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A Double Standard

           BY FRANCES ELLEN WATKINS HARPER

Do you blame me that I loved him?
If when standing all alone
I cried for bread a careless world
Pressed to my lips a stone.

Do you blame me that I loved him,
That my heart beat glad and free,
When he told me in the sweetest tones
He loved but only me?

Can you blame me that I did not see
Beneath his burning kiss
The serpent’s wiles, nor even hear
The deadly adder hiss?

Can you blame me that my heart grew cold
That the tempted, tempter turned;
When he was feted and caressed
And I was coldly spurned?

Would you blame him, when you draw from me
Your dainty robes aside,
If he with gilded baits should claim
Your fairest as his bride?

Would you blame the world if it should press
On him a civic crown;
And see me struggling in the depth
Then harshly press me down?

Crime has no sex and yet to-day
I wear the brand of shame;
Whilst he amid the gay and proud
Still bears an honored name.

Can you blame me if I’ve learned to think
Your hate of vice a sham,
When you so coldly crushed me down
And then excused the man?

Would you blame me if to-morrow
The coroner should say,
A wretched girl, outcast, forlorn,
Has thrown her life away?

Yes, blame me for my downward course,
But oh! remember well,
Within your homes, you press the hand
That led me down to hell.

I’m glad God’s ways are not our ways,
He does not see as man,
Within His love I know there’s room
For those whom others ban.

I think before His great white throne,
His throne of spotless light,
That whited sepulchers shall wear
The hue of endless night.

That I who fell, and he who sinned,
Shall reap as we have sown;
That each the burden of his loss
Must bear and bear alone.

No golden weights can turn the scale
Of justice in His sight;
And what is wrong in woman’s life
In man’s cannot be right.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825 – February 22, 1911) was an abolitionist, suffragist, poet, teacher, public speaker, and writer, one of the first African American women to be published in the United States.

Born free in Baltimore, Maryland, she had a long and prolific career, publishing her first book of poetry at the age of 20. At 67, she published her novel Iola Leroy (1892), which was widely praised.

As a young woman in 1850, she taught sewing at Union Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, a school affiliated with the AME Church.[1] In 1851, alongside William Still, chairman of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, she helped refugee slaves make their way along the Underground Railroad on their way to Canada. In 1853 she began her career as a public speaker and political activist after joining the American Anti-Slavery Society.

Her collection Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854) became her biggest commercial success. Her short story “Two Offers” was published in the Anglo-African in 1859, making literary history as the first short story published by a black woman.

Harper founded, supported, and held high office in several national progressive organizations. In 1883 she became superintendent of the Colored Section of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Women’s Christian Temperance Union. In 1894 she helped found the National Association of Colored Women and served as its vice president. Harper died aged 85 on February 22, 1911, nine years before women gained the right to vote. (Wikipedia)

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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.

th-1

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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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Bhagavad Gita

Introduction

I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him.
When will Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada, who has established within this material world the mission to fulfill the desire of Lord Caitanya, give me shelter under his lotus feet?
I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master and unto the feet of all Vaisnavas. I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of Srila Rupa Gosvami along with his elder brother Sanatana Gosvami, as well as Raghunatha Dasa and Raghunatha Bhatta, Gopala Bhatta, and Srila Jiva Gosvami. I offer my respectful obeisances to Lord Krsna Caitanya and Lord Nityananda along with Advaita Acarya, Gadadhara, Srivasa, and other associates. I offer my respectful obeisances to Srimati Radharani and Sri Krsna along with Their associates, Sri Lalita and Visakha.
O my dear Krsna, You are the friend of the distressed and the source of creation. You are the master of the gopis and the lover of Radharani. I offer my respectful obeisances unto You.
I offer my respects to Radharani whose bodily complexion is like molten gold and who is the Queen of Vrndavana. You are the daughter of King Vrsabhanu, and You are very dear to Lord Krsna.
I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaisnava devotees of the Lord who can fulfill the desires of everyone, just like desire trees, and who are full of compassion for the fallen souls.
I offer my obeisances to Sri Krsna Caitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Gadadhara, Srivasa and all others in the line of devotion.
hare krishna hare krishna, krishna krishna hare hare
hare rama hare rama, rama rama hare hare.

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haudenosaunee-gathering

One day, I think it was Memorial Day, I spent several hours reading a Ph.D. dissertation by Eric Jones about the Iroquois Population History and Settlement Ecology, AD 1500-1700 (https://etda.libraries.psu.edu/files/final_submissions/1734).

