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Posts Tagged ‘Tale’

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

Well, with the reality show that was the SOTU, the tragic comedy of the Senate Republican’s acquittal of He Who is Not My President and the unending melodrama of the Iowa caucus behind me, I decided I had enough entertainment overload for a while and set off to the Big Endive by the Bay and the peace of my immunotherapy infusion.

We traveled by train and arrived at Peter and Barrie’s home in the late afternoon. We spent a delightful evening together. Barrie cooked her usual wonderful meal after which we spent hours telling stories. Most of the stories that evening were about travel — Peter and Barrie’s time in India and my experiences in Israel. I told about the wonders of the old city of Jerusalem, of my friendship with the Bethlehem Muslim antiquities dealer who had purchased the original Dead Sea Scrolls from the Arab tribesmen that discovered them. I also spoke about the mysteries of Masada, Qumran, and the Negev. We also swapped tales of Paris (We’ll always have Paris) with a side trip to Bordeaux, and Rome ( The Eternal City) and its environs.

The next day Peter drove Naida and me to UCSF for my immunotherapy infusion. After the appointment, we went to the Mission Rock Cafe for lunch. Mission Rock, located on the shore of the Bay a few blocks from the hospital at Mission Bay, was a favorite dive during Counter Culture times. It has now been converted to a somewhat upscale restaurant. After a reasonably good meal, we left and returned by train to the Enchanted Forest.

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Naida at Mission Rock Resort Pondering the Menu.

 

 

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Pookie by the Salesforce Tower.

 

 

 

B. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 
The next day, I drove the Mitsubishi into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM from school and to fetched this month’s medicines from the pharmacy. The sun was shining and the weather pleasant, in the upper-sixties. Hayden and I had lunch at Subway’s and he once again impressed me with how rapidly he is becoming an adult.

I am distressed at the state of my memory. Throughout the day, my mind is bubbling with ideas about what I would like to write here in T&T, but when I sit at my computer to actually write, nada, nothing. We did watch “The Irishman” on Netflix last night — vintage Scorsese. It was a story about two bygone eras. The first described the power and decline of the Italian Mafia. The second seemed to me to celebrate the end of the Actor’s Studio’s influence on movies and theater as DeNiro, Pacino, Scorsese, Keitel, and Pesci (Pesci was not Actors Studio trained, but may as well have been) flaunting their ancient acting chops across the big screen. We will not see their like again.
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Today, Saturday, we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee once again. We met a woman who taught photography in Sacramento and Florence, Italy. Earlier in her life, she attended a two-week photographic safari in Montana. She volunteered to cook because the existing cook’s cooking was despised by the campers who had paid good money for the trip. She worked for the company for many years. Later, in Italy, she opened a bread bakery of some sort in Spoleto. We spoke about photography for a while. I gave her my view of aesthetics and art, “You do the best with whatever you got unless you have got to make a living out of it. Then you do whatever sells.”

Later I took H, Jake, and Ethan out for lunch at the Relish House in the Golden Hills. We ate hamburgers with complex toppings and talked about things of interest to teenagers, cars mostly.

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Ethan, Hayden, and Jake

 
Still later, back in the Enchanted Forest, Naida collected some camellias. Some were placed in a shallow bowl to float on the water. Others were used for adornment.
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Naida of the Camellias.

 

 

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On Tuesday, we were visited by Lillian Valee a friend of Naida’s, a fellow author, a poet, and a renowned translator of things Polish. She had been the student assistant to Czeslaw Milosz, a Polish writer, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for literature (poetry). She had assisted Milosz in translating his book Bells of Winter and other writings into English. Her book, Rivers of Birds, Forests of Tule is a marvelous collection of her columns written for the local museum publication describing the history of the flora and fauna of the Central Valley around the Mukouleme River and Modesto.

We walked the few steps from the Enchanted Forest to the banks of the American River. There we sat on a log for a while and watched evening drift down upon us. Naida and Lillian spoke of things literary while I threw stones into the water and petted Boo-boo the Barking Dog who lay dozing at my feet dreaming dog things.

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The American River at Winter’s End.

 

img_7905Naida West(http://www.bridgehousebooks.com/) and Lillian Vallee sitting on the banks of the American River discussing things literary while Boo-boo the Barking Dog enjoys the late afternoon sun.

 

 

IMG_7892 - Version 2Lillian and Naida. 

 
The next day we had a pleasant breakfast and discussed, Modesto, Eugene O’Neal, cooking, family, things Polish, Naida’s early life, native Americans, and a lot more. I eventually left Naida and Lillian to their chitchat at the breakfast table and with Boo-boo the Barking Dog in tow retreated to the study where I wrote this while Boo-boo napped. For some reason, I felt ill, chilled. I put myself to bed and slept for a few hours. When I had awakened, Lillian had already left to return to her home in Modesto.

Tomorrow, people will be coming to put in new flooring for the house. While moving some things around in preparation, Naida opened and old chest. In it was some of the clothing her great-great-grandmother had worn when she arrived in America in the 1840s almost 180 years ago. She decided to do dress up.

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Naida as the well-dressed Scottish immigrant of the 1840s.

 

 

IMG_7921A more formal version.

 

 
After watching a silly movie featuring a classical pianist, a singer and an all harmonica band, we went to bed. Not a bad day at all. I have had far worse.

Today the workers arrived at 8AM and immediately began tearing up the floors in the house in order to put in new floors and carpet. The racket and confusion of activity drove the three of us from the house like refugees from war — homeless and looking for refuge. We ended at Naida’s daughter’s house, sat on the back porch, drank some tea and talked, and talked. The dogs, (Sarah’s two and our one) played frenetically throughout the yard and upon the tool shed. Eventually, we all left except for Sarah’s two dogs, Sarah back to work and Naida, Boo-boo the Barking dog and I, returned home, navigated the noise, mess and apologies and ran upstairs to change for this afternoon’s Happy Hour with the members of the Saturday Mornings Coffee Group at someplace called Clubhouse 56 because it happens to be located on 56th Street in Sacramento. We drank a few Margarita’s. I ate a Hot Dog. We talked with a lot of people but I remember nothing about what we may have talked about. I did talk with Winnie. We compared maladies as we usually do when we meet. Her’s seemed much more distressing than mine.

