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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN VERONA:

 

The train ride from Sacile to Verona was relatively uneventful. Traveling by train is my favorite way to go. I find train stations far more comfortable than airline terminals, don’t you? I mean, despite all the time and motion studies and the ergonomic designs that go into the building of a modern airport, an old train station with their hard wooden benches and old train station smells seem much more comfortable than any airport I have been in — except perhaps for Singapore.

I like standing around in train stations or on the platforms watching people walk about or disembark or board trains. I don’t think much about whatever I see going on around me. I never wonder, for example, where all these people are going to or coming from or why. No, I just watch hoping to see something odd or entertaining.

Come to think of it, I may be one of the oddest things around. Here I am, an old man, older than almost anyone in the crowd passing by, taller than most here in Italy, frightfully skinny like an oddly dressed cadaver, a hunched back becoming more Quasimodo like by the day, a long dour face resembling some ancient sad-faced bloodhound with jowls plunging below its jaw, dressed in a loud Hawaiian shirt, a sweat-stained straw hat on my head, ill-fitting shades and carrying a cane shaped like a shillelagh — Odd I seem, odd indeed.

Verona — As tourist destinations and cities in Italy go, Verona is an also-ran. It never amounted to much. Even during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when Italy in these parts was jumping, Verona nestled comfortably in the shadow of its wealthier and more powerful neighbors. It has, however, a few archeological and artistic treasures of note including a bitchin Roman amphitheater and some fine medieval castles and palazzos to attract the well-heeled tourist.

Most of whatever Verona has to draw the curious visitor it owes to two rather shallow young men and a rather idiotic pair of doomed lovers — all figments of the fertile imagination of a bald-headed English playwright. That’s right, people come from all over the world to Verona to see what never existed — a fiction. Even the greatest of the mad men of Madison Avenue would be hard pressed to top that.

Anyway, I booked into a hotel that billed itself as being a mere four kilometers from the old city and sporting a four-acre garden and at a price that seemed a bargain. I thought that would be great. I could enjoy the garden, take a taxi to visit the old city and save money. Unfortunately, the distance from downtown was somewhat of an under-exaggeration and a $20 taxi ride to boot.

After checking in, I had a delightful lunch in the hotel restaurant overlooking the pool. I ate an interesting pasta, a type that I had never eaten before. The noodles were tightly wrapped pieces of dough about an inch long and quite thin. It made for a very chewy noodle. I think they are called “sparrow.” The pasta was served with a tomato and eggplant sauce. It was quite good.
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Following lunch, I strolled around the gardens. Feeling good about my meal and enjoying my walk, I decided to skip Bolzano, skip visiting the old town of Verona and stay here for the next few days lounging about the pool, walking through the gardens and eating. Having reached that decision, I then returned to my room and promptly made a reservation for new lodging the next day in the heart of old town. With that all behind me, I showered, napped and later ate a dinner beginning with mussels, followed by a pasta in a white sauce with peas and asparagus and tiramisu for dessert. I also had one or more glasses of my beloved prosecco. Then, I returned to my room and went to sleep.

The following morning, just before I left for breakfast, noticed the large painting on the wall of my room that up until then I thought was some hotel commissioned impressionist paint splashing of a crooked vase — suddenly the subject matter of the painting became clear:
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I later checked into a B&B near the inner walls of the old town of Verona. While waiting for the owner of the place to show up and register me, I strolled over to the building that housed the supposed sarcophagus of poor little Juliet. Considering that her resting place remained unknown for 400 years until some enterprising Veronese came up with this one, I have my doubts. About one or two hundred years later, Dickens, after meeting the women in whose keeping the sarcophagus descended, described her as “clear-eyed.” Clear-eyed enough to spot a rube, I would imagine.

After a brief and unsuccessful attempt to connect into the “free” internet promised by the B&B, I set out to explore the town. I ate a lunch of a rather undistinguished risotto at a restaurant on the large plaza near the ruins of the bitchin old Roman Colosseum. Then I strolled around, saw Juliet’s house and searched for poor old Romeo’s home. No luck, the tourist maps were unhelpful and misleading, nevertheless, I enjoyed poking about the alleyways of the old town. I then returned to the B&B for a nap before dinner.
IMG_4813         The Roman Amphitheater and some Thai woman in a red dress trying to avoid having her picture taken.
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The Adige River with the old Roman Theater at the base of the hill in the background.

IMG_4818                                              The famous and well–photographed balcony with an old Roman ruin in the foreground.

After again attempting to connect with the internet and getting the same results, I left for dinner. I looked for a neighborhood away from the tourist centers and a restaurant with older pot-bellied waiters and with a clientele that spoke mostly Italian. I found one. It specialized in fish. I ordered cod in an interesting brown gravy and a side of well-made polenta and a glass of prosecco. I enjoyed myself immensely. After a tasty creme brûlée to finish off the meal, I left the restaurant for a walk before heading back to my room. For the most part, there was only me walking the streets in that part of town — just me and the silence except for the sound of my walking stick clacking on the pavement and the thrum of a motor scooter off in the distance. Now and then, I would see someone scurry across the street or cross a darkened intersection. I enjoyed myself as I walked while the gloaming passed into night.

 
B. BACK IN LOMBARDY — WELL NOT EXACTLY, MORE LIKE BACK AND FORTH:

The morning after breakfast, I walked to the train station and purchased a ticket to Milan. Because I had some time before my train departed, I decided to enjoy a second cup of coffee and a brioche con crema. This was to be my first mistake of many I was to make that day. You see, I misread the ticket and thought the arrival time at Milano was the departure time at Verona. I missed the train. I had to buy another ticket because my original one was for reserved seating and the express. The next train was a local, more cattle car than a train. I bought the ticket anyway.

Among the interesting things, I observed as we rode along was the young woman all smiles and enthusiasm who eagerly attempted to engage in conversation with the young man sitting opposite us. He was most likely a student, deeply engrossed in a book of mathematics. He answered her persistent queries with one-word responses or grunts until he realized what she was up to, blushed, and closed the book. The rest of the trip involved lengthy and animated conversations about train travel and railroads mostly. As the train approached her stop, the young woman announced it sadly and they both hurriedly went on about how fortunate it was to meet each other, how much they enjoyed the conversation and the hope that they would meet again. Alas, neither asked the critical question, “What is your telephone phone number.” It is because of this reticence that many a promising relationship goes unfulfilled. If only Romeo and Juliet had been this timid they could have lived, married others and populated the world with even more blushing lovers — alas. The young woman rose from her seat, stood there for a moment looking forlorn, then turned and got off the train.

