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Posts Tagged ‘Shopping’

 
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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For those who have not read any of Terry Pratchett’s magnificent series of comic novels set in the highly improbable but very recognizable land of Discworld, do so right away. It will leave you eternally surprised. Meanwhile, the following excerpt from one of the novels demonstrates the fundamental notions of the great scholar of Discworld, Wen the Eternally Surprised that underly the tales of that world and  infuses the hearts of those living there — “…the only appropriate state of the mind is surprise” and “the only appropriate state of the heart is joy.”

 

“Wen the Eternally Surprised.”

“Why was he eternally surprised?” And they are told: ‘Wen considered the nature of time and understood that the universe is, instant by instant, re-created anew. Therefore, he understood, there is, in truth, no Past, only a memory of the Past. Blink your eyes, and the world you see next did not exist when you closed them. Therefore, he said, the only appropriate state of the mind is surprise. The only appropriate state of the heart is joy. The sky you see now, you have never seen before. The perfect moment is now. Be glad of it.’”
Pratchett, Terry. Thief of Time: A Novel of Discworld (p. 31). HarperCollins.

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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:

After three days, while on our late afternoon walk, we discovered the mysterious orb still there. Now, however, with a sign affixed to its surface announcing “Fountain. Free. Take it away.” Mystery solved, perhaps.

It is now three and one-half months since the growth on my neck first appeared and I went to my oncologist for the first time for a diagnosis. Since then, I have had a PET scan, two CT scans, four sonograms, three visits for biopsies, a stress test, two blood tests and at least 8 meetings with five separate doctors and I still have no treatment plan. Today, I am awaiting insurance company approval for a second opinion on the feasibility of surgery. During all that time, the swelling tumor on my neck has grown from an insignificant bulge to a goiter like bump and my diagnosis has gone from, “It is nothing to worry about” to “You’re probably going to die.” I am no longer amused.

Groucho Marx had a cousin from Argentina named Gaucho.

Days pass, I read a lot, watch the news on television, see the Niners lose again, spend too much time on Facebook — It is now Wednesday, I finally have an appointment scheduled in San Francisco at UCSF for my second opinion. Sometimes bitching and shouting works.

Thursday was a good day although the air quality made it better to stay indoors. San Francisco was reported to have the worst air quality in the world today because the smoke from the many fires in Northern California hung over the city like a dirty shower curtain. Sacramento was not too far behind. Nevertheless, I felt good today. Whether it was from the valium I had taken last night to help me sleep or something else I do not know. In the afternoon, I felt good enough to brave the hazardous air and drive into the Golden Hills to pick up Hayden and Jake. The Skate Park was closed because of the hazardous air-quality, so we went to the house where we discussed the possibility of the three of us driving to a Mountain Bike track somewhere in the mountains this weekend. After doing some research about the various trails, I left them to ruminate on the alternatives and returned to the Enchanted Forest.

Back at the house, I busied myself posting various articles on Facebook from two of my blogs, “Trenz Pruca’s Journal,” and “Papa Joe’s Tales, Fables, and Parables.” I was doing this because I wanted to increase the number of views this year to more than any of the Blogs’ prior years. At first, I was afraid to mention here in T&T how I spend several hours a day (at least four) because it might reveal me to be an insecure recluse desperately seeking recognition for what I feared were my inept and odd scratchings. Eventually, I convinced myself that it was no more than an obsession to “beat my record.” So instead of revealing my pitiful insecurities, I exposed one of my more idiotic neuroses which I somehow believed was less embarrassing. Anyway, for “Papa Joe’s” I passed my best year in early November. For “Trenz Pruca”s Journal,” it will be close to the end of the year before I know if I will succeed or not.

In any bureaucracy, all the work is done low on the food chain. Everyone else just holds meetings.

