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School of Truth

O fool, do something, so you won’t just stand there looking dumb.
If you are not traveling and on the road, how can you call yourself a guide?

In the School of Truth, one sits at the feet of the Master of Love.
So listen, son, so that one day you may be an old father, too!

All this eating and sleeping has made you ignorant and fat;
By denying yourself food and sleep, you may still have a chance.

Know this: If God should shine His lovelight on your heart,
I promise you’ll shine brighter than a dozen suns.

And I say: wash the tarnished copper of your life from your hands;
To be Love’s alchemist, you should be working with gold.

Don’t sit there thinking; go out and immerse yourself in God’s sea.
Having only one hair wet with water will not put knowledge in that head.

For those who see only God, their vision
Is pure, and not a doubt remains.

Even if our world is turned upside down and blown over by the wind,
If you are doubtless, you won’t lose a thing.

O Hafiz, if it is union with the Beloved that you seek,
Be the dust at the Wise One’s door, and speak!

          HAFIZ. From: ‘Drunk On the Wind of the Beloved’ Translated by Thomas Rain Crowe

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Would you believe that six months ago I was bald?

 

Today is my 28th day in self-quarantine. It has begun to feel like years. I never thought that by becoming a recluse I would be seen as being socially conscious. On the other hand, in my case and a few others, I can think of, that may be true.

This evening in keeping with the national social distancing policies during the coronavirus epidemic, Naida, Peter, Barrie, and I had a virtual dinner party. Naida and I were in our house in the Enchanted Forest here in Sacramento and Peter and Barrie were nestled in their home in Noe Valley in the Big Endive by the Bay. We were connected to each other by FaceTime. Naida and I enjoyed fettuccini arrabbiata with a side of raw cabbage and washed it all down with cran-raspberry juice. Peter and Barrie were dieting and refrained from dinner. We had a good time. We discussed these days of social distancing and the impact of the current plague on coffee and comfort.

I wonder when this epidemic is over if we will not find ourselves in a totally different world. People are discovering new ways to entertain themselves by devising different means of enjoying social interactions with others through the internet. And, what is more important, we are now beginning to find them enjoyable. Shopping has changed. Corporations may find that passing on the cost of real-estate to work at home employees is beneficial to their bottom line. I guess what I am saying is that we won’t go back to the way we lived before the plague nor how we worked. Whatever the trends and possibilities of the so-called connected society that may have been coming will be greatly accelerated by this damned plague.

On this same subject, while prowling through the internet, I came across the following in Daily Kos:

 

Here are some of the things that are going to fundamentally change.
A big return of Keynesian economics. Almost overnight, Republicans ditched their austerity mantra and quickly voted for a $2 trillion stimulus. There was no talk of “we need to balance the budget;” instead there was talk about keeping people whole.
A return to government expertise. Watching Dr. Fauci and other experts during this crisis has been very comforting because they tell the truth (which stands in stark contrast to Trump). Polls show that the public trusts them. Once this is over, expect the public to become a lot more comfortable with expertise.
A rise of teleworking: Modern technology allows people to work remotely. I’ve observed there’s a clear generational divide regarding this idea: old people dislike it, younger people are all over it. Once this is over, expect this idea to become part of the modern workforce
A huge rise in automation. One of the big problems with manufacturing in the current crisis is that large groups of people have to be in close proximity, which prevents social distancing. Expect factories to adopt automation at a faster pace to ramp-up production as this thing comes to an end. And this will lead to …
A future discussion and eventual adoption of Universal Basic Income: I’m behind in understanding the specifics of this concept, but I understand the basic idea, which is pure Keynesian in concept. Expect this to become a commonly expressed idea.
A complete rethinking of the US health care system. Watching this disaster unfold one thing has become very clear: the healthcare system has to change in a big way. I have no idea what it will look like. But it’s going to change. (https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/3/29/1932324/-Accept-That-Everything-You-Understand-About-the-World-Will-Fundamentally-Change?utm_campaign=trending)

 

I am not so sure about some of these but clearly, times are changing.

This morning Naida awoke with severe pain in her right shoulder. She believes it is a return of something that occurred several years ago that was alleviated by a trip to a chiropractor. I am not so sure. Tonight, we watched Fiddler on the Roof for the umpteenth time. Before that, we saw Sterling Hayden in a great Noir feature whose name I forgot, and before that one with Cary Grant playing a doctor and before that…well, you get the picture. All the movies were very good, unlike some of those we see on other nights.

I usually work on my computer, read or eat during the movies. I, also, sometimes just sit there daydreaming — not so much fantasy or mulling over regrets but debating with myself about things like:

Is sufficiently advanced magic practically indistinguishable from technology? Or, can we hear the thoughts of thunderstorms or the conversations of dogs? And, for something to be true, does it have to be expressed in numbers? If so, does nature care whether humans can do sums? Also, if God were separate from the material universe, would then there be an entity greater than God, namely, the entire universe plus God? Even, which of the King’s sons win the hand of the fair princess? Perhaps, does feminism address the same questions as male-oriented models? Also, why is it the three Rs and not two Rs and an A? In addition, are homo sapiens not ‘wise men’ but apes that got what they wanted or were they simply apes who gave up trying? And finally, what really is ‘the magic word’?
(Note: Thanks to T. Pratchett’s The Science Of Discworld II, for much of the foregoing paragraph.)

I am getting sick of movies. Today they were all about baseball.

Today, a day or two after the baseball movies, I decided to move into the living room from the studio in order to get away from the tv while reading. I was immediately rewarded with a bit of a new and erotic interpretation of fairy tales like Cinderella. Most fairy tales, as that old lecher Freud pointed out some with a fairly racy interpretation and so does cinder girl’s glass slipper. It seems in the old German version of the tale, the young women of the kingdom gave the lusty young prince their “fur slipper” to try on for size. When the story arrived in France and was translated in that language ‘verre.’ Verre can be translated as either ‘glass’ or ‘fur’. The Grimm brothers went for the hygienic alternative, saving parents the danger of embarrassing explanations.

As long as I am going on about the real story behind the fairy tales of our youth, here is another one from the irrepressible Terry Pratchett.

“Rumpelstiltskin was an interestingly sexual parable, too, a tale to program the idea that female masturbation leads to sterility. Remember the tale? The miller’s daughter, put in the barn to ‘spin straw into gold’, virginally sits on a little stick that becomes a little man … The dénouement has the little man, when his name is finally identified, jumping in to ‘plug’ the lady very intimately, and the assembled soldiers can’t pull him out. In the modern bowdlerized version, this survives vestigially as the little man pushing his foot through the floor and not being able to pull it out, a total non sequitur. So none of those concerned, king, miller or queen, can procreate (the stolen first child has been killed by the soldiers), and it all ends in tears. If you doubt this interpretation, enjoy the indirection: ‘What is his name? What is his name?’ recurs in the story. What is his name? What is a stilt with a rumpled skin? Whoops. The name has an equivalent derivation in many languages, too.”
Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

I much prefer my fairy tales explained to me by Terry Pratchett than Joseph Campbell, don’t you?

Several days have gone by mostly sitting here in my recliner with the television rumbling on and Naida dozing off on the recliner next to me with the dog asleep on her lap. Sometimes I dip into Pratchett’s four volumes of The Science of Discworld and extract one phrase or another to paste in here for lack of anything else to write about.

Naida just woke up and told me that it is time to walk the dog. I used to think it was some obligation that life forced upon those with dogs in their house. Now I respond like the dog, excitedly running around the house tongue hanging out and looking for the leash.

Last night I thought, no believed, I had caught the dread coronavirus and was going to die before morning. A tickle in my throat, an upset stomach, a feeling of general malaise, and a few other things I no longer remember had me terrified. Naida said it was just a springtime allergy and gave me our last Loratadine pill. I was dubious and remained convinced of my imminent death. This morning I woke up feeling great. Later in the day, she discovered Loratadine pills she had purchased for the dog containing enough pills for all three of us to get through the next few weeks.

Today, whatever day this is, Naida scheduled a video conference call with her daughters, Sarah and Jennifer. She spent a few hours excitedly preparing for it — changing clothes, straightening her hair, reviewing the directions for operating the application. Boo-boo the Barking Dog slept and I happily banging away on the computer keys here recording the event. Thinking about it all, I could have been more up to date by recording everything on my smart-phone, but instead, I attempt to record it in words on paper— oops, on my screen. Damn, I wrote the word “paper” in the last sentence, and spellcheck changed it to “tape.” I give up, even the machines know what’s coming.

Alas, Naida’s conference call sadly was canceled in part because of technical difficulties.