Now, with that bit of theater behind me, things got more interesting, but not in the way I would have liked. You see, the person I was to meet who I have been warned not to mention and whom I shall hereafter refer to only as N, was to pick me up at the Milan train station, but on account of that prime mistake, I would now be grossly late. I attempted to call him but I discovered my phone no longer worked, only giving me back several unsatisfying machine responses to my frantic calls and messages.

I arrived at the station and of course, N was not there. Now, I am not going to list each and every one of the cascades of wrong decisions that ensued from my original mistake. You can pick them out yourselves. Anyway, I first decided on another cup of coffee to calm my nerves and to wait there in the train station cafe savoring the espresso and hoping N would decide to return one last time to see if I had arrived. After finishing my coffee, I tried reaching others on my phone in an effort to secure assistance for my plight with the same results as I had trying to contact N. That is, nothing except machine speak. I then decided to find an ATM and withdraw some money in case I had to spend the night. The damned machine merely responded “unauthorized.” I, of course, told myself I obviously was not panicking as I began trying everything I could think of including begging the damned machine for some money — all to no avail. I then thought, cleverly I believed, that I could use a pay phone to call up my bank, call N, and call my carrier and clear everything up and save the day. I asked in several shops if they could direct me to a pay phone. Ha! I learned that in our wireless world, pay phones no longer exist (at least not in Milano). I then began asking people in the station to call N on their smart-phones in the hope that he would respond, pick me up and drive me to his apartment where I could use his computer to fix my modern communication generated crisis.

Unfortunately, there was no answer. I continued this every five minutes or so asking startled and suspicious travelers to call — All unsuccessful. It was then I realized with horror, in this modern age anyone without internet access is a non-person. So, here I was, In the Milano Centrale (Mussolini’s great architectural work) penniless, homeless and destitute. I found the predicament quite energizing and in its own way romantic.

After another hour or so of thought and indecision, I decided to search through all my pockets and my luggage hoping I would find enough odd coinage to pay my way back to Sacile. I did find enough, bought a ticket, hopped on the train and about seven hours later popped off at the Sacile station in the dark of night. Not being able to call Vittorio, I made my way to Hank’s house. Although it was late and Camille earlier that day had injured herself and was recuperating, he graciously let me use his internet connection and assisted me in dealing with my problems until sometime after midnight things seemed back to normal. They let me stay the night there and the next morning I again traveled across northern Italy. This made three times in two days I made that damned trip.

I thought it was obvious my phone had been hacked in Verona. (“Hacked in Verona,” a movie starring John Goodman as an aging, fat, inept, hacker hiding out in Verona because of his erroneous belief he was being hunted by the police of several nations. Frances McDormand plays the Interpol receptionist dedicated to tracking him down to let him know that, in fact, no one was looking for him. She locates him in a one-room attic apartment two doors away from the “Juliet” house. They fall in love and she moves into the apartment. The film was so successful that its two stars were contracted to appear in its sequel, “Malaise in Verona.” — OK Peter the ball is in your court.)

 

C. ST. MORITZ AND MORE ALPS THAN ONE CAN HANDLE:

At three the next morning N and I left to travel to Milano Centrale to catch the 6AM train to Tirano near the Swiss border in order to take the famous tourist train that climbs from there into the Alps and on to St. Moritz and beyond. The train to Tirano passed along the edge of Lake Como and into the mountains. At Tirano, we boarded the amazing train (a World Heritage something or other) that climbs the Alps summer and winter. When we arrived at St. Moritz, we had an excellent lunch at some upscale restaurant. Next to us was a table of six or seven youngish men (Anyone in their 30”s and 40’s I consider young) three of whom sported prison tats including the obvious leader (he paid the bill), a swarthy man with wavy black hair and sunglasses that he never took off. N overhearing some of their conversations said they discussed something about the clothing industry but confirmed they were those people you usually deny having seen. After lunch and a brief walk along the lake, we returned to the train and began the ride down the Alps. We arrived back at N’s apt at about 12 midnight.

I took a lot of photographs. These are some:

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The Alps.
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St. Moritz.

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More Alps.

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Still more Alps with a town in the valley.
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Even more Alps. This time with the World Heritage train in the foreground.

The next day, we slept late and went for a walk of about three miles from Busto to another town where we had a coffee, watched the World Cup and then walked back. Later that evening, because it was my last day before returning to Sacile, we decided to have dinner at one of the best restaurants in the area. It was Monday and the restaurant was closed as were the eight or so other restaurants we tried. We ended up eating at a fast food place located in a twenty-four-hour supermarket.

The following morning, I left at 5AM for my fourth trip across Italy in the past three days and my fifth since I arrived in the country. It must qualify for the Guinness Book of Records.

 

D. BACK IN THE VENETO:

At about 1PM, I exited the train at Sacile. After a brief stop at Lucia’s for a prosecco, I sat at a cafe in the piazza and ate a lunch of barley salad and ground meat in zucchini along with an iced white tea and cranberry. For dessert, I had a delicious chocolate ice cream drink. Hank found me there and offered to let me stay at his apartment until we leave for Croatia. I thought it was a good idea because it would relieve Vittorio and Anita of the burden of hosting me while also caring for the two women. I would miss Topo Tamai though.
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They put me up in a wonderful garret type room above their apartment with a long sloping ceiling, a large bed with old wood carved headboards and three windows with views across the orange-tiled roofs of the town and into the pre-alps off in the distance.
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The next morning following a breakfast go cappuccino and brioche at Lucia’s, Hank and I drove off towards the old American air-force base at Aviano have lunch with to have lunch with some friends. Along the way, we stopped at a local winery so that Hank could by some wine for household use. Their best wines were arrayed several large barrels. Attached to each barrel was a hose from with you could draw the wine contained their in into your own bottles at About $1.50 a liter.