Last night, I dreamed a movie, actually two, one complete and one half-way through. This is not unusual. I have dreamt movies before. Usually, in my dreams, I enter one of the movie theaters I remember that existed on Fordham Rd. in the Bronx way back when I was going to college at the end of the 1950s. They were grand old Egyptian-Baroque buildings. In my dreams (and probably in real life) the theaters had deteriorated to become purveyors of soft porn and old movies. Strangely, in my dream, I had to go downstairs to get to the theater. The movie was an old one I had never seen before — a melodrama about two families going through various domestic crises. I woke up briefly half-way through the second feature but fell back to sleep almost immediately. The movie was still running but had now become a porn flick and I was an actor in it. This was notable, not because of the nature of my involvement and the vigor of my participation, but because I have not experienced such dreams for years now.

I awoke that morning with Naida caressing my arm as it lay across her body. It made me both happy and sad. Happy because it is so nice to wake up in the morning with someone who loves you and sad because I fear those mornings are going to end far too soon.

Those who observe well, dream well.
Friday was a non-event and then came the weekend.

At five o’clock in the morning, Naida woke up and said that she had to go downstairs to write something in her memoir — something about her approach to math as a child, a complex method that included fingers, beacons and musical rhythms ( the left hand did the rhythm and the right counted the repetitions). I went back to sleep and fell into a marvelous dream. I was somewhere in the Mediterranean, in a colorful small town by the sea. I was younger, a drifter and con man. My friend Blackie had engineered a scam that had gone bad. I was accused even though I had no part in it. A younger Isabella Rossellini, who was a princess of some sort, rescued me somehow. We laughed a lot and got naked. Then Naida woke me up to go to the Saturday coffee at the Nepenthe Club House.

The weekly Saturday coffee was usually attended by the older members of the community. Women outnumbered men more than two to one. Although each person sported a name tag, I never could recall names even after staring at the tags so, as usual, I gave them nicknames — the football coach, the two spies (one a man who was a senior executive in the State Department, the other a woman with coiffed white hair whose job prior to retirement was shrouded in mystery), the leader, the cute lady, the model (an eighty-year-old ex-model), the model’s husband the architect ( a 90+ year old architect of some renown) and others. There was also a mother-daughter duo that one could not discern who was the mother and who the daughter. They whispered and laughed together in the corner. Also, there is always a woman there, usually without a name tag, that attended to the refreshments. I do not know if she is a resident or an employee of the HOA.

The Leader, a large woman, selflessly devotes herself to the task. She feels quite distressed and obviously hurt if anyone challenges or disagrees with her, so we don’t. She opened a small roll-on piece of luggage that accompanies her everywhere, pulled out some papers and a small bell that she rings to call us to order. Then, she announces the events scheduled, calls for volunteers for the myriad of charitable activities planned to be undertaken and so on. After that, we clean up the clubhouse and leave.

Naida and I then went shopping and had lunch at Ettore’s where I choked on a piece of turkey breast and threw-up all over my plate.

The mysterious orb remains, in the gutter by the house. No one has claimed it yet.

B. A SHORT TRIP INTO THE SIERRAS:

On Sunday, we decided to escape the fire-caused air pollution and drove into the Sierra foothills. We drove to Jackson. There is a bookstore that sells Naida’s books. The bookstore has a Sherlock Holmes museum on its second floor with a room made to look like the great detective’s Baker Street residence. While Naida went into the store to discuss book things, I took the dog for a walk around the time. The little fellow got into a snarling match with a large pit bull. I admired his courage, not his common sense.

After that, we went for lunch a Teresa’s one of the better restaurants in the town. It always saddens me that so many Italian restaurants here and even in Italy have passed from the families whose food came from the techniques and recipes that their mothers develop to please the taste of their families who ate the food every day, to others whose recipes and techniques are often designed to lower costs and aspire only to being merely acceptable. If you are ever in Jackson you should stop for a meal at Teresa’s.

While there, I learned the story of how Naida got her name. It was not an uplifting story. It was as remarkable and as disturbing as the rest of her life.

We drove back by way of Ione. While passing through the town Naida told me about a friend of hers, an Indian woman, who was Dave Brubeck’s piano teacher when he was growing up there.