Today I woke up at noon after a night of horrid dreams. It is raining outside and bit dreary but the tree at the back of the yard, at the height of its spring colors, cheered me up.

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That’s all. Keep on social distancing. Remember to say hello to yourself in the mirror every morning. You are always there for you.

 

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING:

We have hunkered down at home in the Enchanted Forest to wait out the coronavirus emergency. This is not as difficult for us as for some since our lives have become quite sedentary as of late. Given the number of times we have received the same information about the epidemic on the media, we are almost saturated enough to return to watching TCM and old movies.

The mismanagement of the crisis by the Federal Government, unfortunately, probably will result in more deaths than would have occurred with even a little bit of competence. I suspect these deaths will pale in comparison to those that will happen as a result of the economic impacts from the mishandling of this crisis.

In the evening, at about dusk, we took the dog for a walk. We figured it was OK to leave the house since the only thing we would be touching would be dog poo and even then our hands would be protected by some plastic.

Recently, I have taken to replacing the forlorn turkey feathers that I find around the paths in the Enchanted Forest with fallen seasonal flowers that I locate the same way — currently camellias. At eighty years of age who cares how silly you look. It’s the pleasure that counts.
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Camellia Joe.
Speaking of fallen Camellias, Naida has taken to plucking up those in the yard that fall from the bushes and creating a centerpiece for our table.
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A Bowl of Camellias.

 

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Smiling Lady of the Camellias.

 

As long as we are on the subject of Camellias or at least of flowers, fallen or not, here is a photograph of Naida taken at a restaurant a few days ago before we decided on seclusion from the depredations of the coronavirus. She is in the midst of telling me one of her fascinating stories or pointing at some interesting birds or something else.

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Not a Camellia.
We briefly went out to shop for provisions to sustain us during our self-quarantine. When we arrived at the Safeway nearby, it seemed like everyone else had the same idea. While most things appeared well-stocked, toilet paper and hand wipes were all gone. While I understand the run on hand wipes, I fail to comprehend the toilet paper mania. After all, how many times does one shit during a 14 day period? Two or three rolls per person seem more than adequate to me. If someone needs much more than that, I think they should have seen a doctor long before now.

Of course, my hypochondria is in high gear. Every fifteen minutes or so, I become convinced I have caught the disease and am sure I am about to die. I must be driving Naida mad.

While sitting around in my recliner watching CNN ramble on endlessly about coronavirus, I played on the computer and looked up Pookie. I discovered there was someone in San Angelo Texas named Pookie who forced a woman into prostitution for drugs. I bet he doesn’t wear hats festooned with flowers. On second thought maybe he does.

Another day of self-quarantine. It is raining and dreary outside. Same same.

One day I spoke to Nikki by phone. He is quarantined on the top floor of an apartment building in Busto a small town near Malpensa airport a few miles from Milan. He is alone and spends most of his day doing what we all are doing, watching television finding busy work, talking on phones, and taking long naps. Sometimes, he goes out onto his balcony and sings along with others imprisoned in high-rises nearby. At other times he goes out on to the balcony and dances.

Nikki is a senior pilot for Al Italia. He is on call to fly his plane to pick up some of the 10,000 Italians stranded in foreign countries. He is scheduled to fly to South Africa to pick up some of them this week.

While I am bored and a little concerned during my isolation, I do have Naida with me and of course, the dog who barks a bit less now that fewer people and vehicles pass by the house. I also try to ruminate on the good things this junior plague may bring. We are forced to briefly halt whatever things we believed we had to do and now have time to consider its value to us. Everyone has the opportunity to do this at the same time. Almost the entirety of the people of the world is being forced to stop and take stock of what is really important in our lives. That could be a good thing.

For a brief moment in, we are also forced to halt our collective assault on our environment, giving that environment a brief respite from our onslaught upon it.

The saddest thing for me is my awareness that many of those who were led to believe it was all a hoax, just another common cold, still believe it.

Yesterday was my onomastica, my name day. I did not celebrate it. I would celebrate it if I could find somewhere that makes fresh Zeppole. Tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day. We probably will not celebrate that either.

It is now 4:30 PM. I awoke at 11AM this morning and spent most of the day writing the above 10 or so lines. So it goes in these our days of confinement. I think it is about that time for Naida, Boo-boo the Barking Dog, and I to break away from our computers and sing and dance for a while.

Saint Patrick’s Day, we went for a walk along the river. On the way, we passed the dog park. It was empty. People seemed to be walking their dogs along the levee and keeping their distance. I have begun coughing. I do not know whether I am simply clearing my throat or if it is an artifact of my hypochondria or something else. The Hospital called and put off my immunotherapy appointment for three weeks.

Have you noticed, that recently the world seems full of omens? The good thing is you get to choose those you like.

You know we shouldn’t be so hard on the Donald for his constant lying. It may just be that he thinks the truth is so precious that it shouldn’t be waved around too much.

It is now a week or more into the local version of social distancing huddled in our houses while the coronavirus prowls outside. In addition, to boredom, it also gives one time to think and reflect — two very dangerous activities especially when one is 80 years old.

Try as we like, during our lives we still will have words we think we should have spoken left over in the end.

Everyone is good at something. Sometimes, alas, you don’t find out until too late. And, unfortunately, even if you do find out in time, it may very well be of no use or value to anyone even yourself. For example, you may be good at picking your nose and that may very well please you immensely, but it is hard to imagine that talent has any benefit to anyone. I do not know what I am good at, but there are times when picking my nose pleases me a lot. And while I take pains to hide my ability from view, I still take a bit of pride in it.

Speaking of ability, it has been said, or I have read it somewhere that most sane, rational human beings learn quite early on that you feel just as certain even when you’re wrong. For this reason, the strength of your belief is usually not a valid measure of its relation to reality. I believe a lot of things. For example, I often believe that whenever I get a sniffle or a slight headache, it means I will surely die before morning. Well, it hasn’t happened yet. But I haven’t given up hope. I also believe I am as knowledgeable and smart as the next guy or gal. I never really found that to be the case, but I still believe that to be true despite the amount of evidence to the contrary.

It is now Friday at about 1 PM. We are sitting here watching Belmondo in Breathless on TCM. Boo-boo the Barking Dog lies half asleep on the chair. I read an email from Peter. He writes, “Vaccine is 18 months off; meanwhile should be interesting. Universal voting by mail? The Hyatt Regency Hospital? Or is it the Homeless Repository? Will Batman close the Bat Cave and move to the Hyatt Regency Homeless Repository?”

To which I responded, “Speaking of Superman, do you have any idea where he changes into his tights now that there are no more phone booths.”

Peter replied, “Now, about Superman, that’s a great question! more great possibilities: A knock on the door, you open it in the Enchanted Forest, and there stands this mild-mannered, bespectacled, besuited fellow, who asks politely: “Excuse me, but may I enter so I can change clothes? There are a bank robbery and kidnapping happening down the street I need to attend to.” Alternatively, he could use the old red phone booth our sister-in-law (Barrie’s brother’s wife) Migiwa used in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in front of the Tasty Freeze that was one of her artistic creations. Of course, he’d have to transport this to Gotham City or wherever. I haven’t been present where he actually does his changes, so I have no idea.”

So that’s what Peter and I do during this era of social distancing. What do you do?

This evening Naida played the piano and I danced. She played a hot rendition of Malagueña. I strutted around the room clicking my heels on the new wood floors.

For the past two days, I have spent most of my time in bed overcome with fatigue. I do not know what caused it, the only other symptom was a thickening of mucus. Of course, I thought I was sure to die in a day or two. I didn’t. Today, however, I am up and about. Up and about for me means sitting in front of the television and watching the news about the pandemic.

It has been two weeks now of our confinement. Like others throughout the world, we are getting a bit of a taste of what imprisonment is all about. At least many of those actually in prison know when it is they will get out. Everyone, I guess, has their own way of coping. For me right now it is staring out into the back yard at one of our trees that has just begun to bloom.
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OMG! —— I never thought I would see myself use that acronym but I cannot conceive of a worse disaster during this time of plague. Our television has broken down. True we have another set but we cannot get it to work. We have tried and failed to find a repairman. Anyway, who would want to allow a potential carrier of the plague into the house? What to do? What to do? We need help quickly before we fall into entertaining ourselves, or God forgive, reading. When, if the future, they write the history of this time of the plague I am sure they will have a chapter on the horror experienced by those poor souls forced to rely on their own imagination. The horror.

I finally hooked up the other TV, but for some reason we only get TCM. It could be worse. We could have been stuck with Fox News or the Weather Channel.