We returned home after the workers left, made our way through the detritus and materials left behind pending the workers’ return tomorrow and up to the bedroom on the second floor. The floor installers had not yet attacked that floor. We crawled into bed.

Oh, I remember one other thing about the day. The Good/Bad David called from South Dakota to tell me that the temperature there reached one degree Fahrenheit today. I mentioned it was about 70 here in the Enchanted Forest. I invited him down to enjoy some California weather. He said he would think about it as soon as he finishes doing something or other with the cows or something like that.

It is Valentine’s Day. The house is in shambles as various teams of workmen continue tearing up the floor and hammering down new flooring. Naida and I have fled to the studio room to escape the noise of the tools and the Serbian, Chinese, and Mexican shouts of the workers as they lay down the floor. Happy Valentine’s Day to you too.

On Saturday the clattering of the workmen as they put down the carpets upstairs continued. Naida sentenced me to the big recliner in the living room while she cleaned out the studio before they began working in there. In rejecting my assistance, Naida said that there were a lot of personal papers and things lying around she wanted to go through. So Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I happily dozed in the recliner while everyone else worked.

Sunday, I drove into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM and Jake and bring them to The Enchanted Forest to help me move some furniture around the house. After completing that chore we went for lunch at a small family-owned Arabic restaurant. The food was surprisingly good.

After a few days of which I remember very little, Naida and I took Boo-boo the Barking Dog to the dog park. While there, some dog pissed on my cane.

It is now Wednesday evening, Naida and I are watching the Democratic Presidential Nomination debate on MSNBC. We sit here talking to the TV set like we were watching a football game. I hate the moderators. They seem more interested in pushing their personal agenda and gotcha games than in encouraging a debate. How about a question like “how do you propose to defeat Trump?” Or, “how is your position on ______ different from that of the present administration?” Nevertheless, there is a lot of shouting, self-justification, and a few apologies. Overall it is enjoyable, like watching a street fight.

It is now Friday evening, things have happened in the past two days have disappeared through the holes in my memory. Tomorrow is another day.

Another Saturday morning at the coffee in the Nepenthe Club House. Winnie’s husband Paul and I have a long talk together. He had been an accomplished architect in Los Angeles until he was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Wanting to spend the last few years in an idyllic setting, he along with Winnie moved to Salmon Idaho. Their house, designed by Paul, sat in a pretty little valley a few miles north of the town. A portion of the Lewis and Clark Trail crossed their property. Close by the Middle Fork of the Salmon River rushes by their home. It is the location of the book Murder On The North Fork written by Naida’s uncle who used to be the Methodist minister in the town. Naida had helped her uncle to write the book, edited and published it. The book told the true story of a murder that occurred in the area about 100 years ago.

Sunday was a day of rest and rest we did.
Tomorrow I leave for the Big Endive by the Bay for my immunotherapy treatment. Today, during our walk around the Enchanted Forest, I noticed the ornamental fruit trees were in bloom — the Japanese cherry trees a brazen pink and the whites and reds of the others bursting out here and there along with the camellias adding the blush of color to the lingering shades of winter. I expect, by the time I return from the Big Endive, our back yard will be a riot of spring colors.

Until then, take care of yourselves.

“Crivens”

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POOKIE’S DAZE: Grey Skies, Sadness, and the Coming of Mushrooms and Camellias.

 

 

January and February are dreary months. Grey skies, naked trees whose spindly branches scrape the heavens, slick damp ground, chilling breezes creep through every crack and the silence. In the mornings when I look out through the sliding glass doors to the back yard, I see only the bleakness of the season — a forlorn flower or two, naked trees and gray skies.
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Naida and I spent the past few days watching the impeachment hearings. They fit the season. Dreary and dismal best describes the level of misery to which this nation has fallen. Again and again, the trial managers presented the facts and law that under the rule of law led ineluctably to the verdict they call for. Sadly, it appears the rule of law in our society has been shredded beyond retrieval.

The weekend arrived and I was getting restless. Not energetic mind you, just antsy like there is something I should be doing, exercising perhaps, or singing, maybe even taking a long hot bath. Instead on Saturday, we went to the coffee at Nepenthe Club House. That evening we watched “The Two Popes” on Netflix — great acting to go along with splendid shots of the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo. On Sunday while Naida was off visiting some old friends, I took Boo-boo the Barking Dog on a long walk through the Enchanted Forest. I am always amazed that no matter how many times I have walked through those woods over the almost two years I have lived here, I still find paths I had never walked on before and groves of majestic trees I had never seen.

I returned home to discover that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash. Perhaps, as far as history goes, his death is of little importance in light of the real possibility that our nation and even our world is poised on the brink of dissolution if not outright destruction. Nevertheless, the death of someone whose life, exploits, and youthful enthusiasm have been cut short must sadden us all. Like a feather brushing up against my consciousness, it makes me wonder if it presents an analogy for our age, nation, and indeed us all — the hero’s dreams and his enthusiasm for his future come crashing down in an uncontrolled helicopter. Good-by Kobe, I hope you find whatever it was that you devoted your life to.

I then took a nap, my usual remedy for depression. Later we watched a Nordic silent movie, Swedish I believe, in which a woman throws her three-year-old daughter over a cliff, and then she and her lover die frozen to death in a snowstorm. It is interesting how it can be that even when you do little of anything to make you sad, it still can be a miserable day. But then again “tomorrow is another day.” (Scarlett O’Hara)

A few days later, the weather became warm for this time in the year — not balmy but lacking the cold wet chill of the winter months. In the early evening, Naida and I decided to take Boo-boo the Barking Dog on a long walk along the banks of the American River. It was a pleasant evening. There was a slight pink blaze in the sky to the Southwest. The naked trees painted dark stripes across our view of the river. We stopped for a bit at some benches along the path then continued our walk up to the Guy West bridge where we turned away from the river and meandered back home through the Enchanted Forest.
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The pastel colors of the evening.

 

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Naida and I rest for a moment during our walk.
A few days later the surprisingly balmy days continued so I drove into the Golden Hills. I picked up HRM after school at the Skatepark and took him to Nugget Market in Town Center for a healthy lunch of pepperoni pizza and soda. We had a great talk. I enjoy believing that I am the older wiser person guiding the callow youth past the rocky shoals of adolescence — an affectation, I know. He on the other hand, given his sweet temperament, probably considers it as spending a little time indulging a garrulous and lonely old man.