C. OFF TO THE CITY — THE BIG ENDIVE:

On Monday, we set off for San Francisco. Before leaving we drove to the kennel to board Boo-boo for the night. It took a little time because the person typing the required forms was blind. He had to lay one eye on the computer screen in order to read the form. Then, after saying a teary farewell to the dog, we left.

By the time we had reached Vacaville, the smog from the Forrest fires was so thick our lungs began to ache. We had coffee and a brioche there and then drove on into The City. Noe Valley where Peter and Barrie live was only slightly less occluded with the smog. They gave us some masks and we walked down to 24th street for lunch. After lunch, Peter and I went to Bernie’s for coffee. The air was too unbreathable to sit at the “Geezer’s Bench” so we sat at a table by the window drinking coffee and complaining about the pains and burdens of growing old.

The next morning, we went to UCSF for my appointment. On the way, as we passed the Ferry Building, Naida told me that at one time she worked with the State Department of Corrections on a massive study on the effectiveness of various parole alternatives on the recidivism rates of violent criminals. The results showed that nothing works.

I met with a Dr. Ryan for a second opinion on the possibility of surgery on my neck. The surgeon’s office was located on the fourth floor of a hospital in Mission Bay. Many years ago I had some involvement in the approvals for the development of Mission Bay. Precisely what, I do not remember. It now has become a hub or medical treatment technology. The cancer department impressed me. It is set up so that most of the diagnostic and treatment needs of the patient can occur in one place without the usual delays.

The surgeon was a youngish man in his mid-forties, dressed in a dark blue suit (He did not have a bow tie). Following the usual prodding, he confirmed the opinion of the previous surgeon that an attempt to operate would probably be fatal. The tumor had entwined itself around the muscle like a lover and pressing up against the artery. If he operated he would have to cut a flap of chest muscles to fold over the wound. He did indicate that all the tests done so far do not show that cancer had spread any farther and those other treatments may work. I then told him I was also looking into various trials including with one of his office colleagues that Terry recommended. He then arranged for an appointment with the doctor in a trial that focuses directly on my problem.

Although this was a somewhat more positive result and made me feel much better, I realized that I am effectively dead in the very near future should these treatments not work.

We drove home that afternoon, picked up the dog, watched some movies and prepared for Thanksgiving.

And on Wednesday the rains came.


Have a Happy National Welcome New Immigrant’s Day.

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At the beginning of his comments on my previous T&T post  (https://josephpetrillo.wordpress.com/2018/10/20/this-and-that-from-re-thai-r-ment-by-3th-12-papa-joe-0007-september30-2018/), Peter reminisces on his time in India.

Back from a week in Grosse Point Woods visiting old Indian friends, probably for the last time, before they return to India. Met them at first in 1964 just after we arrived in Bhubaneswar, Orissa (now Odisha), where I was to do my city planning field research. Bhubaneswar is the post-Independence state capital, a planned town drawn up originally by a Swiss planner named Otto Koenigsberger, who Nehru asked to do a low budget version of Chandigarh. The scrub jungle site was across the Calcutta (now Kolkata)-to-Madras (now Chennai) railway line from the ancient Hindu temple pilgrimage town of Bhubaneswar. The temple is a Siva temple, visited by Hindus from all over India. We were not allowed within the precinct, had to look at the 165 Ft tall temple tower from a raised viewing platform.

We rented a small house midway between the two settlements and lived there for 18 months or so. My faculty advisor, Harvard’s Zemurray Professor of Anthropology, was Cora Du Bois, a contemporary, colleague, and friend of Margaret Meade, Franz Boaz, and other notable anthropologists. Cora was also a close friend and near neighbor in Cambridge, MA. of Julia Child; the two of them were in the OSS in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), during WW2. Cora’s own research focused on the “confrontation of traditional and modern values,” and Bhubaneswar old and new presented a fabulous physical analog for such a study: old Brahmin temple town, filled with over a hundred superb temples (in the old days there were thousands), and newly built western-style planned government town (think New Delhi, Canberra, Washington DC). Besides her own research, Cora arranged for her Harvard anthropology phd students to do their respective thesis researches in Bhubaneswar (serially, not all at once, or they would have found a Trump surrogate to push to evict the swarm of academic immigrants). She also got three students from the local Utkal University to do likewise. Then I walked in and she added me to the mix. A unique venture!