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We were joined at lunch by a retired American Army officer and his wife who used to be the American military historian assigned to the base. While eating a delightful meal (I reprised the pasta I enjoyed so much in Verona) we talked of many things, where we came from, what brings us here in northern Italy, favorite books, dinner plans and so one. The historian and I discussed Naida’s trilogy. She appeared eager to read it and wrote down its name.

After lunch, Hank drove me to the two headwaters of the Livenza River, the river that flows through Sacile and into the Adriatic. A river that had been a major trade route for over 7000 years since Neolithic times. ( As a side note, perhaps twenty years or so, after reading the book “The Nine Daughters of Eve” I had my mitochondria analyzed by the geneticist author and found my penultimate mother to have been born somewhere around here about 15,000 years ago). The entire river is generated by springs under the mountain. The first source is this spectacular turquoise pool fed by water from the caves beneath the cliff. Divers have gone down up to 250 feet to find the source of the water with no success. If you look closely at the center of the photograph there is a submerged statue of the Christ facing the cave from which some of those divers never emerged.

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The second headwater emerges directly from the rocks at the bottom of the photograph below and alone creates the river you see in the picture.
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That evening Hank, Camille and I went to a restaurant in a nearby town that specialized in fish dishes. We were joined by the couple with whom we had lunch, an Italian gentleman who, as it was explained to me, was the wealthy owner of a local winery, and another couple, a retired contractor for the Defense Department and his wife a very engaging woman from Madrid. I ate a spaghetti with tiny clams and a salad and for dessert a melted ice-cream and vodka drink.

The next day was market day in Sacile. The stalls were set up along the streets throughout the central part of the town. After a cappuccino and a brioche, I set off to wander through the market and the town. I walked over bridges I had never crossed before, down streets I had never traveled before, past restaurants I had never eaten in, past town walls I had never passed before, and took photographs of views I had never seen before. I was both happy and a little sad. Happy to see all these new things and sad because at my age who knows if I shall ever pass this way again.
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Then back to Lucia’s for a prosecco and water with a little ice and lemon and then off to pack and to nap.

Tomorrow we are off to Croatia.
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E. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:

Besides the World Cup, the news here these past few days have been dominated by the plight of the 12 member Thai teenage soccer team and their coach that had been trapped in a cave for about 10 days. Through the efforts of an international rescue team, they were eventually found miraculously all still alive. The coverage is ongoing since the students have been determined to be too weak to move according to medical personnel with the rescue team and must remain in the cave for another week or so.

Meanwhile, the media being so preoccupied with the rescue and the World Cup completely missed the news of Trump’s appointment of Vladimir Putin as the US Secretary of State, putting him third in line for the Presidency. When queried about how Putin could ascend to the Presidency of the US given the Constitution’s requirement that the President be a natural born American citizen, the administration’s spokesperson stated that a birth certificate recently had been discovered showing Putin was born in Tennessee, the child of two Russian double agents working in the US at the time. When asked when the birth certificate would be available for review, it was explained that it was in the President’s possession and would be released when he releases his tax returns. Reports that Vice-president Pence and Speaker Ryan, the two people in line for the presidency before Putin have recently hired a team of food tasters and doubled their security detail cannot be confirmed at this time. The President, in announcing the appointment, said that he, Trump, was the greatest President and leader of a nation in all of human history and that Vladimir Putin was “a good guy,” “very trustworthy,” “a true lover of democracy” and a “friend of the United States.” Trump also said of Putin that, “All the prettiest girls in Russia love him almost as much as they do me.”

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On Pythonism

Interesting chronological confluence: Recently finished reading “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern” by Stephen Greenblatt. It’s about the rediscovery of Lucretius”s poem “On The Nature of Things”, after over a thousand years, by Poggio Bracciolini around 1417, who was a former pope’s secretary and enthusiast for ancient Greek and Roman manuscripts, and the poem’s contribution to and impact on Renaissance and later thinking. Lucretius was a disciple of Epicurus. the poem articulated the radical (for the late middle ages) view that the universe and all things, human and otherwise, consist solely of atoms and the void, that there is no afterlife or resurrection or heaven and hell, God doesn’t exist let alone run things, and after all the right approach to life is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Find joy in what you can now, ‘cause there ain’t no heaven. Works for me. Monte Python in a Roman toga.

 
On coffee get-togethers in the Enchanted Forest

Sounds more intriguing than Leisure World or stumbling down Collins Avenue sidestepping doggie do. Do they wear purple hair in the Enchanted Forest? Boy toy sounds like some exotic Asian dish (just watched Anthony Bourdain in Viet Nam eating some fabulous soup in Hue); but cannibals probably wouldn’t eat geriatric boy toy.

 
On the contention, that beauty can bore

Interesting: Suggests that wandering is a cure for the ennui or boredom of salubrious settlement. Thus, commuting from Heaven to Purgatory to Hell and back, and onward. Or at least to New York and Sacile. Forever seeking beatitude or a good pastry. Unless, of course, one is totally absorbed in one’s obsession, whatever it is: Putin’s grabbing and disrupting others, Van Gogh’s painting and agonizing, Scrooge McDuck’s diving into his money bin….

 
On negative news about negative people

Years ago I read something about news, and how history shows that people always want to hear/read/see the bad news, disaster news, negative stuff. What I read referred back to news and pamphlets. And whatever back two-three hundred years. So there’s a psychological basis to take advantage of for slanting the news.

Given US history, as shown e. g by “Fantasyland,” the US is both a testing ground for new corporate-driven forms of domination and, together with its predilection for violence and fantasy, a retrograde movement backward toward more primitive and difficult times.

 
On corporations and oligarchs

Ultimately, the world corporate oligarchical/dictatorial concentration and continued climate change impacts will result in continued and enhanced mass migrations and consequent population redistributions, and as a byproduct, a reduction of “guns in America” as counter-productive. The beauty of the Veneto will provide an oasis in which the “ho-hum, another day in paradise” ennui will be reluctantly deemed the tolerable alternative to hemlock or standing on line at the Louvre to gape at the Mona Lisa or joining a futile, isolated white-armed resistance cell whose membership includes — by that time — a senile Michael Caine, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Sean Penn, Samuel L. Jackson, Benicio Del Toro, Russell Crowe, and Angelina Joli.

