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Sicilian men (of which I am one) prefer to discuss the minutia of history and almost anything else rather than answer a personal question and risk making a brute figura of himself. Here is an example taken from a novel I am reading:

 

“Uncle Martino talked at me without a break. He pontificated on Sicilian history, the source of the best pistachio nuts, Lord Nelson and the Brontë siblings, life in the Middle Ages, Frederick II, Palermo’s Vucciria market, tuna shoals, overfishing by Japanese trawlers and the mosaics of Monreale. He commented on Radio Radicale’s live broadcasts of debates in the Italian parliament. He lectured me on the Cyclops, the Greeks, the Normans, General Patton, Lucky Luciano and yellow silk scarves. On the only acceptable way of making a granita. On angels, demons, the trinacria, the truth about Kafka and communism and the relationship between physical stature and criminality in the male population of Sicily. His rule of thumb: the shorter the man, the more threatening and the more likely to be a Mafioso. That I scarcely understood a word didn’t bother him. My Italian was appalling—in fact it was practically nonexistent apart from one or two helpful swear words and che schifo, allucinante, birra, con panna, boh, beh and mah, which constituted an adolescent’s vocabulary on the beach.”
Giordano, Mario.Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (An Auntie Poldi Adventure). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

 

 

For those interested in a translation of those common Sicilian words referenced by Giordano:

 
Che Schifo — how disgusting.
Allucinante — hallucinating, stoned.
Birra — beer.
Con panna — with whipped cream.
Boh — I don’t know.
Beh — I don’t care.
Mah — maybe yes, maybe no.

 

Facility with these few words will allow you to communicate adequately anywhere in Southern Italy and Sicily, but only if you also know how to gesture properly with your hands
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These are only a few of the gestures used in Southern Italy and Sicily. As with any language, it takes a while and a lot of repetition to learn. Failure to learn a language properly can lead to confusion and embarrassment. For example, after examining the chart, I realized that during my sojourns in Sicily I never quite understood the difference between the gestures for  what, where, why and you shitted your pants eh — much to my embarrassment in those cases where I have confused them and much to my annoyance in now realizing that I had failed to recognize when someone who I thought was asking a question was, in fact, commenting on my ignorance or worse.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:

 

Well, I am off to spend the weekend in Mendocino. While there, I will attend a concert by Patrick Ball a native Californian who is perhaps the greatest Irish harpist and storyteller living today. I am looking forward to it. It should be an interesting evening.

After a pleasant drive to Mendocino on Friday, we attended the Patrick Ball concert. It was mesmerizing. He plays a type of brass stringed Celtic harp that had disappeared for about 200 years until the art of making them was rediscovered by a musician and instrument maker in Santa Rosa California. In between the musical pieces, Ball told the humorous and engaging tale of Jim and Ellie, two elderly married couple who accompanied him on a tour of the Ireland of W. B. Yeates — a magical story interlaced with the poet’s words.
03_ballPatrick Ball and his original Santa Rosa Irish harp with strings of brass and a sound that, even without electronic augmentation, filled the theater.

The following evening we attended an entirely different sort of concert. A local musician running for election to the County Board of Supervisors decided to hold a fundraiser and concert highlighting the music of John Fogarty. The concert was held in a converted old Portuguese Church.
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The woman on the left was not a musician or a singer. She was a comedian. She was not very funny.

The concert featured many local musicians and singers including one of my favorite Druid Sisters, a musician, and member of the Daughters of Albion, a local lesbian community. Proud Mary and Bad Moon Rising were some of the audience favorites. There was also a lot of dancing. Most of the people there were elderly, not old like me but certainly, most had finished their adolescence during the last century, hence the choice of music. A number of elderly women dressed in flowing ancient hippie outfits gyrated in spastic solos in front of the stage. Even I danced.
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Pookie dancing. He was not funny either. Well, maybe he was.

The rest of the weekend we went for long walks through the town and along the bluffs or remained indoors reading, playing with our computers and eating wonderful meals prepared by my sister and George.
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I do not know why everyone has to stop on their walks when someone takes a photograph.

 

 

B. BACK IN EL DORADO HILLS:

Back in the golden hills, the days went by slowly. I did not feel well, tired, my throat swollen, listless. It could have been the beginning of allergy season or something worse. I slept a lot, coughed often and experienced a return of my dizzy spells. The weather did not help. Cold, rainy, and gloomy, I started to worry about my health. It is that time in life when everything starts telling you how little time you have left while your deteriorating faculties limit you from doing many of those things that will make that time enjoyable.

On the other hand, my dreams have been florid. Last night, I dreamt I married an Italian spinster named Annalisa at a wonderful wedding. This was interesting because I hated all my real weddings. Nikki, who for some reason was there, said that it was the first time he ever heard me talk as though I was truly in love. Only in my dreams.

