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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
Today, I awoke feeling chipper (an appropriate but seldom used word). After a good nights sleep, I was awakened by the bright sunlight slanting through the shutter’s slats and onto the bed. The still air of morning moderated the heat of what was destined to become a sultry scorching day. The sound of the dog barking at every squirrel and cat in the neighborhood that chanced to step within fifty feet of the house accompanied me into the kitchen. Two Thomas’ Original English Muffins lay on my plate all crispy and slathered in butter and fig preserve. The coffee hot and especially tasty made the morning complete.

I was sitting in my reclining chair enjoying the morning, happily dunking my muffins into the cup of coffee when Naida came downstairs ready to leave for a day at the Fair selling her books. She wore tight dark navy blue slacks and a very attractive navy blue blouse. She asked me how she looked.

I felt a bit of jealousy as I looked her over imagining the 70 and 80-year-old lotharios at the Fair joking with her and sweet-talking her. Now you may think that boinking and boffing among 80 year-olds is an image best avoided and that in our dotage jealousy is far from our minds — we being more mature and significantly less capable. On the contrary, even in our decrepitude, we are as randy as ever and far less constrained by social mores.

Upon first reaching the not so tender age at which I have recently arrived, this state of affairs surprised me. I thought the days of sweaty nights, and ceaseless desire was behind and if truth be known, beyond me (although I believe I remain a pretty good kisser, hugger and nibbler of ears).

A month or so ago, an elderly gentleman (younger than me, alas) moved into the empty house next to ours and immediately began energetically chatting up Naida until the man who lived in the house across the way told him to knock it off since she already had a significant other. Now, this amused me greatly. I realized we had reached that age where we became teenagers again.

In keeping with my newly revived teenager-hood, I entertained myself with thoughts of smacking him across the head with my cane. In my adolescence, I may have done so were we standing toe to toe, bathing in testosterone and shouting at each other. I would, however, never go in search of someone in order to deliver the blow, comforting myself with the fiction I would do so were we ever to meet in a dark alley. Now, in my dotage, I am certain almost nothing would prompt me to leave my recliner and certainly not on this lovely morning. Besides, Naida undoubtedly would think I had gone nuts. That is another pleasure of growing old, you can become as crazy as you want in your own mind without feeling guilty or worried about your sanity — after all the next stop on the train is childhood.

Never forget laddie, today is the oldest you’ve ever been, yet the youngest you’ll ever be. So, enjoy the day. It is never coming around again. And so, I did.

On Friday I took Hayden, Jake, and Kaleb to the California State Fair. I picked up Hayden and Jake at Dick’s house. They were lazing in HRM’s teen-ager cave. A few more wall posters have been added to the decor and the small fridge is now full of soft drinks. We then picked up Kaleb at his mother’s apartment. During the drive to the Fair, I listened to teen-talk — about cars and motorcycles and what they would do once they get their driver’s license.

At the Fair, I left the three of them to wander about while I sat in air-conditioned building A eating a Cinnabon. We did visit the animal barns together. Today was sheep, longhorn cattle, and llama day. There was one section that featured attack llamas. Large vicious-looking beasts trained to protect herds of sheep from wolves and coyotes.

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Jake, HRM, and Kaleb at the Fair standing near the Attack Llamas pen.

 
When I got home that evening and told Naida about the attack llamas, she asked, “What could they fight with, they have no fangs and their hooves are not that hard?” “Spit,” I responded. “Wolves and coyotes are very fastidious. They do not like to be spat upon.”

We then had dinner and Naida told me the story of the two angora goats she owned when she lived with Bill on the ranch along the Cosumnes River. It was a long and fascinating story of escape, punishment, sorrow, affection, return the use of angora fleece for hair on dolls and the ability of acacia trees to repel giraffes.

I think this is a good time to insert one of my favorite Ogden Nash poems:

The one L lama, he’s a priest
The two L llama, he’s a beast
And I will bet my silk pyjama
There isn’t any three L lllama.
— O. Nash, to which a fire chief replied that occasionally his department responded to something like a “three L lllama.”

All things considered, it was a good day in spite of the heat and the national news.

The next day I left for the Bay Area for my sister’s birthday party at her daughter’s home in Oakland.