I came across this while I was researching the background to a poem that was reputed to be the opening lines to the Iroquois Constitution, The Great Law of Peace. While I failed to confirm the provenance of the poem, I found the treatise fascinating. It attempted to determine if evidence existed that proved there had been significant decline in the nations population post contact with European settlers (there had been, but it took over a decade before manifesting — just prior to contact (1634) the entire population of the Iroquois nation totaled 20,000 people and by 1660 it had decreased to about 7000). The author also tried to discover what, if any, were the factors that prompted the locations of the over 50 settlements that made up the Confederacy (distance to trails and well-drained farmland).

I continued searching the internet for information about the number of European settlers who populated NY in the 1660s in order to understand the magnitude of the population discreancies between the European and Native-American societies in the area. While doing so I discovered a very lengthy letter by an Episcopal minister, John Miller, to the Bishop of London that, after railing on at length about the general immorality of the colonists, detailed his suggestions for the conquest of Canada and the conversion of the Indians.

When it comes to conquest, murder, and destruction of indigenous societies the dolorous activities in the name of religion by men of the cloth never changes.

The great, most proper, & as I conceive effectual means to remedy and prevent all the disorders I have already mentioned & promote the settlement & improvement of Religion & Unity both among the English subjects that are already Christians & the Indians Supposed to be made so is That his Majesty will graciously please to send over a Bishop to the Province of New York who if duly qualified empowered & settled may with the Assistance of a small force for the Subduing of Canada by God’s grace & blessing be Author of great happiness not only to New York in particular but to all the English plantations [colonies] on that part of the continent of American in general. . . .

When I speak of converting the Indians ⎯ by Indians I mean principally those five Nations which lie between Albany & Canada & are called 1) Mohawks or Maquaes, 2) Oneidas, 3) Chiugas, 4) Onundagas & 5) Senecas, of whom though most of the Mohawks are converted to Christianity by Dr. Dellius & Some of the Oneidas by the Jesuit Millet, yet the first not being yet established in any good order at all & the last being converted to Popery, I look upon the work as yet wholly to be done & if what has been already done is not a disadvantage to it, yet that little advantage is gained thereby except a demonstration of the inclination of the Indians to embrace the Christian religion. . . .

1. The first thing then to be done in order to the conquest of Canada is to pitch upon a General for the conducting & carrying it on. The General then is to be but one to come & all forces both by Sea & land that are sent or appointed for this purpose: for long Experience has taught us that equal & divided commands have ruined many noble Undertakings & great Armies. . . .
2. The Second thing to be provided for is forces & warlike Provisions Sufficient for Such a design & those to be either sent for England or prepared in America. . . . (http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/becomingamer/growth/text1/newyorkmiller.pdf)

Miller then continues his letter with extensive and detailed plans for the invasion of Canada and its settlement by English colonists.

And this is how I spent Memorial Day instead of exercising, feasting, listening to music and enjoying whatever other amusements would make my declining years more pleasant.

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

 

“Wen the Eternally Surprised.”

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

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My Home in Chiang Mai Thailand in 2010

It has been an interesting last few days, at least for me it has. On Saturday my sore throat and coughing had gotten so bad that I had to seek medical assistance. So, I went off to the doctor who prescribed antibiotics, anti-congestion medicine, and some little red pills to suppress my cough reflex. The package seems to be working. It cost me $9 for the doctor visit and $33 for the medicines (That’s the Farang [white people] uninsured costs); not as good as Medicare, but not too bad either. They also call me to ask how I’m doing and if I am taking my medicine.

Everyone must know by now my feelings about the American fundamentalist missionaries inhabiting the neighborhood. Of course, it was destined that Hayden would make friends with the son of a missionary couple. They (the parents) have become as close to friends as I have here. I comfort myself with the delusion that they are the proletariat of the missionary class. Those that labor in the fields of the lord so to speak.

He, (I will not give their names to protect them from the risk of an Auto-da-fe) and she are employed by the Southern Baptist Convention and come from the US South. Her father is an ex-hippy guitarist, now survivalist, who retreated into the mountains around Eugene Oregon (where else) after having spent his best years in good old SF during the ’60s fathering an impressive number of children including our missionary.

He is assigned to brave the murky Muslim-Hindu waters of Bangladesh teaching modern emergency medical care to the inhabitants of the remote villages and picking up the odd soul here and there to add among the elect.

We try to avoid theology and instead meet in the “gosh ain’t it awful” field of human communication with our mutual antipathy for hierarchy.

It seems there is a developing rift between the “Mythologists” as he calls the workers in the field and the administrators and seminarians. The Mythologists are pleased whenever they locate someone who recognizes a similarity between their tradition and the so-called “Peace” message of the New Testament. The “Seminarians” appear to be only interested in the number of baptisms for that quarter. The wife added, “and we don’t agree in buying baptisms either.” I immediately could see that they were out of the mainstream of American theological thought and therefor needed the protection of anonymity.

