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Today I went swimming for the first time since last October. I walked to the Nepenthe pool here in the Enchanted Forest and sat on one of the reclining beach chairs in the shade of some redwood trees until I felt ready to swim. It was not much of a swim. I couldn’t complete even one lap, but I paddled around a bit and did some walking back and forth across the shallower end of the pool. It’s a start.

That evening after we went to bed, I remembered that I had not driven the car from the overnight no-parking tow-away zone in front of our house to where I normally park it during the night. I jumped out of bed, threw on Bill’s red velvet robe and ran out the door to attend to the problem. Now Bill was a big man, much bigger than I am, five or six inches taller and about 100 pounds heavier so his red velvet robe hung down to the tips of my crocs and draped loosely around my body. It appeared more like a paint tarp thrown loosely over an armchair than a robe. I looked like a disheveled dissolute medieval Cardinal newly returned from the grave running around at night searching for heretics to burn at the stake. I got into the car and drove it to the proper parking area and then walked back home through the paths and streets of the Enchanted Forest like a crimson specter carrying a Shillelagh. I suspect I will be brought before the HOC to explain why I had chosen to haunt the neighborhood.

As Frank tells us, “Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few.” The last precious few days have not only dwindled down to smokey memory but most of those memories have disappeared.

I swam again a few days later — more vigorously this time. That evening, we watched Anatomy of a Murder with Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remmick, George C. Scott, and Ben Gazzara. The Gazzara family (Ben’s relatives) owned the shop, a grocery store, in Canicatti, Sicily next door to my family’s “Tabacci.” How is that for a remote and inconsequential factoid? (Another inconsequential factoid is that the presence of Zs in the last name of southern Italians signifies that they are descended from the Arab and Moorish settlers during their more than 300 years (Ninth to the Eleventh Centuries) occupation of the Island and the southern mainland. OK one more: Jews were the only ones to migrate to Sicily instead of invading it. In 1492, the same year that Columbus arrived in the Americas beginning the conquest, genocide (ethnic cleansing), and repopulation of those two continents, the Spanish Kingdom of Aragon, recent conquerors of Sicily and sponsors of Columbus’ expedition, expelled those Jews, many of whom resettled in those parts Germany beyond the reach of the Christian crusaders and thus became a major component of the stateless Jewish nation of the Ashkenazim.)

This morning, I took a shower. I know that’s nothing momentous, but while my PICC line was in, I could neither shower nor swim. I thought to myself as I stood there for a long, long time with the water crashing down on me, how wonderful it was to shower again after eight months of sponge baths. That, in turn, reminded me of when I was a kid, in the second grade. We lived in a storefront with a soaped-up window. We had only a toilet and cold water, so every evening my mom would heat up water in a kettle on the stove and pour it into a galvanized tub in which she bathed my brother and I. Yes, it has been a long time from May to September.

Later, Naida and I discussed something amusing and interesting that I wanted to write about here but I forgot what it was. Only the sense that it was amusing and interesting remains. That’s good enough for me.

On Thursday night, we went to the B-street Theater housing Sacramento’s premier live theater group. We saw The Last Match, a one-act play about a tennis match at the US Open between the aging US champion on the verge of retirement and the young upstart Russian challenger, and their wives. It was a well-staged fascinating comedy-drama. The only problem with the show was that even with my hearing-aid turned up, I could only make out about a quarter of the words spoken by the actors. I blamed it on the failure of modern acting schools to focus on projection and diction and not on any deficiency in me or my auditory equipment.

The next day I planned to spend the morning swimming. Instead, I occupied the entire day extending well into the evening watching old Red Skelton movies. I know, I should be shot and put out of my misery. Who watches Red Skelton movies today? Whoever watched Red Skelton movies? I didn’t when I was a kid —not even Saturday mornings at the Tuckahoe Itch where for 25 cents we watched a double feature, a bunch of cartoons and Movietone News of the Week. OK, I admit, I enjoyed watching them this week, especially “The Whisperer” series — truly an adventure in silliness.)

hayden… teenage forgetting — grandparents v parents — Bella bru — sunglasses — lake — zumba pool — condo — rose garden — bookstore — Hamilton quote — epstein

I wrote the above as a mnemonic device so I could come back after a few days and hopefully recall what happened. It is now a few days later. Let us see how well it worked.

Hayden — I recall leaving home at 8AM and driving into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM and Jake in order to drive to a large skatepark camp near Tahoe. I stopped in the Bela Bru parking lot and called H because I suspected he would have changed his mind and forgotten to call and tell me.

Teenage forgetting — He answered the phone and said they changed their mind and had forgotten to call and tell me.

Grandparents v parents — I have no idea why I added this except perhaps grandparents and the very old (alter cocker?) tend to be more forgiving of the foibles of the young than parents because, I guess, but for a vague sense of one more disappointment among many, they have little enough to do anyway so there was usually nothing else they had to give up.

Bella Bru — so, having little else to do, I entered Bella Bru ordered my favorite breakfast of Cafe Latte and a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with Cream cheese.

Sunglasses — for the rest of the day, I believed I had lost my favorite sunglasses. I tore the car apart and searched the house for them. That evening, as I sat in the recliner, I looked down and found the glasses had been hanging from one of my shirt buttons all day.

Lake — After breakfast, I went for a walk around the lakes at Town Center.

Zumba pool — I walked past the morning Zumba dancing class exercising in the health club pool.

Condo — and past the construction of the new and controversial 200 unit condominium project. It was not the best planned and designed concept. I would have preferred a walking street through the site with additional commercial on the ground floor. In any event, I support adding residential units to large shopping centers like Town Center so it had my silent approval for however much it is worth.

Rose Garden — After my walk around the lakes, I sat there and enjoyed myself contemplating something I no longer remember.

Book store — After meditating or whatever in the rose garden I walked to the bookstore, A Clean Well Lighted Place For Books. I seem to recall there were a few books that interested me. I no longer remember the titles of any of them.