The next day, I returned to the Golden Hills for my physical therapy appointment. Before the appointment, I picked HRM and Jake from school and drove them to a nearby restaurant called the Relish House that served pretty good hamburgers. They chatted away about cars. H was excited that he had spent a day or two “detailing” Dick’s Mom’s automobile, a 30-year-old Honda. The car became Dick’s after his mom died and he promised it to H when he becomes old enough to drive in a year or so. H’s Mom objected and upset him very much.

It is mushrooms and camellias season in the Enchanted Forest. We had little or no winter this year — perhaps half a shiver’s worth. Now we seem to have slid into early spring without a cry of protest or a whisper of regret. Climate change will beguile us all for a moment or two before we may need to chant Kaddish. Perhaps this is the rapture, a moment of delight followed by eternal darkness.
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Today we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House. We walked from our house to the clubhouse in the balmy morning. There were a few announcements today — The Super Bowl Party tomorrow; Happy Hour next Wednesday; a few more things. Then we got down to small conversations. Winnie and I exchanged treatment stories and our distress over the impeachment hearings. A man whose name I have forgotten and I discussed vests and Bangkok. After browsing through the clubhouse library and finding nothing trashy enough to attract me, we left to return home.

Later that day, I drove the Mitsubishi into the Golden Hills. HRM and Jake wanted to “detail” it — basically a car wash on steroids. So, gathered at Dick’s house were the two boys, Dick, Jake’s father, and me — a gathering of the guys discussing cars. I know nothing about cars. I barely know how to drive them. So, my role in the discussions was to nod knowingly at what I had hoped were appropriate moments and at other times to look suitably serious.

Later this week, I have my immunotherapy infusion appointment. The past few days were days of disappointment. Disappointment in the results of the Impeachment, the Super Bowl, the pizza I devoured recently, and the movies on television I watched during the past few days, but as my favorite philosopher has observed, “It’s always something” (Rosanna Rosannadanna.)

Then, of course, there was the Iowa Democratic Caucus to add a bit of levity to the week.

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A. CHRISTMAS:

 

Christmas morning arrived dark and dank in the Enchanted Forest. Last evening, under a crystal clear sky, we attended a Christmas party at Naida’s daughter’s home in Land Park. It was fun. We sang Christmas carols, ate Chinese food, and opened presents. For a present, I got a throw blanket to remind me how old I am while keeping me warm in the evenings watching old movies on TCM and sipping egg-nog laced with brandy. I also received a book by Donald Hall entitled A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety also to remind me how old I am becoming. The book contains a series of short essays by the author, who also used to be the nation’s Poet Laureate, about how it feels to be ninety and still alive, the famous and not so famous people he has met, and his sometimes trenchant thoughts on various unconnected things. To quote the author on the nature and tenor of his opinions, “Why should the nonagenarian hold anything back?” I loved the book.

Today we drove into the golden hills to give HRM and Dick (or as we refer to him Uncle Mask) their Christmas presents. When we arrived, we learned they were both down with the flu. Hayden was nestled in bed in his teen cave. I went downstairs and gave him his Christmas presents, eight 5 by 7 wood-backed photographs of him and me over the years, also a pocket all-purpose tool, all separately wrapped. He unwrapped them one and a time and thanked me profusely after exposing each one.

Leaving him to ponder the meaning and significance of my presents and wrestle with the physical and psychological miseries of being sick on Christmas Day, I returned upstairs to find Naida and Uncle Mask in the kitchen making coffee laced with Kailua. For the next 3 or 4 hours, we sat around the table and discussed ancient Native-American society, the origin of bees, turkeys and grapes in California, petroleum development, coastal regulation, Willie Brown and related subjects. About halfway through our round-table discussion, Hayden, having resolved whatever quandaries I had left with him and suddenly cured of his maladies, emerged from his sickbed and told us he was off to the skatepark. The skatepark I concluded must be a miracle remedy that can cure certain adolescents of whatever psychological, physical, or existential issues they may have to wrestle with during that brief and certainly not beloved few years of raging hormones before recognition sets in as to how bad life can really get.

Eventually, Naida and I returned to the Enchanted Forest and watched a thoroughly silly movie starring William Powell and a far too young Debbie Reynolds. I wrapped myself warmly in my throw. It was warm. I was happy.

 

B. BOXING DAY:

 

(“In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect ‘Christmas boxes’ of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year… This custom is linked to an older British tradition where the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families since they would have to serve their masters on Christmas Day. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.” [WIKIPEDIA])

 

Boxing Day (or if you will St. Stephen Protomartyr Day or the first day of Kwanzaa) broke, as our mornings usually do, with Boo-boo the Barking Dog, our reliable alarm clock, barking. Every morning at 9AM he begins at the upstairs window then running as though his fur was on fire down the stairs, high pitched almost hysterical barking following, to the living room window for a few moments then to the sliding glass doors by the garden and finally back again to the upstairs window where he then sits quietly and, it seems to me, smugly waiting to see if one of us responds and lets him out for his morning pee and breakfast. If not, he leaps onto the bed pawing at Naida’s arm until she gets up and staggers down the stairs to do his bidding.

Thus, unless we wake up at 7:30 or 8:00 this leaves little time for shagging. For those who wonder about shagging over 80 be advised while perhaps the more athletic positions are a dim memory, we decrepits remain quite able, at times, to enjoy all the pleasures of that activity with little of the self-consciousness of youth.

This morning, for my viewing pleasure, Naida provided me with a brief fashion show of the tennis outfits she had received as Christmas presents from her daughters. After this, she presented me with a nice cup of cocoa.

Later we went shopping for pants for me — a belated Christmas present. All this excitement so exhausted us we went to bed at 8PM. St. Stephen Protomartyr would be proud.

 

C. SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST DAY OR FOR THOSE NOT OF A RELIGIOUS BENT YOU MAY CHOOSE TO CELEBRATE ONE DAY OF THE FEAST OF THE WINTER VEIL OR LIFE DAY (THE WOOKIE CELEBRATION OF LIFE) OR NOTHING AT ALL AND JUST CHILL OUT.