 

B. A BRIEF TRIP TO THE EAST BAY:
The traffic was brutal on I-80 that morning. It took almost three hours to travel the 90 miles from Sacramento to Oakland. I arrived at a rather fancy apartment complex in a newly built-up section of Oakland. Thirty-years ago during the eight years, I was the director of the State Coastal Conservancy, my office was situated in downtown Oakland. Often, I visited this area at lunchtime since there were a few decent restaurants I liked that had located in the mostly empty decaying warehouses that then marked the neighborhood. About 15 years later, the younger Shorenstein and Pappadopolus teamed up to propose to the then-Mayor Jerry Brown, a massive development project in the area. It was about then that I last ventured into Oakland. Terry and I had proposed to Mayor Jerry, the rehabilitation of the old Fox theater that recently had been landmarked. The deal ultimately fell through as they almost always did whenever Terry and I teamed up.

Katie, Maryanne’s daughter, and her intended Quinn live in one of two newly constructed buildings built by the same developer. Inside, it is lavishly equipped with everything the young techies would want, a super large exercise room, swimming pool, and even a coffee and wine lounge. On the roof where the party was held, a large party terrace had been built equipped with a huge television screen, kitchen, and even a fire sculpture with real fire. Perhaps its purpose was not art but for toasting marshmallows.

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On the outside, the public amenities were less lavish. On the good side, the first level was well stocked with spaces for shops. I saw a barbershop and a tavern open with tables and chairs on the sidewalk outside. Less happy is the lack of greenery and pedestrian amenities.

I enjoyed the party. Members of Maryanne’s cooking group were there along with some of her friends from when she lived in Berkeley. I had some enjoyable conversations about drugs, living in Costa Rica and food.

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Maryanne, her daughter Katie and the Birthday Cake.

 
After the party, I drove to 4th Street in Berkeley to meet with Terry. I had not been to 4th street in over twenty years. I marveled at how little had changed — the same Peet’s Coffee, kitchen shop, cafe, paper shop and so on. I met Terry at Peet’s and we reminisced over our past legislative battles. Prompted by my behind the scenes story here in T&T about the passage of the Coastal Act, Terry described the background of the enactment of his legislation prohibiting LNG terminals in California. Governor Brown opposed Terry’s bill. Eventually, Terry won but at the cost of his removal as the author of the bill. I then told about my CEQA reform bill. It was drafted in response to a court victory for CEQA but considered too environmental to pass the Senate. Nevertheless, we did pass it in that house. Unfortunately, in the Assembly, Speaker McCarthy told us that the price of approval was that, like Terry with the LNG bill, Senator Smith had to be removed as author and Assemblyman Art Agnos inserted in his place. So it goes in the hurly-burly of politics.

We then decided to get a drink at a restaurant nearby. I ordered prosecco and he a red wine from Lombardy. We sat in front of a display of shucked oysters. Suddenly, I felt a great urge to have some. I had not eaten an oyster in years. In fact, I had not eaten much of interest since my most recent illness began. So, we ordered some Kumamoto Oysters. Later, on my drive back to the Enchanted Forest, I reminisced about one of my favorite eateries, the Oyster Bar in New York’s Grand Central Station. I would stop there almost every evening after I left my office in Rockefeller Center. And even after leaving NY, I would try to stop there whenever I returned for a visit. I remember sitting there at the Oyster Bar with my son Jason. We had stopped in NY on our way back to Europe. It was the first time he had tried Oysters. His verdict, “interesting.”

 
C. ONCE MORE IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
The next day I drove into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM, Jake, Kaleb, and Ethan. They wanted me to drive them to Costco for lunch. For some reason, they believe that Costco’s pizza is the best in the area.

Today is Tuesday. It is early afternoon. It has been about two days since the trip to Costco with the Scooter Gang. I recall nothing that may have happened since then except Naida and I had dinner at a local Indian restaurant and went shopping at Raley’s. That means, as far as I am concerned, nothing else existed for two days but for that dinner at the local Indian restaurant and shopping at Raley’s. Life is brief, but if I don’t record it here it is briefer still. I guess that is one reason for keeping a journal.

For some reason, despite shedding myself of everything at least four times in my life, two diaries I had kept way back in the early sixties remained with me. Some time ago, I decided to read one written in 1960, I think. The entire diary consisted only of a story about a torrid but doomed love affair that began in January of that year and ended appropriately in December. Despite what from the Diary appeared to be a momentous romance, I recalled nothing about it. Not even the women’s name that for some reason never appeared in the Diary. Does that mean the love affair never existed until that day I happened to pick up that Diary and read it? Then again, maybe I made it all up, but why?

Perhaps, I will copy it out and write it as a story — Poe like. The old man on a dreary night in bleak December sits alone by the fire — no no-one has a fireplace any more — by the flickering light of the computer screen. He picks up the long-forgotten diary and begins to read… Nevermore… Hmm, could her name have been Lenore? Alas, as far as I recall, there were no Raven’s in Tuckahoe, NY.

