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Posts Tagged ‘Story’

 

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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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

Yesterday, or perhaps the day before, I watched a Stewart Granger retrospective on TV — King Solomon’s Mines, Prisoner of Zenda, and Scaramouche. Granger was one of my favorite “action” heroes of my youth. I always thought there was something strange about him, however. I did not know what gay or homosexual meant back then, but he always appeared to me to be uncomfortable around women — not like Gary Cooper or Rock Hudson who clearly were men’s men and comfortable around women. Well, after having my mind washed out about jumping to conclusions regarding sexual orientation, I learned that Granger was not gay, merely a flaming asshole despised by his female co-stars. I guess that’s the price of maturity — all the heroes or heroines of our youth turn out to be dickheads. I suspect, a goodly number of He who is Not My President’s admirers will wake up some day and realize they’re no longer pre-adolescents.

Anyway, Scaramouche, in my opinion, contained the greatest sword fight in cinema. Some of it even realistic as well. No, not the jumping around or fighting up and down stairs — that would produce instant death in a real sword fight — it was when they were fighting from the en garde position that the parries and thrusts were almost real. In fact, Granger actually suffered some serious wounds while filming the sequence. Not that anyone cried over his suffering apparently.

Well, well, I may have been premature in announcing my clean bill of health. During my visit to my oncologist yesterday he said that one of the reasons they could find no potential cancer cells was because the sonogram could not see through the scar tissue that had grown up around the mass, so I need to have a PET scan in order to complete any definitive diagnosis. So it goes. As Rosanna Rosannadanna warns, “It’s always something.”

Last night I watched a Dana Andrews retrospective. Yes, old square jaw himself. I also learned that these movies I have been viewing for the past couple of weeks are part of TCM August programming focusing on a different star each evening. So far I have seen, La Dietrich, Nelson Eddy and Janette McDonald, Doris Day, Stewart Granger, and now Dana Andrews. TCM had nights that featured brighter stars, but I guess, I have only caught the more campy ones.

One night, however, I saw the 1935 production of Midsummers Night Dream with the young Mickey Rooney as Puck (it may have been Mickey Rooney night), the young James Cagney as Bottom, the young Dick Powell as Lysander and the young Olivia de Havilland in her screen debut and Hermia. It was great fun.

I don’t usually watch television except for some news or sports, but until yesterday (the convictions of Manafort and Cohen) the news has been so depressing that a little cinematic fantasy was a welcome respite.

Carol Baker, Baby Doll herself, was last evenings featured star. Two days later it was Anthony Quinn night but I only watched Viva Zapata.

One evening, we attended the monthly Jazz Night at the Pool put on by the HOC. They had a local group — a singer, pianist, guitarist and bass player — that played some standard jazz tunes including my favorite The Girl from Ipanema. I do not know why, but ever since I moved here in the Enchanted Forest, I find myself hanging out with people my age — The i Vecchi as we are referred to in Italy. More then I recall having done before. Perhaps, it is inevitable.

Anyway, we sat next to a woman our age or older who I had been told was an artist of some repute. She was dressed in “aging artist,” — all flowing fabrics encircling her body — and carried a handsome cane. After Naida explained to her our relationship, she quipped, “That’s nice for you. It seems that all of my recent affairs have been with parking-lot attendants.”

 

B. A FEW DAYS IN CARMEL AND BIG SUR:

 

The following week we traveled to Carmel and Big Sur. Naida had attended high school there and had many good memories of that time in her life. We intended to try and contact a few of her old BFFs.

I used to visit this section of California’s coast almost every week from when I first arrived here in California in !973, until about 15 years ago — at first as a wannabe hippy frequenting Ventana and other haunts and sometimes hiking off into the mountains for a week or two of camping usually by myself then later, during the period when I was active on coastal resource protection matters. I would go there often on one site visit or another.

That evening we strolled along Carmel beach and through the town visiting the art galleries and stopping for dinner at a place that had properly prepared Neapolitan pizza.
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Pookie on Carmel beach.

Next morning we visited one of Naida’s high school classmates at an assisted living facility in Carmel Valley. She was a woman who lived what appeared to be a fascinating life. She had been a major fundraiser for many charities and traveled the world, from Borneo to Africa and South America tending to peoples needs. She now suffers from advanced Parkinson’s and is confined to a wheel-chair.

Later that day, we left for Big Sur. It was fascinating for me to see now, so many years removed, the amazing results of our efforts to preserve that shoreline from development — Including, the purchase of most of the still vacant land on the north entrance to Big Sur in an effort to halt creeping development from the already built-up areas (The Parks Department opposed it because it did not have high recreational value as did the Coastal Commission on the erroneous belief that they could retain it in open-space through regulation — why would a rational person want to repeatedly fight that battle anyway?) — and the 5000 acre Hill Ranch that surrounds Point Sur Lighthouse.
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Pookie in Big Sur.

We ate lunch at Nepenthe, where I had eaten many times over the years.
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Lunch at Nepenthe.

I then visited their curio’s store and marveled how little had changed over the 40 or so years I had been visiting there — the same curios, the same wind chimes, the same flowing, colorful, and expensive hippy fashions.

The next day we returned to the Enchanted Forest.

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Sunset at Carmel beach.

 

C. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

Days pass, another PET scan, more swimming and dog walking, now and then driving the Scooter Gang here and there, endless Kavanaugh hearings and ravings by he who was not elected president, good and bad dreams, decent food, all and all an ok week.

One day, I was walking around the lakes in Town Center and saw the Scooter Gang coming the opposite way. There were two girls about the same age as the boy’s age walking with them. HRM scootered over to me and said, “There are two girls with us. They just forced their way in.” I thought, “That’s one way it all begins.”

A few days later we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the clubhouses. I was chosen as the bartender for the Sock Hop next Friday. I did not volunteer. I do not know how to bartend. I assume it will just require passing out beer and pouring the wine. We old folks enjoy volunteering for things. The Sock Hop is a party where mostly geriatric cases dress up as they did when they were teenagers and dance the Hokey Pokey. I can’t wait.