 

What was different this morning than all other mornings? This morning Boo-boo the barking dog did not bark. I woke up alone in bed. Naida and the dog had slipped out of the room without a sound and were enjoying an early breakfast together in the downstairs studio.

The only thing that happened today that may be of interest to Johnny the Saint or Chewbacca the Wookie is that I learned that today’s adolescents are experts in the gastronomical merits of various fast food joints.

 

D. HOLY INNOCENTS DAY:

 

(“On this day it is custom to give the youngest child in the household the power to rule the day. From what to eat, where to go and what to do, the youngest is in charge. In Mexico, it is a day for children to play practical jokes and pranks on their elders.” National Day Calendar.)

 

Today also happens to be National Download Day. I do not know what that means. It is also Saturday, the day of the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House here in the Enchanted Forest. Alas, we missed it. Naida was having a long, long conversation on the phone with someone, so I decided to make my breakfast and write this.

I did nothing the rest of the day — not anything notable, nothing, not even a nap. Nothing is hard to do. Try it sometime. We did walk the dog this evening, however.

 

E. TODAY, DECEMBER 29, I HAVE LEARNED IS: BARBIE DOLL’S BIRTHDAY, SECRETS DAY, SENDING SHORT MESSAGES TO UNKNOWN NUMBERS DAY, INTERNATIONAL NUTCASE DAY, AND, SPARKLER DAY.

 

(Note: I can find no reference on the internet for any of these days. I did find a site that indicated that this was, Still Need To Do Day. [I thought that was every day.] If one were really interested, one could check the Catholic Saints Calendar and find about 50 saints whose celebrations are listed for this day including Albert of Gambron, Trophimus of Arles and Ebrulf of Ouche [Ouch?] Ouche is a river in the Cote-d’Or in France.)

 

At about 11 AM today I set off for Peter and Barrie’s home in The Big Endive By The Bay to spend the night before my appointment at UCSF for my treatment. Naida stayed home to work on Volume II of her memoir and attend to the needs of the dog.

That evening Jason, Hiromi, and Amanda joined Peter, Barrie and I for dinner. Barrie prepared a delicious shrimp and Polenta dish for dinner. Unfortunately, she added jalapeño peppers making it too hot and spicy for me to eat, so I contented myself with a banana, a pear, a Japanese yam and a slice of coconut pie. I was happy and sept well.

 

F. DECEMBER 30, NATIONAL BACON DAY:

 

(It is also National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, Falling Needles Family Fest Day and the last day of Hanukkah. Or, if you would prefer you can celebrate the feast day of Saint Raynerius of Aquila Bishop of Forconium (modern Aquila), Abruzzi region, Italy who was noted for his excellent administrative skills, but little else. Does this make him the patron saint of bureaucrats?)

In the morning, I drove to Mission Bay for some CT scans, meetings with the doctor and my infusion. As I walked through the newly built areas of Mission Bay, I could not help feeling like I was participating in a movie about a dystopian world of the future. I strolled through long narrow public spaces with monolithic facades rising on each side. The view of the new development along the shoreline with their bulges and sharp edges looked like cartoon renderings of the city of the future. Unlike most cities, there were fewer people drifting along with you as you walk down the streets and sidewalks. Instead, they seemed to pop in and out of various doors of the buildings as you walk by. There was a small market at the edge of the bay where shaggy Dead Heads sold their wares, mostly dope paraphernalia. Strange tents filled a few spaces that appeared to have been intended to be parks. One seemed to require playing a round of miniature golf before shopping in the tents for something to eat. Odd I see.

My meeting with the doctor went well — no evidence of the cancer spreading.

After my infusion, I met my grandson Anthony. We walked to The Ramp one of the two old hippy hang-outs that still cling to the edge of the Bay. Today they are filled with somewhat less colorful patrons. We sat outdoors and enjoyed the view of the bay, boats and the old shipyard that included a large tanker under repair.
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I then set off for the Enchanted Forest and ran into a traffic jam as soon as I crossed the Bay Bridge in Emeryville. I heard on the car radio the entire freeway had been closed in Vallejo for a “police action” and drivers were advised to find alternative routes. I took 680 and eventually arrived home three hours later. There were no news reports that evening about what the “police action” was all about.

 

G. HOGMANAY AND NEW YEAR’S EVE.

 

On New Year’s Eve, we attended a party at the Nepenthe Club House. It was scheduled to end at nine PM when the ball was dropped on Times Square in New York. It was planned like this so that we decrepits could get home at a decent hour. Even so, most of the people had left long before the Times Square ball did its thing. We stayed to the bitter end, however. At some point, we danced. A relatively young woman insisted I dance with her. Later at home, Naida told me that the woman was trying to seduce me. I had not noticed. I thought she was just tipsy. Anyway, I was pleased to learn that.

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H. NEW YEAR’S DAY, AND ST. ZYGMUNT GORAZDOWSKI DAY.

 

I did nothing at all today. I took a long nap in the afternoon. Watched a bit of television. Perhaps I was resting up from 2019 and getting ready to tackle 2010 — then again perhaps not.

 

I. NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY, NATIONAL PERSONAL TRAINER AWARENESS DAY, ST. BASIL THE GREAT DAY, ST. BLIDULF DAY AND ST. CASPAR DEL BUFALO DAY.

 

This morning broke sunny and relatively warm for this time of year. The arrival of the garbage trucks and the leaf blowers drove Boo-boo the Barking Dog into paroxysms of hysterical barking and sent him running like crazy throughout the house.

Determined to approach the new year with greater vigor and determination than I evidenced yesterday, and to escape the unholy racket both inside the house as well as my realization that we were out of my beloved English Muffins, I left the house and strode vigorously and purposefully through the Enchanted Forest to where I had parked the car. I drove to the nearest shopping center where I stopped at Starbucks for breakfast after which I went to Safeway to buy the English Muffins, a few other necessities (e.g., frozen ravioli and several bars of dark chocolate with sea salt) and a bouquet of flowers for Naida. I then returned home with a sense of accomplishment that I was convinced equipped me to successfully face whatever the current year throws my way.

I put the groceries away and went upstairs for a nap. I had enough vigor and determination for the day.

 

J. TODAY JANUARY 3 IS 10TH OF THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. IT IS ALSO THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS AS WELL AS OF KURIAKOSE ELIAS CHAVARA IN THE SYRO-MALABAR CATHOLIC CHURCH.