It is a day or two later and we fixed the TV. That is not much of an improvement since all that is on is stories about Coronavirus and He Who Is Not My President talking about it or old black and white movies and Technicolor musicals. It could be worse. Someday in the future, if there is a future, children will ask their parents what they did during the great plague.

Of course, everything we talk about or write about is not really real. It is just energy screwing around doing its thing here in this infinitesimally small and remote portion of the Universe. What we write or tell each other about it is a narrative imperative — a story or Naritivium as Terry Pratchett calls it. We make it up and tell each other about it and feel good or bad about it as the Naritivium dictates. Naritivium essentially replaces magic in a universe without it.

“The curious thing about the human belief in narrativium is that once humans evolved on the planet, their beliefs started to be true. We have, in a way, created our own narrativium. It exists in our minds, and there it is a process, not a thing. On the level of the material universe, it’s just one more pattern of buzzing electrons. But on the level of what it feels like to be a mind, it operates just like narrativium. Not only that: it operates on the material world, not just the mental one: its effects are just like those of narrativium.”
             Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

In other words, in my case, and I suspect also with most of you out there, we just make shit up.

 

B. NAIDA, POOKIE, AND BOO-BOO THE BARKING DOG BREAK OUT OF CONFINEMENT.

One day while I was complaining about creeping cabin fever Naida, for no reason that I can identify, suddenly said, “We need to get a new key for the Mitsubishi.” We had either lost or misplaced the keys several weeks before. I had decided not to get them replaced until the current emergency ends. Despite this, and again for no reason, I immediately called the key-smith thinking he would tell me they were closed until the crisis ends. To my surprise, he said instead, “Someone will be right over. He’ll meet you at the car.” So we gathered up the dog and walked to where the car was parked and waited. The key-smith arrived. We had no way of knowing how many coronavirus carriers he had come into contact with. We passed over our information standing closer to each other than six feet. He then crawled all over the car setting about doing whatever key-smiths do — leaving behind, I am sure, whatever bugs he was carrying around.

While watching him work another car pulled up. It was the dog walker and her daughter. They exited the car, came over to us, and stood well within the six-foot barrier. She was carrying two packages of Thomas’ English Muffins which she thrust into our hands saying, “I knew you were running out. I found a store that still has a few packages and bought them for you.” Out of a misplaced sense of politeness or gratitude, we could not refuse the offer even if it might be another potential plague vector. So, I held the tip of the plastic bag they come in between my fingers and thanked them for their consideration. They then returned to their car and left.

The key-smith handed me the new keys. I passed over my credit card and took it back. He drove off and we deciding, “In for a dime in for a dollar” got in the now, I was sure, thoroughly contaminated vehicle and drove around Sacramento for about an hour.

We returned home, put the keys in a drawer, placed the muffins on a shelf, and washed our hands. I then sat in my recliner and pondered mortality. After two weeks of stringent social distancing, I am now convinced that death is crawling through the Enchanted Forest headed to our door.

 

C. RETURN TO CONFINEMENT.

So following that adventure into stupidity, we returned to enjoy the pleasures of social distancing. Naida discovered a container of three-year-old Lysol wipes that were dried up. In the hope of rejuvenating them, she pored Clorox into the container and set about wiping down whatever she could find. I went back to watching CNN drone on about coronavirus. They broke off their symphony of woe to tune into He Who Is Not My President’s daily publicity sessions at which he bloviated on about how he was going to make our impending deaths especially meaningless.

At about six PM today Naida discovered the missing key. The one we felt so important that we broke containment to replace and risked death by the Trump virus. I assume either “It’s always something,” or “Tomorrow is another day” is appropriate here.

And with that, I think I have gone on enough in this post. So I think I will end it here.

Take care of yourselves. Don’t lose your car keys. Stay socially distant. Don’t take anything too seriously. And above all:

th-1

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A Double Standard

           BY FRANCES ELLEN WATKINS HARPER

Do you blame me that I loved him?
If when standing all alone
I cried for bread a careless world
Pressed to my lips a stone.

Do you blame me that I loved him,
That my heart beat glad and free,
When he told me in the sweetest tones
He loved but only me?

Can you blame me that I did not see
Beneath his burning kiss
The serpent’s wiles, nor even hear
The deadly adder hiss?

Can you blame me that my heart grew cold
That the tempted, tempter turned;
When he was feted and caressed
And I was coldly spurned?

Would you blame him, when you draw from me
Your dainty robes aside,
If he with gilded baits should claim
Your fairest as his bride?

Would you blame the world if it should press
On him a civic crown;
And see me struggling in the depth
Then harshly press me down?

Crime has no sex and yet to-day
I wear the brand of shame;
Whilst he amid the gay and proud
Still bears an honored name.

Can you blame me if I’ve learned to think
Your hate of vice a sham,
When you so coldly crushed me down
And then excused the man?

Would you blame me if to-morrow
The coroner should say,
A wretched girl, outcast, forlorn,
Has thrown her life away?

Yes, blame me for my downward course,
But oh! remember well,
Within your homes, you press the hand
That led me down to hell.

I’m glad God’s ways are not our ways,
He does not see as man,
Within His love I know there’s room
For those whom others ban.

I think before His great white throne,
His throne of spotless light,
That whited sepulchers shall wear
The hue of endless night.

That I who fell, and he who sinned,
Shall reap as we have sown;
That each the burden of his loss
Must bear and bear alone.

No golden weights can turn the scale
Of justice in His sight;
And what is wrong in woman’s life
In man’s cannot be right.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825 – February 22, 1911) was an abolitionist, suffragist, poet, teacher, public speaker, and writer, one of the first African American women to be published in the United States.

Born free in Baltimore, Maryland, she had a long and prolific career, publishing her first book of poetry at the age of 20. At 67, she published her novel Iola Leroy (1892), which was widely praised.

As a young woman in 1850, she taught sewing at Union Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, a school affiliated with the AME Church.[1] In 1851, alongside William Still, chairman of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, she helped refugee slaves make their way along the Underground Railroad on their way to Canada. In 1853 she began her career as a public speaker and political activist after joining the American Anti-Slavery Society.

Her collection Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854) became her biggest commercial success. Her short story “Two Offers” was published in the Anglo-African in 1859, making literary history as the first short story published by a black woman.

Harper founded, supported, and held high office in several national progressive organizations. In 1883 she became superintendent of the Colored Section of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Women’s Christian Temperance Union. In 1894 she helped found the National Association of Colored Women and served as its vice president. Harper died aged 85 on February 22, 1911, nine years before women gained the right to vote. (Wikipedia)

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

Naida dropped me off at the train station Wednesday morning. I boarded the train to San Francisco to spend the night at Peter and Barrie’s house. Tomorrow I am scheduled, as I am every three weeks, to go to UCSF in Mission Bay for my immunotherapy treatment.

After arriving in downtown SF, I took MUNI to Noe Valley where I met Peter for coffee at Bernie’s. It was unusually warm for the City by the Bay, in the mid-seventies, so we sat outside on the Geezers bench. We had a long and interesting conversation, nothing of which I remember.

Later, Jason, Hiromi, and Amanda joined us at the house for another one of Barrie’s great dinners. It had been Amanda’s fifteenth birthday last week and I had bought her three designer silk scarves as a present. Anthony then arrived. We talked and ate and took photographs until they all left after which Peter and Barrie retired and I spent a few minutes on the computer before I also went to bed.

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Amanda tries on here new scarves.

 

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Jason, Pookie, Amanda, and Peter.

 

The next day, Peter dropped me off at the hospital in Mission Bay where I was scheduled for my immunotherapy infusion. The treatment went off without a hitch. After, I boarded the train back to Sacramento and had a good night’s sleep.

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Suisun Marsh from the train.

 

 

B. OFF TO THE GOLDEN HILLS FOR LUNCH WITH HRM.

The following day, I drove into the Golden Hills and picked up HRM at the skatepark after school. We drove into Folsom to have lunch at KFC/A&W. Hayden wanted to try the new fried chicken with donuts he had heard about somewhere. It seems odd to me that the youth of today follow the developments in the fast-food industry with all the passion that people of another age (mine) followed the awarding of Michelin stars to restaurants. I had a hotdog and a rootbeer float and he ordered the fried chicken with glazed donuts

After lunch, we drove to the nearby T-mobile store where they fixed my phone problems. I dropped H at Dicks’s house and returned home to the Enchanted Forest. Naida and I watched East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. They have not aged well.