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The weekend passed by quickly — mostly waiting for the biopsy on Tuesday. Not having an automobile (it is in the shop having its crumpled fender and other maladies attended too), cuts down on my activities. I had to turn down an assignment from the Scooter gang over the weekend. So, I read and went on walks through the Enchanted Forest. I get all the angst and despair I can handle from social media and television news.

Well, well, — I went for my biopsy yesterday and for the third time during my age of physical deterioration, the doctor, in this case wielding his sonogram, could find no reason for a biopsy. In other words, he could not find a mass in which a malicious deranged cell would hide. I do not know whether or not to be embarrassed after spending a month or so in gloomy speculation and endlessly disclosing my fears to all who would listen — I guess at my age I should not be embarrassed by anything I do anymore. Anyway, I know it is, at best, only a temporary reprieve.

Onward and upward as Terry always advises. Lack of a car limits my mobility and the awful air pollution from the fires restrict my walks and swimming. So, I sit at home, watch Naida work on her memoir, read as much junk as I can, and nap a lot. So goes the winter of my life. It’s not too bad. I could still be sitting around wondering about the results of my medical tests.

This evening was spent watching Janette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy movies. The last movie ended with the Canadian Mountie and the Opera star in an embrace and singing:

You belong to me
I belong to you.

We then rolled up the stairs to bed singing, one with a professionally trained voice and the other with a throat ruined by radiation therapy:

When I’m calling you, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh ooh
If you answer too, ooh, etc.

That means that I offer my love to you
To be your own
If you refuse me, I will be blue
And waiting all alone

But, if when you hear
My love call, ringing clear, ooh, etc.
And I hear you’re
Answering a call so dear, ooh, etc.

Then I will know
That our love will be true

What could be better than that?

The next day I swam in the Nepenthe pool. It is my first time swimming in over a month. It felt good. While sitting by the pool a woman got out of her car and started banging on the gate demanding to get into the pool area. Eventually, she somehow got in. She was hugely pregnant. She took off her shoes, then jumped, fully clothed, into the pool, swam its length, got out, picked up her shoes, returned to her car and drove away. I did not realize it was that hot out. Life is wonderfully surprising even when you are doing nothing but staring at the leaves of some trees.

Today I spent the morning watching Doris Day — Gordon MacRae movies. Listening to them sing “Tea for Two” is an experience I rank somewhere between being drowned in a vat of medicinal cannabis or smothered in meringue.

Later I went to the pool and fell asleep in the shade only to be awakened by the sound of ten-year-olds doing flips into the water. I did my laps while trying to determine if I was in a good mood or bad. Gave up and went home.

My sister Maryann and her husband George dropped by on their way back to Mendocino from Nevada City where they were making arrangements for the wedding of their son Brendan to Ashley his intended. A few weeks ago, I discovered that a friend of mine from my childhood who I haven’t seen in almost seventy years, Snookie Salerno, now lives in Nevada City. I have been told he never returns calls from his old friends (Would you return a call to someone who called you Snookie?). He did not return my calls. So I left him a message inviting him to the wedding.

Anyway, I took Mary and George on a walk around the Enchanted Forest and along the banks of the river. Mary seems well recovered from her bout with breast cancer. I am well recovered from my bout of hypochondria.

I did not watch movies of any sort this evening. Instead, I went to bed at 8PM. Tomorrow the automobile comes out of the shop. I am relieved. I now can drive aimlessly about. I like that better than “tea for two.” Check that, it depends on whom I am having tea with and what kind of tea.

Picked up the car. Have not yet driven it aimlessly but have driven it between the shop and the house with great determination to avoid another crushed fender.

The days pass on — driving the scooter gang around, walking through the Enchanted Forest, swimming in the pools, singing show tunes, drinking margaritas, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, petting the dog, crying over Aretha Franklin, watching old movies, laughing at old jokes — the wheel turns on. And then there is this:

“For the past 2,700 years we have been evolving through the ascending Kali Yuga, and this Yuga is coming to an end in 2025. The end of the Yuga will inevitably be followed by cataclysmic earth changes and civilization collapses,…”
Bibhu Dev Misra

This morning when I left the house I ran into one of the TURKEY GANGS right beyond the front door. Yes, the Enchanted Forest is plagued by several TURKEY GANGS. They lounge along the pathways, mumbling threatening sounds and forcing residents to walk around them. They litter the sidewalks and don’t clean up after they leave. They terrorize small children and small dogs. They are huge, hulking, ugly creatures often four feet tall or more. Something needs to be done about them by the HOA. Perhaps once a year say in November we could have a community Thanksgiving Party and eat a few. They are so large they could each feed several families.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, isn’t that the celebration of a group of immigrants saved by the citizens of the area who in turn demonstrated their gratitude by slaughtering their rescuers and taking their land? Instead of Thanksgivings Day shouldn’t the day be called something like Ingratitude Day?
On Saturday morning, we attended then weekly Saturday Morning Coffee put on by the Nepenthe HOA in the Enchanted Forest. The usual group had assembled. I had a lively discussion with the 93-year-old architect about our various maladies. Later the woman that seems to run these things announced she was not going to run the “Sock Hop” in September (don’t ask — I think it is some attempt at replication of an ancient mating ritual that everyone believes existed and they experienced but it didn’t and they only imagined it. Ask yourself, “Did you ever attend a ‘Sock Hop?’” And if you did, did you think the experience was such that you would want to replicate it in your old age?). This set off a flurry of whispers. Later I learned that there is a conflict between the Nepenthe HOA and the nine other HOAs over the running of the social events. I did not understand the politics involved but agreed with Naida who leaned over and said to me sotto voce, “It seems pretty silly to argue over who gets the right to volunteer.”

There are three Ages of Declines:

The first Age of Decline is now. It is the first time in history that a majority of a generation lived to old age together, declined together and ultimately will die together. As usual for the past 80 years or so, we have, for better or worse, been the pacesetters.