 

On the 10th day of Christmas, I picked up Hayden, Kaleb, and their snowboards and drove them to Northstar near Lake Tahoe for a day of caroming down the snow-covered slopes. It was a sunny and surprisingly warm day, about 50 degrees. After we arrived, the boys set off for the slopes and I set about seeking amusement in the pseudo-alpine village at their base.

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Ready to hit the slopes.

 

I was hungry so before beginning my exploration I searched for someplace to eat. I found a modest place where I ate a breakfast of pancakes that cost as though they were made of gold and tasted like it also. I then wandered about and ran into Jake and his family. They were leaving because Jake’s friend from Arizona, Kaden, had fractured his arm snowboarding yesterday. Jake’s mom said the emergency room when she visited yesterday looked more like the results of a terrorist strike than a room full of holiday vacationers. Skiing seems to be a hazardous duty for recreation seekers.

I then found a Starbucks where surprisingly I was given a free cup of coffee. I took my free coffee over to a seat by a window and watched the crowds strolling by while slowly sipping my drink. This was not my first cup of coffee that morning. I had consumed enough coffee that morning that I amused myself by contemplating the possibility of dying here of caffeine poisoning.

After a while, I left and strolled through the faux village and inspected the wares in a few shops. Tiring of this, I sat on an upholstered bench by a fire pit near the skating rink. I watched the skaters, some gliding by and others whose by was something less than gliding. I also listened to a female twosome singing western tunes on the stage next to the rink.

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Just as I was about to drift off into a mindless reverie, HRM called to say that they had finished snowboarding and were waiting for me nearby. I found them and we were soon heading off for home.

K. TODAY WE CELEBRATE THE DAY OF THE FALLEN AGAINST THE COLONIAL REPRESSION (ANGOLA), DAY OF THE MARTYRS (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO), HWINUKAN MUKEE (OKINAWA ISLANDS, JAPAN), OGONI DAY (MOVEMENT FOR THE SURVIVAL OF THE OGONI PEOPLE), AND WORLD BRAILLE DAY.

 

 

It is Saturday today and Naida and I attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Clubhouse. It went as usual and I paid little attention, drifting off into a semi-dream state while the others talked. Winnie sat down beside me. We discussed the state or our health. She observed that I needed a haircut and recommended the stylist she uses. She then invited me to join her and a few of the girls for a drink after the meeting.  I declined. Naida and I returned home and vegetated for the rest of the day. We did not celebrate those who had fallen opposing colonial oppression in Angola. But I did think about them. I, however, did not think very much about the martyrs or the Ogoni I am afraid.

 

L. TODAY IS THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS AND THE TWELFTH NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS, NATIONAL BIRD DAY, AND HARBIN INTERNATIONAL ICE AND SNOW SCULPTURE FESTIVAL (HARBIN, CHINA).

 

The Twelfth Day of Christmas arrived in the Enchanted Forest as bright as springtime. After breakfast, I felt the need — an itch — to do something, anything, even to just take a walk. And so I did. I hooked up Boo-boo to his leash and set off. It wasn’t much of a walk but it will do for me.

It is now a day after writing the preceding paragraph. I tried to recall what else I did yesterday. Failing, I turned again to Naida and asked, “Do you recall what we did yesterday?”

“Not much” she replied, “and I enjoyed it.” After a moment of reflection, she added, “We did see a marvelous movie with wonderful music.”

“Do you remember its name” I inquired.

More reflection. “Fiddler on the Roof,” she eventually declared.

There you have it. Pookie’s Twelve Days of Christmas, such as it was.
You have fun too and remember to always keep on trucking.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

I type this while riding on the train on the way to my tri-weekly immunotherapy infusion at UCSF. Later we will spend the night at Peter and Barrie’s house. We are approaching Suisun-Fairfield. The sky is overcast, gray and dark. Next to me, Naida naps. I think I will join her.

It is now the following morning. We’re sitting around Peter and Barrie’s home eating breakfast and watching Marie Yovanovich’s testimony in the impeachment inquiry. My treatment yesterday was same old, same old. They did discover my thyroid continues to underperform so they upped the dosage of whatever magic concoction they had me on. After the treatment, we headed off to Peter and Barrie’s. I enjoyed traveling around the Big Endive by the Bay on public transportation observing the antics of my fellow riders and watching the brief melodramas of the City as we pass by.

We arrived at Peter and Barrie’s home and spent a pleasant dinner together telling stories and laughing as we often do. The following morning, after breakfast, we all set off for North Beach. None of us had been there for many years. I used to live in North Beach for a few years but had not been back in over a decade. We passed the restaurant where I used to sit at one of the outside tables and eat lunch or dinner several times a week. It is also the site where, in my unfinished and never to be finished mystery novel the main character, Dragon, would sit and conduct business lacking an office to do so. The novel opens with Dragon sitting at one of the tables when Mavis the beautiful Tattoo artist retained him to find her missing boyfriend. Dragon leaves the restaurant to pursue his first clue only too return a few minutes later bloody and frightened having been beaten by two mysterious fat guys. And so, the novel continues on to its non-conclusion. (If you wish to read one version of the novel it can be found here: https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/here-comes-dragon-an-unfinished-novel/)

We also passed several of the sites where Carol Doda, she of the large naked breasts and hydraulic piano and I during her declining years would meet now and then for dinner and tell each other stories, reminisces, and lies and laugh a lot.

We stopped first in front of a restaurant I intended to have us all eat lunch at owned by a man who immigrated from the same town near Avellino in Italy where my grandfather grew up. His wife was the chef and cooked some of the best Neapolitan food in the area. Unfortunately, it was closed.

Ultimately, we chose Cafe Sport on Green Street. Fifty years ago, when I first visited it, the place was a simple cafe with a pool table in the back room. Antonio (perhaps his name was Franco. I do not remember which), the owner, eventually began also serving some full meals and added some brightly colored tables. He also began decorating the place with whatever oddities he could find. Eventually, the pool table was replaced by more tables and more odd decorations. It became one of the favorite hang-outs of the Prop-20 Coastal Commission staff. For a short period, another room was added. To get there, one had to pass through the kitchen where Antonio, a cigarette in his mouth with its long ash drooping over the large pots of sauce simmering on the stove, held court. We would joke that it was the ash that made to food taste so good. That room became an unofficial meeting place of the Coastal Staff until the Fire Department realized the room lacked fire exit and closed it down.

