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Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

 
Easter Sunday, I did something I have not done in a very long time. I went to church. No, although faced with my own mortality, I have not converted back to religion just in case I have a soul and there is some vengeful deity somewhere eager to punish me for not giving him the respect he believes he is due.

Naida and I, after celebrating our one year anniversary being together, decided to attend the Easter Morning Services at the Unitarian Universalist center located near the Enchanted Forest. On the scale from a non-religious community organization to a full-blown religion, Unitarians are only one step up from the Society for Ethical Culture which is again only one step up from agnosticism.

The ceremony seemed more a meeting of Liberal Democrats with music than a religious one. The sermon was given by a woman who promptly explained that the Jesus Church, led by those who knew Jesus, was a religion of peace and ethics and that of Paul which eventually became Christianity, was one that focused on death and resurrection. Although the hymns we sang were recognizable, the words were carefully purged of any reference to a deity or a traditional creed.

With our brush with the supernatural behind us, we returned home and watched Anthony Quinn and Jack Palance tear up the scenery in the movie, Barabbas. (It was Easter of course and the entertainment mob, not satisfied that nailing someone to the cross was enough blood and mayhem to memorialize the holiday for Americans, decided to feature a movie instead about a thug and gladiator and a colosseum filled with blood and body parts.)

Monday came with a sigh like the month in which it resides and stepped aside for days of more promise, although the blooming azalea bushes in the backyard and the warm sparkling sunlight overhead heralded enough promise to suit me today.

On Tuesday, I managed to bestir myself enough to take the dog for a brief walk through the Enchanted Forest. The weather was almost summer warm, the skies clear and I walked along happily until my usual lightheadedness forced me to collapse on a bench by the path beneath the trees where I sat until the dog impatiently indicated that he was bored and that if we were not going to traipse around some more good smelling bushes, I might as well take him home — which I did.

I returned to the studio and watched Naida struggle with editing her memoir. She had a roll of butcher paper about eight feet long on which was carefully plotted the genealogy of her family going back as far as the sixteenth century to some British or Scottish Knight. We reviewed it for a while trying to puzzle out a problem with the genealogy of the Whipple family, a prominent New England family, whose progenitor arrived in the colonies in 1631 only ten years after the Mayflower deposited the dour, bigoted and racist Puritans at Plymouth Rock.

Captain John as he was known, tired of the oppression by the Puritan overlords and eager to make his fortune, left the Massachusetts Bay Colony along with Roger Williams and traveled to Rhode Island where he distinguished himself during Prince Phillip’s war. One of his descendants became a signer of the Declaration of Independence. (In case you are thirsting to learn more about the Whipples, in a fit of useless information overkill there some obsessive individuals have created a number of internet sites featuring that particular family’s genealogy and history, the most prominent of which is the Whipple Website [https://www.whipple.org/]. In there, if you want, you can learn of the eleven or so Captain John Whipples floating around the colonies at that time and how to tell them apart.)

The Whipples became quite wealthy “early settlers” eventually settling throughout the colonies and later in the new nation. Eventually, in the 1880s a young descendent named Emma after earning a college degree, something rare for women then, decamped for the Black Hills of the Dakotas to teach school, met an Irishman who could sing well, drink better, and owned a stagecoach, married him and was promptly disinherited by the Whipples for marrying someone below her station and a Catholic to boot. So, penniless, they traveled to Idaho, moved into an abandoned shack and lived a hard but at times exciting life. She was Naida’s great grandmother. Naida got to know her shortly before her death, heard her stories, and experienced a few or her own during her time with her (e.g., the curing of her great grandfather’s “quinsy” attack).

One of the many things I find fascinating about Naida is her apparently bottomless reservoir of stories. I spent my life gathering stories, but alas, compared to her, I am but a home library to her Library of Congress.

After that digression, I returned to writing this and reading my most recent trashy novel about the adventures some Templar Knights searching for the sacred bones of St. Stephen Protomartyr in Muslim controlled Majorca during the 13th Century in order to steal the sacred bones, and bring them back to their refectory (home castle) in Christian Aragon so it could become a prominent pilgrimage site, make tons of money, and allow the Knights to be well supplied with sacramental wine, mutton, and shiny armor.

On Wednesday, the sun was shining, the weather delightfully warm, and I dreadfully bored. So, I decided to go shopping. It is not as though I find shopping either invigorating or relaxing. It’s just that I could not think of anything else to do and we did need some things and Naida celebrates her birthday on Sunday and I wanted to buy her a present. And so, off I went, hoping I had recovered enough from my dizzy spells and other side effects of the chemotherapy to make it through the day. Off I went and made it almost through everything, but by the time I had made it to the last stop, I was well exhausted. Except for brief stops to and from my car to appreciate some flowering bushes, that is how I spent my Wednesday.

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At six AM on Thursday morning, I was awakened by Naida singing an old hymn and giggling. Bleary-eyed and muzzy-headed I turned to her and mumbled, “Sup?” She respond by explaining that she was amused at recollecting how a very old Easter hymn’s lyrics were often mangled by her children in church — “Low in the gravy he lay, a mighty feeling in his toes, bringing in the cheese and singing in the trees.” Now normally I enjoy the music and the stories, but at that time of the morning, I had no response but to mutter, “That’s nice,” turn over and go back to sleep.