The friends we just visited were a South Indian couple, he a senior IAS officer (Indian administrative Service), posted to Orissa and at the time head of the Orissa Mining Corp., a public corporation. His big things during our sojourn were developing manganese mines in the interior and overseeing development of the new port of Daitari, where they would export the ore to Japan to earn foreign exchange. He just finished writing his memoirs; his daughter just edited it for him. I’ll be very interested to read that. His wife looked after their two very young children, played the veena (south Indian cousin of the sitar), learned to fly a plane, and later took up sculpture, which she still does a bit of. The Ramchandrans are now in their early 90s; their children are grown, married with families, and live in Houston and Detroit area.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

The weekend passed quietly. October began. It is the birthday month for the Petrillo family. Three of my grandchildren and I have birthday’s this month.
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Arron, Athena, Pookie, and Anthony many years ago.

On Tuesday, I learned the results of my PET scan. The bad news is that they found cancer cells in the lump on my neck. The good news is that it does not appear to have spread to other parts of my body yet. I will need an operation to remove the lump. The bad news is that it will be tricky since the lump sits between a muscle, a tendon, and my carotid artery. The operation will be scheduled by the end of the month or soon thereafter and take about five hours. The bad news is that I will probably lose the muscle in that part of my neck. So it goes.

On Saturday, my nephew is getting married. My sister told me that I had to wear a jacket and tie. I did not know they still did that. Anyway, I first thought of the Brioni and Kiton suits I used to wear and realized I could no longer indulge myself (read afford) with that form of conspicuous consumption. So, Naida and I set off for Goodwill. There I bought a nice almost formal black jacket to go with my black Levi’s and a not so flashy tie which seems not to match any of my shirts. I am ready.

I do not understand when people are referred to as “fighting cancer.” I picture some metal encased knight attacking a fire-breathing dragon. So far for me, it has been no battle at all. I feel more like a slab or rancid meat crawling with maggots surrounded by people in hospital scrubs burning, poisoning and cutting the piece of meat in hope that what is left can get up and walk after they finish.

One day I noticed Naida working hard at the piano and seeming to struggle with some music. “What are you doing,” I enquired? “I am trying to compose a piece based on your breathing while you sleep,” she replied. “Here are the low sounds,” she said while she ran off some low notes on the piano. “And here are the high ones,” she added running through something on the right-hand part of the keyboard. Then she put them all together. It sounded pretty good to me. She said, “It needs some work.” “The low sounds were a lot like what one hears from a double bass and the highs sounded a bit like a clarinet.” I never suspected the unconscious sounds my body makes when I sleep were melodious. Perhaps, it is only when I sleep. I certainly would not call most of the random noises that I hear issuing from my body when I am awake tuneful.

One should not think my health problems have led me into deep depression and anger. Yes, as I have always done, I describe it all with my usual cynicism and melodrama. But in fact, I am about as happy as I have ever been. If anything, I would like it to last for a few more years rather than a few more months. I used to hope to live long enough to witness the election of the first woman president of the United States — Alas, that disappointment may not be rectified in the time I have left. Perhaps, I could replace that hope with living long enough to hear a thump and a slash or orange passing through the trap door of a gallows. But that is probably not to be, so I am quite happy watching an adolescent grow to adulthood and lying at night in the arms of someone I love.

 

 

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B. A WEDDING IN NEVADA CITY:

 

On Saturday, we drove up to Nevada City to attend the wedding of my nephew Brendan to his beloved Ashley. I had not visited this section of the foothills (Called the “Northern Diggins” during gold rush days.) It was a warm autumn day as we drove through three old mining towns along Route 49, Auburn, Grass Valley and Nevada City. When I last passed through these towns, they were quaint western towns set in the forested foothills (Not like the “Southern Diggings” that were settled in the more open easier to mine grassy foothills that I call the Golden Hills.) Back then there was always a small stream of tourists and a steady migration of aging Hippies returning to the land.