 

 

C. HOME AGAIN HOME AGAIN HOME AGAIN JIGITY JIG:

I spent Saturday avoiding things. Specifically not doing anything about registering the Mitsubishi. I think if I procrastinate enough it will resolve itself.

While doodling around between watching The Graduate for the umpteenth time, following the results of the SC primary, and surfing the internet, I came across an interesting site, Art Odyssey. It’s a site containing works of hundreds of interesting artists worldwide. After spending an hour or two rummaging through the site, I decided to add a new section to T&T to be called unsurprisingly Art Odyssey (see below).

The next two days passed by like a whisper in a thunderstorm.

This evening Naida and I went to Zocalo’s for dinner. After dinner, we walked a few stores down from the restaurant to shop for the week’s groceries. On the way there Naida suddenly became weak and faint. I suggested taking her to the emergency room but she refused. She insisted on sitting in the car to rest while I did the shopping. When I returned, she had the seat-back down and was barely conscious. She still refused my insistence that we go to the hospital. When we got home she was hardly able to stand up. I helped her out of the car and up the stairs and put her to bed. I now sit here typing this and being very worried about her.

At about 10:30 Naida returned downstairs to the studio apparently having weathered whatever ailed her and feeling much better. I am relieved.

Today is election day and for some reason, I woke up on the positive side of deliriously happy. I felt like a character in those 1940-50 screwball comedies full of happiness without reason. Like despair, irrational joy is a form of short term mental illness. In my advanced age, I have learned that if I just wait awhile feelings of either happiness and despair will pass to be replaced by the usual boredom and minor physical ailments that existence imposes on us. It could be worse. Imagine being inflicted with ceaseless giddiness or eternal gloominess.

Although I had already voted by mail, Naida had not, so along with Boo-boo the Barking Dog, we set off walking through the Enchanted Forest to the community center where the HOC had set up a polling station.

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Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I on our way to the voting place in the Enchanted Forest.

 
The weather was warm, and the trees in bloom. Naida voted, Boo-boo barked, and I shuffled along.

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The trees in bloom on the street where we live.

 
That night we watched the returns from the Super Tuesday Democratic primaries. It seems that Biden has done surprisingly well and Sanders not so much. Warren, who was my choice, did not do well at all. Oh well, like after the recent Super Bowl, I will put myself to bed and sleep off my disappointment. After all, tomorrow is another day, and with it another round of grief and joy to mitigate the barren stretches of life.

What happened during the rest of the week? Time passes too quickly for the aged and the decrepit to fully enjoy the leisure that society imposes on us. I commit to doing more next week, meanwhile, I get back to TCM and pass the remainder of the day with the Academy Award films of the 1960s and 70s.

Saturday, the rains came in meager drops and mist. We attended the Saturday Morning Coffee as we usually do. Nothing to report there except that during the get-together Frank called from Florida to let me know he expects to be in California in April. After the Coffee, we took off with Boo-boo the Barking Dog and drove into the Golden Hills to bring Hayden his birthday presents. We arrived at the house and proceeded down into the Teenage Cave where Hayden, Jake, Kaleb, and Ethan were assembled for their usual Saturday gathering of the gang. After opening the birthday presents we brought him, we all piled into the car and drove to McDonald’s for lunch. Following lunch, we dropped the boys off at Kaleb’s home and returned home. That evening we watched among other movies an excellent noir mystery called The Pink Pony starring Robert Montgomery followed by a Miss Marple movie entitled Murder She Said.

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A photograph of the early spring flowers in our backyard with the dog pooping on the lawn.

 
Sunday passed with little to say for itself. Monday arrived. Naida and I set off for the DMV in order to finally register the Mitsubishi. After four hours, we were successful and went on to the Tower Restaurant to celebrate. Later, after returning home, we walked with Boo-boo the Barking Dog to where the Mitsubishi was parked, placed the sticker on the license plate, and went for a celebratory drive through the Enchanted Forest. Now that the car is legal, Naida would like to sell it. So, if you or someone you know wants to buy a 1991  sports car please let us know.

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Late last night, somewhere in the Enchanted Forest, two 80 years olds stark naked and in love danced.

The Azaleas in front of our home are blooming now. The time of the Camellias is passing. So has the time of this post. It seems to be going on far too long.

Take care.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

Well, with the reality show that was the SOTU, the tragic comedy of the Senate Republican’s acquittal of He Who is Not My President and the unending melodrama of the Iowa caucus behind me, I decided I had enough entertainment overload for a while and set off to the Big Endive by the Bay and the peace of my immunotherapy infusion.

We traveled by train and arrived at Peter and Barrie’s home in the late afternoon. We spent a delightful evening together. Barrie cooked her usual wonderful meal after which we spent hours telling stories. Most of the stories that evening were about travel — Peter and Barrie’s time in India and my experiences in Israel. I told about the wonders of the old city of Jerusalem, of my friendship with the Bethlehem Muslim antiquities dealer who had purchased the original Dead Sea Scrolls from the Arab tribesmen that discovered them. I also spoke about the mysteries of Masada, Qumran, and the Negev. We also swapped tales of Paris (We’ll always have Paris) with a side trip to Bordeaux, and Rome ( The Eternal City) and its environs.

The next day Peter drove Naida and me to UCSF for my immunotherapy infusion. After the appointment, we went to the Mission Rock Cafe for lunch. Mission Rock, located on the shore of the Bay a few blocks from the hospital at Mission Bay, was a favorite dive during Counter Culture times. It has now been converted to a somewhat upscale restaurant. After a reasonably good meal, we left and returned by train to the Enchanted Forest.

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Naida at Mission Rock Resort Pondering the Menu.

 

 

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Pookie by the Salesforce Tower.

 

 

 

B. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 
The next day, I drove the Mitsubishi into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM from school and to fetched this month’s medicines from the pharmacy. The sun was shining and the weather pleasant, in the upper-sixties. Hayden and I had lunch at Subway’s and he once again impressed me with how rapidly he is becoming an adult.

I am distressed at the state of my memory. Throughout the day, my mind is bubbling with ideas about what I would like to write here in T&T, but when I sit at my computer to actually write, nada, nothing. We did watch “The Irishman” on Netflix last night — vintage Scorsese. It was a story about two bygone eras. The first described the power and decline of the Italian Mafia. The second seemed to me to celebrate the end of the Actor’s Studio’s influence on movies and theater as DeNiro, Pacino, Scorsese, Keitel, and Pesci (Pesci was not Actors Studio trained, but may as well have been) flaunting their ancient acting chops across the big screen. We will not see their like again.
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Today, Saturday, we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee once again. We met a woman who taught photography in Sacramento and Florence, Italy. Earlier in her life, she attended a two-week photographic safari in Montana. She volunteered to cook because the existing cook’s cooking was despised by the campers who had paid good money for the trip. She worked for the company for many years. Later, in Italy, she opened a bread bakery of some sort in Spoleto. We spoke about photography for a while. I gave her my view of aesthetics and art, “You do the best with whatever you got unless you have got to make a living out of it. Then you do whatever sells.”

Later I took H, Jake, and Ethan out for lunch at the Relish House in the Golden Hills. We ate hamburgers with complex toppings and talked about things of interest to teenagers, cars mostly.

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Ethan, Hayden, and Jake

 
Still later, back in the Enchanted Forest, Naida collected some camellias. Some were placed in a shallow bowl to float on the water. Others were used for adornment.
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Naida of the Camellias.

 

 

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On Tuesday, we were visited by Lillian Valee a friend of Naida’s, a fellow author, a poet, and a renowned translator of things Polish. She had been the student assistant to Czeslaw Milosz, a Polish writer, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for literature (poetry). She had assisted Milosz in translating his book Bells of Winter and other writings into English. Her book, Rivers of Birds, Forests of Tule is a marvelous collection of her columns written for the local museum publication describing the history of the flora and fauna of the Central Valley around the Mukouleme River and Modesto.

We walked the few steps from the Enchanted Forest to the banks of the American River. There we sat on a log for a while and watched evening drift down upon us. Naida and Lillian spoke of things literary while I threw stones into the water and petted Boo-boo the Barking Dog who lay dozing at my feet dreaming dog things.

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The American River at Winter’s End.

 

img_7905Naida West(http://www.bridgehousebooks.com/) and Lillian Vallee sitting on the banks of the American River discussing things literary while Boo-boo the Barking Dog enjoys the late afternoon sun.

 

 

IMG_7892 - Version 2Lillian and Naida. 