The rest of the day passed from my memory leaving little behind but a vague sense of the passage of time and a whiff of ennui.

On Friday morning, nothing occurred worth remembering or writing about. So, I put on my favorite Hawaiian shirt, set my Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department straw hat upon my head, grabbed my faux blackthorn shillelagh walking stick and strolled off through the Enchanted Forest to where I park my car. It must be summer, I mused. Not because the sun was out, or the flowers or the temperatures but because for the first time since last October I donned one of my collection of Hawaiian shirts.

I set off intending to have lunch then to drive into the Golden Hills to visit HRM. I also thought I would try to walk around the lakes at Town Center that I used to enjoy so much but have not been able to since my most recent health setback. Today was the first day in many months I had not felt faint after walking a few feet or more.

During the drive, I decided that I would like to have pasta for lunch and tried to think of someplace that served decent Italian food. As I tried to come up with a place, I realized that good Italian family style cooking is hard to come by these days. I remember while growing up it Tuckahoe NY an Italian family style restaurant existed on almost every street corner. When I arrived in San Francisco in 1970 it was the same. Now those family style places have been replaced by either expensive restaurants pushing faux but chi-chi Italian food or fast food joints — both of which seem to have forgotten how to use herbs and spices as well as other equally egregious sins. I ended up at the Old Spaghetti Factory.

After lunch, I drove to Dick’s house where I found HRM and Jake playing video games in the basement. I told them, “As a responsible adult, I should say to you, ‘Why are you not out in this beautiful day getting some exercise instead of playing video games in the basement.’ You two, as responsible teenagers, should respond, ‘Hmmm, yes we’ll think about it’ and go back to playing your video games.” They laughed and returned to playing “Grand Theft Auto.”

I left after reviewing my mail and drove to Town Center. Following a quick browse through the bookstore, I sat on a bench in the rose garden by the lake. The roses were in full bloom and I sat there enjoying them for a while.
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At the Rose Garden.

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I then walked around the lakes for the first time in six months. I felt good about that.

Saturday, slipped from my memory like fog before sunlight.

Sunday we went to Naida’s daughter Jennifer’s house to celebrate Naida’s birthday. Before the party we all traveled to Sacramento City College to see Jennifer’s daughter, Josephine, perform in a play, a spoof of Little Red Riding Hood.

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After the performance, we returned to the house and the birthday party.

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That evening, back in the Enchanted Forest, I watched the third episode of the eighth year of GOT, the great battle at Winterfell, a bloodbath that lasted a full hour and 20 minutes and ended with Arya killing The Night King. Go, Arya.

And so, such as it was, that is what my week is like nowadays. How was yours?

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Halloween came and went with Hayden dressed as “the Scream” and me handing out candy to whatever goblins and ghosts might ring the doorbell.
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While Hayden went out trick or treating, I manned the home candy dispensing duties alone. I was quite anxious, fearing that no one would come begging at the door. I could not face the humiliation of failing at the simple task of providing children something to rot their teeth and endanger their health. I kept jumping up and down from the sofa and running to the door to see if anyone was coming.

Finally, a shy tiny little blond girl dressed all in bandages showed up. Overcome with excitement and with a big nervous and an undoubtedly scary smile on my face, I held out to her the bowl of candy. She hesitatingly reached into the bowl and timidly plucked out one piece and dropped it into the bag she was carrying.

Interpreting her hesitation as a rejection of my sincere efforts to corrupt the innocent, I shouted “no,” stepped suddenly toward her and in one quick move dumped the entire contents of the bowl into her still open candy bag.

With a surprised squeak and eyes so wide I feared they would fall out of her head and follow the candy into the now almost full bag, she turned and ran off into the darkness.

I spent the remainder of the evening wondering if I was going to receive a visit from the police and questioning whether Halloween candy maven was a suitable career choice for me.

In the days following the trauma of Halloween, I returned to my role as a nanny and in my spare time threw myself into my newest career as URB.im’s Bangkok Bureau Chief. That impressive title requires me to write four posts a month about those who believe they are saving the world by interfering in the lives of the poor and destitute of Thailand.

My pay would be barely adequate to keep a homeless Bangkok street beggar in two bowls of rice and broth a day. It was suggested that, as soon as possible, I find someone who otherwise is unemployed to take over the job, preferably a young local woman living at home with her parents since that was the usual situation of the other Bureau Chiefs. My new employers seemed dubious about entrusting their important work to some overweight broken down old attorney ex-pat who in his dotage would likely slip into some hole in the sidewalk and disappear into the city’s sewer system leaving them without their man in Bangkok.

My first assignment is to write about organizations providing parks for squatters living in tar paper shacks perched on stilts over the same sewers it was expected that I would fall into.

On Saturday I drove to Cameron Park for Hayden’s first Taekwondo tournament. I believe it is one of the functions of the elderly to assume periodically the role of the chauffeur of children and relieve parents of that obligation. God knows, it is not that we (the elderly), have so much else of interest to do that we cannot spare the time.

I was somewhat anxious on the drive. This was my first time driving my charge to a tournament. I worried I would get lost and he would be disqualified (I did, but he did not).

Taekwondo is one of those Asian so-called martial arts that makes one less competent in a street fight than if you knew nothing about it. At least if one were ignorant, he would not believe throwing long distance bombs would help him against a stronger opponent but instead would grapple with him in hope that he could pin down his opponent’s arms before having his lights punched out. The martial art seems to be a cross between an athletic sport and dance; the quick controlled explosiveness of most athletic endeavors coupled with the grace and formalism of dance.