 

 

On “the cradle of civilization”

Now, China’s new Road (whatever they call that) essentially recreates the old Silk Road by rail and highway from China to the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. The Russians are already building up Kazakhstan with their space program (and even Trump was trying to get some business there!). Iran will be a key, as it was back then, in spite of the Saudi/Sunnis. The US will have a lot to learn from the Italians’ sense of history via “Catch-22”

 

 

Wisdom from the Kabbala

“Travels With Epicurus”. Has its benefits.

Do the swallows return to Compostello?*

Thus the wheel of Karma turns; what’s new?

How do you spell Medicare in Italian?

 

Note: The T&T referred to can be found in: https://wordpress.com/view/josephpetrillo.wordpress.com

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“It’s never treason if you win.’”

Stross, Charles. The Traders’ War: A Merchant Princes Omnibus. Tom Doherty Associates.

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESSICA
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TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SACRAMENTO:

It was a balmy warm spring day. I walked around the lakes at Town Center taking photographs of the flowers now in full bloom and reminiscing about things past and present.
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The Roses at Town Center

For all extents and purposes, I live now in the midst of a forest near the Capitol City in the center of the Great Valley and travel every morning back to the Golden Hills to eat breakfast, exercise and discharge my duties to the Scooter Gang (soon to be renamed the Adolescent Bicycle Riders from Purgatory).

I live in the middle of a deep dark seemingly enchanted forest near the center of Capitol City. It is like living in Capital Park except here, tiny little houses are grouped around curving flower-lined pathways snaking beneath the branches of the trees. There is no horizon visible here like there is in the golden hills, only the trunks and branches of the great trees, redwoods, cedars, and pines and the little slip of sky above. Like all forests, it is quiet, only the slight hum of the nearby freeway penetrates the shadows.
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The Enchanted Forest

In the mornings, I still walk around the lakes in Town Center but in the evening, I now return to stroll along the banks of the American River and through the Enchanted Forest.

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The American River at Dusk

Last night after dark, I watched Marlene Dietrich vamp her way through Shanghai Express, feathers flying, eyes flirting and smoke rising from the cigarette clutched between her fingers like an orchestra conductor’s baton.

On Saturday, I helped Naida set up her table at the semi-annual flea market in Campus Commons where she sold some books. Residents of the subdivisions browsed through the unwanted ephemera of their neighbors. Surprisingly, there were a number of bicycles for sale. It seems bicycle thieves strip the bicycles of desired objects (a gear shift, wheel and the like) and toss the remainder into the neighborhood bushes. The derelict cycles are then sold by the HOA at the market.
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Naida (in the hat) in Discussion with a Potential Customer

I took the time while waiting for the market to close to continue my exploration of the Enchanted Forest. This time around the lakes in the center of the Forrest. I sat on a bench and stared at the water. I was soon joined by another elderly retired gentleman who used to work for a local real estate development company that just so happens to have developed both Serrano the major subdivision in El Dorado Hills and most of Campus Commons. We swapped tales of developments past and discussed at some length the many difficulties and few joys of being old.

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The Lake in Campus Commons

That night, we attended a concert in downtown Sacramento that featured a new choral work by a young composer. We believed we were to attend a performance of Tosca but unfortunately had the week wrong. Attributing it all to another example of creeping dementia, we decided to make the best of it and cadged some tickets from a nice couple whose friends could not join them that evening. We enjoyed a presentation of religious-themed music including “Ancient Airs and Dances” by Respighi, Dvorak’s “Te Deum” and “Jubilate Deo” by Dan Forrest (the young composer). The latter contained hymns in Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Mandarin, Zulu and Spanish accompanied by some of their traditional instruments.
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The Concert Finale. (It looks more like the Triumphant March in Aida)

 

B. A BRIEF SOJOURN IN THE BAY AREA:

On Monday, my sister was to be operated on for breast cancer at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. She urged me not to take the long drive to be there since she would probably be too medicated after the operation to appreciate my effort. I told her that I was not coming to see her but to accompany George who I was sure would be quite distressed waiting for the operation to be completed. When I arrived at the hospital, I found George well attended to by Brendan and Katie.

The operation appeared to be a success. Maryann emerged looking well. After they all left the hospital to spend the night in the hotel, I left for Peter’s house in San Francisco. That evening, Peter’s band, Blind Lemon Pledge, played a gig at Green Tortoise, the well known SF hostel featuring the beginning point for the hippy era cross-country bus trip to NYC. I attended as the band’s temporary roadie. During the performance, the management of the hostel, suspicious I might be some homeless person who slipped into the hostel to get out of San Francisco’s spring cold and snag a free meal, questioned me closely. I managed to persuade them that I really was a roadie so they left me alone.

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Blind Lemon Pledge

 

The following morning Peter and I met with my grandson at Bernie’s for coffee and pastry. Anthony has had what is known as a troubled adolescence that included several convictions for marijuana offenses and the like. For the past few years these offenses have centered on his attempt to develop the technology for distilling the essential ingredients from the cannabis plant, a complex, dangerous, and previously illegal activity. His passion has led him to be hired as laboratory staff by the major (and right now only) approved dealer and developer of cannabis products in SF. The laboratory is virtually indistinguishable from a traditional chemical lab, with gleaming new machines, meters, switches and cautionary signs of the wall. He distills from the plants the various active ingredients that are used to make several products. He replaced two trained college educated chemists. Good luck Anthony.

(JP — Since that meeting I received the following from Anthony:

Thank you, that means a lot. Im happy in this field. And you know.. i have been in this field since i was 13/14 yrs old. Its great to be able to do things legally now.

Remind me, what are your current symptoms now so i can find a cannabis product that will work for you. I remember you said edible maybe 2:1 ratio 2 cbd: 1thc (so higher cbd) are you interested in tinctures and tropicals as well?)

 

C. BACK IN THE GOLDEN HILLS AND THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

One of the more significant problems that arise upon reaching my age is that I often soon forget whatever I may have been recently up to. Like now, I am sitting in a nondescript Starbuck somewhere in Folsom writing this. It is raining outside. I met with my oncologist a few hours ago. He declared me still in remission. Hooray for me. I cannot remember what else I have done since my return to the Great Valley a few days ago. Perhaps, I napped a lot. I recall having a late lunch-early dinner at Subway with HRM a day or so ago. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: How are things going with you?
HRM: Good.
Me: Anything interesting happen in school recently?
HRM: Everything.