 
The next day we had a pleasant breakfast and discussed, Modesto, Eugene O’Neal, cooking, family, things Polish, Naida’s early life, native Americans, and a lot more. I eventually left Naida and Lillian to their chitchat at the breakfast table and with Boo-boo the Barking Dog in tow retreated to the study where I wrote this while Boo-boo napped. For some reason, I felt ill, chilled. I put myself to bed and slept for a few hours. When I had awakened, Lillian had already left to return to her home in Modesto.

Tomorrow, people will be coming to put in new flooring for the house. While moving some things around in preparation, Naida opened and old chest. In it was some of the clothing her great-great-grandmother had worn when she arrived in America in the 1840s almost 180 years ago. She decided to do dress up.

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Naida as the well-dressed Scottish immigrant of the 1840s.

 

 

IMG_7921A more formal version.

 

 
After watching a silly movie featuring a classical pianist, a singer and an all harmonica band, we went to bed. Not a bad day at all. I have had far worse.

Today the workers arrived at 8AM and immediately began tearing up the floors in the house in order to put in new floors and carpet. The racket and confusion of activity drove the three of us from the house like refugees from war — homeless and looking for refuge. We ended at Naida’s daughter’s house, sat on the back porch, drank some tea and talked, and talked. The dogs, (Sarah’s two and our one) played frenetically throughout the yard and upon the tool shed. Eventually, we all left except for Sarah’s two dogs, Sarah back to work and Naida, Boo-boo the Barking dog and I, returned home, navigated the noise, mess and apologies and ran upstairs to change for this afternoon’s Happy Hour with the members of the Saturday Mornings Coffee Group at someplace called Clubhouse 56 because it happens to be located on 56th Street in Sacramento. We drank a few Margarita’s. I ate a Hot Dog. We talked with a lot of people but I remember nothing about what we may have talked about. I did talk with Winnie. We compared maladies as we usually do when we meet. Her’s seemed much more distressing than mine.

We returned home after the workers left, made our way through the detritus and materials left behind pending the workers’ return tomorrow and up to the bedroom on the second floor. The floor installers had not yet attacked that floor. We crawled into bed.

Oh, I remember one other thing about the day. The Good/Bad David called from South Dakota to tell me that the temperature there reached one degree Fahrenheit today. I mentioned it was about 70 here in the Enchanted Forest. I invited him down to enjoy some California weather. He said he would think about it as soon as he finishes doing something or other with the cows or something like that.

It is Valentine’s Day. The house is in shambles as various teams of workmen continue tearing up the floor and hammering down new flooring. Naida and I have fled to the studio room to escape the noise of the tools and the Serbian, Chinese, and Mexican shouts of the workers as they lay down the floor. Happy Valentine’s Day to you too.

On Saturday the clattering of the workmen as they put down the carpets upstairs continued. Naida sentenced me to the big recliner in the living room while she cleaned out the studio before they began working in there. In rejecting my assistance, Naida said that there were a lot of personal papers and things lying around she wanted to go through. So Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I happily dozed in the recliner while everyone else worked.

Sunday, I drove into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM and Jake and bring them to The Enchanted Forest to help me move some furniture around the house. After completing that chore we went for lunch at a small family-owned Arabic restaurant. The food was surprisingly good.

After a few days of which I remember very little, Naida and I took Boo-boo the Barking Dog to the dog park. While there, some dog pissed on my cane.

It is now Wednesday evening, Naida and I are watching the Democratic Presidential Nomination debate on MSNBC. We sit here talking to the TV set like we were watching a football game. I hate the moderators. They seem more interested in pushing their personal agenda and gotcha games than in encouraging a debate. How about a question like “how do you propose to defeat Trump?” Or, “how is your position on ______ different from that of the present administration?” Nevertheless, there is a lot of shouting, self-justification, and a few apologies. Overall it is enjoyable, like watching a street fight.

It is now Friday evening, things have happened in the past two days have disappeared through the holes in my memory. Tomorrow is another day.

Another Saturday morning at the coffee in the Nepenthe Club House. Winnie’s husband Paul and I have a long talk together. He had been an accomplished architect in Los Angeles until he was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Wanting to spend the last few years in an idyllic setting, he along with Winnie moved to Salmon Idaho. Their house, designed by Paul, sat in a pretty little valley a few miles north of the town. A portion of the Lewis and Clark Trail crossed their property. Close by the Middle Fork of the Salmon River rushes by their home. It is the location of the book Murder On The North Fork written by Naida’s uncle who used to be the Methodist minister in the town. Naida had helped her uncle to write the book, edited and published it. The book told the true story of a murder that occurred in the area about 100 years ago.

Sunday was a day of rest and rest we did.
Tomorrow I leave for the Big Endive by the Bay for my immunotherapy treatment. Today, during our walk around the Enchanted Forest, I noticed the ornamental fruit trees were in bloom — the Japanese cherry trees a brazen pink and the whites and reds of the others bursting out here and there along with the camellias adding the blush of color to the lingering shades of winter. I expect, by the time I return from the Big Endive, our back yard will be a riot of spring colors.

Until then, take care of yourselves.

“Crivens”

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The white man dropped from the sun bright sky,

For he envied the blackfellow’s land,

With greed and revenge in his restless eye,

And disease and death in his hand.

And he grasped the forest, and he seized the strand,

And claimed the blue mountains high;

And he scours the bush with a ruthless band,

’Till its denizens trembling fly —

And his pigs and his cattle pollute the land

’Till it stinks, and the blackfellows die.

          — Anonymous (source language unnamed), “Untitled,” Bendigo Advertiser (Victoria), September 26, 1855, page 4.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

I have not written here in “Pookies Adventures” for about a week. Perhaps it is due to creeping ennui. I have been reflecting, however, on a few things during that time. One of those things has been the inadvertent falsehood in my conceit that I often do nothing during my day. It fact, I do a lot. I usually spend much of my day sitting here with my computer attending to things, paying bills, or exchanging messages with friends and bill collectors and the like. I also usually spend some time on T&T, if not on the “Pookies Adventures” portion then on some other section, like searching through my favorite poetry sites for “Today’s Poem.”

When I think about it, it is much like having a job. I certainly spend enough time doing these things. Of course, I don’t get paid. That’s a downer, but then I don’t have to deal with clients, co-workers, and the like. Nor, do I have to care about the quality of the product. I guess that makes it a hobby. It is interesting that if it is something mostly detestable but you get paid for it, it is a job but if you enjoy it but don’t get paid, it is a hobby (or you are a failing artist). On the other hand, if you enjoy it and get paid for it, it is not a hobby, but it is a job. Someone once asked a famous writer why he writes. “For the money,” he responded. “You don’t think I do this for the sheer pleasure of it, do you? That would be insane.”

I do not know why I wrote the above two paragraphs. I could not think of what to write after the first sentence. I guess it was a sort of stream of consciousness thing — writing something without any idea where you’re going with it or even why you are doing it. Or perhaps it has something to do with the Donald Hall quote in the previous issue, Why should the nonagenarian hold anything back?” Why indeed or better yet why give a shit?

Last night we saw the new Korean movie Parasite at the Tower Theater here in Sacramento. I had not expected what I saw on the screen. It is a marvel, an odd one for sure but a marvel nonetheless. Part comedy, part tragedy, part horror movie, part melodrama, it, nevertheless, never failed to capture and hold my attention. The direction is as good as I have seen in movies recently and the cinematography exceptional. See it, you may be surprised like I was, but I doubt you will be disappointed.

This morning, perhaps around two or three AM, I awoke. I did not go back to sleep right away, but instead, I drifted into an almost dream-like state. I had an overwhelming urge to paint. It was compulsive, insistent. I needed to paint. Not like the almost paint by numbers reproduction of photographs I painted for a while over 20 years ago — real painting, whatever that was. I saw an image of myself painting at an easel. I was painting a portion of a sleeve. The fabric was Chinese silk, a dark almost iridescent blue. There were folds and mounds in the fabric as though it was filled with a slightly bent arm. Small golden parallelograms were stitched into the fabric. It was very difficult to paint them and I spent some time figuring out how I was going to do it. Then the scene changed. I was still in my studio. This time the canvas was affixed to the wall above my head. I could reach it with a long brush. I was painting long slightly wavy red lines on the canvas. As I drew the lines, a man’s face began to appear in the paint. His expression, as it emerged from the paint, was sad with an element of surprise. I then fell asleep, a deep sleep until the barking of the dog woke me in the morning.

 

Some Paintings of Mine from 30 Years Ago.