Hayden whose athleticism and technique leaves a lot to be desired, surprised me with his aggressiveness, chasing one of his opponents all over the gym to win 5-0. After the bout, the other boy dropped to the ground and started to cry. H. went over to him and told him he should not feel sad because he, Hayden, had a secret. He explained that his Pookie (that’s me) told him that as soon as the referee signaled the bout to begin he should rush his opponent and hit him as hard as he can. “Now,” that you know the secret,” Hayden continued, “I am sure you’ll win your next bout.”

Flushed with excitement and with H clutching his medal we drove back down the hill, ate a pizza lunch and went to the movies to watch Wreck-it Ralph attempt to redeem his life in 3D animation.
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My partially completed but never to be finished novel, Dominion, can be found at, https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/dominion-an-unfinished-and-never-published-novel/. Below is one of the draft chapters in which the main protagonist, Vince Biondi, is confronted by San Mateo County Sheriff Megs Polan.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL: “Dominion.” When Vince Meets Megs.

Chapter whatever:

Vince took into the office washroom the overnight suitcase he always kept available in his office in case he had to make a sudden short business trip or pulled an all-nighter like this one. He washed as best he could, shaved, changed his clothing and returned to his office just as Ray arrived to accompany him to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office. Ray had obviously been called by Ike and was dressed in what for him passed for business attire, pearl button earrings, a military-style camouflage jacket, matching camouflage pants and neon green Crocs on his feet.

When they arrived at the Sheriff’s office, they were immediately ushered into the office of Sheriff Megan (Megs) Polan, former beauty queen, bodybuilding champion and a rising star in local Republican politics. Vince and Ray sat in chairs across the hygienically clean desk behind which Megs sat enthroned like a medieval duchess. Her still super toned body so filled out her tan uniform that it looked painted on. She had curly auburn hair that hung down to her shoulders and the steely blue eyes of either a stone cold killer or paranoid schizophrenic. She did not rise to greet them or speak but leaned across her desk and pushed a transparent evidence bag containing a small piece of paper towards them. As she bent forward, Vince caught a glimpse of cleavage struggling to escape the casually unbuttoned shirt. He also noticed the large black pistol riding high on her hip. Vince disconcerted that he found himself turned on, covered his embarrassment by dropping his eyes to the proffered evidence bag and studying its contents.

Inside the bag was a piece of paper torn from a small spiral bound notebook and on it, written in a shaky hand, was the message, “If anything should happen to me, call Vincent Biondi,” along with Vince’s personal mobile phone number.

“So Mr. Biondi,” Megs intoned in her surprisingly whiskey edged voice, “what can you tell me about this note and what may have happened to Mrs. Stephanie Coign last night?”

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:
On Tuesday morning, Naida, Boo-boo and I left the Enchanted Forest for the Big Endive by the Bay and my meeting with the surgeon. Upon crossing the Bay Bridge, we drove directly to Peter and Barrie’s house where we unloaded and dropped off Boo-boo. We then proceeded to Mission Bay and my appointment. The night before, we had received a call informing us that the appointment time had been changed from 2:15 PM to 2 PM and insisting we be on time. We waited in the waiting area for over an hour before we were admitted into the examining room where we waited another hour before the surgeon showed up. During that second hour, we were first visited by a young woman who introduced herself as a “swallowing technician.” Yes, she did.

Interspersed between the happy talk and questioning me about the state of my swallowing, I was asked to make funny faces such as blowing out my cheeks while sticking out my tongue. I was also asked to make growling noises for some reason. Finally, a balloon was placed in my mouth and I was directed to press it with my tongue against the roof of my mouth three times. The only reason I could come up with for why I was subject to this silly but not particularly unpleasant activity was that I surmised it allowed the hospital to submit additional charges to Medicare. On the other hand, it could have been intended as entertainment in an effort to cheer me up for what was to come later.

The swallowing technician was followed by another young woman who introduced herself as the doctor’s assistant. Strangely, her first question was to ask me why I was there today. I responded, “Because I wanted to know whether I was a dead man walking or not.”  She seemed confused and stuttered a bit. She then busied herself looking up my records on the computer and informed us that there was a growth on both sides of my throat that had been there since my first CT scan way back in September. “O,” I said, “that’s interesting, no-one ever mentioned that before. Why is that?” She did not know and became even more confused and said she would have to ask the doctor. She then busied herself with administering me a sonogram on my neck and left.

Eventually, the surgeon arrived and his message sounded far less encouraging than I had hoped. Basically, he said that in his opinion it would be unsafe to operate at this time, and implied that at my age it would always be dangerous because my arteries were brittle from age and the effects of my radiation treatment. After musing about altering my chemotherapy regime, he advised me that I should enjoy myself as much as possible now. I did not take that advice as a positive comment on the state of my health. He then said, “I will see you in three months.” That seemed a bit more positive. At least he seemed to expect I would still be around three months from now.

That evening we had dinner back at Peter and Barrie’s. Barrie had cooked a very nice spaghetti carbonara for us. We were joined by a delightful friend of theirs from across the street who also happens to be my most responsive Facebook friend although I had never met her until that evening. She told us she was the daughter of a wealthy family in Orange County and that she had been kicked out of every college she attended until she ended up at some college in Mexico City before migrating to San Francisco at the height of its reign as the capital of hippiedom. There she was involved with people like Chet Helms and other leaders of the movement during those brief but wonderfully bizarre times.