Hamilton quote — I have no idea what this relates to or to what quote I was referring to unless it was this one I had read a few days ago:

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Epstein — Given the current news surrounding everything about this man, this could refer to almost anything.
A strange and mysterious thing came flying over the back fence today — a small box. In that box nestled a coffee cup filled with candy. It is sitting on a cabinet next to where I am typing this. I wonder about it. Perhaps it is a magic cup. Maybe if I rub it three times, a coffee genie will pop out and offer me three wishes. This requires some deep thought.

On Monday, I drove again into the Golden Hills. It was HRM’s first day of high school. I stopped again at Bella Bru, this time for lunch. As I was ordering, to my surprise N, Hayden’s mom, called to me. She was there with Jake’s mom. I joined them and we spent most of the lunch discussing the problems of teenagers. I then picked up H and Jake at the skatepark. They were very excited and happy about their first day of high school. I dropped them off at D’s house and returned to the EF.

A few more days have passed by. I assume I must have done something of at least moderate interest. Yesterday, I felt sick and spent most of the day in bed. Today, I felt better. That interests me even if it does no one else.

Well, today is Wednesday. Last night Naida could not find her wallet. We tried to remember when she used her credit card last. One of the places we considered she may have left it was at the Theater. In our attempts to recall the day we attended the play, I was convinced it was Saturday. She was not sure and thought we went there on Friday. Today at the theater we discovered it was Thursday (as I had written above but had not checked). My memory failures are going beyond simply humorous stories about the foibles of aging.

How about that, It is Friday evening already. It is Irene Dunne day on TCM.

We attended the Saturday Morning Coffee. I am beginning to enjoy talking to the people there rather than just sitting in the corner observing them and writing about it here. Perhaps I am growing up. Winnie, who is on immunotherapy, seems to be doing well. She was distraught when she first was diagnosed with brain cancer. Now that it seems to have been halted, at least for a while, she tries hard to enjoy every day as much as possible. Good for her. I also had a lengthy conversation with another woman, She worked in the legislative bill room while the Coastal Act was going through the process. Later, while working for a workman’s comp. company, she retained one of the attorneys from my firm for some legal work. This is another example of the “small world” aspect of coincidence. She also told me that one of Senator Henry Mello’s sons often attends the coffee but was not there today.

After that, I left again for the Golden Hills and picked up HRM, Jake, and Kaleb and drove to Placerville where we had lunch before I dropped them off at “Joe’s Skate Park.” While they were skating the cement hills of the park, I nosed around through some of Placerville’s shops. Later on the way back to EDH, the chattered on about their excitement over starting high school. I tried to leave them with Pookie’s Ten Cent Words of Wisdom for Adolescents by explaining that their high school years would be among the most memorable of their lives, but they should understand that because this is the time in one’s life most open to deep feelings and emotions inevitably they would find some things as bad as they had ever experienced before but they needed to know and remember that they will pass. Pretty mundane if you ask me.

The next day, was Ice Cream by the Pool Day where many of those who attend the Saturday Morning Coffee sat around the pool, ate ice cream and talked. Naida and I had an enjoyable conversation with Winnie about life and loves past. On the way back to the house we ran into the new neighbor who had worked for Lehman Brothers and now sells memberships in some sort of a travel club. He told us the man who had moved into the other side of us (The one who tried to chat up Naida) used to be an immigration lawyer in the Bronx. Small world indeed.

On Monday, I picked up HRM and Jake after school and took them to lunch. Alas, they wanted to go to Chick’a’fil which I am trying to boycott because of their support of Trump and their stance on LGBT. I decided to remain silent about political issues and went with them.

This morning, Naida and I woke-up and began chatting to each other about our dreams. We had both dreamt about summing up our lives, our successes, and failures. She on the difficulties, successes, and failures of being a woman trying to make her way in the world and me about the places I have been and the things that I have seen and the places and things I would never see and experience.

So, now it is time to travel again to the Big Endive by the Bay for my immunotherapy infusion.

Take care of yourselves.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
Today, I awoke feeling chipper (an appropriate but seldom used word). After a good nights sleep, I was awakened by the bright sunlight slanting through the shutter’s slats and onto the bed. The still air of morning moderated the heat of what was destined to become a sultry scorching day. The sound of the dog barking at every squirrel and cat in the neighborhood that chanced to step within fifty feet of the house accompanied me into the kitchen. Two Thomas’ Original English Muffins lay on my plate all crispy and slathered in butter and fig preserve. The coffee hot and especially tasty made the morning complete.

I was sitting in my reclining chair enjoying the morning, happily dunking my muffins into the cup of coffee when Naida came downstairs ready to leave for a day at the Fair selling her books. She wore tight dark navy blue slacks and a very attractive navy blue blouse. She asked me how she looked.

I felt a bit of jealousy as I looked her over imagining the 70 and 80-year-old lotharios at the Fair joking with her and sweet-talking her. Now you may think that boinking and boffing among 80 year-olds is an image best avoided and that in our dotage jealousy is far from our minds — we being more mature and significantly less capable. On the contrary, even in our decrepitude, we are as randy as ever and far less constrained by social mores.

Upon first reaching the not so tender age at which I have recently arrived, this state of affairs surprised me. I thought the days of sweaty nights, and ceaseless desire was behind and if truth be known, beyond me (although I believe I remain a pretty good kisser, hugger and nibbler of ears).

A month or so ago, an elderly gentleman (younger than me, alas) moved into the empty house next to ours and immediately began energetically chatting up Naida until the man who lived in the house across the way told him to knock it off since she already had a significant other. Now, this amused me greatly. I realized we had reached that age where we became teenagers again.

In keeping with my newly revived teenager-hood, I entertained myself with thoughts of smacking him across the head with my cane. In my adolescence, I may have done so were we standing toe to toe, bathing in testosterone and shouting at each other. I would, however, never go in search of someone in order to deliver the blow, comforting myself with the fiction I would do so were we ever to meet in a dark alley. Now, in my dotage, I am certain almost nothing would prompt me to leave my recliner and certainly not on this lovely morning. Besides, Naida undoubtedly would think I had gone nuts. That is another pleasure of growing old, you can become as crazy as you want in your own mind without feeling guilty or worried about your sanity — after all the next stop on the train is childhood.