And so on — the conversational rhythms of the emerging adolescent.

One evening, we went for dinner at a nearby Ethiopian restaurant. It was enjoyable, especially accompanied by honey wine. That night, I had a dream so loaded with Jungian overtones that to attempt to describe it could lead to madness. I struggled, eventually successfully, to wake myself up but could not get back to sleep again for fear the dream would return.

 

D. AN INVESTIGATION AND AN ADMISSION:

Recently I learned that someone may have investigated my background and concluded that I was somewhat of a libertine. I am incensed. Not because I had been “investigated.” Nor am I upset because privacy in modern society seems to be as outdated as garters. No, what chaps my hide is that they failed to discover or disclose that I am also a “ner’do well,” bipolar, an only partially reformed doper, and am fond of walking sticks, straw hats and Hawaiian shirts. I firmly believe that when my privacy rights are violated, I deserve the right to be assured that those interested be completely informed of as many of my peccadilloes as possible. Otherwise, I feel others will be left believing I am only half as defective as I actually am. I believe that in a free country, we have as much a right to be acknowledged for our defects as for our abilities.

 

E. SEARCHING FOR “SPITFIRE”:

When one loses a word from memory or from a computer-saved document, it can be quite distressful. Especially if like “Spitfire” it is difficult to replace. We recently lost, or perhaps not lost but misplaced, the word “spitfire.” We were understandably upset and spent a considerable amount of time and effort looking for it — alas, to no effect. It did, however, make quite a story. Unfortunately, it was a story with no end. After all, once you’ve lost your Spitfire, what can you do?

Actually, “Spitfire” was what two full grown men called the 14-year-old girl who fought off their attempt to abduct and rape her. Twenty years later another man tried the same thing with the same woman with the same results. She is not a “spitfire,” she a Heroine because none of the men were punished by anyone but her alone.

“Spitfire” is not alone in her experience. As “me too” movement demonstrates, it is a tragic event in the lives of all too many women.

 

F. ENNUI AND ME:

In life, it is a truism that no great euphoria or great misery goes on forever. Sooner or later they all return to the mundane mean. This morning, after yesterday’s emotional roller-coaster, I, once again, sit in Bella Bru Cafe with my cafe latte and toasted cinnamon-raisin bagel with cream cheese trying to decide which exhibit of life’s amusement park I will visit next.

The sky is overcast, not dark — a light covering of clouds, all silvery light, just waiting for the sun to break through — ambivalent. Sort of like my mood. Should I go for a walk, swim or should I stay here, sipping on my quickly cooling coffee and staring off into the distance? I decide to move — not molt in the darkness. So, I drive to a nearby Starbuck’s, get a warm cafe latte, plug in my Mac, and stare off into the distance. Of all human emotions, I like ennui best.

 

G. SAME OLD GRIND:

Had a great morning. Got out of the house at about eleven-thirty singing “Shaboom” and skipping down the path to the car. The day got even better when I found the car’s windshield did not carry a nasty note warning me I risked receiving a ticket for parking there overnight. The sun was shining as I drove the 20 miles or so up Route 50 to Bella Bru. It was too late for my usual breakfast so I ordered a hamburger. While I waited for the burger to be delivered to my table, I thought about how best to take advantage of my current good mood. I decided the best thing to do was to do nothing which is the same thing I do when I am in a bad mood. Ennui and indolence go together like mac and cheese.

After transporting two members of the Scooter Gang from the Skate Park to Zach’s backyard pool, I returned to the Enchanted Forest. A long walk along the levies of the American River and through the university campus followed. Then an evening around the piano singing old show tunes until September Song brought tears to my eyes.

And the days dwindle down
To a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days
I’d spend with you
These precious days I’d spend with you

Ain’t it the truth.

It had been a good day and so I went to bed and hoped for a dreamless sleep.

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I received the following from my friend Eric the Old Sailor/Pirate. I assume it is an email from a friend of Eric’s reminiscing about the old days when they were young and could bring down mountains:

 

Hey doc-tor I downloaded Skype just for you, you part man part sea creature MOFO. I’ve been telling Adoracion about some of the outrageous things you’ve done like fixing the bottom of cruise ship in port or placing eleven ton jacks to inter lock — I mean I watched that mountain come down. I would sit on the deck of a friends house on the side of the other mountain across from all the work Had good binocs. Without them those trucks looked like toys going back and forth but get up close to them and the tires would be twice my height maybe more. The chant among our gang was “What’s Eric do???” and every one’s answer was “I don’t know”
I know a little about you and family having had dinner with your cousins in Bermuda I asked them “What does Eric do” and they said,”I don’t know.” I think we agreed Eric was a Pirate.
We are going on vacation May 4th. Atlanta, Knoxville Las Vegas Home Adoracion has a filipina friends so if it’s sitting in the kitchen listening to the ladies yaking away in tagalog, I’ll have to figure out how to take a short trip. Bobby’s gone, Louisa can hardly talk and there’s no one else there. SST same way, Sylvia is busy with her boyfriend. I don’t feel comfortable driving on the highways, I can drive around the neighborhood, go to the store etc., but uneasy on busy highway.
We are alright. carry on roller bag and small back pack. that’s it, I told A, “We ain’t tourist honey — travelers, buy there or mail it back.”
I’m not as excited as I’d like to be. I alway’s got excited about going anywhere. Pretty nice here. but I think once you get on the road it get’s interesting. We are visiting a friend in Tennessee with a ranch and flys his plane off the back forty
So it just dawned on me that Sukavit sits on water so it’s like you’re on a very big boat. Just the once I was there it rained hard and I saw big fish swimming in the street. So Amigo, it’s time to have a cookie, YEAH YEAH!

 

Eric sailed ships across oceans, built things beneath the waves, searched for treasure at the bottom of the sea, salvaged ships, traded in gold and illegal substances, explored the world and ended up in a small room in Southeast Asia with his stories and his memories. It has been a life well lived.