The following morning we returned to the Enchanted Forest.

 

B. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
As I age, like many Vecchi, my short term memory seems to be…. well, a vague memory. If I do not write here every day, I often forget what has happened.

It is Friday evening. We returned on Wednesday. I recall little of what occurred in between. We walked the dog several times. I visited EDH a few times and drove HRM and Jake to Dick’s house. Susan McCabe called to see how I was doing. That made me happy. So did the Good/Bad David today. He was calling from the doctor’s office. It seems he is having blood-clot problems. That did not make me happy.

Today, I picked up Hayden, Jake, Caleb, and Hamza and drove them all to Dick’s house. I asked them how they were doing in school. Jake said his marks were improving because he was studying more. Hayden said his were also. I asked him why that was. He said that Dick promised he would be allowed to move from his small bedroom to the large family room downstairs if he gets certain grades on his final report.

I left them off at the house. There would be no adult supervision there (Hayden is a latch key kid now) because I was returning directly to the Enchanted Forest. I made them promise they would get into only a little bit of trouble. I worry about him. I know how distressing loneliness can be for an adolescent.

On Saturday, Naida and I exercised in the gym at the Nepenthe club-house. On Sunday, we sat in the studio, Naida editing her memoir in hopes of having it published before the State Fair opens in July while I passed the time writing this and trying to find something interesting enough on the internet to banish the pit of ennui into which I seem have fallen. I am not unhappy, in fact, I am as happy as I have ever been. It is just that I find this much sedentary living unsettling. Usually, whenever I have had this little to do, I take a nap. For some strange reason, I am both napping less and doing less. I will think more about this tomorrow, or the next day and perhaps understand it better.

It is now Tuesday afternoon. Tomorrow I leave for The Big Endive by the Bay and my infusion appointment. As usual, I will stay at Peter and Barrie’s house for two evenings before returning here on Friday.

 

C. OFF FOR TWO DAYS IN THE BIG ENDIVE WITH QUESTIONS OF MORTALITY.
So, three weeks have passed since my last Chemotherapy infusion and we are off again to San Francisco for what may be my final Chemo infusion and hopefully to find out more about my prognosis. As usual, we spent the night a Peter and Barrie’s home. My grandson Anthony arrived and joined us for dinner along with a friend of Peter and Barrie. She, suffering from incurable ovarian cancer, has lived for four years so far on immunotherapy alone. She has spent those four years happily traveling around the world. Hiromi and my granddaughter Amanda joined us a little later but Amanda was suffering from a bad cold and since I was told by my doctors to avoid such contacts they left after a brief meet and greet.

Barrie prepared a great meal that featured excellent polenta. During the meal, we told stories and played “small world.” You know, recalling the famous and near famous we may have run into in our long lives. Sometimes, I feel a bit like Zelig that mysterious character played by Woody Allen in the film of the same name who appears in the background of photographs of significant historical events. If I can be excused for name dropping and I can (this is my Journal after all) let me list the US president’s I have met and known — Reagan, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — and presidential candidates, Fred Harris, Mike Dukakis, and Hillary Clinton. I assume most of us as we age have brushed shoulders with the so-called great and near great and experienced at least a passing contact with significant events. I guess we are all Zeligs to some extent.

The next morning I met with my oncologist, he told us that this was to be my last chemotherapy treatment and that surgery to remove the tumor was off the table because of my age and the fragility of my carotid artery. This opinion was devastating to me since it was essentially a death sentence. However, he also told us that the chemo has stabilized the tumor and it appears to have been effective in preventing cancer from spreading to other parts of my body. He informed us he was putting me on a two-year immunotherapy regime and advised me to enjoy life to the fullest. He appears quite confident that an early onset of death would be delayed to sometime beyond the two years and perhaps held in check long after that. This cheered me up — but only a bit.

That evening back at Peter and Barrie’s during dinner we had to break up a contretemps between Ramsey and Boo-boo over possession of a well-chewed tennis ball.
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Boo-boo Hiding Out at Peter and Barrie’s House after Misbehaving.

 

The next morning we returned to Sacramento.

 

D. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST AND A BRIEF TRIP INTO THE FOOTHILLS.
After dropping Naida and Boo-boo off at our house in the Enchanted Forest, I drove up to the Golden Hills and Picked up HRM and the gang and drove them to Dick’s house. H and I discussed the possibility of making a trip to Portland, Idaho, and Montana during his spring break. I then returned home and wrote this while watching Ray Milland and Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder. We then walked the dog. I feel good.

It is now Sunday. Spring seems to have slipped into the Great Valley and taken hold, bringing with it sunny days, warm weather, flowers of every color and hay fever (It’s always something —Rosanna Rosannadanna.) It being such a beautiful day, I decided to walk the dog along the meandering pathways of the Enchanted Forest. The new leaves of the ground cover ivy were a bright almost iridescent green in the bright sun.

On Tuesday at about 2PM, I went to bed. Not for a nap, I knew I would not get up until the following morning. The side-effects of the Chemo infusion, depression, and general fatigue had exhausted me. I woke up periodically during that afternoon and evening. During those brief periods, I would read a chapter of Elena Ferrante’s Novel, “My Brilliant Friend,” or check up on Facebook and then return to sleep.