Never forget laddie, today is the oldest you’ve ever been, yet the youngest you’ll ever be. So, enjoy the day. It is never coming around again. And so, I did.

On Friday I took Hayden, Jake, and Kaleb to the California State Fair. I picked up Hayden and Jake at Dick’s house. They were lazing in HRM’s teen-ager cave. A few more wall posters have been added to the decor and the small fridge is now full of soft drinks. We then picked up Kaleb at his mother’s apartment. During the drive to the Fair, I listened to teen-talk — about cars and motorcycles and what they would do once they get their driver’s license.

At the Fair, I left the three of them to wander about while I sat in air-conditioned building A eating a Cinnabon. We did visit the animal barns together. Today was sheep, longhorn cattle, and llama day. There was one section that featured attack llamas. Large vicious-looking beasts trained to protect herds of sheep from wolves and coyotes.

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Jake, HRM, and Kaleb at the Fair standing near the Attack Llamas pen.

 
When I got home that evening and told Naida about the attack llamas, she asked, “What could they fight with, they have no fangs and their hooves are not that hard?” “Spit,” I responded. “Wolves and coyotes are very fastidious. They do not like to be spat upon.”

We then had dinner and Naida told me the story of the two angora goats she owned when she lived with Bill on the ranch along the Cosumnes River. It was a long and fascinating story of escape, punishment, sorrow, affection, return the use of angora fleece for hair on dolls and the ability of acacia trees to repel giraffes.

I think this is a good time to insert one of my favorite Ogden Nash poems:

The one L lama, he’s a priest
The two L llama, he’s a beast
And I will bet my silk pyjama
There isn’t any three L lllama.
— O. Nash, to which a fire chief replied that occasionally his department responded to something like a “three L lllama.”

All things considered, it was a good day in spite of the heat and the national news.

The next day I left for the Bay Area for my sister’s birthday party at her daughter’s home in Oakland.

 

B. A BRIEF TRIP TO THE EAST BAY:
The traffic was brutal on I-80 that morning. It took almost three hours to travel the 90 miles from Sacramento to Oakland. I arrived at a rather fancy apartment complex in a newly built-up section of Oakland. Thirty-years ago during the eight years, I was the director of the State Coastal Conservancy, my office was situated in downtown Oakland. Often, I visited this area at lunchtime since there were a few decent restaurants I liked that had located in the mostly empty decaying warehouses that then marked the neighborhood. About 15 years later, the younger Shorenstein and Pappadopolus teamed up to propose to the then-Mayor Jerry Brown, a massive development project in the area. It was about then that I last ventured into Oakland. Terry and I had proposed to Mayor Jerry, the rehabilitation of the old Fox theater that recently had been landmarked. The deal ultimately fell through as they almost always did whenever Terry and I teamed up.

Katie, Maryanne’s daughter, and her intended Quinn live in one of two newly constructed buildings built by the same developer. Inside, it is lavishly equipped with everything the young techies would want, a super large exercise room, swimming pool, and even a coffee and wine lounge. On the roof where the party was held, a large party terrace had been built equipped with a huge television screen, kitchen, and even a fire sculpture with real fire. Perhaps its purpose was not art but for toasting marshmallows.

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On the outside, the public amenities were less lavish. On the good side, the first level was well stocked with spaces for shops. I saw a barbershop and a tavern open with tables and chairs on the sidewalk outside. Less happy is the lack of greenery and pedestrian amenities.

I enjoyed the party. Members of Maryanne’s cooking group were there along with some of her friends from when she lived in Berkeley. I had some enjoyable conversations about drugs, living in Costa Rica and food.

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Maryanne, her daughter Katie and the Birthday Cake.

 
After the party, I drove to 4th Street in Berkeley to meet with Terry. I had not been to 4th street in over twenty years. I marveled at how little had changed — the same Peet’s Coffee, kitchen shop, cafe, paper shop and so on. I met Terry at Peet’s and we reminisced over our past legislative battles. Prompted by my behind the scenes story here in T&T about the passage of the Coastal Act, Terry described the background of the enactment of his legislation prohibiting LNG terminals in California. Governor Brown opposed Terry’s bill. Eventually, Terry won but at the cost of his removal as the author of the bill. I then told about my CEQA reform bill. It was drafted in response to a court victory for CEQA but considered too environmental to pass the Senate. Nevertheless, we did pass it in that house. Unfortunately, in the Assembly, Speaker McCarthy told us that the price of approval was that, like Terry with the LNG bill, Senator Smith had to be removed as author and Assemblyman Art Agnos inserted in his place. So it goes in the hurly-burly of politics.

We then decided to get a drink at a restaurant nearby. I ordered prosecco and he a red wine from Lombardy. We sat in front of a display of shucked oysters. Suddenly, I felt a great urge to have some. I had not eaten an oyster in years. In fact, I had not eaten much of interest since my most recent illness began. So, we ordered some Kumamoto Oysters. Later, on my drive back to the Enchanted Forest, I reminisced about one of my favorite eateries, the Oyster Bar in New York’s Grand Central Station. I would stop there almost every evening after I left my office in Rockefeller Center. And even after leaving NY, I would try to stop there whenever I returned for a visit. I remember sitting there at the Oyster Bar with my son Jason. We had stopped in NY on our way back to Europe. It was the first time he had tried Oysters. His verdict, “interesting.”

 
C. ONCE MORE IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
The next day I drove into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM, Jake, Kaleb, and Ethan. They wanted me to drive them to Costco for lunch. For some reason, they believe that Costco’s pizza is the best in the area.

Today is Tuesday. It is early afternoon. It has been about two days since the trip to Costco with the Scooter Gang. I recall nothing that may have happened since then except Naida and I had dinner at a local Indian restaurant and went shopping at Raley’s. That means, as far as I am concerned, nothing else existed for two days but for that dinner at the local Indian restaurant and shopping at Raley’s. Life is brief, but if I don’t record it here it is briefer still. I guess that is one reason for keeping a journal.