Now the streets of these old towns — whose downtowns have preserved their relatively decrepit exteriors — are flooded with throngs of tourists and the remote old hippy cabins squeezed by advancing subdivisions marching up from the valley crushing the land and tearing down the trees as they come. The connecting roads between the towns, at one time bucolic country lanes, are now lined with commercial sprawl. Ah well, so it goes.

The wedding was held in the Historic Foundry that used to provide the machinery for the now disappeared gold mining industry. The Foundry, now restored, serves as a museum and a venue for events like weddings. Naida told me she had been here several times to book fairs and to lecture at the Foundry. One time she had worked so hard in the heat that she passed out on the streets of downtown Nevada City and had to be taken to a hospital.

The wedding was quite lovely, the Groom was handsome and the bride lovely, the parents of the couple beaming and the guests getting pleasantly inebriated as the evening wore on. The food was better than expected at events like this and the wine spectacular. The following photographs describe the celebration better than words.

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The Bride and Groom.

 

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The Bride and Her Father Walk Down the Aisle. 

 

img_57481Their First Dance.

 

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A Cute Flower Girl.

 

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Proud and Relieved Parents of the Groom.
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Some of the Happy Guests.

 

.Two of the guests, friends of Mary and George, flew out from the East Coast for the wedding. They are also Facebook friends of mine. I had not met them in person before that night, but we had communicated in the weird and wired way of social media. I was excited to meet them and delighted when I did. I hope I will be able to spend a bit more time with them if I see them at Mary and George’s Anniversary next weekend.

 

C. HOME AGAIN HOME AGAIN.

 

 

Since the wedding, I have been running around submitting to the several tests and consultations required before my operation. Outside of that, I wait for the insurance company to approve the procedure. It has been interesting to contemplate that my life depends upon the decision of some bureaucrats working for a large corporation whose financial position is bettered if I should die before any approval is given.
About every two weeks, I receive a lovely postcard from Barrie containing a brief vignette from her life and now and then a comment about the most recent T&T post. It appears she can make her own postcards. Each one comes with something interesting on the front — The most recent postcard came with a photograph of a painting by Peter’s mom of a tall thin fashionable woman. I eagerly await to receive the postcards. I store them in a little box and now and now and then open it to look at them.

We are off to Mendocino for the weekend to attend Maryann and George’s anniversary party. (Do those two seem to have a lot of parties?)

When I return, I will be 79 years old. An old man my age on the day I was born would have been born on the day 11-year-old Grace Bedell writes to Abraham Lincoln telling him to grow a beard.

Other events that happened on this day:

533 Byzantine general Belisarius makes his formal entry into Carthage, having conquered it from the Vandals.

1520 King Henry VIII of England orders bowling lanes at Whitehall

1660 Asser Levy granted butcher’s license (kosher meat) in New Amsterdam

1881 1st American fishing magazine, American Angler published

1952 “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams is published by Harper & Brothers

1985 Shelley Taylor of Australia makes fastest swim ever around Manhattan Island, doing it in 6 hours 12 minutes 29 seconds

 

So, if you want to celebrate my birthday, grow a beard, conquer some Vandals, go bowling, eat some kosher sausage, go fishing, have a swim or write a book or at least read one and above all VOTE

My estranged son among other more sordid invectives called me a “political hack.” While some of his more scurrilous accusations may be true that certainly is not. I “was” a political hack, now I am just an old hack with regrets.

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So, on Friday we attended “The Sock Hop” at the Community Center in the Enchanted Forest at Campus Commons. Every month there is a themed TGIF party at the Center. This month it was the 1950s. I had been volunteered to bartender and Naida was a cashier. We were in costume. I more or less like a skinny rogue biker and Naida in crinoline and a poodle appliqué on her vest. We danced to 1950s tunes.
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The Biker and the girl in crinoline.