Ferrante’s book is marvelous and its translation extraordinary. The translation often preserves the Italian language’s ability to express itself in long (at times a page or more) complex sentences encompassing vast emotions and multiple events that in English must be broken up into many separate sentences.

At some point during the evening, I finally came to terms with the fact that I was going to die, sooner rather than later. It is clear that an operation is infeasible and any potential chemical cure has run its course unsuccessfully. I recalled when Bill Yeates’ wife in a similar situation had had enough of the suffering from attempts to prolong her life and the courage to chose to take advantage of the new law to end it humanely. I do not believe I will choose that approach. Primarily because I am, in fact, happier than I have ever been in my life. At night, every night, I lie entwined in Naida’s arms ( sometimes so entwined we giggle over our inability to easily identify whose arms and legs belong to whom). There is a peace and happiness I never experienced before. Yes, I always had hoped I would find that, but there was always something else to do, something more to explore. Perhaps happiness needed accomplishment and experience. And, it did — but only for the stories with which to pass the time and perhaps a bit of justification for one’s life. But enough of this. I woke up on Tuesday. It is another day. When I awoke she was in my arms and that is all that matters now.

Damn, I cannot connect to the internet today. I cannot figure out how to fix the problem. Naida’s computer is connected. My smart-phone after a brief problem connected, but my computer remains— stubbornly unresponsive. What to do? What to do? Is interruption of internet service a modern form of Death? I sit in my chair typing this and feeling a strange form of fear. What happens should I not be able to re-connect here, am I doomed to trundling off to Starbucks every day to access the internet and confirm my existence? Is my life so bereft of meaning that I am reduced to depending on the friendship of people on Facebook many of whom I have never met? Is social media simply an updated version of those two-way radios long-distance truck drivers used to use to avoid the boredom and loneliness of their working lives? Have we become the physical and emotional slaves of our machines? Are we needed for anything beyond self-indulgence? Am I so bored that I need to ask these questions even in jest? Is anyone laughing? If I were connected to the internet I could find out.

Ha, one of our medical student borders just came downstairs and said her internet connection was down also. She promptly marched over to the modem that I had fiddled with for a very frustrating hour or so, pressed a button on top and the internet connection popped right up again. I feel like an idiot. Now if she can do the same with my failed medical treatments I would call today a very good day.

This morning, Hayden called to ask me to pick him up after school. It was unusual for him to call like that, so despite not being completely over with the side-effects of the infusion, I drove into the Golden Hills. I met HRM and Caleb at the skatepark. They were planning to go to the Wednesday church youth get together. He said that his mom appears to have relaxed her opposition to him attending. She had wanted him to become a Buddhist and not a Christian. He felt Buddhism was a way of life and not a religion. “Besides,” he said, “it’s boring for teenagers.” She seemed to concede by responding “Whatever makes you happy.” So I dropped them off at Caleb’s home where they would spend the afternoon until it was time to go to the teenage get-together. I left them with my advice that they should be kind to all as much as they can but to be fair to everyone and drove back to the Enchanted Forest where I was met by a happily yapping little dog and a hug from Naida.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

These are gloomy days. Moody skies cover the Enchanted Forest as the winter storms pass over the Great Valley. Threatening they may look, but they leave behind only a ceaseless cold drizzle and little silver droplets on the branches of the trees — the only bright spot in the muted and silent landscape. I assume the storms reserve their wrath for the mountains depositing layers of new snow to the delight of skiers and those who fret about reservoir levels.

My mood is bleak also. There are three daggers aimed at me now. My cancer of course, but also an enhanced threat of infection and a shut down of my ability to pee threatening irreparable damage to my kidneys.

Naida had a bad cold. We walk around the house with masks on, wash our hands constantly and I try to avoid touching places she has touched as though…well, as though a dread disease lurks there — which of course it does. As Rosanna Rosannadanna says, “It’s always something.” And, at my age, that is probably truer than ever.

My daughter Jessica is in San Francisco, thanks in part to the government shutdown and to attend a funeral she is hesitant to talk about. I am very excited to see her. It has been a long time, perhaps two years, maybe more.

(Note: As I type this, I am also watching a movie about Giant carnivorous rabbits attacking a town in the western US. This has got to be the nadir of my existence.)

During the past few days, a lot of the usual annoyances of life sped by — towing my car and the rush to get it out of the pound, confusing discussions with pharmacists and medical professionals, and so on. Naida remains sick, Trump remains not my president, life continues as it usually does until it doesn’t, and I find myself unusually bored. But, tomorrow is another day (Scarlett O’Hara).

On Sunday, my daughter Jessica arrived. She drove up from San Francisco to see me. Seeing her after almost three years made me very happy. It has been too long. She looks well. She’s recovering from a series of concussions she experienced playing soccer over the years. The concussion injury to her brain caused several perception and other problems. We talked about our various maladies and other things. He Who is Not My President’s governmental shutdown has had one good result, my daughter, furloughed by the shutdown, was able to return to California and visit with me.

It is now Tuesday night. What I wanted to write here since that time has passed on from when I thought it important or at least depressed enough to think so. It appears another of my medicines had caused an allergic reaction that resulted in me wanting to simply give up. It has passed.