The four of us had a good meal, talked a lot and joked with the waiter. We then piled back into Peter’s car and he drove us to the Downtown Transit Station where we boarded the bus to the Emeryville train station to catch the train to Sacramento.
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B. A DREAM BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

 

For the past two nights, I have been having a pleasant dream set in the dream world of my ancestral home in Sicily. It is nothing like the real place I have so often visited. In my dream lives, I have several places that over the years I return to now and then. They appear in my dreams nothing like the real places they are supposed to represent. For example, San Francisco in my dream world has no Golden Gate Bridge. Instead, when I look north, I see a crowded harbor filled with large ships and pleasure craft. Further north, there is a mountainous island or peninsular. I sometimes climb those mountains and stare at the endless ocean beyond.

Another dream place I sometimes visit seems like a combination of Mendocino and Eureka. Strangely when I face north the ocean is in my left as though I am on the East coast. I spend a lot of my dream time here. On the way to the town, there is an old hotel or resort sited a short way from the ocean. It’s a bit rundown down and the owner is a mysterious dyspeptic man who alternately frightens and annoys me.

The Sicilian town of my dreams appears like it had just emerged from the middle ages or had just been bombed during WWII. Both the women and men wear dark clothing — the woman generally long dresses, the men old working men’s clothing. My friend Vittorio, Naida and I were in a tumble-down house. A middle-aged woman (perhaps the owner) acted strangely, maybe she was angry at us for some reason. Fortunately, she took a liking to Vittorio and pulled him off into the bushes. At the back of the house, there was a large shed open on three sides. The shed operated as an impromptu cafe and meeting place for the neighborhood. In the evening, parties were often held there with a lot of singing, dancing, and storytelling. We had a great time and I woke up happy.

 

 

C. A FEW TRIPS INTO THE GOLDEN HILLS TO MEET WITH HRM:

 
HRM and I got together several times during the past few days. The first time we met, while sitting in Subway’s eating a meatball sandwich and discussing his schooling, he mentioned he was enjoying High School and liked all his teachers because they each keep a toy for him that he is allowed to play with in class.  He had been diagnosed with ADD while in grammar school and prescribed medication to keep it under control. Last year he refused to take his meds and longer. This year the teachers have decided it was best to allow him to release some of his excess energy by fiddling with the toys during class.

A few days later, I returned for the opening of the newly remodeled skatepark. A large herd of young boys and a few girls on scooters and skateboards crammed the place. After, watching things for a while, Naida and I went to lunch in Town Center.

One day I picked him up at the skate park. On the way to lunch at Subway, I inquired about his welding class. Some time ago I had told both him and my daughter Jessica that between adolescence the onset of adulthood they should develop competence in science, art, math, sports, social science, as well as a trade. I believe that given the changes we go through in our lives and the changes the society we live goes through, flexibility is needed for our sustenance, health, and happiness. In my daughter’s case, art became photography, science got to be virology, math (the statistical analysis necessary for her virology doctorate), sports grew into soccer (she continued to play competitively until very recently), and for social science her minor was semantics.

H then showed me his unfinished steel cube designed to look like a die. It was quite heavy and obviously unfinished. He explained he still needed to file down the welded joints.

On Friday, we went to have lunch a Panda’s a fast-food place we favor. He showed me his finished cube. It looked great. We discussed his upcoming Thanksgiving vacation and the possibility of he and I going away somewhere for a few days.

Another time, I picked up Kaleb and him and took them to the hot dog place in City Center for lunch. They had buffalo wings and an Italian sausage sandwich called “The Godfather.” Like teenagers everywhere they seemed at sixes and sevens about things to do, a bit bored but unwilling to give up the general comfort of home and running off into the woods or onto a ship and sailing away into an adventure.

 

 

 

D. ODDS AND ENDS:

 
Days pass, my short term memory slowly continues to shred. I have read a number of books these past few weeks. This is notable because, for about a month or so, I, for some reason, had substantially slowed my normal reading regime.

Naida and I continue our regular routine of spending most days and evenings sitting on our reclining chairs and watching either the impeachment hearings or old movies on TCM. In the early evenings, we walk Boo-Boo the Barking Dog through the Enchanted Forest or to the nearby dog park where instead of playing with the other dogs and running around with them helter-skelter he just sits and waits at our feet staring at us until we give up and take him home for his dinner. When we do go out somewhere to shop or to dinner and I get a chance to see us reflected in say a shop’s glass window I see two slightly dotty old people shuffling along on one of those mysterious errands the aged seem to enjoy.

One evening we watched the movie “Marty” on television. I had always liked it for its dialogue and portrayal of the social lives of young Italian-American men in the 1950s in the Bronx. And yes, I found Marty’s relationship with Clara endearing and appreciated the loneliness experienced by the two central characters, but I had not recognized or appreciated the fear of isolation that pervaded all the characters in the film. Angie’s anger and desperation at losing Marty’s companionship, the mother’s fear of abandonment by their sons and so on permeate the film making it less a comedy and more a caution.

It has been raining and cold for the past few days. The weather reports describe it as an atmospheric river flowing across California bringing with it the weather change. One morning when I went outside it was quite misty. The mist appeared almost solid giving in bulk what it takes away in substance.

We have spent the past few days inside, avoiding the cold and the rain. Naida works on editing portions of Volume II of her memoir while I write this or read a novel on Kindle. At other times we watch the news and political commentary on television. In the evening and at times during the day, we watch the flood of holiday movies on television. We also saw the Battle of Algiers, Giant, the silent film version of Joan of Arc and several other non-holiday fare. I am bored. If the rain and cold keep on much longer, I think I will shoot myself.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

 

Days pass. Discovered Kenneth Fearing, poet, novelist, and founding editor of Partisan Review (see below). He was a good old leftie. Alas, he probably would have become a Trumpite had he lived today instead of drinking himself to death at a relatively young age. Watched the movie made from his book “The Big Clock” starring Ray Milland and Charles Laughton and enjoyed seeing Laughton’s wife, Elsa Lanchester, steal the film away from the headliners as she usually does.