The second type of Age of Decline is the end of an era. In our case, the end of the greatest Golden Age the world has ever seen.

The third version of an Age of Decline is experienced by all of us that live beyond 75 or so years. Not only do our bodies begin to undergo the inevitable physical and mental failures faced by all biologic creatures who have exceeded their use by date, but also our functions in society at large begin to dissipate. Oh yes, some of us keep on working and striving — and good for those of us who do. Others of us can sometimes pass through a brief period where we are consulted (not very seriously) or honored (weekly or monthly visits) by younger relatives or friends. But really for most of us, we ultimately gather in homes for the elderly or periodically meet with other elderly friends where we attempt to create a small replica of the society that we strode through in our past life — much like the members of the Nepenthe morning coffee, complete with its politics, petty annoyances, and amusements. Lucky are those of us who instead fall in love and experience a decline no less painful but much more blissful.

For the second time in a little over a month, I have been attacked by a Russian Bot. Three critical comments from the same person appeared on my Blog, Trenz Pruca’s Journal — https://trenzpruca.wordpress.com/. This is unusual because almost no one ever comments on my blog. Two of the comments were general criticisms of my writing competence in two of my blog posts. A criticism I believe fully justified. In the third comment, this time on my blog about Vladimir Putin (https://trenzpruca.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/petrillos-commentary-who-is-vladimir-putin-and-why-is-he-an-enemy-of-the-united-states/. Also, reproduced below.),

He not only objects to my writing style but included an example of how it could be improved by changing my criticism to a justification of Putin’s behavior.

I am so proud to have been noticed.

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The imagination and inner force of Shakespeare’s villains stopped short at ten or so cadavers because they had no ideology…. It is thanks to ideology that it fell to the lot of the twentieth century to experience villainy on the scale of millions.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

 

 

 

 

It has been only three days since my return, jet lag lingers on and worries about my health persist, but hey, I’m home and that’s a start.

As the trip back slowly recedes and disappears from memory, I try to think of the high points that I can write about but, except for tasting with Nikki the various after dinner drinks and chocolates served to First-class passengers on Alitalia’s flight between Milan and New York, nothing comes to mind — except, perhaps, hearing “A Hard Rains a-Gonna Fall” and a rousing version of “Try a Little Tenderness,” on the planes audio.

It was good to see Naida again and hear the soothing whispers at night and the sighs of pleasure and feel the handles of home drifting back into my hands.

I guess I should begin by telling about my latest health worries since at my age they have the ability to crowd out a lot of life’s greatest pleasures. It may develop into a saga, maudlin or boring, tragic or comic, who knows.

I came home with a numbness of the skin on my throat along with pain underneath. Yesterday some swelling appeared also.

Today, I visited with my primary care physician, a man not ranked too highly in his profession by either his peers or his patients. At the appointment, he was giddy with anticipation of his pending retirement from the practice of medicine within the next two months and insisted on spending some time with me discussing the travel options available to him in retirement before getting to the purpose of my visit. Following my description of my symptoms and a lot of feeling around my neck and some hmms and ahhs, he said that he thought it could be a blockage in a vein or artery and prescribed a sonogram and a chest x-ray. This, of course, did not alleviate my anxiety because if the blockage is caused by a clot of some kind and is lodged in my vein then it is an arrow aimed at my heart and if in an artery then it is aimed at my brain — the choice between a potential myocardial infarction or a stroke seems to be not much of a choice at all. But what else can I do but go through the tests and wait for my appointment with my oncologist next week and hope that, in the meantime, I do not keel over and collapse somewhere along the overgrown paths that I walk on in the evenings beside the river?

I apologize for writing about my health so much but when we reach this age it is often the most exciting and interesting thing we have going — an adventure, but not one where “no one has gone before” but one where everyone has gone before who have gone before. It may be boring for you, but it is new to me. It’s a lot like being that person early in a horror movie who decides to walk down the dark hallway alone or like waiting for Freddy Kruger to show up for dinner. You can either laugh or scream. I prefer laughing although a good scream now and then can do wonders for your peace of mind.

The next day, I was X-rayed and sonogramed. They showed that neither vein nor artery was clogged. So by the end of the day, I was back where I was before walking into my doctor’s office — with a pain in the neck and lost in hypochondriaville. I now wait a week more before my oncologist can see me and after feeling around my neck and a lot of hmms and ahhs send me off to be probed by large expensive machines tended by smiling people dressed in blue or green outfits and looking a little like the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

Walked the dog to the dog park this evening. There are three benches in the dog park each about as far away from the other as can be and still be in the dog park. There were two other people at the park with their dogs curled at their feet. They sat on two of the benches, I sat on the third bench with Boo-boo who promptly curled up at my feet. We sat there unmoving. Time passed, a lot of time. Then one person got up, hooked the leash onto the collar of his dog and slowly left the park. We remaining two and our dogs sat there, silently, in the dusk, until the other person finally got up and left with his dog. I waited until it was almost dark. Then, Boo-boo and I also left and went home. It all felt like an Edward Hopper painting as a slow-motion uTube video. Ennui at the dog park — life in the second decade of the 21st Century.

Naida is off to the California State Fair presiding over the booth featuring California authors with books to sell. The temperature is expected to hit 104 to 105 degrees in this part of the Great Valley. I remain home with the dog, pecking away at my computer and now and then listlessly reading various blogs on economics and dozing off when the words blur and their significance sounds in my mind more like the buzzing of mosquitos than packets of meaning.

Not so good a night though — crumpled part of the fender on the car trying to get into the garage after dinner, followed by scary nightmares that even frightened Naida. Perhaps, I am unraveling. The next day was not so good either. There are just some days like that. But, as the time grows shorter, I certainly can use fewer of them. Perhaps, those are the days to catch up on my sleep.

Anyway, HRM called me to drive him to the skate park. So at about 3:30 that afternoon, I took off for The Golden Hills in my car with the crumpled fender.