For some reason, despite shedding myself of everything at least four times in my life, two diaries I had kept way back in the early sixties remained with me. Some time ago, I decided to read one written in 1960, I think. The entire diary consisted only of a story about a torrid but doomed love affair that began in January of that year and ended appropriately in December. Despite what from the Diary appeared to be a momentous romance, I recalled nothing about it. Not even the women’s name that for some reason never appeared in the Diary. Does that mean the love affair never existed until that day I happened to pick up that Diary and read it? Then again, maybe I made it all up, but why?

Perhaps, I will copy it out and write it as a story — Poe like. The old man on a dreary night in bleak December sits alone by the fire — no no-one has a fireplace any more — by the flickering light of the computer screen. He picks up the long-forgotten diary and begins to read… Nevermore… Hmm, could her name have been Lenore? Alas, as far as I recall, there were no Raven’s in Tuckahoe, NY.

Later in the afternoon Naida and I ate at one of my favorite places in Sacramento. — Not for the quality of the food but because of the lovely outdoor garden to eat it in.

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Pookie in the Tower Cafe garden.

 
D. BACK AGAIN TO THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

Once again it was time to return to the Bay Area for my immunotherapy treatment. On Wednesday, Naida and I left Capitol City for Peter and Barrie’s house. After a rather uneventful drive, we arrived to find the house delightfully full of people. We were greeted not only by Peter and Barry, but also by their two granddaughters both under four years of age, Alex their father (Peter and Barrie’s son), and Peter’s brother’s son’s two teenage daughters. The granddaughters were suitably giggly and alternated shyness with jumping into your arms for a hug. The teenagers exhibited the usual reserve of teenagers observing us Vecchi as though we were not completely grown up. They did happily carry the little ones around in their arms whenever they felt the need for affection and security. Alex was fatherly stern while Peter, Barrie and we smiled happily at the turmoil.

As usual, Barrie made something tasty and interesting for dinner. She made it from a recipe given to her by a woman from India. Its main ingredients consisted of yams and pineapple-infused hot dogs. I found it delicious.

The following morning, after goodbyes and hugs all around, we left for the hospital. At the hospital, the doctor told us that the CT scans showed that the tumor had not grown (good for me). Unfortunately, it also showed what looked like a dormant clot in my lung. The doctor then scheduled a sonogram on my legs to be performed directly after the infusion. Following those two procedures, the doctors at my request removed my PICC line freeing me to swim and travel. We then returned the oncologists office and he informed me that another dormant clot had b found behind my left knee and so, in order to be on the safe side, he prescribed a very expensive anticoagulant. I am unsure whether I prefer a long painful death as cancerous cells devour my insides or sudden death from a surprise heart attack or stroke.

On the way back to the Enchanted Forest, we stopped at a senior development in Davis to see if it was someplace we would like to move to as we grow older. It was an elegant fairly high priced center with many benefits. The residents were mostly professors and other professionals. It is a highly desirable senior community with a long waiting list. It gave me the creeps. Not because of anything about the development, but because although my body may be falling apart my mind feels young and vigorous (except for memory problems). It made me feel as though I would be in prison while I waited to die. Some of the residents we talked to do not think that is the case. They still travel and enjoy themselves. I guess soon it will become time to face the fact that taking care of a house, shopping and things like that begin to steal from the time one has left.

 

D. AN AFTERNOON IN THE GOLDEN HILLS WITH HRM AND THE SCOOTER GANG:

During the morning of the next day, I received a call from HRM requesting I take the Scooter Gang to lunch. In keeping with my obligations as chauffeur and comic relief, I leaped from my recliner, grabbed my cane and hat, kissed the dog, said so-long to Naida, walked to the car and drove off into the Golden Hills.

The gang was at Kaleb’s house. HRM, Kaleb (tall and skinny) Jake (tall, long-haired) and Ethan (not so tall, not so skinny and not so long-haired) piled into the car. (Hamza, another member of the gang, was spending the summer in Morocco at the small town from which his family migrated. When asked how he liked spending summers in Morocco he usually replies “I hate it. It’s a shithole.” ) They asked to be driven to a new, fast-food fried chicken place in Folsom they wanted to try out (they all are breaking out with adolescent acne. Nevertheless, fried foods remain at the top of their teenage food pyramid.)

As I drove, I listened to the teen-age chatter. I worry about these kids. Although they live in an upscale suburb, they believe themselves poor and each one has his own set of problems. Kaleb, in addition to his difficult home life, suffers from some sort of heart trouble. At lunch after eating he vomited up everything he had eaten. The others said he does that often. Perhaps that is why he is so skinny. Jake has a steel bar through his chest to hold it up. Whether it was to remedy a birth defect or to correct a later injury, I do not know. I was told he also has a pinhole opening in his heart. Ethan seems to have no physical problems, but his mother was murdered and his father went to prison for killing the man who killed his mother. He is out of prison now but does not live with Ethan. Ethan lives with his grandmother. As they grow older and school and family provide less and less of a nurturing environment they seem slowly becoming slackers and are gradually slipping into nihilism. I try to offer them a bit of mature companionship, some sophomoric words of wisdom, and a little encouragement but I am afraid, in the long run, it will not be enough.

 

E. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
On Saturday, we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Clubhouse. Because Naida was busy at the Fair, we have not attended one of these for over a month. I enjoyed being there and actually talked to people rather than sitting off to the side watching.

The rest of the day, N worked on her Memoir while I reviewed the latest from the 49rs training camp, reading Herman Melville’s comic novel Pierre: The Ambiguities and playing on Facebook.