He then told me that one of his students went back to research the Vedas and found passages that indicated that the supreme deity or Poo-bah (A Hindu word) indicated that he would send someone to bring peace to the land.  I agreed that was a terrific insight and suggested that we create a new religion where we jettison the Old Testament and its dyspeptic homicidal god and replace it with the Vedas and the New Testament as the revealed books. My suggestion was ignored.

He did come up with one item of information that I appreciated. I had gone off on my rant about the evils of hierarchical organizations, whether public or private, that reward those in management who produce little of value to the organization when compared to the laborer (white-collar or blue) and suggested management positions should only go to those willing to take a pay cut. He pointed out that his organization pays everyone at the same rate, increasing it only based on seniority. “How un-American, socialist, and unchristian,” I thought.

My missionary friend then told a story about asking some Bangladeshis how it was that Muslims would kill Muslim as they did during the revolt of Bangladesh from Pakistan.


They explained that the Pakistani soldiers were told they were killing Hindus and therefore they had no problem. However, when the soldiers lifted the tunics or whatever of the dead they found they were circumcised. They then realized that the people they had killed were not Hindu but were either Jew or Muslim men (women did not matter) and while it was all right to kill them if they were Jews it was definitely a no-no if they were Muslims. In either event, they understood that they had been lied to by their leaders and refused to fight anymore. And that is how Bangladesh became the independent, economic and social basket case it is today.

Anyway, all this kumbaya was ruined when he mentioned that since it was Sunday he had to get to a church service. To my annoyance, he invited me to come along. He said it would be a unique and unusual service in that they would sing a few songs, then read a few verses from scripture and discuss how they apply to their lives. There would be no minister but the most knowledgeable there would help the individuals in their self-analysis. I told him It sounded a lot like Hill-el developed 2000 years ago when he and his followers created Rabbinic Judaism. His smile turned into a grimace. “Maybe next time,” he said, picked up his guitar and piled his family into their SUV and went off.

As Hayden and I walked home, I wondered why the mere mention of Judaism would produce that sort of reaction. After all, unlike the other people of the book, Christians and Muslims, who run around the world beating each other on the head and demanding join each other’s men’s club (and men’s clubs they are) or they will kill you, Jews don’t even want you to join their club and certainly do not want to join ours.

When I got home and took my nap and had a biblical dream that I will not relate here for fear of offending everyone. However, if anyone would like to hear my revelatory dreams drop me a line. They are titled “Successful camel breeder and brewer forms new men’s club and almost kills son in process” and “Oh my God” squeal the women of Jerusalem as Jesus of Nazareth tips the scales on Paul of Tarsus”. Needless to say, I woke up in a cold sweat.

That night I invited my missionary friends, Jerry the New Zealander and his wife Choti who is the principal of the school, two New Zealand taxi drivers and their girlfriends who were visiting Jerry, Mac’s father, whose name is Oo by the way and the 4 and 5-year-old children of the various guests. We ate at the outdoor street end restaurant run by the shriveled up lady that I mentioned in a previous post. The total meal for everyone cost me $30 half of which was for the beer and wine.

The mysterious building pictured in my previous post is a crematorium. It was in use today as I passed. It looked like a Thai biker gang was sending off one of its members into the joy of re-incarnation. The superstitions of the Thai’s fear of ghosts depressed the prices of the land near the crematorium enabling Choti, the principal of the school to get the land on which it is built, at a low price.

Entrance to the School
The School Yard

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FROM MY DIARY LEADING UP TO THE ABOVE POST:

 

FRIDAY MARCH 19 2010 3PM

Hot again. Lying on bed sweating. Rain brought a morning’s respite from the air pollution but my throat is feeling its return this afternoon. No exercise, just lying in bed. Typing at times, sleeping mostly.

SUNDAY MARCH 21 2010, 9:30 PM

Interesting few days. I went to Hospital yesterday for relief of my sore throat and coughing. Dr cost about $9 and 6-day antibiotics, decongestant/expectorant and cough suppressant $30.

Hiromi deposited a $2766 tax refund into my account. I removed about 20,000 baht. Deposited 12,000 into Thai account (What Happened to the remaining 8,000?).

Last night Hayden told me some interesting things that I relayed to Nikki. See email.

I spent the morning with Micah’s parents. Southern Baptist Convention Missionaries. The husband spends most of his time in Bangladesh teaching emergency first aid and trying to convert Muslims. Wife daughter of hippie father. Conversation mentioned a Bengali telling H. Veda seemed to suggest a need for a JC. I suggested that maybe that is a good reason to throw out the old testament.

H. invited me to attend what he termed an unusual Sunday service in a house to discuss bible passages and their personal meaning. I mentioned that it sounded a lot like a traditional Jewish service.