Later in the afternoon Naida and I ate at one of my favorite places in Sacramento. — Not for the quality of the food but because of the lovely outdoor garden to eat it in.

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Pookie in the Tower Cafe garden.

 
D. BACK AGAIN TO THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

Once again it was time to return to the Bay Area for my immunotherapy treatment. On Wednesday, Naida and I left Capitol City for Peter and Barrie’s house. After a rather uneventful drive, we arrived to find the house delightfully full of people. We were greeted not only by Peter and Barry, but also by their two granddaughters both under four years of age, Alex their father (Peter and Barrie’s son), and Peter’s brother’s son’s two teenage daughters. The granddaughters were suitably giggly and alternated shyness with jumping into your arms for a hug. The teenagers exhibited the usual reserve of teenagers observing us Vecchi as though we were not completely grown up. They did happily carry the little ones around in their arms whenever they felt the need for affection and security. Alex was fatherly stern while Peter, Barrie and we smiled happily at the turmoil.

As usual, Barrie made something tasty and interesting for dinner. She made it from a recipe given to her by a woman from India. Its main ingredients consisted of yams and pineapple-infused hot dogs. I found it delicious.

The following morning, after goodbyes and hugs all around, we left for the hospital. At the hospital, the doctor told us that the CT scans showed that the tumor had not grown (good for me). Unfortunately, it also showed what looked like a dormant clot in my lung. The doctor then scheduled a sonogram on my legs to be performed directly after the infusion. Following those two procedures, the doctors at my request removed my PICC line freeing me to swim and travel. We then returned the oncologists office and he informed me that another dormant clot had b found behind my left knee and so, in order to be on the safe side, he prescribed a very expensive anticoagulant. I am unsure whether I prefer a long painful death as cancerous cells devour my insides or sudden death from a surprise heart attack or stroke.

On the way back to the Enchanted Forest, we stopped at a senior development in Davis to see if it was someplace we would like to move to as we grow older. It was an elegant fairly high priced center with many benefits. The residents were mostly professors and other professionals. It is a highly desirable senior community with a long waiting list. It gave me the creeps. Not because of anything about the development, but because although my body may be falling apart my mind feels young and vigorous (except for memory problems). It made me feel as though I would be in prison while I waited to die. Some of the residents we talked to do not think that is the case. They still travel and enjoy themselves. I guess soon it will become time to face the fact that taking care of a house, shopping and things like that begin to steal from the time one has left.

 

D. AN AFTERNOON IN THE GOLDEN HILLS WITH HRM AND THE SCOOTER GANG:

During the morning of the next day, I received a call from HRM requesting I take the Scooter Gang to lunch. In keeping with my obligations as chauffeur and comic relief, I leaped from my recliner, grabbed my cane and hat, kissed the dog, said so-long to Naida, walked to the car and drove off into the Golden Hills.

The gang was at Kaleb’s house. HRM, Kaleb (tall and skinny) Jake (tall, long-haired) and Ethan (not so tall, not so skinny and not so long-haired) piled into the car. (Hamza, another member of the gang, was spending the summer in Morocco at the small town from which his family migrated. When asked how he liked spending summers in Morocco he usually replies “I hate it. It’s a shithole.” ) They asked to be driven to a new, fast-food fried chicken place in Folsom they wanted to try out (they all are breaking out with adolescent acne. Nevertheless, fried foods remain at the top of their teenage food pyramid.)

As I drove, I listened to the teen-age chatter. I worry about these kids. Although they live in an upscale suburb, they believe themselves poor and each one has his own set of problems. Kaleb, in addition to his difficult home life, suffers from some sort of heart trouble. At lunch after eating he vomited up everything he had eaten. The others said he does that often. Perhaps that is why he is so skinny. Jake has a steel bar through his chest to hold it up. Whether it was to remedy a birth defect or to correct a later injury, I do not know. I was told he also has a pinhole opening in his heart. Ethan seems to have no physical problems, but his mother was murdered and his father went to prison for killing the man who killed his mother. He is out of prison now but does not live with Ethan. Ethan lives with his grandmother. As they grow older and school and family provide less and less of a nurturing environment they seem slowly becoming slackers and are gradually slipping into nihilism. I try to offer them a bit of mature companionship, some sophomoric words of wisdom, and a little encouragement but I am afraid, in the long run, it will not be enough.