I spent time with HRM. Ate lunch with him at Subway and learned that the Slackers vs Jocks contretemps still simmers — the indomitable conviction of youth in the importance of their every experience — sadly to us decrepits we have forgotten how right they are.

Begun packing for our trip into the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. I suspect there will be more to write about then — discomfort, fatigue, and, at times, beauty and novelty or boredom. That’s what adventures are all about, a lot of discomfort and boredom broken now and then with bits of terror and fear moderated by a dollop of poetic beauty. The photos are nice, however.

For the second time In the last few months, Naida and Boo-boo the Barking Dog have been attacked by another dog leaping from a parked car that they passed during their evening walks. This time, Naida was knocked to the ground. The dog’s owners, after securing their pet, rushed to see if Naida was hurt. She responded to their expressions of apology and concern, “Don’t worry, I am one of those eighty-year-olds whose bones do not break whenever she falls down.” More indomitability.

Thinking about indomitability, I have, at times, fought and refused to give up. Now, when it no longer matters, I realize it was not indomitability but merely fear that I would be exposed. I guess that is the way it is with most men.

Now I think it is time to leave this morning’s morass of introspection as well as my recliner and go out and meet the day, or greet it or something like that.

“It’s always something” (Rosanna Rosannadanna.) Lost my wallet. Probably yesterday after I returned from EDH and I stopped for gas at the Shell Station nearby. Perhaps someone stole it. I do not know how. It is a disaster. Losing one’s wallet is one of life’s great tragedies. Everything important was in there. My debit cards, my passport, other things. We are leaving for our trip on Friday. A new credit-card will not be ready by then so the costs of the trip will be all on Naida. Sometimes life sucks. I guess I have to get started on canceling and reordering things. Well, perhaps tomorrow. Tonight I’ll pretend I’m depressed. Tomorrow is another day.

Before going to bed we watched Sidney Poitier in Lilies of Field. I felt better. I’ll cry tomorrow.

It is tomorrow. Oh, happy day. I found my wallet. It was where I thought it was. I always throw the clothing I intend to wear the next day on the floor near my bed. They are easier to locate that way. I thought I had lost my wallet among the accumulated detritus next lying there. Several times I had picked through everything to see if it had fallen among them. This morning, I picked up a shirt I planned to take with me to SF today and there it was lying underneath. So, in happy spirits, we left for the Big Endive by the Bay and my immunotherapy treatment.

 

 

 

B. AGAIN IN THE BIG ENDIVE WITH PETER AND BARRIE:

 

 

Following a surprisingly delightful drive (I napped, Naida drove), we arrived at Peter and Barrie’s home in Noe Valley. After getting settled, Peter and I told each other stories. He spoke about his time in Cambridge and India as one of the famous anthropologist, Cora Du Bois’ doctoral students. In India, he and Barrie lived primarily in Bhubaneswar where he studied the politics and design theories behind the construction of the new capital of the then recently created state of Odisha. I told of my adventures in Turkey (a midnight knife fight) and old Jerusalem and Bethlehem (meeting with the dealer who sold the Dead Sea scrolls). Later Hiromi and my granddaughter Amanda joined us for dinner.
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The next day we went to the Mission Bay facility of UCSF for my immunotherapy treatment. Nothing to report here.

We then returned to the Enchanted Forest.

 

 

C. BACK IN THE VALLEY:

 

 

The next day we prepared for our trip. I took a brief drive to EDH to fetch Hayden from school and to stop at the pharmacy to pick up the medicines I would need during our trip. After I returned to the Enchanted Forest, Naida and I enjoyed lunch at a local sandwich shop. Later, a box containing about 20 copies of the revised version of Naida’s memoir, “A Daughter of the West,” with her corrections arrived. Naida spent some time checking to see if the edits she had made were incorporated in the revisions. At about ten o’clock in the evening, we left for the train station.

 

 

D. OFF TO OREGON.

 

 

The train to Portland left the Sacramento Valley Amtrak Station at about midnight on Friday. We slept uncomfortably in our business class chairs. I had made a mistake not reserving a sleeping compartment. Nevertheless, train travel, in my opinion, is the most civilized way to travel. It is a shame the United States, unlike almost any other advanced nation in the world, pulled up its tracks, sold the rails for scrap and replaced them with asphalt roadways.

When we awoke, we had a pleasant breakfast, even if not of the quality offered on the Orient Express. Our breakfast companions were an interesting couple from Irvine who made it clear they were not married. “Neither are we,” we chimed in gleefully as though we all were old folks reveling in our naughtiness.

We spent the day mostly sitting in the observation car watching wooded northern California and Oregon landscape pass by. We arrived in Portland at about four PM.
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E. PORTLAND AND PUYALLUP:

 

 

We were met at the station by Naida’s cousin Debbie and went for a walk along the Willamette River. There are many bridges spanning the Willamette. I had not noticed that during my previous visits here. Walking along the riverside path I felt as though I was walking under a freeway interchange.

As we strolled along the path, I noticed on its inland side the Portland Food Festival was under weigh. It extended for many blocks. It was lunchtime and we were hungry but we decided to skip the festival and find a local restaurant.
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Naida and Debbie on the Waterfront.

 

After walking around a bit, we found a Chinese restaurant that looked interesting. I had not eaten Chinese food in a while and was eager to do so now.

In Italy and in many places in the US recently, I have noticed that a goodly number of Italian restaurants have been taken over by Chinese immigrant families resulting in mushy noodles and a poor understanding of the cuisine’s use of herbs and spices. Every national cuisine begins with its own traditional mix of herbs and spices. Failure to get them right may still result in a palatable meal but it cannot be called an example of those nations’ traditional food.

So, we entered. The waiter seated us and took our orders. I ordered Mu-shu pork. When he brought us our meals he told a lengthy story about learning to be a mu-shu pork folder and considered himself to be the best mu-sho pork folder in Portland. I had never known there was an art to folding mu-shu pork so, I asked him to show us this talent of which he was so proud as I was sure he wanted me to. And so he did.

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Folding Mu-Shu Pork.

 

After that, we went to Debbie’s house and promptly fell asleep.