We also watched the news. There have been two assault rife massacres in the US within a week. The first at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California and now today in El Paso Texas. The assassins in both cases were young white men professing an alt-right point of view and a hatred of Latino immigrants The response from the right and the Republican politicians appear to be coalescing around characterizing these men as disturbed and focussing the remedy on identification and removal rather than on the ideology that inspires them or the weapons that enables them. This approach arms the police only with a vague and arbitrary standard that is difficult to understand and implement and easily subverted by politics or ideology. Why empower often poorly educated and trained but heavily armed police to make decisions on issues where even those who study them disagree, rather than simply requiring them to remove the means of mass mayhem and urging the media and the spokesmen for society to condemn the ideology that motivated them?
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In the evening, we watched “A Dry White Season” with Donald Sutherland and Marlon Brando a movie about the Soweto Uprising. It gave both of us nightmares. Not simply because of the horrors inflicted on the repressed members of that society, but it also seems to be occurring here.

The next day it was more of the same. We awoke to the news of another mass killing. This time in Dayton Ohio. We spent the rest of the day as we usually do, in the studio working in the case of Naida and playing as generally do. Wondering whether this is another existential threat to our society and what we at 80 years of age can do about it. Vote of course, but that simply does not seem to be enough.

Take care of yourselves and remember always:

th

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th

I spend many of my days sitting here in the studio marveling at the amount of time and effort my friend Naida West expends preparing her most recent book for publication — talking to book designers, editors and the like, reviewing photographs, re-editing drafts day after day. Even if I had the talent to write a novel for publication, I do not think I could or would put myself through this strain and toil. She seems to enjoy it, except when things go wrong of course.

Her new book, a memoir, entitled “A Daughter of the West — Herstory” can be obtained at her booth at the California State Fair (During July) or at http://www.bridgehousebooks.com/ or on Amazon.

During her review of the most recent edits to her memoir, Naida mentioned that she may have misspelled the plural of dwarf. She said she had learned to spell it in grammar school as dwarves but had spelled it dwarfs in the draft memoir. She wondered why Spell-check had not caught it. Having little to do with myself at that moment I decided to search the net for an answer to her concern. After a few moments, I learned that the traditional correct spelling indeed was dwarfs but recently a popular misspelling has begun to be commonly used. The reason for this, I found both odd and amusing. You see it all began with J. R. R. Tolkien. Yes, that J. R. R. Tolkien of “Lord of the Rings” fame. In a fascinating blog (https://jakubmarian.com/dwarves-or-dwarfs-which-spelling-is-correct/) I discovered that:

“Tolkien himself admitted that ‘dwarves’ was a misspelling. In a letter to Stanley Unwin, the publisher of The Hobbit, he wrote (emphasis mine):

‘No reviewer [that I have seen], although all have carefully used the correct dwarfs themselves, has commented on the fact [which I only became conscious of through reviews] that I use throughout the ‘incorrect’ plural dwarves. I am afraid it is just a piece of private bad grammar, rather shocking in a philologist; but I shall have to go on with it.’”

This is a fine example of how now and then over time scholarly mistakes in grammar or spelling become accepted as right and proper. There must be a phrase or word for cultural evolution caused by the errors of those who ought to know better.

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POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 
I spend many of my days sitting here and marveling at the amount of time and effort Naida expends preparing her most recent book for publication — talking to book designers, editors and the like, reviewing photographs, re-editing drafts day after day. Even if I had the talent to write a novel for publication, I do not think I could or would put myself through this. She seems to enjoy it, except when things go wrong of course.

Her new book, a memoir, entitled “A Daughter of the West — Herstory” can be obtained at her booth at the California State Fair (During July) or at http://www.bridgehousebooks.com/ or in the future on Amazon.

While she was reviewing the most recent edits to her memoir, Naida commented that she may have misspelled the plural of dwarf. She had learned to spell it in grammar school as dwarves but had spelled it dwarfs in the draft memoir. She wondered why spell-check had not caught it. I immediately searched the net for an answer to her concern. I discovered the traditional correct spelling indeed was dwarfs but recently a popular misspelling has begun to be commonly used. The reason for this, I found both odd and amusing. You see it all began with J. R. R. Tolkien. Yes, that J. R. R. Tolkien of “Lord of the Rings” fame. In a fascinating blog (https://jakubmarian.com/dwarves-or-dwarfs-which-spelling-is-correct/) I learned:

“Tolkien himself admitted that ‘dwarves’ was a misspelling. In a letter to Stanley Unwin, the publisher of The Hobbit, he wrote (emphasis mine):

‘No reviewer [that I have seen], although all have carefully used the correct dwarfs themselves, has commented on the fact [which I only became conscious of through reviews] that I use throughout the ‘incorrect’ plural dwarves. I am afraid it is just a piece of private bad grammar, rather shocking in a philologist; but I shall have to go on with it.’”

A fine example of how now and then scholarly mistakes become accepted over time as right and proper. There must be a phrase or word for cultural evolution caused by the errors of those who ought to know better.

Exhausted, I went to bed early that evening. Usually, because of my failing eyesight, I read books on Kindle since I can adjust the size of the text for my reading comfort. Nevertheless, I keep some books by my bed out of a stubborn and I suspect, sadly forlorn, belief that I am observing some metaphysical notion that by reading books on paper I somehow am contributing to the preservation of civilization. Before falling asleep, I picked up Overstory by Richard Powers. I read its first two chapters. Suddenly, I felt as though, despite a head full of factoids and opinions gathered over almost 80 years of existence, I, like Jon Snow, know nothing. Whether I felt fear, despair, or elation over this insight, I do not recall. Somehow at sometime in our history, we humans, we blobs of consciousness, began to believe we were important, unique. That we understood things. I realized, at that moment, we were none of those. We, individually and collectively, were only a tiny insignificant entity within that great collection of things we call life. Insignificant true but capable of great mischief and savagery.

The next morning, I watched He Who Is Not My President, once again, play the press for fools by getting them to convert an insignificant photo-op with the Butcher of North Korea into an earthshaking event driving all other news off the airways and requiring platoons commentators to tell us whether and how this may alter the geopolitical landscape.