 

E. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
On Saturday, we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Clubhouse. Because Naida was busy at the Fair, we have not attended one of these for over a month. I enjoyed being there and actually talked to people rather than sitting off to the side watching.

The rest of the day, N worked on her Memoir while I reviewed the latest from the 49rs training camp, reading Herman Melville’s comic novel Pierre: The Ambiguities and playing on Facebook.

We also watched the news. There have been two assault rife massacres in the US within a week. The first at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California and now today in El Paso Texas. The assassins in both cases were young white men professing an alt-right point of view and a hatred of Latino immigrants The response from the right and the Republican politicians appear to be coalescing around characterizing these men as disturbed and focussing the remedy on identification and removal rather than on the ideology that inspires them or the weapons that enables them. This approach arms the police only with a vague and arbitrary standard that is difficult to understand and implement and easily subverted by politics or ideology. Why empower often poorly educated and trained but heavily armed police to make decisions on issues where even those who study them disagree, rather than simply requiring them to remove the means of mass mayhem and urging the media and the spokesmen for society to condemn the ideology that motivated them?
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In the evening, we watched “A Dry White Season” with Donald Sutherland and Marlon Brando a movie about the Soweto Uprising. It gave both of us nightmares. Not simply because of the horrors inflicted on the repressed members of that society, but it also seems to be occurring here.

The next day it was more of the same. We awoke to the news of another mass killing. This time in Dayton Ohio. We spent the rest of the day as we usually do, in the studio working in the case of Naida and playing as generally do. Wondering whether this is another existential threat to our society and what we at 80 years of age can do about it. Vote of course, but that simply does not seem to be enough.

Take care of yourselves and remember always:

th

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PR034321

More than a few times during my life, I have abandoned everything, taking with me only a suitcase and leaving all else behind — From New York, to King of Prussia Pennsylvania; from there to Rome Italy and then back to Naw York; then to Cape Cod; then across the continent to San Francisco; then to Chiang Mai Thailand, followed by Jomtien Beach and Bangkok; then back to the US to El Dorado Hills and finally to Sacramento. Through all those changes, I was rarely accompanied by more than a single suitcase.

Every time I opened that suitcase upon arriving at my new home, I would find two diaries at the bottom. One from 1963 and the other from 1964. One with a brown cover and one with a red. I do not know why they were there. I never remembered packing them and rarely, if ever opened them. Instead, I would throw them into the bottom of a drawer there to remain unopened until I moved again. A few weeks ago, I opened the one from 1963 (brown cover).

I decided to post the entries here. I do not recall most of what was written there including many of the people and events mentioned and certainly not my thoughts and interpretations of them. Although I am sure the diaries were written by me (I recognize the penmanship), I do not recognize the me that appeared there. I was a bit of a shit. Probably always have been. I cannot apologize for what I wrote or did then. It is what it is. I was callow and shallow, sex-obsessed, and had not yet experienced the magical but alas ultimately fraudulent liberation of the Hippy Years.

I have added some commentary from myself to myself 60 years before — sort of like a memoir with a critique of my young self by my old self. But who will critique my old self? Worms, I guess.

January 2, 1963

I drove my brother Jim to Pratt University in Brooklyn where he attends art school.

I must not waste time. I do not know why I feel the need to accomplish anything but I believe I should not aspire to accomplish nothing.

(Hmm… I recall my brother was a freshman at the time. He liked to dress in a jacket and tie. The other students ridiculed him for his conservative dress so he now sported more casual attire.

I am not sure what I was getting at about my aspirations but looking back from 60 years of experiencing the capriciousness of fate, aspiring to accomplish nothing seems to be as reasonable choice as anything.)

January 3, 1963

A classmate said to me today, “I do not remember you. Who are you?” It completely shattered my confidence.

Later, Tony said, “You will get a bad reputation if you continue to speak like that.” Dick then said, “Maybe that is what you want.” Perhaps it is.

Perhaps I despise myself enough to want to destroy myself by a bad reputation. After all, although a bad reputation is often pleasantly wicked, a good one, I guess, is worth living for. I try to be good and honest but trying to be while struggling to avoid hypocrisy, I often manage to bungle it and then if not to become ostracized then to be considered odd, and in this case bad.

(What the hell was that all about?  I do not remember this at all. Tony and  Dick were dear friends I still recall with affection, but what I may have been doing to put my reputation at risk, I have no idea.)

January 4, 1963.

“To dream is to taste heaven.”

I spoke to professor O’Keefe today. He advised me to stay out of my brother’s lawsuit. O’Keefe loves to talk, like an old woman, but with a more spicy vocabulary.