I don’t often give up. Not giving up has always been important to me. In the almost incessant fights I found myself in during my youth, I would not give up no matter how badly I was beaten. And, I was beaten most of the time.

During my years as a trial lawyer, I asked only to be assigned cases no one in the office would touch because they believed those cases were losers. I still managed to amass the third longest string of consecutive victories at the beginning of a career in the history of New York (while also losing my marriage because of my obsession).

I refused to be daunted by opposition from the medical profession and my own colleagues in setting up NY’s Mental Health Information Service that reformed NY’s mental health hospital system from the horror it inflicted on my mom and innumerable others. It became the model for the nation. That agency still exists today.

There was no option for me other than the approval of California’s Coastal Program as it was expected to be, and the successful establishment and financing of the innovative California Coastal Conservancy no matter the cost to me (another marriage) and to those that worked for me. That occupied 13 years of my life.

The same can be said for the law firm on whose management committee I served and obsessively fought against often unanimous opposition to alter the economic and social mores of the firm for the benefit of the workers, women attorney’s and the firm as a whole by, among other things, demonstrating that the health and profitability of the firm did not depend solely upon the efforts of those with the largest books of business who inevitably end up plundering the firm for their own benefit. The health of a firm depended as much upon the lowliest of paralegals and junior partners and that balanced practice groups are necessary in order to weather the effects of the various business cycles and that those groups adversely affected by a business cycle should not be punished by those groups benefiting from the cycle (e.g., bankruptcy and real estate often operate on opposing cycles).

As a member and later Chairman of California’s High Speed Rail Commission during a period when it appeared to be foundering, I put it back on track so to speak, by pushing through its EIR, changing its tendency for locating its stations at the edges of the cities to bringing them downtown where they would revitalize the communities, developing the concept of the HS network as a backbone transportation system for California whereby multiple regional transportation systems could connect to the downtown stations and service the entire region; and finally fighting against the rapacious efforts of the four of five large engineering firms who sought to control the process for their own benefit and who, I believe, can be blamed for much of the criticism HSR has been subject to since I was removed by Governor Schwarzenegger over the issue.

On the other hand, when I lost (most often a marriage), I usually ran away and started again and again somewhere else. From New York to Pennsylvania, to Rome Italy, to back to the US, to San Francisco, to Thailand, to The Golden Hills and now to the Enchanted Forest. In each place, often penniless, I licked my wounds, struggled with despair, indulged in excess and dreamed of renewal, a new life somehow somewhere, and ultimately I moved on. There was, however, even during these times always something I could not give up on, first Jason, then Jessica and now HRM. I may not always have been successful in their view, but I tried and they kept me more alive and happy than I am sure they believe I have benefitted them. But no more now, they are grown (perhaps not HRM) and despair now is reserved for those times when the pains and discomfort of my various maladies become too much and instead of not giving up, I sometimes long for the peace of oblivion.

Talk about depressing things, the HAC just towed our automobile again. I left them a nasty message and threatened to sue them.

B. UPDATE ON THE MYSTERIOUS ORB.

For those interested in the odd adventures of the Mysterious Orb, it has moved slightly from when it emerged from the bush behind which it had been hiding to show Nikki the way to our house. It has now rolled on a short way and appears to be intending to hide behind another bush to await for whatever the orb waits for next.

It moved from its hiding place behind the smaller bush on the right where it had hidden for a few weeks to the center of the space where Nikki saw it. The Orb has since then moved on toward the bush on the left. Whether it will choose to hide behind that bush or proceed on up the alleyway, I can only guess. I await the next episode in the adventures of the Odd and Mysterious Orb.

The Mysterious Orb —Photograph Taken From Our Garage.

Today about four days after the above was written, the Orb made its decision and is now well hidden behind the bush on the left.

A few days later, during an early morning walk, I passed by the alley where the Odd Orb was hiding. I noticed one of the Turkey Gangs pecking around that part of the alley near where the Orb was hiding. It got me thinking. Do you suppose it is the Turkey Gangs that are moving the Orb around? The birds are big enough to do so. If so, why? Another mystery.

C. OFF TO THE BIG ENDIVE ON THE BAY.

First, we bailed the car out of impoundment. I grumbled and plotted revenge on those I believed targeted me specifically. On the drive home in response to my complaints, Naida said, “I guess we know now that there is a wicked witch in the Enchanted Forest.”

Then we spent some time on our computers doing last minute things. Finally, we and the dog set off to the Big Endive on the Bay. We arrived at Peter’s house in late afternoon. My daughter arrived soon after. We had a pleasant evening reminiscing. Jessica planned to leave on Friday to go back to Washington DC. I will be sad to see her go I do not know when I will see her again.

The next day I met with my doctor and received the first glimmer of good news in at least the past three months. He said that cancer had shrunk enough to bring the possibility of an operation to remove it before the board of surgeons. They then efficiently scheduled all tests and my infusion to occur the remainder of the day.

That night we had dinner at a local Italian Restaurant that I used to enjoy when I lived in that neighborhood years ago. It used to cost about $10 for the same meal I enjoyed that night. Now, that same meal cost me $70. Nothing had changed but the wealth of those that now live in the neighborhood.

Later, Hiromi and my granddaughter Amanda arrived at Peter’s house for a visit.