 

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Today (a day or two after I wrote the previous paragraph) Naida left for a presentation on her newest book Daughter of the West, a Memoir. I spent the morning sitting in my recliner with Boo-boo the Barking Dog drowsing on the recliner next to mine usually occupied by Naida. I had managed to exhaust my morning in desultory and aimless research, Facebook explorations, and a bit of writing. Having consumed all that I could think of doing while sitting there, I struggled to come up with what to do next. It was too early for a nap. It was only noon. I could have made something to eat but I was not hungry. A walk perhaps. That sounded good. Perhaps straighten up the house. Ugh. Still, that would surprise and please Naida. A plan, I had a plan.

Well, like many plans, even the simplest of them, it appeared good in concept but a failure in implementation. I began by removing the clean dishes from the dishwasher. While I was doing so, Naida returned home. She told me about her presentation. It was at a local women’s club. A somewhat mysterious one. They would not tell her what the letters that made up the club’s name stood for. They told her they did not want any more members. Naida spoke to the women about her novel River of Red Gold and not as I believed her Memoir. One of the women strenuously objected to Naida’s depiction of John Sutter in her novel. She believed it to be too negative toward the great man. Naida then read to her the footnotes and endnotes to the novel quoting other historians and contemporary accounts that demonstrated Sutter, like so many so-called great men, was considerably less so and often was a monster. For example, he raped a 5-year-old girl and commandeered the wife of one of his native Hawaiian workers as his bedmate.

Sutter reminds me of a Nineteenth-Century Donald Trump. A charlatan who never pays his bills, a repeat failure in his businesses, a toady to those above him, and a beast in his dealings with those beneath him. No-one should feel sorry for how Sutter ended his life as no one should shed any tears if Trump ends up as many of us hope he will.

We then ate lunch after which I went for that walk I had promised myself.

 

B. THE BIG ENDIVE AGAIN:

 
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A View of the Big Endive by the Bay Looking North.

 

 
So once again it was time to set off for the Big Endive by the Bay for my infusion treatment. Every three weeks, we set off for San Francisco to spend one or two days at Barrie and Peter’s house while I attend to my medical issues. This time we traveled to the City by train.
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A View from the Train.

 
We spent a pleasant evening eating Barrie’s wonderfully prepared food and talking about “The Good Old Days,” mainly the 1960s and 1970s.

The next day it rained. Peter drove us to the hospital. My medical reports were pleasantly positive.

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Naida waiting for me to finish my infusion at UDSF.

 

That evening after dinner Barrie, Naida and I (Peter was off on a gig with his band) went to a small bookstore on 24th St. to listen to a friend of Barrie’s flog his book, “An Old Man’s Game” about an aging Jewish detective in LA. There seems to have been a spate of Jewish Detective novels recently. Sheldon Has written one that is set in Chicago. Michael Chabon wrote one a few years back that takes place in a mythical Alaska shortly after WWII.

During his talk to us, the author, who is 72 years old and had just published his first book, told us he has written four more novels featuring this old detective awaiting publication and he planned to write many more. He said he was afraid either he or his main character will die before he finishes the series.

Morning came, Barrie and Peter were off to LA for Barrie’s sister’s memorial. They dropped us off at UCSF Parnassus for my neurological examination. It was scheduled in an effort to discover why for the past year I had been staggering as I walked. It wasn’t because I was drinking too much alcohol. It burns my throat now so at best I am able to get down one drink a week. It wasn’t about cannabis since if I do it at all it is usually only late at night to help me sleep. So, what could it be?

After several hours of tests and consultation between two doctors, they, the doctors, said they did not know what caused the problem (or if there was a problem at all) and recommended physical therapy, an MRI, and a return visit four months from now. Oh, they also wished me Good Luck.

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Pookie at UCSF Parnassus with The Nig Endive By The Bay in the background.

 

So, lightened by an ambiguous sense of accomplishment, we left the hospital, wound our way to the train station where we boarded a surprisingly crowded train back to Sacramento. Sitting across from us during the ride was a pleasant young woman of Indian (India Indian) extraction who lives in Emeryville and was traveling to spend the weekend with some ex-classmates from UC Davis. She smiled a lot and shared her french-fries with us. Oh, the joys of traveling by train.

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A. CHRISTMAS:

 

Christmas morning arrived dark and dank in the Enchanted Forest. Last evening, under a crystal clear sky, we attended a Christmas party at Naida’s daughter’s home in Land Park. It was fun. We sang Christmas carols, ate Chinese food, and opened presents. For a present, I got a throw blanket to remind me how old I am while keeping me warm in the evenings watching old movies on TCM and sipping egg-nog laced with brandy. I also received a book by Donald Hall entitled A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety also to remind me how old I am becoming. The book contains a series of short essays by the author, who also used to be the nation’s Poet Laureate, about how it feels to be ninety and still alive, the famous and not so famous people he has met, and his sometimes trenchant thoughts on various unconnected things. To quote the author on the nature and tenor of his opinions, “Why should the nonagenarian hold anything back?” I loved the book.

Today we drove into the golden hills to give HRM and Dick (or as we refer to him Uncle Mask) their Christmas presents. When we arrived, we learned they were both down with the flu. Hayden was nestled in bed in his teen cave. I went downstairs and gave him his Christmas presents, eight 5 by 7 wood-backed photographs of him and me over the years, also a pocket all-purpose tool, all separately wrapped. He unwrapped them one and a time and thanked me profusely after exposing each one.

Leaving him to ponder the meaning and significance of my presents and wrestle with the physical and psychological miseries of being sick on Christmas Day, I returned upstairs to find Naida and Uncle Mask in the kitchen making coffee laced with Kailua. For the next 3 or 4 hours, we sat around the table and discussed ancient Native-American society, the origin of bees, turkeys and grapes in California, petroleum development, coastal regulation, Willie Brown and related subjects. About halfway through our round-table discussion, Hayden, having resolved whatever quandaries I had left with him and suddenly cured of his maladies, emerged from his sickbed and told us he was off to the skatepark. The skatepark I concluded must be a miracle remedy that can cure certain adolescents of whatever psychological, physical, or existential issues they may have to wrestle with during that brief and certainly not beloved few years of raging hormones before recognition sets in as to how bad life can really get.

Eventually, Naida and I returned to the Enchanted Forest and watched a thoroughly silly movie starring William Powell and a far too young Debbie Reynolds. I wrapped myself warmly in my throw. It was warm. I was happy.

 

B. BOXING DAY:

 

(“In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect ‘Christmas boxes’ of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year… This custom is linked to an older British tradition where the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families since they would have to serve their masters on Christmas Day. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.” [WIKIPEDIA])

 

Boxing Day (or if you will St. Stephen Protomartyr Day or the first day of Kwanzaa) broke, as our mornings usually do, with Boo-boo the Barking Dog, our reliable alarm clock, barking. Every morning at 9AM he begins at the upstairs window then running as though his fur was on fire down the stairs, high pitched almost hysterical barking following, to the living room window for a few moments then to the sliding glass doors by the garden and finally back again to the upstairs window where he then sits quietly and, it seems to me, smugly waiting to see if one of us responds and lets him out for his morning pee and breakfast. If not, he leaps onto the bed pawing at Naida’s arm until she gets up and staggers down the stairs to do his bidding.

Thus, unless we wake up at 7:30 or 8:00 this leaves little time for shagging. For those who wonder about shagging over 80 be advised while perhaps the more athletic positions are a dim memory, we decrepits remain quite able, at times, to enjoy all the pleasures of that activity with little of the self-consciousness of youth.

This morning, for my viewing pleasure, Naida provided me with a brief fashion show of the tennis outfits she had received as Christmas presents from her daughters. After this, she presented me with a nice cup of cocoa.

Later we went shopping for pants for me — a belated Christmas present. All this excitement so exhausted us we went to bed at 8PM. St. Stephen Protomartyr would be proud.

 

C. SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST DAY OR FOR THOSE NOT OF A RELIGIOUS BENT YOU MAY CHOOSE TO CELEBRATE ONE DAY OF THE FEAST OF THE WINTER VEIL OR LIFE DAY (THE WOOKIE CELEBRATION OF LIFE) OR NOTHING AT ALL AND JUST CHILL OUT.

 

What was different this morning than all other mornings? This morning Boo-boo the barking dog did not bark. I woke up alone in bed. Naida and the dog had slipped out of the room without a sound and were enjoying an early breakfast together in the downstairs studio.

The only thing that happened today that may be of interest to Johnny the Saint or Chewbacca the Wookie is that I learned that today’s adolescents are experts in the gastronomical merits of various fast food joints.

