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Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

The weather was warm and sunny today, the temperature reaching into the 80s. We decided to go out wander along the edge of the nearby American River. Although we were breaking confinement, we were sure we would not violate social distancing guidelines because usually there were not too many people wandering around there. We walked to our favorite spot on the riverbank. Along the way, Naida, as usual, instructed me on the local flora.

We sat on some dry grass and watched people on the opposite bank launch a boat and the birds taking off and landing on the water. Naida recited a part of a love poem that featured rabid cormorants. She also, for some reason, sung an old Sam Cooke tune:

Every day, along about evening
When the sunlight’s beginning to pale
I ride through the slumbering shadows
Along the Navajo Trail

 

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The American River by the Enchanted Forest.

 

Before she became an accomplished novelist, Naida obtained a Ph.D. in sociology. Her 1978 thesis was entitled Leadership, and Gender: A Comparative Analysis of Male and Female Leadership in Business, Politics, and Government. She had previously published a book on the early results of her study entitled, Leadership With A Feminine Cast. She interviewed for her book and thesis such people as Ivy Baker Priest US Treasurer in the Eisenhower Administration who famously quipped, “I’m often wrong, but never in Doubt”; Ruth Handler of Mattel fame; Jess Unruh the powerful leader of California’s Assembly and over 70 other well known civic and business leaders.

We spent much of the day reading sections from the thesis. It was fascinating for me to learn that an overwhelming majority of these leaders, most of whom were and still are household names, were the children of immigrants or, in the case of African Americans, had migrated from the South. Another consistent element in almost all of their lives was the presence of a strong mother. One female leader commented:

“My grandmother never wanted to come to the United States. She made my grandfather unhappy some of the time. For instance, she wanted to see the Panama Canal. So she left to see it. She said. “If all these kids can’t take care of him, something is wrong (fourteen children) My grandmother went off to more places than you can imagine in those days when traveling was difficult.”

 

What seemed to differ in the lives of the women leaders from the men, other than the resistance of the latter to the aspirations of the former, was that women generally worked harder to get where they were. As for management and leadership skills, the men mostly learned and honed their skills in the military and tended to manage their institutions in a hierarchical top-down manner. The women, on the other hand, generally tried to encourage a feeling of family in their organizations with her as the matriarch. In fact, the woman leaders overwhelmingly reveled in being considered different in how they dressed, behaved, and led.

(Note — because women leaders overwhelmingly were the children of immigrants Naida specifically choose male children of immigrant parents to balance it out. She said, in either case, women or children of immigrants [including people of color] had a more difficult time of it than white males [and they were aware of it])

Days have rolled on by with little to comment on other than that the days of our confinement have increased. We have begun losing track of the days of the week. We have been in self-quarantine for about 50 days now — almost 15% of the year.

Interesting — the retirement village not too far from the Enchanted Forest that has been actively promoting us to choose them when we inevitably decide it is time to enter an assisted living facility, called today and offered us a free dinner from the local restaurant of our choice delivered to our home this evening. We chose Zinfandel a somewhat expensive Italian-American restaurant that we enjoy eating at.

In the afternoon, I drove up into the Golden Hills to see Hayden. I arrived just as he returned with SWAC from buying flowers for planting around the house. I put on my mask and rubber gloves and kept my social distance as he proudly showed me what they had been planting these past few days. In the side yard, they had planted about eight trees — a Japanese Maple, an orange tree, a lemon tree, apricot and peach trees, pomegranate, and some Thai fruit trees. I do not know how well some of these trees will do in that environment.

The front yard, actually a slope from the garage up to the road, has been planted with many flowers and an olive tree. On a bare area between two massive redwood trees next to the driveway had been used for burying pets — Pepe and Pesca the two Bichons, a crayfish, a couple of lizards, a tiny snake and a large goldfish named Sharky — they planted few clumps of flowers on that hallowed ground.

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I then returned home.

Shortly after my arrival, our free dinner that I had been eagerly anticipating arrived. It was a hamburger for me and chicken tacos for Naida. I was disappointed and pissed. What’s worse, the meat looked and tasted like it came in a can.

This afternoon we took Boo-boo the Barking Dog on a long walk through the Enchanted Forest. It was sunny and warm, in the upper 70s. We tried to find paths we had never walked before and we did. At one point we found ourselves by the lake and sat there awhile enjoying the view.
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Land Park is a large park in Sacramento. The Sacramento Zoo is located there. According to Naida, the developer of the area originally created it as an amenity for his real estate development. He went on to be elected mayor of the city.