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MENDOCINO ON MY MIND:
On Tuesday morning, I emptied my room and packed up the car. I drove HRM to school. It was a sad parting for both of us. I have no idea when or if I will return to my part-time job as dedicated Uber driver for the Scooter Gang. He said that in my absence he would do his best to arrange transportation for himself and his cohort to the various skateboard parks and fast food restaurants, but I knew he was worried. I said, “I know you can do it, kid.”
He stood for a moment on the sidewalk in front of the school, put the decal laden crash helmet on his head and hopped on to his tricked out scooter. I watched for a moment as he one-legged the scooter up the path to the school and then, I drove off.
I stopped in Sacramento for breakfast and stories with Naida after which I set off on the long exhausting drive to my sister’s house in Mendocino.
After a great dinner of tuna-burger covered in pickled cucumbers and ginger, I went to bed and slept fitfully. The next morning, I sat with my coffee and exhausted myself staring out at the yellow-flowered lawn and the sea and so, went back to bed and took a nap.
IMG_4330    The Morning View from the House on the Mendocino Headlands,

But for some walks along the bluffs and through the town and eating, I spent the next few days mostly asleep. Tomorrow, I pledge myself to either hike through the hills above Big River or visit the Rhododendron exhibit at the Botanical Gardens.
So, off I went for my stroll along the bluffs above the Big River Estuary. I walked further than I planned. I kept walking along a path that appeared to climb constantly upwards. I thought I would walk to the top of the hill hoping I would have a great view of the river from there. But, I never got there. I walked and walked and still, the path climbed upwards, Finally, I gave up. I turned around to head back and noticed the path behind me also curved upwards. How could that be I asked myself? I then realized the upward slope was an optical illusion. All the way back, I would trudge up the hill and after struggling for about a hundred yards or so, I would turn around and see the path behind me also climbing upwards and I would start giggling. And so, I made my way back exhausted but in high spirits (It takes very little to amuse me now).
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Pookie at the Big River
On Friday, I rushed back to Sacramento. A close relative of Naida’s had died in Oregon. I expected to either accompany her to the memorial service or to dog-sit her dog, Boo-Boo. For reason too complex to relate here, neither occurred and so, I spent Saturday in Sacramento. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I have entered it on my calendar as Joey’s Happy Day so that now I will remember and celebrate April 21 for as long as I live.
On Sunday, I returned to Mendocino. On that same evening, we had some friends of Maryann and George over for dinner. I enjoyed it very much. We ate Harissa chicken and talked a lot, told stories, laughed, discussed Mendocino art, politics, and gardens, the benefits, and evils of economic development on rural lifestyles, books we liked and politicians we didn’t, and reviewed the obsessions of our youth.
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George, Maryann, Marilyn, Bill, Nancy, and Duncan.
In many ways, coastal Mendocino County, by virtue of the coastal range making transportation difficult and separating it from the rest of the State, is as remote a community as a village on the Asian steppes. It has developed its own interests and obsessions, cultural identity and way of life. As a result, it resists change to that way of life, its environment, and its beliefs. I have seen this before in other communities and have found that often change is something best done slowly.
The next day I strolled through the town, shopped, took pictures had lunch at the Good Life Cafe with George and Bingo the dog and generally lazed around for most of the day.

 
B. SACRAMENTO AND SAN FRANCISCO ODYSSEY:
An Odyssey is generally considered a voyage or the travelogue that accompanies it— usually including some extraordinary adventure. There is also an odyssey of the mind where the mundane waxes magical like in Joyce’s Ulysses in which the humdrum became enchanting. Then, of course, there is the made-up odyssey, like the one I wrote about in a past issue of T&T where bandy-legged freak Ulysses has to explain to Penelope why he disappeared for twenty years and killed all her boyfriends on his return. As the goddess, Athena said of that short, sly, hirsute Greek, “He is odd I see.” (https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/a-lengthy-digression-on-traveling-and-old-greeks/)
Anyway, I intend to approach the next few days as a mini-me-odyssey. Whether, it will be adventure filled, mundane or simply made-up, I am oddly eager to see. (If you cannot see that I had fun writing the above two paragraphs, please skip them.)
On Wednesday morning, I set off for Sacramento. After a brief stop for cheap gas at the Pomo Pumps at the Robinson Rancheria near Clear Lake, I turned onto Route 16 through Cache Creek Canyon (Scylla and Charybdis?) a two-lane road to Woodland that I had never taken before. The road passes through a narrow valley running parallel to California’s great valley. Cache Creek, a pretty little stream, and the canyon it runs through, although not as dramatic as some in the Sierras is pleasantly attractive. The road passes through several tiny towns ( Ramsey, Guinda, Cadenasso, Capay, Esparto) — a few random buildings that would not qualify as a hamlet anywhere else (actually they are officially called, “Census-designated communities” whatever that means).
IMG_4441Cache Creek
At its lower reaches, the canyon broadens into a small valley about a mile or two wide. There amidst the bucolic landscape of farms and ranches looms the monstrous visage of Cache Creek Casino an edifice that would not be out of place in Las Vegas (Cave of Cyclops?). I quickly passed by the giant structure not brave enough to explore the riches that may exist within.
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Cache Creek Resort
I arrived in Sacramento, strolled along the river, listened to some Cole Porter, enjoyed a sleepless night of contentment and delight (Circe?) and left the following morning for El Dorado Hills (The Land of the Lotus Eaters — or is that San Francisco?). After a thoroughly frustrating morning and an afternoon shuttling the Scooter Gang around, I set off for San Francisco and Peter’s house where shortly after my arrival I went to bed.
The next day, Barrie, Peter and I joined my sister and George at the French Restaurant at which Peter and I usually have lunch when I’m in town. My sister had just received news that her cancer had not spread so we celebrated a bit.
Then back to Sacramento, a trip that took more than four hours.
A week of bliss passed — as could be expected memories of those times melt together into an indistinct mass. Joy is a timeless blur, anguish a distinct pulsing image.
After receiving a positive doctor’s report on my cancer recovery, I slipped back into the Golden Hills later in the week to resume my chauffeur and parenting duties, stealing off now and then to assist Naida in the production of her memoir.
The school year is coming to its end and the Scooter Gang members are busily planning their summer vacations as am I.
On Saturday, I attended the Cinco de Mayo party at Campus Commons. I did not speak with the ex-spies who were there, but I did have an interesting conversation with a retired executive of Blue Diamond and managed to down two Margaritas without burning my throat.
One day, I strolled through Capitol Park with Naida. I love it there. We sat on the bench dedicated to B.T. Collins, a friend I had known since we were classmates together at Stepinac HS in White Plains NY. As a Green Beret in Viet Nam, he lost an arm and a leg. Returning to the US, he became Governor Jerry Brown’s chief of staff. He eventually was elected to the legislature. He was a lifelong Republican that every Democrat could support. While we sat there some tourists asked me what had he done to warrant a memorial in Capitol Park. I told them.
Time passes, I do not recall how long or what events transpired other than I have been deliriously happy. This morning the air was delightfully warm as I walked around the lakes at Town Center. It was that time of year where the flowers were the brightest and the leaves of the trees viridescent. It is the time just before the hills turn golden and the heat of the day rises from the ground forcing one to seek the shade of an oak or magnolia tree or an air-conditioned coffee house.
IMG_4465Morning at Town Center Lakes