Today, I felt good, because I topped several of my fellow students. Tomorrow, I’ll probably feel bad again when they top me.

My parents’ party this evening annoys me. I cannot get to sleep. Perhaps my mother is right, they are a most unusual collection of people. (Rae Fred’s mistress seems to have a roving eye. However she is 45 at least — well maybe that is not too bad.)

(Well, aren’t you the prissy little shit. I remember O’Keefe. He was the favorite professor of the male students — not of the two female students in the class. O’Keefe was a raging male chauvinist (as were we all back then). He would call on one of the women in the class and after they stood up, tell her that she was in law school only to marry one of the male students and then give up the profession to raise a family. I have no idea who Rae is.)

January 5, 1963

“Passion is often the wellspringry one of the male students and of action.”

We had an excellent study session. I need to memorize more if I am to get a good mark on the exam.

I saw Stephanie at school. She is looking better. Perhaps I will begin dating her again.

I have decided to try for the summer internship program with the Federal government.

My start in politics begins tomorrow. We will see if I can play the political game. I had better be able to.

(Ambitious little punk aren’t you? What the hell are those little sayings at the beginning supposed to mean? Why are they here? I seem to have been obsessed with woman back then. I have no recollection of a Stephanie in my life.)

January 7, 1963

“Fortunes always make manners.”

On Sunday, I attended the Young Democrats of Yonkers meeting. I did well. Most of my proposals were accepted into the new constitution. Jack Tobin and Tony Russo are the men to watch. Jack is a big fellow with a strong even voice — very persuasive, articulate and ambitious. Tony is a straight politician from the old school.

I must use to my advantage the clause in the constitution requiring a Ward Leader to have ten members behind him in order to vote or have it changed.

Things are looking up for the tour business. I need to keep my fingers crossed. It all is too uncertain.

I am worried about the exams. I need to fight hard to get a high position in the class.

Today, I saw a girl with the prettiest ass I have seen in a long time.

(More naked ambition and a bit of chauvinism too. The problem with my political ambitions in organizing the Young Democrats was that I had forgotten I had registered as a Republican.)

January 8, 1963

.It is pride that makes the blood noble.

I finally met Pat at the bus stop. We had a general conversation about this and that, then she mentioned her boyfriend. That put a crimp in my plans. She is not really pretty, but she is attractive. She lacks that dull dead-eyed look of photographers models that are supposed to be beautiful. Her eyes are alive.

I will not go to the general meeting of the Young Democrats tonight. I need to study. I feel good that today’s efforts seem to be paying off.

I hear my parents arguing over something. I need to get back to my studies.

(This is a little better except for that bit about pride at the beginning. Pat is another person of whom I have no recollection.)

To be continued…

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Cloony The Clown by Shel Silverstein
I’ll tell you the story of Cloony the Clown
Who worked in a circus that came through town.
His shoes were too big and his hat was too small,
But he just wasn’t, just wasn’t funny at all.

He had a trombone to play loud silly tunes,
He had a green dog and a thousand balloons.
He was floppy and sloppy and skinny and tall,
But he just wasn’t, just wasn’t funny at all.

And every time he did a trick,
Everyone felt a little sick.
And every time he told a joke,
Folks sighed as if their hearts were broke.

And every time he lost a shoe,
Everyone looked awfully blue.
And every time he stood on his head,
Everyone screamed, “Go back to bed!”

And every time he made a leap,
Everybody fell asleep.
And every time he ate his tie,
Everyone began to cry.

And Cloony could not make any money
Simply because he was not funny.
One day he said, “I’ll tell this town
How it feels to be an unfunny clown.”

And he told them all why he looked so sad,
And he told them all why he felt so bad.
He told of Pain and Rain and Cold,
He told of Darkness in his soul,

And after he finished his tale of woe,
Did everyone cry? Oh no, no, no,
They laughed until they shook the trees
With “Hah-Hah-Hahs” and “Hee-Hee-Hees.”

They laughed with howls and yowls and shrieks,
They laughed all day, they laughed all week,
They laughed until they had a fit,
They laughed until their jackets split.

The laughter spread for miles around
To every city, every town,
Over mountains, ‘cross the sea,
From Saint Tropez to Mun San Nee.

And soon the whole world rang with laughter,
Lasting till forever after,
While Cloony stood in the circus tent,
With his head drooped low and his shoulders bent.

And he said,”THAT IS NOT WHAT I MEANT-
I’M FUNNY JUST BY ACCIDENT.”
And while the world laughed outside.
Cloony the Clown sat down and cried.

