chat rooms. Eventually, and as expected, her pleas and complaints elicited a sympathetic response from a seeming sympathetic 25-year-old young man, Thessalonian Love. Rap Star Love as he came to be known in the article. Rap Star resided at the time in the less than picturesque city of San Bernardino. One of Rap Stars earliest and perhaps most effective messages to our Point Arena ingenue intended, I assume, to soothe emotional turmoil experienced by the troubled young lady  declared:

“Yeah, I’m a guy, so show me them titties, bitch, and send me a ass shot!”

Responding eagerly to such endearments our ingenue and Thessalonian eventually agreed that he would travel to Mendocino, take her away from her drab existence besides the crashing surf, rolling hills and redwood forests and introduce her to the excitement of life in beautiful downtown San Bernardino.

Somehow, Mom got wind of this and when Love the Lothario presented himself at the girl’s school he was met not by the object of his affections but by the Sheriff who promptly arrested him on various charges of attempting to corrupt a minor and human trafficking.

The trial of Thessalonian Love aka Rap Star Love commenced with his lawyer’s opening statement to the jury that began:

“I don’t think 15-year-old girls still call it a pee-pee anymore,

and continued;

“As for oral copulation, we’ve had President Clinton discussing it on TV long before this little girl was even born. And if any of you have listened to rap music, like most 15-year-olds have, you know it’s not unusual, or foreign and, frankly, these girls not only call their vagina a pussy, they refer to themselves — their gender collectively, despite the progressive achievements of the feminist movement — by the same terminology.”

And further on;

“We don’t know what this girl and her friends had to say about this ‘rap star’ coming to see her, but we can imagine they were pretty excited.”

Indeed.

The trial lasted ten days mostly made up of reading into the record or listening to the recorded communications between the young lovers. I would like to imagine that the jurors, hearing the rap exchanges, saw the young lovers as modern versions of Romeo and Juliet’s, but I doubt it.

As fascinating and entertaining as this may have been, however, it was not the most interesting thing that happened during the trial. No, not by a long shot.

The defendant took the stand. Unusual though it may have been, it, in itself, was not particularly interesting. What was, was that after a day on the stand attempting to explain himself, Thessalonian, began to lose hope, so after court was closed for the day, as he was being returned to the jail by the bailiff, Rap Star Love escaped.

The entire police force of Ukiah, including its four-person SWAT team and its K-9 Corps, was called out to search for him. They searched for him all night to no avail. This was odd because as cities go Ukiah is distinctly modest. In fact, even as towns go, Ukiah would still not shed its modesty.
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The next morning, a bailiff on the way to the court spotted our Thessalonian standing motionless in front of the town’s Walgreen’s and took him into custody. After feeding him breakfast he promptly returned him to the courtroom to resume his testimony. Unfortunately, Rap Star, not having slept all night, would periodically nod off during questioning.

Later during the trial, after Love complained to his attorney bitterly and loudly (out of the hearing of the Jury of course) that he was not receiving the quality of defense for which he was not paying, his attorney was overheard responding:

“You haven’t listened to a single thing I’ve said, and now you are in so deep there’s hardly anything I can do to save you from even the weakest charges they have against you. So, please be quiet for a minute, and let me think how best to salvage this mess.”

Thessalonian Love was quickly convicted by the jury on all counts and before sentencing on those charges now awaits trial for escaping while in custody.

All I could think of as I finished reading the article was, “Who knew things like this happened among Mendocino’s rolling hill and vineyards?”

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