D. BACK TO THE ENCHANTED FOREST.

We returned to the Enchanted Forest on Friday. On Saturday I drove into the Golden Hills to drive the Scooter Gang around. While we were driving HRM turned to me with a big smile on his face and said, “Pookie, I have a girlfriend.” How does one respond to that? I settled on, “Good for you” and high-fived him. Now I worry.

Among the books I have read so far this month was James Lee Burke’s most recent Robicheaux and Purcell saga. The boys are getting old — and they know it. They still, however, act like adolescents while Burke places in their minds the sorrows and sadness of aging heroes approaching their end. Although, the novel takes place by Bayou Teche in Louisiana and Monument Valley Arizona, the epilogue has Dave, Clete and Dave’s adopted daughter Alifair recovering from their efforts and injuries in a motel in Bodega Bay California and traveling up and down Highway One for entertainment.

Alas, I just got word that Lucia’s bar in Sacile, a place I always considered the happiest place on earth, is no more. It has succumbed to the downsizing of the nearby American military base and the Italian economy’s multi-year depression. Lucia is now working as a barista in one of the other cafes in the town. This is all so sad.

I am losing my hair as a result of the chemo. Great gobs of hair flitter down from my head often falling into my food as I eat, making it even more unappetizing than usual. It all amuses me. If it continues I will become the first person in my direct ancestry to go bald in at least five generations. My head looks like it is covered with down.

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A. IN THE GOLDEN HILLS.

Thanksgiving Day brought with it an intermittent sun playing hide and seek with the rain. We had lunch in the Golden Hills with HRM, Uncle Mask, Adrian and N. I was surprised to see N there. She had come to California a few days before and will remain until late December when she will take HRM to Italy for the Holidays. The lunch featured a well-made ham with several toppings to choose from. I was a bit disconcerted because I had expected I would be minding H during Dick’s absence in early December but with N there, I expect that would not be necessary.

N and HRM

Later, we drove back to Sacramento for dinner with Naida’s Daughter Sarah, her family, and their two dogs, a black and white brindled standard poodle named George Washington and Franklyn Delano Roosevelt, a large mixed pit bull and retriever. We brought along Boo-boo, a mixed Chihuahua and whatever, who although he may have lacked the size and prestigious name of the other two dogs, by the end of the night had clearly acquitted himself as an equal.

Dinner included turkey with all the fixings and pumpkin pie and cheesecake for dessert. The cheesecake made by Sarah’s son Charlie, who happily explained to all of us the secret of making a perfect cheesecake — first rule “do not beat your eggs,” mix them slowly using only a certain rotation of one’s arms and shoulders. He then demonstrated the movement. It looked quite painful

B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:


The rains have returned soft and gentle. The streets, lawns, and pathways in the Enchanted Forest glisten a brilliant red and yellow. Here and there pods from the Deodar Cedar litter the walkway like little banana slugs. For the first time, it seemed like autumn.

As usual, we attended the Saturday morning coffee at the clubhouse. Surprisingly, as many men attended this week as women. I sat a bit off to the side, observing as I often do. I could not help noticing the usual neatly coiffed hair on the spy who goes by the name “Ducky.” It always looks as though she just came from the hairdresser. Unlike most of us at this advanced age whose hair of various colors gone drab, interlaced with streaks or dreary grey, and winds about our heads like birds nests, hers, a brilliant white, sparkled like icy snow in the sunlight.

I decided to survey hands today. Most of the woman had long slender fingers gone knobby with age. The model’s fingers were the longest. Like many whose movements are often characterized as elegant, the tips of her fingers seemed to move as though they were independent of the hands to which they were attached. Naida’s hands, unlike the others, were the hands of someone who spent a life of a farm or a ranch, thick and strong.

I noticed while most kept their hands relatively still when they talked they would now and then gesture whenever they were making a point. Naida again was an outlier. Her hands flew about vigorously as she talked. She would not be out of place in Southern Italy. In fact, in Sicily, the Sicilians would consider her an uplifting and ebullient person before even hearing a word she had spoken. Alas, to these same people, her hand movements would appear to them as gibberish — meaningless noise. Americans use their hands while speaking only as punctuation. Without words it is meaningless. In Sicily, the gestures are words and have meaning independent of what is spoken.

We then returned to the house, Naida to work on her Memoir and me to write this. Later we walked the dog along the levee beside the American River. The setting sun shining through air recently washed clean by the rains lit up the autumn colors like fireworks.

On Sunday we sat around the house. Naida read to me sections from her memoir. As she read the words, my mind transformed them into scenes from a movie — the frightening 25 mile skate down the frozen Big Hole River; learning of her parents divorce; the comical introduction to her father’s new girlfriend; the infatuation of a 13 year old girl with her handsome uncle; the fight with her brother over a plate of macaroni and cheese; the dreams, the fears and the sorrows… It will be a wonderful book — a Little Women with real drama.

The Author at Work in Her Studio

Monday I had an appointment with my primary care physician. As he entered the examining room, I said, “Since my surgeons agree I am a dead man walking, I intend to go out happy, pain-free and without my bowels turned into cement. So, I need you to prescribe the pills that will allow me to do so.”

“We are from birth all dead men walking, ” he responded. “Nevertheless, I think I can provide what you need. I even know of something that relieves pain without constipation.” He added that he understood what I was going through because he has had two bouts of his own with cancer. Also, his seven-year-old child was struck with bone cancer and had to have his leg amputated below the knee.