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THRAX

Maximinus Thrax Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus Augustus, (Emperor Maximinus I), Emperor of Rome 235-238 because he was Born in Thrace (hence the name Thrax) he was the first emperor never to enter Rome.

Contemporary sources, including Historia Augusta, depicted Maximinus Thrax as a man of immense size, with large eyebrows, nose, and jaw (a symptom of acromegaly). His thumb was so large that he often allegedly wore a bracelet of his wife on it as a ring. The historian Herodian noted:

“He was definitely a man of such frightening appearance and colossal size, that there is no possible comparison at all with any of the best-trained Greek athletes or the most fierce of all barbarians.”

According to historian Cordus, he stood approximately 8 foot 6 inches(2.5 m) tall but exhibited normal proportions. Cordus also notes that Maximinus was so strong that he could pull a fully loaded ox cart on his own.

Three years after his rise to power his soldiers assassinated him, his son, and his chief ministers. Their heads were cut off, placed on poles, and carried to Rome.

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The week began with a series of warm sunny days. Last week, the wind and rain stripped many of the trees of their blossoms. Now, seemingly overnight, leaves wrap the naked boughs in a bright green crepe. (A wrinkled fabric, not a pancake. I am not too good with metaphors.) During the day, deep shadows hug the sidewalks where only last week the sun peeking through spindly branches left the ground cracked in shadows like thin ice beneath a skaters blades. (I’m not so good with similes either.)
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The Anguished Oak in Springtime.

Things moved on day by day pocked now and then by chilling fears of the lengthening shadows of fast approaching night. Thankfully, the weather imparted a feeling of a new beginning — a time for love even for those ancients warming themselves on sunny benches waiting.

Dick was gone to San Diego for most of the week and I watched H slowly drift into adolescent adventures leaving me free to slip away to visit Naida or to sit in the sun and wonder at the power of life to make one lust for happiness every moment even knowing failing is the default setting for us all.

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EDH Students Return to School after Spring Break.

It is Easter Sunday morning. The weather is sunny and warm. Alas, yesterday I did not get what I wanted, so this morning, I pouted feeling like everyone hated me. I sat in my car in the middle of a shopping center parking lot having a discussion with my self:

“I feel all alone.”

“You spend half your life alone. What’s so different about this time?”

“Nobody likes me. No one wants me around.”

“Hmm… how many people would like you around but you do not want to be around them?”

“Maybe you are right. Perhaps, I am overdoing it, But, why do I feel like I’ve got zits on my psyche?”

No answer.

So I went to a movie. Sometimes entertainment can cure most ills — especially those you force on yourself. I saw “Ready Player One.” A few days ago, I saw “Isle of Dogs.” If you want to experience the pinnacle of the animator’s art, these are two movies you should not miss.

El Dorado Hills is no place for introverted, cynical, sarcastic, grumpy old men. Sure, it can be pretty in its artificial well laid out way. But, it’s no place for the introverted and cynical. You have to go out of your way to meet people and if you cannot do happy talk, you soon will find yourself shunned — who likes a sarcastic cynic after all. Happiness here is as manufactured at the landscape.

Me, I’m a city boy. In a big city when you leave your home in the morning, there are people out and about all around you — some snarling and distracted — noise, urban smells — rushing here and about — tension and anxiety. You stumble into someone. He responds, “Hey, watch where you’re going old man.” You counter with something like, “Up yours.” So it goes all day, like the steel shot in a pinball machine rudely bounced around here and there until finally, if you are an introverted, cynical, sarcastic, grumpy old man like me, when you return to your home that evening you can consider the day well lived. Too much happiness is a precarious state, it inevitably leads to anxiety.

By the weekend, I had begun to slip deeper into depression — obviously. Adrian arrived and would leave Monday for Thailand so that he could shlep SWAC back to the US. Bob was to rip out the kitchen this weekend so that the remodelers could work on it next week. HRM had his two best buds staying over doing teenager things. Naida was busy preparing her taxes. Although I was not alone, I felt isolated. I began to plunge into an obsession about the hopeless state of the world. I needed to laugh soon or I feared I would be forced to flee into the bathroom and flush my head down the toilet. So, I got into the car and drove for three hours to San Francisco, dragged Peter out of his house and off to lunch at a Peruvian restaurant where I ate tarted-up scallops and drank some piss-yellow soft drink supposedly native to Peru but bottled In New Jersey.
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Peruvian scallops, cola and I somewhere on 24th St.

Eventually, we ended up drinking coffee while sitting on the Geezer’s Bench outside Bernie’s where we laughed a lot and I felt much better.
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The next morning, I returned to EDH swearing that next week would be better than this one was. Not that this week was all that bad, it’s just that I could not remember any of the good parts. I will try to remember things better next week.

I just looked up from my most recent book, Hearn’s “Scourged,” laughing at something stupid that I had read there. No wonder I can’t write a lick when I spend so much time reading about and enjoying things like the antics of that merry band of Fae deities Morrigan, Manannan, Fand, Brigid, Aenghus Og and a few others as they stumble around a muddy fen. (Not a bog. There is a difference. Fens look better. Fae deities do not stumble around in bogs.)

Few people realize their whole life is an adventure and as some explorers know, if you are traveling through the jungle, you’re going to be stung by mosquitos, may come down with malaria and have to keep on the lookout for tigers or other predators and if you’re lucky you will end the day with a few stories to tell around the campfire.