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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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enheduanna2012_illustration
The High Priestess of the Temple of Sumer, Enheduanna, was the first known author in human history. The following is an English translation of her poem known as Exaltation of Inanna:

Mistress of the divine, resplendent light,
Woman of radiance, righteous and beloved
Of An and Urac – Heaven’s Mistress! – breasts
Bejeweled; cherishing the headdress of your priestess –
She who grasps the seven sacred powers!
Goddess, protector of the powers, and giver –
Behold your necklaced hand and fingers. Yours,
The gathering of the powers and yours to clasp
Against your breast. In foreign lands your breath
Is like the dragon’s venom. When like Ickur
The earth receives your roar, neither leaf nor wood
Withstand you. You are as a mighty flood
To foreign lands, the might of earth and heaven, you
Are their Inana.

Living in the 23rd century BC (approximately 2285 – 2250 BC), Enheduanna was the high priestess of the Temple of Sumer. She was a daughter of Sargon of Akkad (Sargon the Great) and Queen Tashlultum, Today, it is known that Sargon was the son of a priestess and Queen Tashlultum may have also been a priestess. Religion played a very important role in those tumultuous times, serving as a check against any intention of the populace to rebel (either against an established overlord or a newcomer).

The Akkadians were Semitic–speaking people from Mesopotamia. Under Sargon the Great, the Akkadian Empire absorbed several Sumerian city-states, some say as many as 34. One of Sargon’s most significant conquests was the Sumerian city of Ur. As a coastal city at the mouth of the Euphrates River, Ur had easy access to trade and transportation, as well as great fertile plains.

Enheduanna was charged with the task of reconciling the gods of the Akkadians with the gods of the Sumerians so that the important city of Ur would acquiesce to Sargon’s rule. Not only did she succeed in that difficult task, but she also established standards of poetry and prayer that would profoundly influence the Hebrew Bible and Homeric hymns.
(https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/enheduanna-high-priestess-moon-and-first-known-author-world-007259?fbclid=IwAR0UKlmHvK-axl2XuSrQMxP5UgaIeaBxmY9xaB6t0Wy0rWnCz0DvxqPfr9s)

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th

SONG OF THE FLIGHT

In vain I was born. Ayahue.

In vain I left the house of god and came to earth. I am so wretched! Ohuaya, Ohuaya!

I wish I’d never been born, truly that I’d never come to earth. That’s what I say. But what is there to do? Do I have to live among the people? What then? Princes, tell me! Aya. Ohuaya, Ohuaya!

Do I have to stand on earth? What is my destiny? My heart suffers. I am unfortunate. You were hardly my friend here on earth, Life Giver. Ohuaya, Ohuaya!

How to live among the people? Does He who sustains and lifts men have no discretion? Go, friends, live in peace, pass your life in calm! While I have to live stooped, with my head bent down when I am among the people. Ohuaya, Ohuaya!

For this I cry – Yeehuya!- feeling desolate, abandoned among men on the earth. How do you decide your heart – Yeehuya! – Life Giver? Already your anger is vanishing, your compassion welling! Aya! I am at your side, God. Do you plan my death? Ohuaya, Ohuaya!

Is it true we take pleasure, we who live on earth? Is it certain that we live to enjoy ourselves on earth? But we are all so filled with grief. Are bitterness and anguish the destiny of the people of earth? Ohuaya, Ohuaya!

But do not anguish, my heart! Recall nothing now. In truth it hardly gains compassion on this earth. Truly you have come to increase bitterness at your side, next to you, Oh Life Giver. Yyao yyahue auhuayye oo huiya.

I only look for, I remember my friends. Perhaps they will come one more time, perhaps they will return to life? Or only once do we perish, only one time here on earth? If only our hearts did not suffer! next to, at your side, Life Giver. Yyao yyahue auhuayye oo huiya.
Romances de los Señores #36 (21r-22v)

 

(Composed when Nezahualcoyotl was fleeing the king of Azcapotzalco, either during his first flight in 1418, when he was 16 or during his second flight, around 1426, when he was 24. This is the earliest poem that we can date.)

IN CHOLOLIZTLI CUICATL

 

O nen notlacatli. Ayahue!

O nen nonquizaco teotl ichan in tlalticpac. Ninotolinia. Ohuaya ohuaya!
In ma on nel nonquiz in ma on nel nontlacat ah niquitohua yece. Yeehuaya! Tlen naiz anonohuaco tepilhuan? At teixco ninemi? Quen huel xon mimati. Aya Ohuaya ohuaya!