A few days have passed by. I do not recall anything worth recording here. Yesterday evening we did walk to the monthly Jazz by the Pool concert at the community center. We got there just as it ended, ate a piece of cold pizza and returned home.

One evening, we watched the marvelous “Thief of Bagdad,” a silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks. The sets and costumes alone were worth the price of admission. Fairbanks and the other actors hamming it up was the whipped cream and cherry topping on the art-deco wedding cake.

Today, after a morning of indolence, I decided to leave the house, walk to the car and drive to eat lunch somewhere. I had taken only a few steps from the door when I noticed the wonderfully sweet smell of flowers, the perfect temperature, and the still air. I quickly decided it was too glorious a day to drive to someplace in the middle of a parking lot for lunch. I needed to walk through the enchanted forest, take some photographs of the flowers and the trees along the paths and breathe the sweet air. And, so I did.

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Naida and I Live Here.

 

That evening we watched the 1955 movie “Trial” starring Glen Ford as an inexperienced law professor defending a Mexican teenager accused of killing a white girl. The white supremacists and Nazis in the town threaten violence against the boy and attempt to lynch him. I thought this was going to be like an early version of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but suddenly and strangely, the focus of the movie changed to featuring Communist leader’s self-interested attempt to take over the issue for personal gain. It all ends with the Mexican kid being wrongly convicted but the bigots, upon seeing the error of their ways, and being good Americans, agree with the African-American judge that he should be shown leniency, more or less. The evil self-serving and corrupt Commie, and self-serving and corrupt he clearly was, was sentenced to jail for 30 days for contempt of court. According to the judge, he received a shorter sentence than the kid so that he and he and his Commie brethren could not use his sentencing as a cause celeb. Everyone looked as though they were happy with the outcome but for the Commie, who scowled. It all seemed like something that could be happening today. Little appears to have changed in the past sixty years here in the land where we all are created equal except for Commies and Mexicans and homosexuals. African Americans are accepted, more or less, as long as they were educated Uncle Toms, lived in their own neighborhoods, excelled in sports, and voted Republican.

Today, I drove up into the Golden Hills to visit HRM and pick up my mail. My mail consisted of a bunch of junk mail and letters from a few collection agencies threatening to hang me by my thumbs unless I pay up. I threw all of those in the trash. There were also two postcards from Barrie. Every week or so Barrie sends me a postcard with a fascinating picture on the front and an entertaining message. I love receiving them. I keep them all stored in a box by my bed.

HRM had three of his friends over. They were lazing around on the sofa watching a Sponge Bob Square Pants cartoon. They have now reached that point in their teenager-hood where they spend more time supine and draped over the furniture than upright and moving about. They eat a lot also.

I have just read in the newspaper that Lee Iacocca died (Iacocca developed the Ford Mustang, later became CEO and Chairman of the Board of Chrysler and was chosen as among the top 20 greatest business executives in American history.) A number of years ago, Suzzie and I traveled to Auburn Hills Michigan to visit Lee and his then new wife Darrien, a good friend of Suzie’s. We had dinner with Lee and Darrien. I remember the red velvet slippers with the gold embroidered design on top that Lee was wearing. I also remember Lee as a nice guy and gracious host, although at dinner he seemed a little grumpy— (he complained about the pasta). I think he and Darrien had just had a slight contretemps before we arrived. Today, I received a very nice email from Suzzie in which she wrote about our trip and her memories of Lee. Here is a portion of that email:

Earlier today I learned that Lee Iacocca had passed away. I’ve remained friends with his ex-wife Darrien, who maintained a relationship with him to the end. I spoke with her this evening and after our conversation, I recalled many fond memories of the times I spent around Lee. One of them was with you.

I’ve learned my memory is quite specific about certain things but not necessarily accurate. However, I do remember when you and I decided we needed to go to Auburn Hills where Lee and Darrien lived to pitch business, what business I’m not entirely sure, but I liked the idea of convincing the lobbying firm I was with at the time to pay my way to auburn hills to see my dear friend Darrien. You were game to go along for the ride. What a team!

I also remember Dick McCarthy was a big Mustang fan and gave me a poster of a Shelby mustang for Lee to sign. As I further recall, we were at dinner at Lee’s house and his friend Carroll Shelby happened to be there. I was so happy I could return to California with Dick’s poster signed by both. I’m quite sure neither of us returned with any business but we sure had a great time! I’m glad I have that memory of a really fun time with you…

I was very fond of Lee. He was a good man with a sparkle on his eye. He treated me with respect at a time when as a young woman in Sacramento I experienced the opposite from some men… He was one who helped build my confidence (along with you and Terry and Bill Geyer) and have made me the evil person I am today. Lol!

Rest in peace Lee Iacocca. I hope you are still wearing those bitchin slippers wherever you are.

On the 4th, I picked up HRM and Jake for lunch. We went to the Old Spaghetti House. I watched them stuff a ball of blue cotton candy into a glass of something green and wondered what something like that was doing in a so-called Italian restaurant, what it must taste like, and why teenagers seem to take such pleasure in doing things like this? After lunch, I drove them back home, returned to the Enchanted Forest, picked up Naida and drove to her daughter Sarah’s house for their annual 4 of July party. There, we played ping-pong and badminton, ate a lot, drank a little, watched a tennis match on television, and left to return home before the teenagers began their neighborhood fireworks war.

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Naida (in blue) and Sarah (in Pink) in Sarah’s backyard.

 

I sit here today, the next day, writing this. Somehow, somewhere far at the back of my mind, I feel an itch, a sense that something happened that I should record here, or there was some idea that needed telling — but nothing comes. My memory over the past few years has become like an ancient curtain more holes than fabric, or whispers too faint to understand. Perhaps that is a good thing, live for the day, forget the stories. On the other hand, my memories were the raw material of the stories I revel in. I like to shape them for their sake — for my love of a tale.