The boys were waiting alone at the house. Dick was at work and SWAC, who only within the past few weeks had criticized him for leaving HRM alone as a latch-key kid, was gone to rummage around at the mall. So, I picked him up and drove him and his friend Jake to the Citrus Heights Skateboard Park where some sort of competition had been planned. There they were to wait for Dick to pick them up and take them home.

During the ride, they excitedly told me about their adventures so far this summer. It seems this was the first vacation that had impressed upon them the possibilities and joys of life. They have a few years yet before being introduced to its sorrows.

They talked about their plans to buy two vans after they graduate high school and drive them around the world living off the proceeds of their professional scooter careers and a uTube video program they would produce about their adventures. I said, “It sounds like the Sixties all over again.” They asked, “What’s that?”

It is difficult to comprehend — no, more likely, accept — that to these children The Summer of Love is as far in the distant past as World War I was to those flower children gathered on old Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York on that warm summer afternoon in 1969 — as far distant as “Over There” is from “Bad Moon Rising.”

Imagine, I and those of my generation have lived a full one-tenth of the time that has passed since the Fourth Crusade and the final destruction of what little remained of classical Europe; one-tenth of the time since Genghis Kahn released his hoards to plunder and subdue almost one-quarter of the globe; one-tenth of the time that has passed since the reluctant King John signed the Magna Carter and Marco Polo returned from his journeys to the FarEast. Either we of my generation have lived long or human history has been far briefer than we imagined.

For the next few days, little or nothing happened that raised itself above the gray morass of a deteriorating memory. We ate lunch at a nice little outdoor restaurant where I had an east-African hamburger (chopped-meat mixed with yams and African spices), watched a Tarzan movie on TV where the actor playing the lost earl was so unmemorable that his name was not even listed in the credits and the chimp hammed up all the best parts and I spent a lot of time fingering the emerging lump in my neck and worrying.

One day, I walked the dog along the levee in the blistering heat and the silence. Eventually, we turned back into the cooler tree-shaded paths of the Enchanted Forrest until we came to the small swimming pool shaded by the tall pines and redwoods that I like so much. There we sat by the water in the stillness but for the barely perceptible splashing of the woman swimming laps and the whispers of the breeze through the trees. I waited there until dusk then walked back home. That night, I slept well.

It has been several days since I have written here — not because I have been busy with things to do or adventures and not because life has become so boring that my consciousness has shut down in response, but because just moping around seemed to be as energetic as I could manage.

On Monday, I drove Naida to the State Fairgrounds to close out the California Authors exhibit. It was fun. There were a few other authors there packing up their books while hoards of workmen trundle about taking down the various exhibits.

Later, HRM called and to take Jake and him to the mall. The day seemed to be looking up so I put a turkey feather I had found lying on the ground in the Enchanted Forrest into my hat band and left for the Golden Hills. I looked jauntily idiotic.
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Jauntily Idiotic

I arrived at the house ready to push on but they first had to watch “Sponge Bob” on the TV and finish eating a pizza for lunch. I waited and watched the idiotic animated sessile metazoan his moronic Asteroidea buddy and his dyspeptic sepiida co-worker cavort across the TV screen until the homo-sapiens sapiens adolescents had finished their pizza. We then piled into the car with the crumpled fender and left to pick up the third member of the Scooter Gang, Graham.

The Scooter Gang, HRH, Jake and Graham (Tyson, the fourth member, was busy playing X-box games) asked me to drive them to the mall in Roseville so that they could shop for backpacks for school and some other things that I tuned out in disinterest. At the mall, I sat at the coffee-shop and played on my computer while they shopped. After not too long they gave up, having purchased nothing but some sour tasting candy. They then asked me to drive them to someplace near Denio’s where Jake was to be paid by someone for a paintball gun he had sold in order to finance his purchase of a bicycle. It all seemed fishy to me. The street was in one of the more down-scale parts of Roseville which is saying a lot since up-scale Roseville does not seem to exist. They told me to wait while they went in search of the house of the person owing Jake the money. After a few minutes, they returned with Jake clutching a $100 bill. Do you think I was an unwitting accomplice in some sort of illegal juvenile caper?

A few days later, I met with my Oncologist. After telling him my symptoms and him feeling around my neck, voicing a few hmms and ahhs, and shoving a long tube through my nose and down my throat, I said, “So tell me doctor, am I a dead man walking or will you have to tear out my throat to save my life?” He seemed to be taken aback a bit by that and when it turned out that his office had misplaced the CAT scan I had taken in May upon which he made his previous diagnosis that I was in remission, he began to stutter, explaining that he does not think there is a problem, since everything looks ok inside my throat, but to be on the safe side I should have another CAT scan and biopsy “as soon as possible” to be sure. I then mentioned my numbness on the left side of my face and asked how that affected his diagnosis. He explained that there is a nerve which could be impacted by the so-called “slight swelling” on my neck causing such an effect. I suspect he was guessing.

The next night, I went to the sleep clinic he prescribed when I was still in remission. I do not know why he prescribed it. At the clinic, they wired me all up. I was placed in a room with a double bed that would not be out of place in a Motel 6 except that it lacked a television. They put something around my nose they said would pump air into my lungs but I had to keep my mouth closed or the air would escape and they would have to replace the nose thing with a mask that covered my nose and mouth. Every so often during the night the technician would come into the room and jiggle the wires and things that they had attached to me. I did not sleep well.

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Pookie Wired.

Two days later I had a CT scan followed by a surprisingly enjoyable dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Roseville. Next week comes the biopsy. I now realize getting old is not so different than being a soldier in war or an explorer in a dark jungle somewhere, every step may be your last. It’s all very exciting if you are one of those who finds shitting in one’s pants an adventure. Some people find all this terror something to approach with grim heroism, others prefer screaming all the way down. I am beginning to get bored and more than a little bit annoyed.