Ye ya nonehuaz in tlalticpac? Ye ya tie in nolhuil? Zan nitoliniya tonehua noyollo tinocniuh in ayaxcan in tlalticpac ye nican. Ohuaya ohuaya.

Quen in nemohua—Aya!—in tenahuac? Mach ilihuiztia nemia tehuic teyaconi. Aya! Nemi zan ihuiyan zan icemelia. In zan nonopechteca zan nitolotinemi a in tenahuac. Ohuaya ohuaya.

Zan ye ica nichoca—Yeehuaya!—nicnotlamati no nicnocahualoc in tenahuac tlalticpac. Quen quinequi noyollo—Yeehuaya!—ipal nemohuani? Ma oc melel on quiza a icnopillotl. Huiya! Ma oc timalihui—Aya!—monahuac titeotl. At ya nech mikitlani? Ohuaya ohuaya.

Azomo ye nelli tipaqui ti ya nemi tlalticpac? Ah ca za tinemi ihuan ti hual paqui in tlalticpac. Ah ca mochi ihui titotolinia. Ah ca no chichic teopouhqui tenahuac ye nican. Ohuaya ohuaya.

Ma xi icnotlamati noyollo. Yeehuaya! Maca oc tle xic yococa. Yeehuaya! Ye nelli in ayaxcan nicnopiltihua in tlalticpac. Ye nelli cococ ye otimalihuico in motloc monahuac in ipal nemohua. Yyao yyahue ahuayye oo Huiya.

Zan niquintemohua—Aya!—niquilnamiqui in tocnihuan. Cuix oc ceppa huitze in cuix oc nemiquihui? Zan cen ti ya polihuia zan cen ye nican in tlalticpac. Maca cocoya inyollo itloc inahuac in ipal nemohua. Yyao yyahue ahuayye oo Huiya.
Romances de los Señores #36 (21r-22v)

 

Discussion.

Nezahualcoyotl (Hungry Coyote) was considered by his peers to be the greatest poet of ancient Mexico. His compositions had vast influence, stylistically and in content. Filled with thought, symbol, and myth, his poetry moved his people’s culture so deeply that after his death generations of poets to follow would stand by the huehuétl drum and cry, “I am Nezahualcoyotl, I am Hungry Coyote,” and sing his poems and keep them alive.

Nezahualcoyotl was not only a great lyric poet but was famed as an architect, engineer, city planner, reluctant warrior, law-giver and philosopher. The cultural institutions he established included a library of hieroglyphic books, a zoological garden-arboretum, and a self-governing academy of scholars and poets. He led his city-state out of foreign domination and transformed it into a wellspring of art and culture. The seventh ruler (tlacatecuhtli) of Tezcoco, a large pueblo on the north shore of Lake Tezcoco, ten miles across the water from the capital of the Aztecs, Hungry Coyote promoted a renewal of Toltec learning, based on the peaceful religion of Quetzalcóatl, at the very moment when the Aztec cult of sacrifice was coming into ascendancy. All the Nahuatl-speaking city-states in the Valley of Mexico looked to Hungry Coyote’s Tezcoco as the cultural center of their world.

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On Friday evening while helping Naida* with some problems finding a book designer for her memoir, we fell into a discussion about Malcolm Margolin, a Bay Area publisher and author and a friend of Naida’s. Margolin wrote The Ohlone Way an acclaimed and seminal book describing the culture of the Native Americans who inhabited the Bay Area prior to the arrival of the Europeans.

“The Bay Area of today is vastly different from what it was two centuries ago. The grizzly bears, elks, bald eagles, ospreys, antelopes, wolves, and condors have totally disappeared. Introduced European annual grasses have seized the meadowlands from the native bunch-grasses. The widespread logging of trees for lumber, tanning bark, firewood, railroad ties, and fence posts have altered the forests. Ponds and lakes have been drained, rivers channelized, and thousands upon thousands of acres of marshes and swamps have been destroyed. The immense flocks of geese, ducks and pelicans, the great runs of salmon and steelhead, the enormous schools of smelt, the once numberless seals and whales are now a mere remnant of what they once were. As for the Ohlones — forty or so tribelets, some 10,000 people, indeed a whole way of life — that too is totally gone, replaced by a civilization technologically more advanced than theirs but in many respects, ecologically, socially, and spiritually more backward.”
Malcolm Margolin, The Ohlone Way (1978). Heyday Books: Berkeley.