The next day, several of Naida’s relatives from Portland joined us for a late lunch. Many interesting stories were told but, alas, T&T is not a venue in which I can share all of them. Debbie’s father, a renowned Methodist minister, was also an accomplished amateur mineralogist and jewelry maker. When he died, he left Debbie his immense store of rocks, semi-precious stones, and jewelry making equipment. Debbie and her son Nicolas have avidly continued his father’s avocation. Tumblers hummed all night, and piles of rocks and minerals covered much of the yard.
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Some of the Rocks. 

 

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The Tumblers.

 

 

Later, we visited with David, Naida’s son who assists the well-known regional sculpture Bruce West (Naida’s ex-brother-in-law). We met at the studio. Bruce was unable to join us because he suffers from late-stage Parkinson’s.
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Naida and David.

 

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Some Works by Bruce West.

 

Debbie then drove us to the train station and left. We had hoped to take the train to Puyallup, Washington to spend the night at the home of Debbie’s sister Colleen. Unfortunately, the train was full (since when do trains in this day and age get filled up?). So we trundled, in the rain, dragging our luggage a few blocks to the Greyhound station. Alas, the bus had left for Puyallup a few minutes before we arrived. The amused ticket agents suggested we try another bus line a few blocks away. Once again, we struggled through the drizzle to the place where we were told we would find the bus.

When we arrived where we were directed, there was no ticket office to be found. We noticed a bunch of people across the street who appeared to be waiting around for something. We went up to them and asked if they knew the location of the ticket office. We were told there wasn’t one but, they were all waiting for a bus from that company to arrive and had already bought their tickets already. So, we waited there standing with them in the light rain. Eventually, the bus arrived. The driver told us that if there were any seats left after everyone with tickets had been seated he would sell them to us. So we waited some more. After everyone boarded, he announced there were two left. Relieved, we paid him and prepared to board. At that moment, a young man approached and handed the driver a ticket. The driver told him that the ticket said he must arrive at least five minutes before the bus departs and since he did not so the tickets had been sold. So, we boarded. I felt bad for the guy, but not bad enough to give up my seat.

Naida’s cousin Colleen picked us up at the bus stop and drove us to her home in Puyallup. Coleen’s home, a one-story building, appeared small from the outside but was surprisingly large once you got inside. She took us on a tour of the house. It seemed to me to be one of the more pleasant houses I had ever been in. For forty-seven years Coleen, her husband, and her mother lived in that house, constantly changing and remodeling it to better serve their needs and comfort. After Naida and Colleen exchanged a few family stories with each other we went to sleep in a far too comfortable bed.

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Colleen’s Back Porch.

 

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Naida and Colleen.

 

 

A ninety-nine acre heavily wooded park surrounds Colleen’s home on two sides. Waking up in the morning with the sun shining and the encircling trees rising up behind the yard was delightful.
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Later, Naida and I went for a walk around a nearby lake. It began raining as we walked along, a light drizzle at times interspersed with more heavy downpours.
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Following the walk, we returned to the house. Naida and Colleen worked on a puzzle together and quietly talked and reminisced about family and things while I sat on the sofa and played on my computer and dozed until it was time to leave for the airport and our flight to Boise.

Colleen dropped us off at the bus station for the brief bus ride to the airport. We flew to Boise on a prop plane. It has been a long time since I last had ridden on one.

We arrived in Boise at about 11pm. After an adventure securing our rental car, we drove to the hotel on the river where we were going to spend the night.
(More to come)

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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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Cloony The Clown by Shel Silverstein
I’ll tell you the story of Cloony the Clown
Who worked in a circus that came through town.
His shoes were too big and his hat was too small,
But he just wasn’t, just wasn’t funny at all.

He had a trombone to play loud silly tunes,
He had a green dog and a thousand balloons.
He was floppy and sloppy and skinny and tall,
But he just wasn’t, just wasn’t funny at all.

And every time he did a trick,
Everyone felt a little sick.
And every time he told a joke,
Folks sighed as if their hearts were broke.

And every time he lost a shoe,
Everyone looked awfully blue.
And every time he stood on his head,
Everyone screamed, “Go back to bed!”

And every time he made a leap,
Everybody fell asleep.
And every time he ate his tie,
Everyone began to cry.

And Cloony could not make any money
Simply because he was not funny.
One day he said, “I’ll tell this town
How it feels to be an unfunny clown.”

And he told them all why he looked so sad,
And he told them all why he felt so bad.
He told of Pain and Rain and Cold,
He told of Darkness in his soul,

And after he finished his tale of woe,
Did everyone cry? Oh no, no, no,
They laughed until they shook the trees
With “Hah-Hah-Hahs” and “Hee-Hee-Hees.”

They laughed with howls and yowls and shrieks,
They laughed all day, they laughed all week,
They laughed until they had a fit,
They laughed until their jackets split.

The laughter spread for miles around
To every city, every town,
Over mountains, ‘cross the sea,
From Saint Tropez to Mun San Nee.

And soon the whole world rang with laughter,
Lasting till forever after,
While Cloony stood in the circus tent,
With his head drooped low and his shoulders bent.

And he said,”THAT IS NOT WHAT I MEANT-
I’M FUNNY JUST BY ACCIDENT.”
And while the world laughed outside.
Cloony the Clown sat down and cried.

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“Everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
Rothfuss, Patrick. The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle Book 1) (p. 658). DAW.

More days pass. In this the time of my decrepitude. As my memory slowly shreds, I find the quiet contemplation of nothing enjoyable.

In the past, I could never get into meditation or even the idea of quiet contemplation. It would irritate me. If I had nothing to do, I would prefer taking a nap, reading, throwing stones into the water, starting an argument or shouting at someone — things like that. I could not understand going so far into myself that the maelstrom of my senses, the screaming of my id, or that somehow the constant preaching by that little voice within that is always with us would go silent and that in some way that would make me better, happier.

Perhaps your inner voice enjoys happy talk. Good for you. Mine, alas, is a complainer. Always telling me how I screwed up or how I would fail at what I planned on doing.

If there were not something out there in the world around me upsetting me or demanding my attention, I don’t think I could feel completely alive.

Now, however,  in my dotage, not so much. Now, when I sit on a bench along some path in the Enchanted Forest, the dog laying panting at my feet, I smile, confident that whatever harangue or flight of fancy the voice within me obsesses on, it soon will be forgotten. That thought always cheers me up.

I guess for me, I should consider it one of the few upsides to my decrepitude.

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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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