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Three aging gentlemen and the youthful HRM

One of the more significant problems that arise upon reaching my age (78+) is that I often soon forget whatever I may have been recently up to. Like now — I am sitting writing this in a nondescript Starbucks somewhere in Folsom, not too far from the prison made famous by Jonny Cash. It is raining outside. A few hours ago, I met with my oncologist. He declared me still in remission from cancer in my neck that I had been treated for about a year ago. Hooray for me. I cannot remember what else I have done since my return to the Great Valley a few days ago. Perhaps, I napped a lot. I recall that about a day or so ago, I had a late lunch-early dinner at Subway with HRM a 13-year-old pre-adolescent young man. Our conversation went something like this:

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

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

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

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY — GETTING THERE IS HALF THE FUN:

Following a delightful breakfast of coffee, brioche and a fried egg with pepper chips, we set off to Cosenza and the train station. After a series of the usual misadventures and annoyances, I boarded the train to Sicily. It was the same cattle car I remember from years ago when I used to take the dolorous train from Sicily to Rome, a train carrying the impoverished Sicilians to jobs in the North (Sicilian Il Norte) — standing room only for the 13-hour trip. This time there were no impoverished workers going north, but many not particularly impoverished people going south for whatever reason. Passengers still were standing in the aisles and sitting on one another’s laps. My reserved seat was among a group of young women and families going somewhere in the same direction I was. They did not appreciate my expropriation of the seat one member of the group occupied. She then continued the trip sitting in the lap of an older man accompanying them or walking up and down the aisles.

I was also disturbed by the loud braying voice of one of the men traveling with that particular group. I could not make up my mind if he was a “cafone” ( loud, ignorant and oblivious) or “pazzo” (crazy). I decided it was a little bit of both. Even those traveling with him seemed to either humor or ignore him. When the women next to me left the train at Messina, I moved into her seat by the window. He sat down next to me and began to fling his arms about, pester me with questions and opinions and generally acted grievously obnoxious. I seriously considered braining him with my cane. But, long checkered experience in dealing with situations like this has taught me to act like I understand nothing about the language, am old and feeble and a little bit addled and confused (which is not too hard to do at my age). Inevitably, they either give up in frustration or some woman comes to my aid and drives them off. It happened like that here. The women in the group began to yell at him and told him to stop bothering me. The high point of the trip other than when he got off the train was the crossing of the Straits of Messina on the train ferry.
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Scylla and Charybdis. (The Straits of Messina)

 

The trains were decoupled and stacked into the hold of the ferry. We disembarked the train and climbed to the top decks where we could sit, walk around, buy snacks and enjoy the half hour or so trip across the straits.

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The train ferry.

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Messina.

 
We disembarked at Messina. They reassembled the cars into several trains depending on their destination. Ours set out for Catania. Along the way, we passed Taormina and Mt, Etna blowing out smoke from its caldera.
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Mt. Etna.

 

I changed trains at Catania, boarding one for Caltanissetta where I expected to change trains once again to take me to my final destination, Canicatti the ancestral home of my mother’s family. Unfortunately, after arriving at Caltanissetta, while attempting to read the train schedule to find out from which track my connection would leave even though there was only one other train at the station, that train, my connection, left with me running after it banging at the side of the cars until it left me standing at the end of the platform forlorn and alone as the train disappeared into the distance.

I was truly alone and forlorn when I realized I was not at the train station in downtown Caltanissetta as I had thought, but in an almost derelict and abandoned station far out in the countryside at the end of an unpaved and weed overgrown dead end road — and the night was descending. It seems that that station was used only for passengers to disembark from the express train to Palermo and catch the now departed train to Caltanissetta Central and Canicatti. So I called up Antonio and asked him to come and save me. He good-naturedly agreed and explained it would take at least 45 minutes for him to get there. So, I stood there in the gloom and watched hoards of swallow type birds flitter through the sky in search of those insects who dare to come out at dusk, while a hawk sat calmly on a phone wire contemplating tonight’s dinner. A group of young men arrived driving a truck containing a jitney type vehicle in the back, They met some other men who came from somewhere I did not notice although one drove up in an old car with cardboard covering a broken window. They took the jitney down from the truck bed and began pushing it up a hill toward an abandoned building. The jitney got away from them and began rolling down the hill sending the men running in every direction. It then tipped over and skidded to the bottom of the hill. I thought I was watching a Buster Keaton silent film. They then all stood around — wondering what to do, I guess. I never found out what happened next because Antonio arrived and drove me to his home.

During the ride, I noticed much of the highway between Caltanissetta and Canicatti that they had been building two or three years ago when I had last been here has been completed. It is exceptionally lavish. Where it is not elevated it is tunneled. To construct the tunnels they first tear down the hill. Then they build the tunnel. Then they put the hill back on top of the tunnel. I’m not kidding.

When I first arrived in Sicily, now about 50 years ago, although the modern technology of the time, telephone, automobiles, television and the like had been well established but much of the social life of the people remained medieval — Marriages were arranged, dowries negotiated, crime of honor legal and common, crime organized, autocrats vicious, noble families if not admired then respected and government remote and rapacious. It was a place for travelers, not tourists, for those that traveled with no schedules expecting discomfort, not those with schedules, sights to see and an expectation of basic comforts. Yet, despite their suspicion of strangers, the people were welcoming when that suspicion waned, the food good, the wines better and the climate benign.

Since then, most of that has changed, the young are more independent (although my female cousins, PHDs all, will not leave the island even for brief periods without their mother’s consent), suspicion lessened, crime diminished, noble families dispersed and the government still corrupt but no longer remote. The food has not yet been completely homogenized to suit the food production industry and the wines are perhaps even better and while tourism has become accepted, old historical sights cleaned up and new ones developed, it is still not as easy to get around, make schedules and enjoy pure luxury (Taormina and a few other places accepted — but it was always like that). On the other hand, there are few places that afford the wanderer such a variety of experience, even ones that are not so good but, on the other hand, rarely so bad either.