I, of course, trolled through the internet to find whatever could about the man and his work. Ultimately, to my surprise what most captured my attention was neither his work nor accomplishments but this photograph:
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I spent a lot of time staring at the photograph wondering what I was really looking at. Margolin disappeared. In his place was my image of God or Gandalf, the Rabbi for us all, a gnome, Mr. Natural, an ancient elf, or perhaps even the aging Aristotle. Whatever it may have reminded me of, I knew that if I ever had the urge to find a guru for myself, I would want him to look like that. Naida described him as an intelligent, creative and compassionate man, part rabbi and part Native American who was changed by coming to California and changed California in return.

Saturday, Naida and I attended a luncheon hosted by the Sacramento Book Collectors Club. I realized, in my now getting on to be a long life, I have not gone to many events like this. Most of the thirty or so attendees were around our age. A few were local authors like Naida. I kinda enjoyed it. The guest speaker was the director of the Sacramento Library which I was surprised to learn was organized as a special district and as such was not part of the general City and County government. She spoke about the library of course and her role in running it.
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She also told stories about growing up and her love of books, mentioning several of her favorites including, The Wind in the Willows which was one of mine too. It got me musing about my own relationship with books.

Being read to in two languages while still in my crib led soon to me often being recruited to recite to family and friends the songs, poetry, and stories I had learned. I was, after all, the family’s Golden Child — I had blond hair. Not long into my burgeoning career as the Petrillo family child star, my hair turned black and I stopped performing. Things started going downhill for me soon after.

I began reading when I was a few months into my third year of existence. It was not an unmixed blessing for I soon came to be more fond of books than people. When I began formal schooling, I found it boring and would fake being sick so that my mom would keep me home where I would spend my time reading, especially the Collier’s Encyclopedia my parents were cajoled into buying. When I became a little older, I would slip out of the house after my parents went off to work or to some other adult activity and walk to the local public library in order to entertain myself there rummaging through the stacks and reading any interesting books that I found. I recall there was a children’s section and an adult section. All the books were marked on their spines with the Roman numerals, I, II, or III. I was for children and III were adult books. I do not recall what II designated. Because the librarians were very vigilant in making sure I would not read the III books, I would often pick out a large, colorful children book and prop it up on the library table I sat at so it would hide whatever III book I was reading at the time.

During the times I actually went to school and attended class, I would locate myself at the desk nearest the bookcase that graced each classroom and read the books stored there, usually history books, rather than pay attention to whatever was going on around me in the classroom. By the time I got to high school, I rarely attended class. When I was not skipping school and running off with some other delinquent, I would sit in the school library. I had challenged myself to read all the books in that library before I graduated, beginning with A and continuing to Z. I got as far an Emily Post if I remember correctly. The problem was not that I did not have time to read through to Z but rather the existence of one bookcase containing whatever new books that entered the library that month. These would remain in that bookcase until, in about a month’s time, they were removed and re-shelved in the general stacks. I simply had to read each new book as it came in before I would return to my trip through the alphabet. All this, of course, played havoc with my grades in school given that I rarely, if ever, did any homework as well as missing most class assignments. Nevertheless, I tested well enough to scrape through.

Later In life, as one would expect, I collected books, building up personal libraries of between 6 and 12 thousand books. Given how I conducted my adult life, — occupying myself with some obsession for about five to ten years and then suffering some real or imagined crisis causing me to abandon everything while I ran off somewhere to bury myself in overindulgence until I regained my balance and started off on some new obsession — I must have abandoned and reassembled those personal libraries at least three times so far. Alas, I fear the smart-phone and social media are killing off the age of paper books (1450 — 2020). Sad but inevitable.

One of the attendees at the luncheon mentioned she writing a book or article about California’s Coastal Program and some friend of her’s who apparently was very active in it but who I never heard of. When Naida mentioned my past involvement in things coastal, she asked to interview me for some background. I agreed.

Sunday was another nap day and Monday started out the same. Naida and I went out to eat lunch at a nearby restaurant named Roxy. I ordered a hotdog. While eating it a piece of the hotdog got caught in my throat and I threw up onto my plate. When we returned home, I took a nap. Vomiting up my lunch was enough excitement for me today.

 

*Naida West. Author of the critically acclaimed California Gold Trilogy.

Each book of the trilogy tells a forgotten story about people and events in central California. Each one can be enjoyed without reading the others, though history buffs insist they must be read in sequence. The spirit of a native woman lodged in an oak tree narrates all of them, and each one has substantial endnotes that provide more information about people and places. The books are required or recommended in college classes across the US and UK, but the author’s dearest fans come from all walks of life and all age groups, except for young children for whom some scenes are inappropriate. (www.bridgehousebooks.com)

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