That evening, we watched Charles Laughton in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” followed by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Cary Grant, and Victor McLaglen tearing up the scenery in “Gunga Din.” The next morning while eating breakfast Naida and I enjoyed the old Wallace Beery and Jackie Coogan version of “Treasure Island”. I guess, as long as I am in the more sedentary period of my existence, old movies and fantasy novels will have to do as a replacement for the adventure and travel I may have enjoyed earlier in my life. I certainly experience fewer blunders and horrors now than I did then. Maybe that is a good thing too.

Then, it was off to the Golden Hills to pick up HRM and Big, Tall, Long-haired Jake. We drove into the Delta, to Rio Vista and Foster’s Restaurant. Haden, Nikki and I had been there years ago and H wanted to show it to Jake. During the drive, I was entertained by teen-talk — the dreams (To become famous race-car drivers when they are old enough to get a drivers license), the annoyance with anyone or anything limiting their desires (“I want to be rich enough to get the government to remove speed limits just for me so that I can drive my car as fast as I want.”), adolescent gossip (about the teacher who wears sexy clothing to school). This is that age when the explosive growth of their forebrain containing the ego assures them that the universe is there for their pleasure. It is only when they reach their middle twenties that the rest of their brain catches up allowing them to acknowledge that there may be others with similar claims. Strangely, they seemed to believe that if you were rich enough you could get away with anything. Trumpism poisons everything.

Foster’s Restaurant in Rio Vista is known for its display of the stuffed heads of just about every large mammal known to have roamed Africa and North America in the past one hundred years or so. All slaughtered by a bootlegger, turned taxidermist, turned publican who owned the bar from the walls of which he hung the severed heads of the hundreds of animals he butchered. But that of course was another era when things like that were more acceptable, like slavery and concentration camps. But, from a historical perspective, it does preserve the visage of those animals soon to become extinct so that we, if we survive, can have a drink, stare at their remains and ponder what we have wrought.

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At Foster’s Restaurant in Rio Vista.

 

I ate an elk hamburger. I was sure the elk that provided the chopped meat was old and at the point of death (or perhaps already dead) before it was harvested, because it was as dry and tough as one would expect the aged to be.

Then it was off to Locke the historical old Chinese town in the Delta. We walked around the town, visited the shops, explored the alleys and dropped into Al the Wop’s Italian Restaurant and bar and gaped at the hundreds of dollar bills stuck into its ceiling.

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HRM and Jake in Locke California.

 

When I first arrived in California in 1970-71 and was taken to that restaurant, I was still shocked and repulsed by anyone uttering that word. As a person of my generation and upbringing “Wop” was as repulsive to Italian Americans as “N****r” was to African-Americans (although without the same bloody history) or “spic” to Puerto Ricans. Use of the word, even by Italian-Americans, was grounds for instant mayhem being inflicted on the speaker. I could not even say the word without feeling disgusted with myself and yet here in Locke there it was, up there in a sign on a business no less, as well as falling lightly off the tongue of everyone around me. California was certainly an odd place, I thought.

After that little adventure, we drove through the Delta and back into the Golden Hills. The next morning, Naira and I drove to Denio’s Auction in Roseville where I purchased this year’s Hawaiian shirt and Naida bought a shovel.

The following day, Naida left early to play tennis. After she returned, we sat at our respective computers all day and did nothing more except walk the dog in the evening. I did not even take a nap.

Today, Tuesday, I did not walk the dog nor did I watch movies on Television. I did, however, begin reading Vital Question by someone named Nick Lane. It is not a mystery novel. It is a non-fiction tome about, as the cover points out, Energy, Evolution and the Origins of Complex Life. As I mentioned in a previous post, after reading about ten trashy novels, I like to curl up with something non-fiction. I guess it is something like cleaning one’s palate.

Some review copies of Naida’s memoir arrived today. We spent a few hours together reviewing them for typos and other errors. She said she was thankful there were not too many of them as there sometimes is. I thought there were a lot. I found participating in the process pretty exciting. I cannot remember ever assisting an author before. Usually, it was politicians, bureaucrats, and other lawyers and as everyone knows that is neither exciting, nor interesting, nor fun.

Wednesday, the day before the State Fair begins, Naida busied herself addressing last minute crises. I did nothing but read and answer her questions whenever she thought my input might have some value.

Tomorrow, after helping Naida drive copies of her books and sales material to her booth at the fair, I leave for the Big Endive by the Bay and my immunotherapy treatment. The pendency of that trip did not require I do anything to prepare, so I didn’t, happily. I did read more of Naida’s memoir and another chapter of The Vital Question which was all about chemical reactions in the earth’s primeval oceans. I did not understand it so I quit and consoled myself with Oreos and milk.

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POOKIE’S LIFE IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 
(I have temporarily changed the heading here from the usual “Pookie’s Adventures…” to, “Pookie’s Life…” because I understand that many people believe adventure and life to be very different things. I do not, unfortunately. Still, my life here in TEF would be considered an adventure only if the novelty of being happy and content in one’s life could be termed an adventure. I guess, given my history, being happy and content may very well be an adventure — it is certainly novel.)

At the end of the month, we are planning to leave for Mendocino to visit my sister husband Maryann and her husband George and to see some of the films being shown at the film festival that weekend. I look at it as a vacation, although what it is that we are vacationing from I can’t imagine. I guess a change of scene would be a more appropriate description.

While driving into the Golden Hills a few days ago, I thought of something that seemed to be very insightful and that I should include here so that I don’t forget it. Of course, I forgot whatever it was before I got back to my computer. It went wherever those brilliant ideas go that one gets while driving, on drugs, or during the muzzy confusion of waking up in the morning.

Ugh! I just found out that, unlike my chemotherapy appointments which were scheduled automatically, my immunotherapy appointments are not and therefore I will not be going to SF this week. I still plan to travel to Mendocino this weekend, however.

It was a good morning today lazing away in bed. Naida brought me a cup of coffee that we sipped together while we told each other stories, played a little geriatric hanky-panky and discussed our plans for the weekend. It was all very pleasant until I tipped over the coffee cup and flooded the bed causing a great deal of mutual hysteria to erupt.