My visits to Canicatti and to Antonio’s house are neither as a tourist or a traveler, but is simply returning home. As I grew older, I found, at least for me, there is no one “home,” a principle place of residence perhaps, but many homes identified by the fact that there reside, people, I love and like to be with. In Antonio’s case, there is also the food and the wine.

 

 

 

 

B. ANTONIO’S — THE FIRST NIGHT.

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A view of Canicatti. Antonio’s house is behind the tree on the left.

 

We arrived in Canicatti my mother’s ancestral home and drove on to Antonio’s house at the edge of the town. After getting settled in my room and meeting the new houseboy, a young man from Bangladesh whose name I cannot remember (Friday, the previous houseboy from Nigeria, left to sell shoes in Venice), Antonio suggested a light snack before retiring. I agreed. Here it is:

 

The first course, lamb stew piccante in tomato sauce.
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The second course, arancini con panel.
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The third course, melanzane parmigiana.
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The Fourth course, Pasta Norma.
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The Dessert, local berries, and lemon granita. All accompanied by wonderful red and white local wines and finished off with Limoncello and grappa.

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C. ANTONIO’S — DAY TWO

The next day, following breakfast and a brief nap, I went for a walk. By that time most Sicilians had returned to their beds for their afternoon siesta. Antonio worried about me walking around during the hottest part of the day. He insisted I carry my phone and call him if I passed out from the heat.

It was hot. Antonio’s home stands at the border of the rural area and the commercial-industrial area of the town. I chose to walk into the rural lands. I walked along a mostly white stone covered unpaved road through some olive groves. The sun’s glare reflected off the white road hurt my eyes even though I was wearing dark glasses. Reaching the end of the road I was traveling on and sweating a lot, I decided to return to the house and take a nap until dinner — and so I did.
IMG_5424Through the olive groves.

 

There were two couples and me at dinner. One couple from Germany traveling with a two-year-old boy, an inveterate explorer, were staying the week. The other, a delightful older English couple, were only staying the night. What follows is the meal:

 

The first course, four different local goat cheeses with a suitable different (local) fruit preserve on each,

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The second course, ripe fig from Antonio’s garden with speck, local goat ricotta with fruit preserve and fried squash blossoms.
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The Third and fourth courses were the same melanzane parmigiana and arancini as I had the previous night except I learned the parmesan cheese had been replaced with a local cheese.

 

The Fifth course, a soup, the ingredients of which I no longer recall, perhaps seafood
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The Sixth course, mixed fresh local seafood and a vegetable of some sort.
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The Seventh course, local fish, the name of which I missed, cooked in an olive, caper and tomato sauce.
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The Dessert, the same local berries and lemon granita as I enjoyed last night followed by a flute of different local berries and a different granite. I have eliminated the photo here out of pure exhaustion.

We also drank copious amounts of delicious red and white wines from a vineyard located closer to Agrigento (Antonio seems to feel something grown ten or so miles away as not fitting his definition of “local.”) And of course, limoncello and grappa. We all got very drunk and began telling each other our deepest darkest secrets. Ok maybe not our deepest and darkest, we never tell those even when drunk, but we certainly told those that we would otherwise be embarrassed if anyone but our dearest friends knew about them.

I guess I should write a little something about Sicilian cuisine — at least as I understand it. It is not simply indigenous recipes made from fresh local products improved over the centuries by the addition of spices, condiments, and recipes to overcome whatever deficiencies existed in the local agricultural products. It is also a cuisine that requires the reuse of food not consumed the previous day, not by simply reheating leftovers, but as foundational elements in completely new recipes. Another element of the cuisine is its adoption and development of the tremendous variety of deserts and sweets gifted to them by the Muslim community that ruled the island for so many centuries. Finally, the use of sweet liquors in Sicily, like in much of southern Italy, appears to be some sort of a religious ritual to celebrate a meal well cooked and well eaten.

Note: I will no longer post photographs of each course I enjoy since that would extend this issue of T&T beyond tolerable limits.

 

D. ANTONIO’S — DAY THREE:

This morning, I decided to go into Canicatti to walk around, search out places I remembered from when I lived here 50 years ago and also do a little shopping. Antonio drove me to the center of the town and I set off walking.

Canicatti is not a tourist city, there is nothing to see here. Monuments built by the rich and famous are usually reserved for the hilltops where they lived in their grand villas and palaces. Canicatti, set in a broad agricultural valley, has always been a commercial town for the sale and distribution of agricultural products. It looks grubby but is actually more prosperous than it appears.

I found the park where my mother had told me she played in as a child before she was sent off at seven years old to America in the early Twentieth Century version of indentured servitude. It is now a scruffy little park. It was much grander fifty years ago when I first saw it.

I sat on a bench among other old men and listened to the harsh guttural tones of Sicilian that Marlon Brando mimicked in Godfather I. I wish I could say I thought deep thoughts as I sat there, but I didn’t.

I eventually left and walked through back alleys and streets looking for the cafe where I would sit with friends fifty years ago. The cafe with the bullet holes still in the walls. Bullet holes made by American soldiers in WWII in the Canicatti Massacre when the American commander lined up random citizens and had them shot as a punishment for the town harboring the Germans. The fact was, there never were any Germans there.

My friends and I would gather at the cafe and watch the white-suited Mafiosi stride into the place with their jackets draped over their shoulders and the furtive hand gestures among the other customers ringing as loudly as shouts. The cafe where I sat those long afternoons so long ago with Gigi, Piccolo Gaetano, and others. Alas, I think it is no more, swept up by the years like unwanted refuse.

I looked for the Landowner’s Social Club building that, so long ago, I sat in front of one afternoon with the Baron La Lomia, the head of the hereditary ruling family of the town, a fat overdressed little man with a great square beard who was making his annual appearance at his demesne. As each resident of the area would approach to pay their respects to the Baron, he would say to them “And, I would like you to meet my good friend Mr. Petrillo who traveled all the way from America to be with me today.” And, I would shake the hand of each person in that long line as they passed by. I could not find that place either. Did it exist and was eventually blown away as an anachronism like the dust and litter blowing around as I walk or was it simply my imagination? Who cares? There is no difference — imagination, memory, reality — all the same.