We decided to visit it today, taking all the care necessary to avoid breaching social-distancing guidelines. Equipped with masks and rubber gloves we walked around a lake and through the rock garden.

The story about the rock garden: In the late 1930s a woman began planting the garden in the public park. The city did nothing to stop her. They even gave her an award for her efforts. After she died, the garden she worked so hard on was taken over by the city. I do not know if any of this is true, but history is a story and if the story is good enough then it is good enough. As Pratchett writes, “We make up our world according to the stories that we tell ourselves, and each other, about it.” (Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.)

For the next few days, the weather hovered in the mid-80s. Sunny with a slight breeze. I placed a folding camp chair in a spot of shade in the back yard and spent much of the afternoon dozing with the dog lying at my feet and now and then typing things like I am doing now. I wonder why lazing away outdoors in sunny weather is so pleasant and not boring at all, while sitting indoors often feels tedious and uncomfortable. Perhaps Peter knows. He understands things like this. I consider him a master keeper of obscure and unconventional notions.

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I think I will go up to bed. Napping also is neither boring nor unpleasant.

That night after I got up, we watched The Sunshine Boys for perhaps the fifth or sixth time in the last month. I did not want to. I thought of going back to bed. I couldn’t. I love that movie. One could say I liked it because of the timing between the actors, the directing, Neil Simon’s script, seeing Gorge Burn’s again on the screen, or Matthau tearing up the scenery. No, I liked it because it was about old guys. Also, because once, at a Coastal Commission meeting, I was mistaken by the press for Walter Matthau. I would have preferred being mistaken for Rock Hudson.

Last night, I had a dream. No not a dream about freedom from four centuries of oppression. Instead, I was riding the bus. I do not know where that bus was or where it was going, but something about it made me think it was somewhere in San Francisco. I was sitting as usual in one of the reserved for seniors and handicapped seats that are generally filled by 20 somethings or the mentally ill. Anyway, the bus was full of men — stuffed full. They started hassling and ultimately punching me. Eventually, I fought back, swinging my cane and discovered they were all ghosts because when struck they each disappeared in a puff of smoke — except for four big heavyset men. They were real and, hopeless as it may have seemed, I waded in, punching them with all my might only to wake up and discover I was punching Naida. Having experienced this before, she knew enough to avoid my punches and calm me down until I fell back to sleep.

The next morning I felt physically, mentally and emotionally like dog shit so after breakfast and a bit of news about our Commander in Chief recommending we shoot up with Clorox to cure us of the plague and stop us from criticizing him, I drove into the Golden Hills to visit HRM in hope that it would cheer me up. Donning my mask and gloves, I met him and Jake in front of the house and accompanied them on a walk through their most recent plantings at the back. Haden now has a bedroom on the bottom floor with a large deck extending into the backyard. He has festooned his deck with flowering plants everywhere, hanging from the rafters, on the floor, and in the backyard. He has included a large wisteria bush that he plans to train to extend onto the deck.

The next day or perhaps the day after, we packed some soft drinks, a box of Fig Newtons, some coffee and Boo-boo the Barking Dog into the car, and set off for a ghost town on the banks of the Mokelumne River Naida had visited a few years ago. We drove through the Gold Country on Route 49, until we came to the turnoff to the town. Alas, the road was closed. “Let’s walk” I suggested. “How far can it be?”

So we parked the car and set off. The walk started out delightfully. The route ran along the banks of the river that snaked through the foothills of the Sierras. California Poppies, Lupine, and many other spring wildflowers covered the hills. A blue oak and Digger pine forest grew along the banks of the river.

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The Mokelumne River through arches of blue oak.

 

 

The town we were heading to was originally built to house the workers building a hydroelectric project on the river. Now and then small groups of hikers passed us along the road some of them looked like they had been bathing in the river. As the walk lengthened, I began to grow tired. I asked a group of young men coming down the path how far it was. “Not far,” they responded. Of course, “Not far,” for some 20-year-olds and “Not far,” for an eighty-year-old are two entirely different concepts.
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My plan was to walk as far as I could. Not too far (80-year-old far) from where we passed the young men, I had reached my limit and sat, exhausted, in some shade at the side of the road. I realized my plan to only walk as far as I could was flawed. I still had to walk back.