A group of ladies began things by dancing the Hokey Pokey.
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Doing the Hokey Pokey.

Now you may think we live in a senior center. Not so, there are a lot of younger people who live here. It is just the old birds who seem to flock together for events like this.

One old girl came up to the bar several times and asked me to “fill it to the rim with gin.” Senior fun.

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The View from the Bar.

Speaking of fun, a few days ago, while driving HRM somewhere or another, I asked him if he had done anything enjoyable recently. He said, “Yesterday, I thought it would be fun to walk up to random people and hand them a few dollars so they will feel something good happened to them that day. So I did.”

I never did anything like this for amusement. Perhaps I should worry.

A few days later while driving him somewhere, HRM suddenly exclaimed, “I am going to ace history in high school.”

“Oh, how so,” I replied.

“I already know everything about the Sikhs, even how to tie on a turban. I also know the history of Arabia and the names of all their leaders.” He then went on to name the current leaders of the UAE, Dubai and several other states in the area.

“That’s great,” I said. “How did you come by this knowledge?”

“Well,” he said, “don’t tell anyone but, I learn it in class when I am bored with what’s going on.”

“Oh,” I said, “I too used to read history books in class when I was bored.”

“I don’t read books,” he explained, “I get it all on my smartphone.” Then he added, “What do you think the accent of Sikhs living in Australia sounds like?”

Should I worry?

As for my health, The PET scan showed three places with a high probability of cancer. Tomorrow, I go for a biopsy again.

I am now back in EDH for a while. Dick has left for Asia for two weeks and I have resumed my nanny duties along with my ongoing chauffeur responsibilities. Mon, a young man from Thailand, is living there also. His job is to cook and clean.

On the way to school one morning. I mentioned to Hayden that he lives like one-percenters of old with his own nanny, chauffeur, and Asian houseboy. “Yes, I know,” he responded. “Don’t forget you are my lawyer also,“ he added.

Ok, now I am worried.

After I drop HRM off at school in the morning, I usually drive to The Enchanted Forest. There, to spend the day with Naida. She working on her memoir and I wasting time on my computer like I am now writing this. Then about 2PM, I leave for EDH to pick up Hayden from school and with a brief break at the Skateboard Park, drive him home. He to do his homework and me to waste more time.

Went to my biopsy appointment today. Told the Doctor that my previous appointment was inconclusive because that doctor’s sonogram could not penetrate the scar tissue on my neck. This doctor said his sonogram should have no trouble. I then told him that the subsequent PET scan report showed three high probability sites. The Doctor said he thought there was only one.

Then he got down to work and stuck a needle full of Lidocaine into my throat. After fooling around awhile, he said, “Oh-oh there was some air in the needle and it is now lodged beneath your skin. Let’s wait a half hour and maybe it will go away.” And with that, he strode out of the room.

Since the mass is lodged between my muscle, tendon and my carotid artery, I had the pleasure of lying there imagining my sudden death from a brain embolism. After a half hour or so he returned and applied his sonogram to my neck and after some more fooling around said, “I can’t see anything. The air bubble is probably still there. Let’s schedule another try at it next week.” And he walked out.

After dressing, I approached to nurse to schedule a new appointment. She was giggling. After we agreed on a date she said, “Oh Good, a really good doctor will be there then.”

A few days ago on Wednesday, I picked up the entire Scooter Gang and brought them to the house to wait there until it was time to go to the teenage get together held every Wednesday in an overly large modern church complex labeled the Community Church. I do not know what denomination it is, probably Baptist. I know they sometimes like to hide their affiliation.

Anyway, the Gang consisted of five burgeoning adolescents – Haden (HRM), Jake (Big tall longhaired Jake), Graham (the Genius), Tyson (who gets blamed whenever anything goes wrong) and Ethan (the first one to have a girlfriend).
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HRM, Ethan, Graham, and Jake
(Hayden is wearing something he picked up in Dubai when he visited there this summer. He is holding a magic lamp that he also bought there.)