When I got home and took my nap I dreamed of something like this:

I saw old Abraham in his tent drunk on fermented camel’s milk surrounded by his sons. Outside the tent, his wives, concubines, and slaves tended the cook fire and drew lots to see who would sleep with the smelly old bastard that night.

Old Abe was raving about the rejection of his application to join the Babylon Men’s Camel Dung Rolling Club. That’s when he realized the truth. “O my God I must be Jewish”.

“Why would I want to join their damned club anyway” he shouted “they could not be very exclusive if they would allow someone like me living in a tent join”. And with that antisemitism and Jewish humor were born.

“I will form my own club and will not let anyone join. I will show them real exclusivity”.

Isaac, a pimply-faced overweight adolescent, feared this could lead to the end of his sneaking out of the tent at night after the old man passed out for some action with the sweet-smelling Babylonian girls leaving him only with the camel herding women his dad preferred, protested. “We can’t do that we don’t have a membership card or anything.”

Abe stared at Isaac who he disliked and surmised was probably gay. He thought “Maybe I should kill him now before he gets a chance to breed”.

“We will make our own membership cards”. “Clay tablets” Abe announced.

Everyone groaned. “No, too heavy. They will break the line of our tunics.

“Tattoos” he exclaimed, “No, everyone’s got tattoos nowadays”. “I’ve got it” he exclaimed “We’ll cut off the ends of our dicks. Nobody will have a membership card like that”.

“You got to be kidding” cried Isaac.

With that Abe grabbed his knife jumped over the fire grabbed Isaac by the shirt and said: “I’ve had enough of you, you little shit, prepare to die.”

In good biblical tradition, Isaac thought quickly and lied. ” Wait,” he said, “I see the hand of God what’s his name staying your hand from killing your son because he and all your sons submit to the will of what’s his name”.

With that Abe relented killing Isaac. Instead, he cut off the end of every male present’s dick. At the moment of initiation, each one screamed: “Yowee that hurts”.

When it was all over Abe rested. He looked at all his sons writhing in agony on the floor of the tent and said, “You know, I like that. Up to now whenever the guys hung out talking about their gods it was always Ishtar this and Baal that. They would all laugh when I mentioned the god whose name could not be uttered. From now on in recognition of this event whenever we utter we shall utter that the name of our all-powerful creator, “Yowie”. What do you think?”

In my dream, I wondered how they were able to identify one another as a member of the men’s club. Groping under each other’s tunic was a little more obvious than a Masonic handshake Maybe they originally had their meetings in the health club shower.

Anyway, my dream fast-forwarded to 33 AD (although they did not know it at the time, thinking it was 3000 years or something since god rested) and the throng (We no longer throng today, we crowd, what a loss) was pressing forward to enter the temple on the sabbath, the day people thronged to the temple, a building that replaced the health club showers.

The guard at the gate of the temple in Jerusalem stopped one of the throng who happened to be Jesus. “Hey, you. Only Jews allowed to enter the temple. You Jewish? You don’t look Jewish with that fruity double-pointed red beard”.

“My good man”, said Jesus (he was a Rhodes Scholar and had studied in England) “of course I’m Jewish, I speak Hebrew as though I never learned Aramaic”.

“Anyone can learn Hebrew” responded the guard. “Whip it out and put in on the table.”

Now Jesus had no problem with whipping it out given all the time he spent with the ladies and all that lying of the head on the breast and that sort of thing and he was quite proud of his membership card. So he whipped it out and everyone getting a look at it exclaimed: “Oh my God”.

“That’s right,” said Jesus, “Now all of you get out of my fucking temple”.

Now where Jesus was quite proud in his membership in Judaism, Paul was less so. Where they all marveled at Jesus Membership, they all laughed when Paul whipped his out. So Paul went to the Apostles (Jesus’ biker buddies) gathered in Jerusalem (Apostles “gather” they do not “throng or “crowd”) and said to them “This membership card thing isn’t working. It’s too hard to get anyone to join and tithe. Since we’re the new guys (and guys we are) we need a new card. Besides aren’t you all a little tired of having to show your card every time before you give a sermon”

“Good thought Paul,” said Peter who although not afflicted by the results of being kicked by a horse on the way to Damascus as was Paul, was a shy man. “What should the new membership card be?”

“Faith shining through their eyes,” said Paul.

“How would anyone know” questioned Peter.

“We will know. Besides if the light shines through everyone’s eyes what difference would it make”.

And the rest is history. And I awoke

11PM

Earlier today I went to the Bank withdrew 30,000 baht from BOW acct. Deposited 20,000 in BKKB pers. acct. Kept 10,000.

Hosted dinner party with missionaries, Choti and Jerry two NZ tourists and Thai girlfriends, Mac’s father and assorted children 950 baht. About $3 each including wine and beer.

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