Naida, being healthier and more athletic than I, felt no such fatigue. Nonetheless, She agreed we should head back. And so we did. I walked from shadow to shadow and collapsed at just about everyone we came to. At one point I considered keeling over and forcing Naida to call for an ambulance.

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Naida discovered an unusual poppy along the way.

 

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She also found some bush lupine growing by the road.

 

 

Once we left the path to walk a few steps to the river so the dog could get a drink. (Did I fail to mention that despite bringing copious amounts of water and juice and Fig Newtons along, we left them all back in the car) While the dog was drinking his fill, a big black snake with golden stripes slithered out from under some detritus just after they passed. I thought it might be the California version of the east-coast deadly coral snake except 10 times larger. Not being much of a woodsman, I did the only thing I could think of. I screamed. “What’s the matter?” Naida responded. “A big snake,” said I. “What color?” she inquired. The snake had disappeared into the grass by now. “Yellow with black stripes,” I said. “Oh, no problem, they eat baby rattlesnakes” she explained. Not knowing if that made me feel any better, we slowly and for me agonizingly made our way back to the car without further mishap except for me almost stepping on an evil-looking thing that Naida said was an alligator lizard that she said grew much larger than the specimen I almost stepped on.
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Just after taking this photo, the snake appeared from beneath some fallen piece of bark at the foot of the tree.

 

 

(In case you wonder about my relationship with the natural environment, I am a city boy. As Neuwirth said, “We get nose bleeds if our feet are not touching cement.” We may love the wonders of nature but still prefer to sleep in our beds at night. We like the wonder better than the feeling of nature on our skin. That is why for some of us, our knowledge may be deficient but the wonder never dies. Sort of like, believing in God is a lot more pleasant than actually meeting the bearded old bastard.)

Back at the car, we drank copious amounts of water. Naida drove us back while I dozed and recovered. Back home we discovered the Fig Newtons were missing. We had not eaten any. We suspected the culprit was Boo-boo the Barking Dog, but we could find no evidence. (He is a very sloppy eater.) Perhaps it was the alligator lizard.

The next day, fully recovered from my adventure, I set off for SF for some CT scans. Traffic was so light, I was able to get back by early afternoon in time for lunch. After lunch, I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting and dozing on a chair in the back yard. I one point, Naida woke me from my reverie to inform me that she had just discovered a nest of black widow spiders in a cranny in the wall near where I had been resting.

That evening we watched every episode of Ricky Gervais’ network series After Life. It was great. One of the best things I have seen in a long long while. It was about a man with deep unrelieved depression and a group of extremely odd but often engaging characters with whom he was involved. It resonated with me. It seemed to say a life of pathological depression is livable and amusing. See it you’ll like it.

Finally, this morning I awoke, the room was dark, Naida’s body was pressed against my back. “It must be early,” I thought. Boo-boo the Barking Dog had not yet barked his wake up bark. I turned over to give Naida a hug and as I did so I heard a low growl. It was the dog in my arms. I looked up at the clock it was almost noon and the shutters on the window were still closed.

Later the doctor called about the results of the CT scan he said cancer in my neck has not grown but a nodule in my chest had thickened and he will be speaking with the surgeon about removing it.
That was how my day began today. I wonder how the rest of it will play out…

And, that was my past week or two of self-confinement. How was yours?

Take care.

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Renee Verona

 

 

The poem below is an excerpt from a much longer one written by Renee Verona that I discovered while wandering through the internet. The poem appears to be based, in part, on Dante’s Paradisio. Verona, a self-published poet, has an internet site (here). In it, he periodically publishes his poems and paintings and requests donations to enable him to continue his work.

It is not unusual for poets to try to find novel means of publishing their work. Whitman used to wander through the bars of NY (as did Blake in London) selling handwritten copies of his poems, and Shelley often stood on busy street corners and tossed bundles of his poems into the carriages of the noble and wealthy as they drove by.

What attracted me to Verona was, admittedly, less his poems than his audacity and some of the artwork that accompanies the poetry.

From “Obsidian and Alabaster.”