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Ethan has an interesting history. His mother and father had made a good deal of money in a trade that recently became legal which will soon end the growth of mom and pop millionaires as the industry consolidates and becomes a subsidiary of something like General Foods or Coke or some super large drug company — alas, so it goes.

Anyway, about three or four years ago, Ethan’s mom was murdered. His father discovered who did it, tracked him down and beat him almost to death with a large iron rod. Ethan’s dad was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison. He got out a month ago. Ethan, who has been living with his grandparents leaves next week to stay with his father for a month or two so they can become reacquainted. HRM decided to throw him a going away party at the house on Saturday.

After picking them up at the Church event, They talked about Christianity and Heaven. Hayden thinks there were many heavens a person lives through, here on earth is the most recent one and the next one is the last. Graham said he was a professional atheist but now he decided to become a Christian —whatever that is.

Okay, now I am really very worried.

After an evening back in the Enchanted Forest, I returned to the Golden Hills to chaperone the going away party. Actually, it was not so much a party — about six or seven boys gathered to spend the night. After giving them the rules of the house — no bragging things, no spilling of liquids on the floor and no getting hurt — they joked with me awhile about the various things that were included or excluded in the rules. For the rest of the evening, they stayed quietly together in HRM’s room except for when they came into the kitchen for Pizza or coke.

The next morning I drove one of the gang, Caleb, home. He lives in the “low-income” side of town, a group of apartments hidden in a depression, behind some trees and on the far side of Town Center. During the drive, I ask Caleb what he wanted to be when he grew up. He quickly responded, “A forensic scientist.” “Interesting,” I responded. “What made you decide to do that?”

“ Well,” He answered. “My uncle was murdered. He died in 7/11. He was one of those people who you saw on television that jumped of the top of the buildings.”

“Oh,” I said. “I am sorry to hear that.” Then, unable to think of anything else to say, said, “Well I guess that will be a good profession for you.” Then, with my feeling like an idiot, we drove on to Caleb’s house in silence.

Well, I finally had the biopsy and now wait for the results. The next day, I met my new primary care doctor, my previous one retired as of September 1. His office is in a gym. Apparently, he doubles as a sports physician He is in his late 30’s and looks more like an ex-NFL linebacker than a doctor. We set a follow-up appointment for next week when the results of the biopsy become available.

After the appointment with the doctor, I rushed to a regular Parent teachers meeting at HRM’s school. The day before the school changed his classroom schedule to separate him from the rest of the Scooter Gang because the teachers felt that the socializing that went on in the classroom was adversely affecting his school work. Although it was done for his benefit, he took it as an attack on him specifically. Frankly, I thought they could have handled it better by reassigning several members of the gang instead of just him.

After the meeting, I was as exhausted as I have ever been and so I returned to the Enchanted Forest and slept through to the following morning.

Ha, Ethan returned from his uncle’s house where his father was living. He stayed only one day there before returning to EDH. He told me his uncles house burned down and so he had no place to live. After a little more prodding the story emerged. He said that the room in the attic of the house where he was to sleep also contained the circuit-breaker for the house’s electricity. His uncle fiddled around with it. He went for a walk. On his way back, he heard an explosion and saw that the house was on fire. He rushed back to the house, woke up his three cousins who had been sleeping in other bedrooms, and lead them out of the house. Almost as soon as they emerged the entire building exploded. It seems that Ethen’s prospective bedroom, the one that contained the exploding circuit breaker also contained 5000 assorted fireworks (yes — 5000) that also exploded and leveled the house when the fire that was consuming the heat of the bedroom reached the fireworks. Ethan seemed relaxed about the fact that only by a stroke of luck he escaped death.

One evening we went for dinner at a Czech-Italian restaurant on J. Street, after which, as we walked down the street we passed a group of young people one of whom said as we walked past, “You two are adorable.” We are now old enough that doing what people normally do is considered “adorable.”

Watched the Kavanaugh/Ford hearing. I do not know about the assault but he lied in just about everything else — a Golden Triangle is not three glasses of beer.

And then the weekend came drifting by as I waited to find out whether I am a dead man walking.
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