I also looked for the tiny park with the statue of the erstwhile patron saint of the town, the Blessed La Lomia, a missionary in Brazil killed by the natives who saw through the baloney he was trying to sell them. I could not find it. So I sat down outside of a little cafe across from the Church where I was to meet Antonio and ordered a coke and a lemon granita. I chose the cafe because the outdoor tables were shaded by a large tree and an awning.

Alas, I soon realized it was probably the place where the dregs of the town congregated. Those young people who lived at home had no job and wanted none. One table was occupied by a boisterous threesome, two young men, and a tiny young woman. One of the men would shout at me and make faces. The other young man and the tiny young woman would every now and then rise from their chairs and chase each other around the table, ending in a brief wrestling match. I do not know why they did it. A very large tattooed man carrying a beer came in, sat on a bench facing me, not more than three feet away, and stared at me for a long time, then declared “Hot isn’t it?” I agreed and responded, “Yes it is.” He continued to stare and sip his beer. Various people who seemed not in complete possession of their mental faculties would enter, wander around, and sometimes stand next to my table and stare at me. I loved it. The chances of anything dangerous happening was minuscule. Yet the frisson of excitement drove away any residual melancholy remaining from my walk around the town.

Dinner was the usual many course affair, a mixture of old and new. The new included a fava bean soup, crawfish and the melanzane parmigiana with capers and other savory items replacing the cheese. Dessert included cassata as well as the berry and granita dish.

At dinner tonight was an Argentine couple, Herman and Christina who live in Florida and run a business finding investment properties in the US for foreigners. They also have started up a treasure hunting business in Columbia to raise several sunken Spanish Galleons. The twist of this effort compared to other treasure hunting schemes is that instead of distributing the treasure to the investors as it is recovered which when attempted by traditional treasure hunts runs into severe legal and political problems, they intend to keep the treasure hoard intact, but use its value base for the creation of a new crypto-currency and pay the investors with the crypto-currency. Crazy perhaps. But, Trump made a career of persuading people to invest in much less and look where he ended up — the bitch for an insecure Russian autocrat who trapped him in a wired Moscow hotel room taking a golden shower.

As coincidence would have it, about twelve years ago, I had a small practice representing treasure hunters, almost all of whom failed. The dream never dies.

 

E. ANTONIO’S DAY FOUR:

Following another excellent breakfast, the Argentinian couple invited me to join them on a trip to the beach. They had asked Antonio to suggest a remote and secluded beach and he did — at a very remote and far distant location. We drove at least 40 miles before we turned off the main road and on to an unpaved track that wound its way through farmland with many abandoned farmhouses and a few appearing not so abandoned. We saw three maybe four very old men working in the fields, and a very old and hunchbacked shepherd driving a small flock of undernourished sheep — no-one else. At times, we drove through weed forests with the cane like stalks twice as high as the car cutting off all view. We drove for five or six miles up steep hills and through narrow canyons before we came to a dirt parking lot containing a few cars and a small shack with a somewhat rotund gentleman standing in front. He took our money and announced in very good English that it was at least a two-minute walk to a sandy beach where it was suitable for swimming which he called “Beach One.” “Beach Two,” he said, “was a ten-minute walk up the coast and was good for taking photographs but because it was rocky was not good for swimming but suitable for snorkeling.” Beach three he explained was a twenty-five-minute walk down the coast, but I forget what it was good for. We walked the allotted two minutes and came out of the towering weeds and saw a very attractive sandy beach containing a few bathers but still many more than I thought would ever chance the treacherous drive.
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Pookie at the beach.
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The Beach.

 
After setting up the umbrella in the sand, instead of going swimming, I abruptly announced I was going to hike the ten minutes to the photogenic beach, and then set off. I do not know why. I found a small weed overgrown path that seemed to climb up what appeared to be more than a hill but less than a mountain. After several minutes of climbing, huffing and puffing, and sweating profusely, I realized I was all alone on this steep rocky path that I knew not where it went, without water, becoming rapidly exhausted and convinced I was about to collapse. But like Scott in the Antarctic, foolishly pushing ahead only for the irrational pleasure of beating Amundsen, I went on. Like Scott, I thought I could beat Amundsen too,

I noticed the path was strewn with the bleached shells of snails. I could tell they were not laid down here due to some ancient geological catastrophe, they were strewn around not buried in rock hardened silt. I then imagined massive escargot eating rituals by Sicilian cultists in honor of Diana the Huntress every night of the full moon. But, finally decided they were simply the carcasses of egotistical land snails who believed they could make it across the blazing hot paths in the middle of the day and were fried for their arrogance. I picked up one desiccated bone white shell, put it in my pocket and continued struggling up the slope.

I little later, I came upon a single quill lying on the path. I stopped and stared at it and wondered what sort of quilled creature survived the five thousand year commitment by Sicilians to rid their island of every mammal except those they could domesticate and rats and mice. Unable to reach a conclusion, I picked it up and put it in my pocket too. I also picked up and pocked some interesting small stones and happily contemplated carrying them back home and washing them, not to study but to remind me that it was not a figment of my imagination that I chose to climb this damned path at midday.
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The Treasure.

 

Eventually, I reached the top and found myself on a high bluff overlooking a beach with no way down. I then realized I could have reached that same beach by simply walking a few feet from where I began and wading in ankle deep water around some rocks. Annoyed by this discovery, I began to retrace my steps. I was further annoyed when a family with two young children carrying beach equipment and towels jauntily passed me by having clearly enjoyed their morning at the ten-minute walk rocky photogenic beach.