Through the reflection of my obsidian blade, I saw a jester drowning in the sorrows belonging to his hopeless witticism

Scarlet to cover the tulips that laid foolish, herald a cut-throat… forsaken in this storm praying for thunderbolts to alleviate me,

Sharp lighting to scream, and there, bury me within an unholy divinity as devilish is my creed,

Yet this clown that smirks comforts thee

Thine eyes have witnessed much suffering, men art, but demons chasing eternity, misguided by prophecy… and he dares to laugh

The reckless Montague a saint unto I… to empathize…to seize, realize a moment of freedom when all is cursed by hypocrisy

(…To despise… To visualize )

God favors the trickster, giving unto him a horrible truth that he bears with a grin ( a glimpse at how the world primarily sins)

Watch as they abandon themselves all for epicurean philosophies,

Drink a bit more the red wine, corrupt your soul a little more to hold a few pieces of sol …More the greed…this obsidian grow thirsty

Unsated…hungry… the blood moon calls, onward towards the twilight where hellhounds roam free, festering, and feasting

Fair Jester,

I will be an angel unto thee, unto you that bards hysterically… a sad epigram life has become ( everlasting is the hologram)

Forever is nevermore, soon we will have our reckoning…upon the sun we horde, shadows epithetical to the moon

The forgotten, the vigilant defacing the vox populi, simple mercenaries that seek only to bloom, the evening to forbore…

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I read somewhere that there is no reality only story — no matter, no energy, no universe, no love, no sorrow, no up or down — only stories. So, what is my story? This is especially pertinent now as I sit here during the great self-confinement of 2020. Who knows? Who cares? I only want to get back to a different story. One I used to know, with people I know. With goals other than simply waiting it all out. Does this make me a delusional bundle of narrative? You know, between you me and the storyteller, I don’t really care. I want out.

This morning I woke up earlier than I have for the past week or so. It was sunny outside following a couple of days of rain. That lifted my spirits. That and the fact that I had finally slept well after a few nights of disturbing dreams.

After screwing around on my smartphone a while (you know checking messages, reviewing the weather reports, sport stories, Facebook posts, and a porn site or two) I got up, did significantly less than half of the exercises prescribed for me by the physical therapist. I took my pills (Those that I have left), brushed my teeth, patted down my hair, and dressed. I then set off downstairs for breakfast.

Naida, as usual, had arisen much earlier than I in response to Boo-boo the Barking Dog’s barking. She went downstairs with him to let him out into the backyard to do his thing. I have come to believe this is more convenient and neighborly than putting the dog on a leash and taking him out to do his thing on the neighbor’s property.

After that, as usual, she, still in her housecoat, made her coffee and sat in her recliner to watch the morning news.

I strolled down the stairs slammed open the doors to the study where she was quietly sitting at peace enjoying her coffee with the dog on her lap and I belted out:

Hello my baby, hello my honey
Hello my ragtime gal
Send me a kiss by wire,
Baby, my heart’s on fire,

I do this routine at least four times a week (sometimes, but not often, I change the tune). I do not really know how this goes off with Naida. She always smiles and gives me a kiss when I bend my head down to receive one. Boo-boo the Barking Dog on the other hand generally scampers off her lap and hides under the desk. There are critics everywhere.

It rained for a day or two, I do not recall for how long. I have a vague recollection of writing in here about the minutia of our lives, but, if I had, it clearly has disappeared, most likely caused by the imps of the computer, those arbiters and critics of our life nowadays.

Anyway, today the seventh day of April the sun came out. The washing away of the pollen and civilizations grit (with an assist from social distancing) allowed nature to shamefully but happily expose itself with sparkling clarity. The tree on my back yard whose colors, the vibrancy of which, I rely upon to tell me that the glory of the day was worth experiencing gleamed in splendor.

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Frank called from Florida shortly after I had settled into my recliner with my usual breakfast of coffee and toasted English muffins slathered in butter and marmalade. He, like the rest of us, has settled into self-imprisonment comfortably having had the pleasure of experiencing its, joys, sorrows, and tedium in a far different circumstance a number of years ago. Like me and you and most of the world, he spends a lot of his time before the television viewing movies like a movie critic on steroids. He suggested I see “The Godfather of Harlem” a series of which about 10 episodes have been shown. It stars Forest Whitaker as the Godfather. He said it portrays many of the Italian Mafiosi I have met (Like Frank Costello) in actual historical events. He also recommended “Machine Gun Preacher,” a movie described as “The true story of Pennsylvanian [USA] biker Sam Childers, who overcame a life of drugs and violence to embrace Christianity and wage a 13-year war to free enslaved child in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan, Africa.”

After exchanging stories of our current confinement, I hung up and looking out of the room and through the sliding glass doors into at the splendor outside (a good name for a television movie), I suggested to Naida that we break out of our socially imposed confinement, leash up Boo-boo the Barking Dog, jump in the car and drive to Discovery Park. And so, we did.