 

D. HOLY INNOCENTS DAY:

 

(“On this day it is custom to give the youngest child in the household the power to rule the day. From what to eat, where to go and what to do, the youngest is in charge. In Mexico, it is a day for children to play practical jokes and pranks on their elders.” National Day Calendar.)

 

Today also happens to be National Download Day. I do not know what that means. It is also Saturday, the day of the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House here in the Enchanted Forest. Alas, we missed it. Naida was having a long, long conversation on the phone with someone, so I decided to make my breakfast and write this.

I did nothing the rest of the day — not anything notable, nothing, not even a nap. Nothing is hard to do. Try it sometime. We did walk the dog this evening, however.

 

E. TODAY, DECEMBER 29, I HAVE LEARNED IS: BARBIE DOLL’S BIRTHDAY, SECRETS DAY, SENDING SHORT MESSAGES TO UNKNOWN NUMBERS DAY, INTERNATIONAL NUTCASE DAY, AND, SPARKLER DAY.

 

(Note: I can find no reference on the internet for any of these days. I did find a site that indicated that this was, Still Need To Do Day. [I thought that was every day.] If one were really interested, one could check the Catholic Saints Calendar and find about 50 saints whose celebrations are listed for this day including Albert of Gambron, Trophimus of Arles and Ebrulf of Ouche [Ouch?] Ouche is a river in the Cote-d’Or in France.)

 

At about 11 AM today I set off for Peter and Barrie’s home in The Big Endive By The Bay to spend the night before my appointment at UCSF for my treatment. Naida stayed home to work on Volume II of her memoir and attend to the needs of the dog.

That evening Jason, Hiromi, and Amanda joined Peter, Barrie and I for dinner. Barrie prepared a delicious shrimp and Polenta dish for dinner. Unfortunately, she added jalapeño peppers making it too hot and spicy for me to eat, so I contented myself with a banana, a pear, a Japanese yam and a slice of coconut pie. I was happy and sept well.

 

F. DECEMBER 30, NATIONAL BACON DAY:

 

(It is also National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, Falling Needles Family Fest Day and the last day of Hanukkah. Or, if you would prefer you can celebrate the feast day of Saint Raynerius of Aquila Bishop of Forconium (modern Aquila), Abruzzi region, Italy who was noted for his excellent administrative skills, but little else. Does this make him the patron saint of bureaucrats?)

In the morning, I drove to Mission Bay for some CT scans, meetings with the doctor and my infusion. As I walked through the newly built areas of Mission Bay, I could not help feeling like I was participating in a movie about a dystopian world of the future. I strolled through long narrow public spaces with monolithic facades rising on each side. The view of the new development along the shoreline with their bulges and sharp edges looked like cartoon renderings of the city of the future. Unlike most cities, there were fewer people drifting along with you as you walk down the streets and sidewalks. Instead, they seemed to pop in and out of various doors of the buildings as you walk by. There was a small market at the edge of the bay where shaggy Dead Heads sold their wares, mostly dope paraphernalia. Strange tents filled a few spaces that appeared to have been intended to be parks. One seemed to require playing a round of miniature golf before shopping in the tents for something to eat. Odd I see.

My meeting with the doctor went well — no evidence of the cancer spreading.

After my infusion, I met my grandson Anthony. We walked to The Ramp one of the two old hippy hang-outs that still cling to the edge of the Bay. Today they are filled with somewhat less colorful patrons. We sat outdoors and enjoyed the view of the bay, boats and the old shipyard that included a large tanker under repair.
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I then set off for the Enchanted Forest and ran into a traffic jam as soon as I crossed the Bay Bridge in Emeryville. I heard on the car radio the entire freeway had been closed in Vallejo for a “police action” and drivers were advised to find alternative routes. I took 680 and eventually arrived home three hours later. There were no news reports that evening about what the “police action” was all about.

 

G. HOGMANAY AND NEW YEAR’S EVE.

 

On New Year’s Eve, we attended a party at the Nepenthe Club House. It was scheduled to end at nine PM when the ball was dropped on Times Square in New York. It was planned like this so that we decrepits could get home at a decent hour. Even so, most of the people had left long before the Times Square ball did its thing. We stayed to the bitter end, however. At some point, we danced. A relatively young woman insisted I dance with her. Later at home, Naida told me that the woman was trying to seduce me. I had not noticed. I thought she was just tipsy. Anyway, I was pleased to learn that.

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H. NEW YEAR’S DAY, AND ST. ZYGMUNT GORAZDOWSKI DAY.

 

I did nothing at all today. I took a long nap in the afternoon. Watched a bit of television. Perhaps I was resting up from 2019 and getting ready to tackle 2010 — then again perhaps not.

 

I. NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY, NATIONAL PERSONAL TRAINER AWARENESS DAY, ST. BASIL THE GREAT DAY, ST. BLIDULF DAY AND ST. CASPAR DEL BUFALO DAY.

 

This morning broke sunny and relatively warm for this time of year. The arrival of the garbage trucks and the leaf blowers drove Boo-boo the Barking Dog into paroxysms of hysterical barking and sent him running like crazy throughout the house.

Determined to approach the new year with greater vigor and determination than I evidenced yesterday, and to escape the unholy racket both inside the house as well as my realization that we were out of my beloved English Muffins, I left the house and strode vigorously and purposefully through the Enchanted Forest to where I had parked the car. I drove to the nearest shopping center where I stopped at Starbucks for breakfast after which I went to Safeway to buy the English Muffins, a few other necessities (e.g., frozen ravioli and several bars of dark chocolate with sea salt) and a bouquet of flowers for Naida. I then returned home with a sense of accomplishment that I was convinced equipped me to successfully face whatever the current year throws my way.

I put the groceries away and went upstairs for a nap. I had enough vigor and determination for the day.

 

J. TODAY JANUARY 3 IS 10TH OF THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. IT IS ALSO THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS AS WELL AS OF KURIAKOSE ELIAS CHAVARA IN THE SYRO-MALABAR CATHOLIC CHURCH.

 

On the 10th day of Christmas, I picked up Hayden, Kaleb, and their snowboards and drove them to Northstar near Lake Tahoe for a day of caroming down the snow-covered slopes. It was a sunny and surprisingly warm day, about 50 degrees. After we arrived, the boys set off for the slopes and I set about seeking amusement in the pseudo-alpine village at their base.

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Ready to hit the slopes.

 

I was hungry so before beginning my exploration I searched for someplace to eat. I found a modest place where I ate a breakfast of pancakes that cost as though they were made of gold and tasted like it also. I then wandered about and ran into Jake and his family. They were leaving because Jake’s friend from Arizona, Kaden, had fractured his arm snowboarding yesterday. Jake’s mom said the emergency room when she visited yesterday looked more like the results of a terrorist strike than a room full of holiday vacationers. Skiing seems to be a hazardous duty for recreation seekers.

I then found a Starbucks where surprisingly I was given a free cup of coffee. I took my free coffee over to a seat by a window and watched the crowds strolling by while slowly sipping my drink. This was not my first cup of coffee that morning. I had consumed enough coffee that morning that I amused myself by contemplating the possibility of dying here of caffeine poisoning.

After a while, I left and strolled through the faux village and inspected the wares in a few shops. Tiring of this, I sat on an upholstered bench by a fire pit near the skating rink. I watched the skaters, some gliding by and others whose by was something less than gliding. I also listened to a female twosome singing western tunes on the stage next to the rink.

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Just as I was about to drift off into a mindless reverie, HRM called to say that they had finished snowboarding and were waiting for me nearby. I found them and we were soon heading off for home.

K. TODAY WE CELEBRATE THE DAY OF THE FALLEN AGAINST THE COLONIAL REPRESSION (ANGOLA), DAY OF THE MARTYRS (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO), HWINUKAN MUKEE (OKINAWA ISLANDS, JAPAN), OGONI DAY (MOVEMENT FOR THE SURVIVAL OF THE OGONI PEOPLE), AND WORLD BRAILLE DAY.

 

 

It is Saturday today and Naida and I attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Clubhouse. It went as usual and I paid little attention, drifting off into a semi-dream state while the others talked. Winnie sat down beside me. We discussed the state or our health. She observed that I needed a haircut and recommended the stylist she uses. She then invited me to join her and a few of the girls for a drink after the meeting.  I declined. Naida and I returned home and vegetated for the rest of the day. We did not celebrate those who had fallen opposing colonial oppression in Angola. But I did think about them. I, however, did not think very much about the martyrs or the Ogoni I am afraid.

 

L. TODAY IS THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS AND THE TWELFTH NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS, NATIONAL BIRD DAY, AND HARBIN INTERNATIONAL ICE AND SNOW SCULPTURE FESTIVAL (HARBIN, CHINA).