When I returned to the Argentineans they were just packing up to leave. So, we left, renegotiated the weed jungle and drove another twenty miles or so to Sciacca to have lunch.
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The Photogenic beach?
Sciacca (pronounced Sha – ca) is a fairly large town on a hill near the water with an interesting if arcane history (look it up). At its base was a large working fishing port.
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The Port of Sciacca.
We entered a restaurant directly across the road from the port. It had a great view and served freshly caught fish. We chose our fish and from a comely waitress ordered them grilled and then ate them along with an extremely tasty salad.
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The fish.

 

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The comely waitress and the Argentinians.
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The cooked fish.

 

For dessert, I had cannoli made with local ricotta.
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The sacred cannoli.
On the way home, we came upon a traffic snarl caused by an electrical transmission wire having fallen across the road. There were no police or first responders anywhere so passengers would jump out of their cars hold the wire up over their heads while the driver drove the car through, then drop it and jump back into the car. Thinking I could be as brave and foolhardy as the women in the photograph below, I jumped out of our car, held the wire over my head until Herman drove under it and then jumped back into the car and we sped away. No, I did not die.
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The brave but foolhardy women of Sicily.

 
That night I played my first game of chess in 50 years with the German gentleman and I won. It took the sting out of Croatia’s loss in the World Cup final. There had been no meal prepared. Antonio was gone for the evening so we snitched some sausages he had cooking on the stove for tomorrows meal. I went to bed happy. It was a good day after all.

 

 

F. ANTONIO’S — DAY FIVE:

Today is my last full day here. Tomorrow, I fly to Milano and two days later back to the Enchanted Forest and Naida. I am both sad and eager to go. Sad because I feel so comfortable and relaxed here and eager to go because I feel too comfortable and relaxed here. Too much of a good thing can become irritating if it goes on too long.

After breakfast, I said goodbye to the Argentineans. Then Antonio, the Bangladesh houseboy and I left for Licata, a town on the coast, to buy some fresh fish for tonight’s meal. I pictured a large fish market open to the fishing boats tied up to the wharves, burly men pushing crates around slick cement floors while fishmongers in their stalls lined up their wares with military precision on beds of gleaming ice. It was not like that at all. It was more like a dope deal. First a stop on a remote road on the edge of the city for a telephone call. Then two more stops at gas stations for more calls. Then a wait in a cafe drinking espresso until a man arrived and engaged Antonio in a whispered conversation. Then we get back in the car and follow the man’s car through the back roads of the city until we both come to a stop on the side of the road and Antonio and the man get out of their cars and walk around a building and disappear for a fairly long while. Then Antonio returns with a small plastic bag that I presume contained the fish and we drove off returning the 50 or so kilometers to Canicatti.

Back in town, I asked Antonio to drop me off at the church so I could go to the bank and withdraw the money I would need to pay for my stay. The charges amounted to about $70 per day for the room, breakfast, and dinner and all the wine, grappa and limoncello one can drink. It is not so bad a deal when I consider that I probably drank $20 worth of alcoholic beverages each day.

After, withdrawing the money, I returned to strolling around the town looking for places I knew — no luck there. I then looked for the ice-cream shop I had spotted two days before that made the best ice–cream in the area — but it was closed. I then thought about walking up the hill to where my mother lived in a section of the city called the Borgo, the old center of the town before they filled in the stream from which the town got its name (Cane Brook, for the dense cane like plants that flourished along its banks. Wikipedia, on the other hand, says it comes from the Arabic word meaning “muddy ditch”). I thought it would be good to see my mom’s old house again. But, I looked up at the hill I would have to climb, felt the heat of the sun and concluded it was not going to happen on this trip, so, I chose to sit in a cafe on the main street drinking a very good chilled white wine and nibbling on the little snacky things they brought me. Around me sat a number of young men and women. The men all had beards and the women all had tattoos. In my day, the men all had beards also.

I napped the afternoon away.

That evening, my last here, Antonio made dinner for only him and me. There was a wonderful salad of vegetables picked that day from the garden including sweet onions all in a vinegar, olive oil, and pepper dressing. He also broke out his favorite local white wines from Canicatti. Since he was busy cooking I drank most of the wine.
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He indicated we were going to have a light dinner this evening. For pasta, he prepared a dish with zucchini and mushrooms.
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Zucchini and mushroom pasta.

 
Then came the fish course.
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Antonio with the fish.

 

I do not know if that was the fish we pursued that morning, but it seemed like a lot of fish for two people. It was cooked with oranges, capers, and tomatoes in olive oil. After, deboning and serving the fish, Antonio brought out another bottle of white wine from Canicatti vineyards. “This,” he said, “is the best white in Sicily and perhaps is all of Italy.” While the previous bottle was made from Grillo grapes, this he said was made from a blending of four local grape varieties.
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The Great White.


The white wines from Sicily I have tasted so far on this trip have been very smooth and suitable for drinking with food or alone. They seem to lack that slightly astringent aftertaste of other expensive white wines.

After the fish course and having downed most of two bottles of wine, I was —well drunk or at least well on my way.

Dessert was a cassata followed by an absolute smashing mulberry granita accompanied by limoncello (a lot of it) but no grappa.

I was helped off to bed and woke up the next morning with no hangover.

 
G. DEPARTURE

Breakfast, some puttering around packing and then Antonio drove me into town to catch the bus to the airport. Hugs and kisses all around. Then a two hour or so ride through an ofter relatively bleak and empty Sicilian countryside I arrived at the Airport waited for several hours and flew off to Milano.
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The Sicilian Countryside on the way to Catania.

 

 

 

 

 

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“It’s never treason if you win.’”

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

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESSICA
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TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SACRAMENTO:

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

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

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

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

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The American River at Dusk

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

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

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

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The Lake in Campus Commons

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

 

B. A BRIEF SOJOURN IN THE BAY AREA:

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

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

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Blind Lemon Pledge

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

D. AN INVESTIGATION AND AN ADMISSION:

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

 

E. SEARCHING FOR “SPITFIRE”:

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

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

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

 

F. ENNUI AND ME:

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

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

 

G. SAME OLD GRIND:

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

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

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

Ain’t it the truth.

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

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