Discovery Park lies on a low bluff at the confluence of the Sacramento and American River. The Native Americans called the area Mo’mol, (pronounced mok mal) The Big Drink.

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Someone Fishing at the Confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers. (The clear waters American River coming from the right meets the muddy waters of the Sacramento. The buildings of downtown Sacramento loom in the distance.)

 

The Maidu group of Native-Americans inhabited this area of Sacramento around the Park prior to the arrival of the Spanish. According to Naida, this area in effect could be considered a Native-American town because of the number of villages supported by the enormous fecundity of the immediate area.

The park area itself during that period, according to Naida, was park-like, a meadow with huge trees of Black Walnut, Cottonwoods, Valley Oaks, and Sycamores growing around.

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Naida and Boo-boo the Barking Dog resting by the Massive Trunk of a Cottonwood.

 

Large trees still dot the landscape.

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The Native-Americans from the villages would often gather on the meadow for festivals and other get-togethers. Naida said that when the first Spanish explorers arrived at the confluence of the rivers and noticed its park-like visage and grazing elk one of them exclaimed that it was so beautiful it was like a sacrament of God. Hence the name Sacramento was born.

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oday the park is a bit unkempt. Still, there were hikers, bicycle riders, and a few people just lounging around, all social distancing and enjoying the day. Many of Sacramento’s homeless were there also. They too were social distancing from one another and everyone else.

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That evening after returning home, I was exhausted and irritable. Trying to figure out what is going on after going through the usual, I suddenly remembered that I had run out of my happy pills several days ago. I had started taking them about 12 years or more ago because I was fed up with my inability to control myself when I was under stress or fatigued and convinced my psychoanalyst at the time that pills were quicker and less expensive than he was. Naida told me that Bill had been taking similar medicine to deal with some of the physical and psychological effects of his last months and she still had some. So I will be taking them tonight if we can find them.

The next day, I arranged for my original prescriptions to be filled. I was still feeling bad so Naida drove me to the Walgreens in El Dorado Hills to pick up those prescriptions and after that, we collected our groceries at the pickup spot at the Raley’s near our home.

On Thursday I drove into SF for my immunotherapy appointment. After parking, I put on my face mask. As I entered the Hospital everyone else was also wearing a mask and it was strangely quiet. After the treatment Drove to Peter’s house where Peter, Barrie, and I had a brief social distancing discussion through the car window. Then I drove home.

Friday was a day for naps.

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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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At a certain age

We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers.
White clouds refused to accept them, and the wind
Was too busy visiting sea after sea.
We did not succeed in interesting the animals.
Dogs, disappointed, expected an order,
A cat, as always immoral, was falling asleep.
A person seemingly very close
Did not care to hear of things long past.
Conversations with friends over vodka or coffee
Ought not be prolonged beyond the first sign of boredom.
It would be humiliating to pay by the hour
A man with a diploma, just for listening.
Churches. Perhaps churches. But to confess there what?
That we used to see ourselves as handsome and noble
Yet later in our place an ugly toad
Half-opens its thick eyelid
And one sees clearly: “That’s me.”
          Czeslaw Milosz

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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:

 

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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I Have Learned So Much

I
Have
Learned
So much from God
That I can no longer
Call
Myself

A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,
a Buddhist, a Jew.

The Truth has shared so much of Itself
With me

That I can no longer call myself
A man, a woman, an angel,
Or even a pure
Soul.

Love has
Befriended Hafiz so completely
It has turned to ash
And freed
Me

Of every concept and image
My mind has ever known.
From: ‘The Gift’ by Hafez
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

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POOKIE’S DAZE: Grey Skies, Sadness, and the Coming of Mushrooms and Camellias.

 

 

January and February are dreary months. Grey skies, naked trees whose spindly branches scrape the heavens, slick damp ground, chilling breezes creep through every crack and the silence. In the mornings when I look out through the sliding glass doors to the back yard, I see only the bleakness of the season — a forlorn flower or two, naked trees and gray skies.
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Naida and I spent the past few days watching the impeachment hearings. They fit the season. Dreary and dismal best describes the level of misery to which this nation has fallen. Again and again, the trial managers presented the facts and law that under the rule of law led ineluctably to the verdict they call for. Sadly, it appears the rule of law in our society has been shredded beyond retrieval.