My dreams during the past week or two suck — short, annoying and unmemorable. Gone are the long fantasies and adventures that follow me through the day like iridescent hummingbirds. Mostly, my current dreams swarm about me like no-see-ums biting me into madness and raising welts on my subconscious. This morning, I dreamt about some small furry animal I was supposed to protect — perhaps it was a rabbit. I failed.

Speaking of rabbits, my Chinese zodiac sign is the rabbit. That always embarrassed me. I would have preferred to be a bear or a hawk or something heroic or coldly rapacious like that. Rabbits signify fecundity. That’s ok but my days of fecundity are long gone. Outside of that, all they seem good for is prey. If “Watership Down” is any authority, they may well have an interesting and complex social life, except for their unfortunate tendency to “Tharn.” That is, when confronted by a predator they tend to freeze up and die of heart failure before being devoured.This may be a good thing. It certainly seems better than waiting for teeth and claws to tear out your heart.

(What would humanity be like if we had that ability? Instead of shooting people or dropping bombs on people for whatever reason, we could instead just hide in dark alleys, jump out and shout “boo” when someone walks by. It would certainly lower the defense budget. Think about the terrorist on the subway. He jumps out of his seat and yells “BOO.” No one hears him because they are all ear-phoned up and staring at their smartphones. The terrorist runs up and down the aisle screaming “boo, boo, boo,” until he either scares himself to death or gives up and goes home, lights a joint, watches late night television and falls asleep. Imagine the second amendment — “A persons right to say, ’boo’ shall not be infringed.” Would a person’s right to bear a megaphone in a crowded subway be protected? Hmm… does a person have a right to bare arms? Do bears have a right to arms? Is it only limited to when they’re in the woods? So many issues, so little time.)

According to the Chinese horoscope, I am an earth rabbit.

“…Earth… Rabbit[s] are very frank and straightforward; however, they also give an impression of rudeness and stubbornness to others….”

“They are very strict with themselves… they always change from one job to another… and always pay special attention to details, being willing to do something trivial but soon getting tired of it.”

“Earth Rabbits actually have an excellent physical quality although they look unhealthy….”

Well, I certainly agree I look unhealthy, change jobs a lot and am obsessed with trivialities.

What got me on to this rabbit thing was during my walk around the lakes this morning a rabbit ran across my path. I have seen a lot of birds of all sizes, turtles (generally matte black) during my walks and assume lizards, snakes, rodents, and moles abound in the bushes but I never expected to see a rabbit. I wonder if it was “frank and straightforward.”

Another week goes by in a blur. Today, Thursday, the day was clear and warm. I walked my full three miles this morning then cleaned my room in preparation for my departure next week.

Family contretemps or why I prefer to travel alone:

When traveling with someone, one of you must assume a passive and agreeable role or the trip will soon become a nightmare. I learned this truism from a distinguished psychiatrist I had gotten to know many years ago when I ran the New York State Mental Information Service for the Bronx, Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland counties. He was distinguished not only for his intellectual attainments but his idiosyncrasies as well. For example, instead of an overcoat, he wore a cloak that he would dramatically swing off his shoulder when he entered a room. He and his family lived in a large 5 or 6 story brownstone just off Riverside Drive on the Upper West Side. One of the floors he converted into a basketball court so he and his young sons could shoot hoops on his days off. Off of his formal dining room, he had a room devoted exclusively to his large collection of native African art, every statue of which featured either enormously exaggerated boobs or elongated penises. He told me he got them so that whenever he had a dinner party he could walk his guests through the room and when they try to avoid staring at the protuberances he could tell them “It’s OK to stare. I’m a boob man myself.”

Anyway, he explained to me that in his long experience in marriage counseling, he found the only marriages that lasted were those in which one party assumed an accommodating role while the other was left to believe he (it was most often, but not always, a he) was in charge — whether or not in fact he was is irrelevant. So it is even in traveling.

Anyway again, about a year ago when I was in Sacile near Venice an American friend who lives there during the summer months, invited me to accompany he and his wife (who was born and raised in Calabria) to join them next summer on a trip through Croatia to Calabria. Sometime previously, I mentioned my wish to drive through Italy from north to south ending in Sicily but that given my age, I would probably need someone to drive me if I were to visit all the places I would want to visit. My granddaughter got very excited and volunteered to learn how to drive and drive me on that trip. A month or so ago, when my friend told me the dates for his time in Italy (July-) I notified the family only to discover that arrangements had already been made for them to travel to Italy in late August and September and that my granddaughter would be traveling in August with others and needed to be in central Italy one day during the last week and would be on the Amalfi Coast during the first week in September, so our trip was limited only to Sicily during the second week. I still tried to arrange my plans in order to accommodate theirs. Alas, it would cost too much for me to hang out somewhere in Italy for over a month, so I explained I was disappointed but perhaps we could try again next year. Since then, I have been bombarded with accusations of disappointing family member and more nefarious things. Thankfully, I finally have learned, after a long and tumultuous life, to ignore emotional outbreaks like these (especially among family members) and to understand the two guiding principles for a happy life:

“It’s always something.”
Roseanne Roseanna Danna.

“Tomorrow is another day.”
Scarlet O’Hara.

On Friday night, I attended a “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” dinner at Campus Commons in Sacramento. Apparently, these themed dinners are held every month there. The dinner featured baseball food (hot dogs and crackerjacks). Everyone was dressed up in baseball-themed costumes (except me and a few others). A moment of silence was held for the volunteer bartender who had worked there for the past 20 years and recently died. I was one of the younger attendees but still had a great time. I met two people who were reputedly retired spies. For whom they worked and what they did, I never found out.

HRM and the Scooter Gang (Now the Scooter/Mountain Bike Gang) took full advantage of Pookie’s Chauffeur Services this weekend to travel from park to park in the area to try out their various moves on the slopes and hills.
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The Scooter Gang at Sunset in the Springtime of Their Lives.

SWAC arrives on Tuesday and in order to avoid an unseemly contretemps, I spent the next few days packing up my things and storing them away. It was a bittersweet time for me. My beloved sister had been diagnosed with stage one cancer, I was moving from my home, separating perhaps forever from HRM, family conflicts swirled about me like gnats and the ravages of age weighed heavily on my thoughts. On the other hand, I have experienced things like these before and probably will again so I know they too shall end one way or another. And love, like springtime, promises a new beginning and hopefully a blazing autumn.

And so, off to Mendocino.

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