Once again, I found myself embarrassed and humiliated by my misplaced sense of humor.

The doctor a youngish man, in his late thirties or early forties, is built like an NFL linebacker and specializes in sports medicine. At my prior visits to his office, I noticed a deep sadness in his eyes that made me wonder. Now I know why.

He prescribed a healthy supply of Xanax to keep my spirits up, a pain reliever that keeps my bowels lubricated and even a topical that eliminates the irritation caused by my clothing rubbing against the tumor. Finally, he explained that the most important thing he’d learned from his own experience with cancer was that one ought not to concern one’s self about the future but concentrate only on what needs to be done that day. In other words, take it one day at a time. I am not a fan of platitudes (unless they are my own, of course) but appreciated the effort.

C. TO SAN FRANCISCO AND BACK AGAIN:


On Tuesday we left for San Francisco to spend the evening with Peter and Barrie before my visit with the physician at UCSF early the next day. We brought the dog along with us because Barrie thought it would be a good idea to see how he got along with their dog, Ramsey.

That evening, leaving the dogs with Barrie, Naida and I went to a French restaurant on 24th Street where Peter’s trio was performing. They were very good, as was the food. Peter played bass, the leader of the group, guitar, and the third member, the violin. Peter told us he (the violinist) is or was first violinist in the LA Symphony. If you’re ever in the Noe Valley area on a night they are playing you should drop in.

The Boys in the Band.

The next day, I met with the oncologist at UCSF to explore potential treatment options including clinical trials. As usual, I began with an inappropriate joke. When the doctor entered the room and settled into the chair opposite me, I said, “Now that two surgeons have agreed that ripping out a part of my throat and slicing off parts of my body with which to fill the resulting hole was not advisable, what options are available to me?”

The doctor a youngish Korean-American oncologist with a national reputation was not amused. Nevertheless, after asking some questions he played out a treatment program that appeared to me to be promising if we could get the insurance company to approve it in a reasonable amount of time.

D. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST AND A VISIT TO THE RIVER OF RED GOLD:


On Wednesday, I rested all day and Thursday, I turned my attention primarily to a request of Terry’s that I am sure, as usual, will turn out more interesting than beneficial. I also received a call from my doctors that the insurance company approved my treatment plan and it will start early next week. Hooray!

If I have learned anything from life (I am pretty sure I have not), it is that that one learns less from success than from failure and it’s more interesting too. Also, behaving foolishly is a lot more fun than propriety could ever be.

On Friday, I accompanied Naida to Meadowlark Inn at Slough-house on the old Jackson Highway. There Naida had a luncheon with a small book club (about eight women). They discussed her California Gold Trilogy. Later we all went to the historical Slough-house cemetery several of the characters mentioned in her books were buried. Naida told some fascinating stories about the area — the Native American, Chinese and European settlers, the gold discoveries, the massacres and the private lives of the people buried in the cemetery that she had garnered from their diaries. She even found the grave of the old woman who had become her friend and whose diary had begun her interest in the area and became an important part of her books.

The Girls at the Cemetery.

Following that, we drove to the bank of the Cosumnes River in Rancho Murieta where the Indian village described in her books stood. She became quite upset when she saw that the great old mother oak, sacred to the Native Americans who were buried in the ancient midden that lay beneath its branches, had been chopped down by the developer (despite his promises not to.) We then walked along the river bank and explored the rocks containing many native grinding holes and the stepped stone platform where she was sure the natives gathered to listen to the orations of the head man whenever there was a festival or a party. Naida mentioned that the area was so productive that it has been estimated the average time native male worked (built things, hunted and so-on) was only 45 minutes a day and the average women 3 hours. It was a peaceful paradise that existed for over 600 years until it was utterly destroyed by European immigrants from the United State in less than twenty.

On the Banks of the Cosumnes.




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My daughter arrived in SF this weekend to visit her grandmother in LA who had a mild stroke. She and I had lunch on Sunday. After lunch, we went to a Peet’s Coffee for coffee and conversation. I was startled by several insights that she had, that I had not thought of before. While talking about people’s self-image of things like sexuality, race and the rest, she mentioned Sesame Street. I always saw the show as fun and a bit preachy. She pointed out that to her and she assumed others of her generation, the colors and the various roles of the characters communicated that it was not your color, where you lived or your gender and the like that make you who you are, but what you do. It is not whether you are green and live in a garbage can that identifies you but whether you are a grouch or not (Although it could be argued that being green and living in a garbage can would make most people grouchy). If she were right it would make Sesame Street highly subversive. No wonder the conservatives are so obsessed with closing down Public Television.

She then mentioned that prior to her generation (children of the baby boom and the denizens of the 60’s) so-called normal family life, which no matter how dysfunctional, formed the basis of ones personality, and that your other experiences in life (like watching Sesame Street) affected that to a greater or lesser degree. But, her generation was perhaps the first in the West where a significant percentage of children experienced something different from previous generations, so-called, normal family life. As a result, she and she assumed many of her generation, lacking that tradition, perverse or not, often relied on the media, such as in her case Sesame Street, to create that core value system or image of morality upon which the rest of their personality accreted. I then thought about the circumstances of children today, like Hayden growing up on Sponge Bob Square Pants and viewing a gullible, happy-go-lucky yellow sponge who uses his nose as a flute and exists primarily on hamburgers and ice cream as their image of normalit

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