The weekend arrived and I was getting restless. Not energetic mind you, just antsy like there is something I should be doing, exercising perhaps, or singing, maybe even taking a long hot bath. Instead on Saturday, we went to the coffee at Nepenthe Club House. That evening we watched “The Two Popes” on Netflix — great acting to go along with splendid shots of the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo. On Sunday while Naida was off visiting some old friends, I took Boo-boo the Barking Dog on a long walk through the Enchanted Forest. I am always amazed that no matter how many times I have walked through those woods over the almost two years I have lived here, I still find paths I had never walked on before and groves of majestic trees I had never seen.

I returned home to discover that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash. Perhaps, as far as history goes, his death is of little importance in light of the real possibility that our nation and even our world is poised on the brink of dissolution if not outright destruction. Nevertheless, the death of someone whose life, exploits, and youthful enthusiasm have been cut short must sadden us all. Like a feather brushing up against my consciousness, it makes me wonder if it presents an analogy for our age, nation, and indeed us all — the hero’s dreams and his enthusiasm for his future come crashing down in an uncontrolled helicopter. Good-by Kobe, I hope you find whatever it was that you devoted your life to.

I then took a nap, my usual remedy for depression. Later we watched a Nordic silent movie, Swedish I believe, in which a woman throws her three-year-old daughter over a cliff, and then she and her lover die frozen to death in a snowstorm. It is interesting how it can be that even when you do little of anything to make you sad, it still can be a miserable day. But then again “tomorrow is another day.” (Scarlett O’Hara)

A few days later, the weather became warm for this time in the year — not balmy but lacking the cold wet chill of the winter months. In the early evening, Naida and I decided to take Boo-boo the Barking Dog on a long walk along the banks of the American River. It was a pleasant evening. There was a slight pink blaze in the sky to the Southwest. The naked trees painted dark stripes across our view of the river. We stopped for a bit at some benches along the path then continued our walk up to the Guy West bridge where we turned away from the river and meandered back home through the Enchanted Forest.
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The pastel colors of the evening.

 

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Naida and I rest for a moment during our walk.
A few days later the surprisingly balmy days continued so I drove into the Golden Hills. I picked up HRM after school at the Skatepark and took him to Nugget Market in Town Center for a healthy lunch of pepperoni pizza and soda. We had a great talk. I enjoy believing that I am the older wiser person guiding the callow youth past the rocky shoals of adolescence — an affectation, I know. He on the other hand, given his sweet temperament, probably considers it as spending a little time indulging a garrulous and lonely old man.

The next day, I returned to the Golden Hills for my physical therapy appointment. Before the appointment, I picked HRM and Jake from school and drove them to a nearby restaurant called the Relish House that served pretty good hamburgers. They chatted away about cars. H was excited that he had spent a day or two “detailing” Dick’s Mom’s automobile, a 30-year-old Honda. The car became Dick’s after his mom died and he promised it to H when he becomes old enough to drive in a year or so. H’s Mom objected and upset him very much.

It is mushrooms and camellias season in the Enchanted Forest. We had little or no winter this year — perhaps half a shiver’s worth. Now we seem to have slid into early spring without a cry of protest or a whisper of regret. Climate change will beguile us all for a moment or two before we may need to chant Kaddish. Perhaps this is the rapture, a moment of delight followed by eternal darkness.
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Today we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House. We walked from our house to the clubhouse in the balmy morning. There were a few announcements today — The Super Bowl Party tomorrow; Happy Hour next Wednesday; a few more things. Then we got down to small conversations. Winnie and I exchanged treatment stories and our distress over the impeachment hearings. A man whose name I have forgotten and I discussed vests and Bangkok. After browsing through the clubhouse library and finding nothing trashy enough to attract me, we left to return home.

Later that day, I drove the Mitsubishi into the Golden Hills. HRM and Jake wanted to “detail” it — basically a car wash on steroids. So, gathered at Dick’s house were the two boys, Dick, Jake’s father, and me — a gathering of the guys discussing cars. I know nothing about cars. I barely know how to drive them. So, my role in the discussions was to nod knowingly at what I had hoped were appropriate moments and at other times to look suitably serious.

Later this week, I have my immunotherapy infusion appointment. The past few days were days of disappointment. Disappointment in the results of the Impeachment, the Super Bowl, the pizza I devoured recently, and the movies on television I watched during the past few days, but as my favorite philosopher has observed, “It’s always something” (Rosanna Rosannadanna.)

Then, of course, there was the Iowa Democratic Caucus to add a bit of levity to the week.

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