 

The Twelfth Day of Christmas arrived in the Enchanted Forest as bright as springtime. After breakfast, I felt the need — an itch — to do something, anything, even to just take a walk. And so I did. I hooked up Boo-boo to his leash and set off. It wasn’t much of a walk but it will do for me.

It is now a day after writing the preceding paragraph. I tried to recall what else I did yesterday. Failing, I turned again to Naida and asked, “Do you recall what we did yesterday?”

“Not much” she replied, “and I enjoyed it.” After a moment of reflection, she added, “We did see a marvelous movie with wonderful music.”

“Do you remember its name” I inquired.

More reflection. “Fiddler on the Roof,” she eventually declared.

There you have it. Pookie’s Twelve Days of Christmas, such as it was.
You have fun too and remember to always keep on trucking.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:

 

With a weather report for a week of rain and a steady drizzle slicking the streets and turning the landscape gray, Naida, Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I set off for Mendocino. I have done this trip so many times I no longer either notice or remember much of the drive other than where Naida and I switch driving duties and walk the dog.

I do recall stopping at Williams for lunch at a tourist restaurant that was not too bad, whose name I no longer remember but whose food was not so good that I would spend the time to look up the name on the internet in order to post here. After lunch, at the deli attached to the restaurant, I bought a panettone (Italian holiday bread) and a large jar of beautiful Sicilian olives for the party my sister was having on Sunday. Alas, when we arrived at my sister’s house and I was removing the jar of olives from the paper bag, I dropped the jar on the counter and it broke. I was so upset that I stalked off into a corner and sulked while Naida struggled to save what was left of the olives.

The first evening or perhaps the second, both Naida and George were suffering migraines and went to bed early, so my sister Maryann and I set off for dinner and caroling at the North Coast Brewery Pub and Jazz Club in Fort Bragg. The Club is usually a jazz venue but that evening the jazz had been set aside for a night of caroling. I ordered a delicious plate of sausage and peppers with polenta and washed it down with a glass of the brewery’s stout followed by a special seasonal berry-flavored light beer. Everything was delicious.

The meal was followed by entertainment. A local guitarist played and sang a few Christmas tunes. He was Followed by the main event, the carolers, a local group dressed in faux 19th Century costumes that spent the rest of the evening singing many of the familiar carols of the season, enthusiastically and slightly off-tune

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The next day the sun played hide and seek with the clouds. Naida, Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I went Christmas shopping in Mendocino and Fort Bragg, after which we had an excellent lunch at Maya Fusion in Fort Bragg. She had a mushroom soup to die for and I a sampler that included Arancini.

Arancini, one of my favorite things, originated in 10th Century Sicily when it was under control by the Arabs. It is a deep-fried rice ball usually filled with ragù (meat or mince, slow-cooked at low temperature with tomato sauce and spices), mozzarella and/or caciocavallo cheese, and often peas, and al burro or ô bburru, filled with ham and mozzarella or besciamella. It is a traditional Italian street food ranking right up there with pizza.

Later, at the wonderful Mendocino shop where our friend Maryjane works, Naida purchased a marvelous scarf. It was woven in India out of wool and silk by women who had been sex workers and were now attempting to break away from that life. Maryjane, who usually has a joke for us, when I asked for it said that she did not have one. It must be the season. Christmas season was no laughing matter in the Petrillo family I grew up in.

That evening, after Naida went to bed, Maryann, George and I watched episode two of the television version of Phillip Pullman’s novels in The Golden Compass series. In one of those strange coincidences that have you believing that you may be living in Pullman’s world, at the moment my sister suggested watching the show, I was in the midst of reading the second novel in Pullman’s second series on the same theme.

Another evening, we all piled into Maryann’s car and drove to the Festival of Lights at the Mendocino Botanical Gardens a Christmas event that I always enjoy. The gardens are lit up with thousands of lights arranged in strange and astonishing tableaus that surprise you at every turn along the dark paths.

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Here, I managed to erase about a week’s entries. Given the current state of my memory, erasing what I have written means most of it is lost. This makes me sad — not because anything I had written was either important or memorable but because for me once gone it is gone forever. Worse, I have the vague recollection that what I had written I enjoyed. Anyway, here below is my best recollection of that week.

On Sunday Maryann and George held a Christmas party for a few friends and the staff of WEST Company, the non-profit she runs. The food was delightful, varied and copious. The special egg-nog prepared by Maryann was unusual and delicious. We enjoyed ourselves immensely.

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B. OFF TO LAKEPORT AND BEYOND:

 
Monday we set off for Lakeport where Naida’s brother lives with his son Bob. From Fort Bragg to Willits, the shortest route from that area of the Coast over that portion of the Coastal Range is Route 20, a wickedly curvy road that passes over the Mendocino Ridge portion of the Coast Range on its way to Route 101. This road is a main route from that part of the coast to Ukiah the Mendocino County seat and relatively heavily traveled. As we turned from Highway 101 (Pacific Coast Highway), Naida told me that at the prior evening’s Christmas party one of the guests who drives that road daily told her that she and other similarly situated drivers actually counted the curves on that 35-mile road and numbered them so that as the drive them they could report to each other the nature and location of any problems along the route.

Another thing, perhaps several more things, that I learned while I drove that road was prompted by the fact that I usually drive as fast as I safely could (at least in my opinion). I believed it would get me to where I was going faster, and of course, confirm my manliness by proving that I was the most testosterone poisoned person on that road that day. Naida, however, protested. Actually, it was more than a protest. She screamed and insisted that she drive rather than me.

It seems, she had been in a number of automobile accidents in her life, including, she told me, once while riding in a car filled with her high school cheerleader teammates, it skidded on a curve, spun as it flew through the air and smashed into the ground tires up. These experiences so affected her that she would become ill when sitting in a car going too fast especially on a curvy road. So, I slowed down a lot and discovered not only was the drive time not appreciably longer, it actually appeared shorter to me. It also allowed me to enjoy the drive more — the dark redwood groves, the glimpses of the valleys between the trunks of the trees, the pretty little bottomlands, lakes, and marshes.

In Lakeport, we met with Roger Smith, Naida’s older brother and his son Bob who seems to suffer from Asperger’s syndrome a condition that appears common in the Smith side of her family. Roger is an accomplished artist, set designer, and singer. Now, because he suffers from macular degeneration, he can no longer paint. Nevertheless, he showed me a number of paintings that he had previously done. They ranged from photorealism to modern impressionism. Of the latter, he favored Cezanne like muted hues with a strong dash of red or another vibrant color.

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At the bottom of the page, I have posted Roger’s homage to Governor Jerry Brown. He would like to bring it to Jerry’s attention. If anyone has any idea how he can do this, please let me know.

His set design pieces were quite dramatic and fascinating.

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A backdrop for the opera Aida.

 

 

Naida, Roger and I then went for lunch at Park Place restaurant by the lake. I had gnocchi stuffed with mushrooms. It was as good a meal as I have had in months.

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Naida and Roger

 
After lunch, we drove back home to the Enchanted Forest.

 

 

C. A NIGHT OF PROTEST:

 
The next day, we attended the Indivisible’s Impeach Trump Rally in Sacramento. It was held at the Capital. I had not been to a protest rally in over twenty years. There were between 3 and 5 thousand people there. There was the usual coterie of long-haired, bearded, shabbily dressed men and colorfully attired women carrying signs. We listened to impassioned, inspiring and at times incomprehensible speeches, sang a few songs, and generally had a good time.

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A protesting dog attended and some children also.

 

 

D. ALAS:

 
Unfortunately, especially at this season, Mark’s mother died a few days ago. Mark is the husband of Naida’s daughter Sarah. She had been suffering from severe Alzheimer’s disease for several years now. We attended the memorial. It was a family affair. I suspect I may have been the only non-family member there. Josephine, Naida’s granddaughter sang a splendid version of Ave Maria. Anna’s children each gave a brief eulogy and remembrance of their mother. After a few more recollections and reminisces, a prayer and a joint singing of a Christmas carol, the memorial ended. Most of those who attend left for a reception at Sarah and Mark’s home. For some reason, I felt exhausted and depressed by the ceremony so I had Naida drop me off at home before she went on to the reception.

I dropped exhaustedly onto the bed and slept until the barking of the dog made such a horrible racket it woke me up. Between barks, I could make out the sound of the doorbell. I rushed downstairs and threw open the door and saw a slightly frazzled Naida standing there. She had returned from the reception but had misplaced her keys to the house.

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