I know that I often complain here about my more sedentary life now that I am well into my declining years, but with the state of my rapidly deteriorating memory, I wonder if it is more likely that I still am quite active but when I sit here at my computer intending to write about it, I forget whatever it was that I did.

 

 

OFF ONCE MORE TO THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

 

On Thursday, we set off for Peter and Barrie’s house. The usually boring drive seemed to pass more quickly and pleasantly than usual. We listened to the music of Leon Redbone whose death was reported that day. Redbone never recorded a song that one could not sing along with or dance to. So we passed our time on the drive listening to that deep voice of his singing funky jazzy renditions of such tunes as Shine on Harvest Moon, Ain’t Misbehaving, Please Don’t Talk about Me When I’m Gone, and Moonlight Bay and singing along with old Leon.

After we arrived, Peter and I went to Bernie’s in Noe Valley, ordered coffee and sat on the Geezer Bench (See Photo above). We were joined by Don Neuwirth and spent some time catching up on our lives and various maladies as well as reminiscing about people and events during our time when we all worked together protecting California’s coast. A friend of Peter’s walked by, he was a drummer in some of the band’s that Peter also played in. He told odd and interesting stories about his life that began in the Riverdale section of New York City, and attending high school with Ruth Galanter, continued with traveling around the US holding odd jobs and engaging in radical politics. He ended up becoming a drummer in a few geezer bands and rabble-rouser here in the City By The Bay. An admirable life.

 

 

MENDOCINO DREAMING, MOVIES, FLOWERS, AND MARYJANE:

 

 

Following my morning immunotherapy treatment at UCSF, Naida, Boo-boo the dog, and I left for Mendocino. Although it was a foggy morning in SF, the weather during the drive remained sunny and warmth until once again we reached the coast. We stopped for lunch at a nice restaurant in overcrowded Healdsburg. Healdsburg used to be a pretty, little, laid-back town. Now it is a booming gourmet ghetto with too much traffic and too little parking to go along with the rapidly escalating prices for a slightly better than average meal.

That evening at Maryann and George’s house overlooking the ocean in Mendocino, we enjoyed a nice meal featuring Mama Petrillo’s secret recipe ditalini. Following dinner, Mary and George left to see one of the films in the movies competing in the film festival, a film entitled A Tuba to Cuba about members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the son of that group’s founder who was also the director of the film. His father had played the tuba and loved Cuban music, hence the name of the movie. Meanwhile back at the house, Naida and I watched four episodes of the HBO’s series, My Brilliant Friend based on Elena Ferrante series of novels about two women growing up in Naples. It was fantastic.

The next morning, after breakfast, my sister, Naida, and I went for a stroll through the town. We strolled by the Mendocino Art Center where we saw this imposing sculpture.

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It was warm and sunny. The marine fog had not yet arrived on shore. Flowers bloomed everywhere. I decided flowers to be the theme of the trip.

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We stopped at Maryjane’s shop, one of my favorites. There, we shopped for a long time. I complained that men’s fashions seem drab compared to the brilliant colors one sees in women’s wear. “Why can’t men were women’s clothing,” I complained. “You can.” replied Maryjane“Try something on.” So, I did.

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I called it unimaginatively  Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors. I desperately wanted to buy it and wear it to the movies that evening. But, alas, a faint heart gains nothing but regret and regretfully I demurred.

After buying some very attractive clothing for Naida and listening to a few of Maryjane’s stories and jokes, we left.
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Naida and Maryjane in the dress shop.

 

By then the marine fog layer had arrived on shore turning the air chilly and misty so, we hurried on home.

That evening, we saw two of the films featured at the festival. The first, directed by the woman who was staying in Maryann and George’s tower house during the festival, was called “Guardians”. It depicted people in British Columbia Canada who count salmon for a living and who are now being phased out by the conservative government. It was marvelously photographed and directed. The second movie, called “Amazing Grace,” a filming of the recording session back in the 1970s that produced Aretha Franklin’s great Gospel LP, the largest selling LP featuring Gospel music ever. Because of technical difficulties, the film was never released and had been thought lost. Recently rediscovered and along with advances in sound technology allowing it to be remastered, it was able to be released. Wall to wall Gospel music, it presented Aretha at her most magnificent.

The next morning we saw Ron Howard’s Pavarotti. It may be one of the most magnificent movies I have ever seen. How he was able to get the shots, assemble the story, use the music as part of the story while also being entertaining I could not fathom since Howard admitted he knows nothing about opera. At one point, shortly after Pavarotti learns he is dying of pancreatic cancer, Howard has a lone violin in the background playing the Neapolitan song O Sole Mio when the orchestra swells into the music of Pagliacci and Pavarotti appears in clown costume and makeup to sing Canio’s great bitter and tragic aria Vesti la Giubba. Pookie says, “Whatever else you do in the next few years no matter whether you love or hate opera, see this movie.”

Following the movie, we went to the newly opened wood-fired oven outdoor Pizza place linked to The Beaujolais restaurant in Mendocino. We were joined my Maryjane and her husband Johan. Maryjane, in that low expressionless voice she effects, told us a number of jokes. One of them was, “Why did the shark not eat the clown? ——— “Because he thought it would taste funny.” I am thinking about creating a new section in T&T, “Maryjane’s Joke of the Week.” OK, here is another one, “Three Irishmen walked out of a bar. ——— That’s it. That’s the Joke.” After downing some of the best pizza I have eaten in years, we returned to Maryann’s house and I took a nap.

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Naida, Johan, Maryjane, George, Maryann and the Pizza.

 

The following morning we arose early, packed and left for home. We stopped for breakfast in Ft Bragg then set off to cross the coastal range on the way to Sacramento. We had gone a little way up into the mountains when Naida noticed she had forgotten her phone. We retraced our drive, picked up her phone and set off again. By then it was noon. We stopped at Lakeport, walked the dog and enjoyed the view of Clear Lake for a while.
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Old Baldy at Lakeside
We arrived home at about 5PM and went to bed almost immediately.

Travel is exhausting for oldies like us.

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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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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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