Speaking of grumpy old folks, I hate hearing about 105 year old marathon runners, or 85 year old champion weightlifters or 92 year old ballerinas or reading stories of some oldie with galloping halitosis who cheerfully accepts the news that he or she with die from it within two weeks and yet continues to go on washing the sores of lepers. What really makes we Vecchi grumpy is spending all day with little bits of unexplained pains hopping willy nilly about our body while feeling like we need to vomit all the time, our noses running from no discernible cause, and for some reason our glasses make the world appear even more blurry while our hearing aids are screaming a high pitched sound like an insane dentist drill and suddenly some woman’s voice intones “low battery, low battery.” All of which makes you supremely disinterested in running, lifting, dancing or washing leper’s sores. And then, some sot with a smiling face and a concerned frown says to you, “Are you OK old timer?” Grumpy indeed.

Another weekend has rolled around. It has been cold and rainy and I have been tired and under the weather if that is even possible with weather like this. Bitching a lot. Then, I received the following as a comment on one of my Facebook posts:

Neal Fishman: It’s not an uncaring universe if we care for each other. I don’t need a god to care for me. A friendly note, a kiss on the forehead, some good pot, maybe a 3D head set so I can die flying around….I’m ready to go, and happy to have been here. God isn’t supposed to give you more, except for that living forever in heaven nonsense. The universe is just fine without God.”

Petaluma Jewish, communist, chicken farmers, one of the world’s great treasures.

The next week passed in quantum time. That is, there is no time between what you recall except for a vague feeling that something must have happened. In fact, most of our lives are spent in quantum time wondering if perhaps we missed something — then after a certain amount of reflection, we relax in the not so firm belief that if we cannot remember it, it must not have happened.

Anyway, on Saturday, we went to a movie at Tower Theatre in Sacramento. We saw “Lady Bird,” a film about a young woman coming of age in Sacramento. It was one of the more enjoyable movies I have seen in years. Well, the years haven’t been that enjoyable either. I could not help thinking that it does for Sacramento in the early 2000s what “American Graffiti” did for Modesto in the early 60s except that was about boys becoming men and this was about girls becoming women. During my adolescence I probably would have been satisfied becoming anything — maybe an amphibian — that would have been nice.

It’s directing was impressive. Greta Gerwig takes her otherwise light story and makes it riveting on the screen. No scene better shows this than the one in which Lady Bird’s ex-boyfriend breaks down in her arms in agony over coming out to his family as a homosexual. Gerwig could have dragged the scene out to milk its pathos but instead, she immediately cut to an unrelated scene leaving the audience with a fleeting sad memory in Lady Bird’s rush through adolescence and me wondering if him going to an all boys school had anything to do with it. I went to an all boys Catholic High School. A number of the priests were gay. We really did not know what gay meant back then. The great gay scare had not yet begun. We only knew some of the priests used to like touching us a lot or vigorously rubbing their thighs while talking to us. We felt sorry for them but avoided them anyway.

While all the acting was great especially the leads, Saoirse (pronounced Sur-sha) Ronan as Lady Bird was magnificent. The opening close-up of this long-faced, large-eyed woman with acne scars marring her face told me I was in for a special bit of acting. Later, I read that she refused to wear makeup in order to accentuate another problem besides sex, schooling, and parents adolescents must deal with as they stumble their way into adulthood. We all were terrorized by zits growing up. I know I was. Would I be forever scarred like Father Grogan and have to join the priesthood because I could never get laid? God those were tough times.

It is Tuesday. Tomorrow is HRM’s 13th Birthday. He now passes from loved and loving to annoyed and annoying. Adrian just arrived and Nikki is expected tomorrow. All the putative fathers will have gathered. HRM did not want presents only the money. He had a clear idea how he planned to spend it and had already ordered online what he wanted. He also insisted on baking his own birthday cake. We the four fathers put on fake smiles and rolled our eyes at each other. On the weekend, he will go with a few of his friends to a skateboard park in the Sierras. He was promised that if he got B’s or higher on his report card this semester.

Bunny McGarry lives!

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

The weather broke colder this weekend. The temperature dropped from the mid-seventies to the mid-fifties. Not cold by the measure of those places that enjoy (or suffer) real winters, but enough to make these old bones prefer indoors with a warm cup of coffee to walking outdoors no matter how good the exercise may be for them. Nevertheless, on Sunday, instead of my usual stroll around the lakes, I rambled a bit through SDS park near my house. The paths in the park mostly circle the community playing fields and pool. One path, however, branches off through the woods and along the creek. It, for some reason, is called, New York Park. I rarely take that path because it contains signs that say, “Beware of Mountain Lions.” Next to bears, I fear mountain lions most.

Recently, I posted on Facebook a short piece I had written a few years ago about the 1950s Rock group Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. In 1956 or 1957, I attended a concert featuring the group in Brooklyn’s old Fox Theater with a young lady friend. We were both teenagers 16 or 17 at the time. We have not seen each other for over 60 years so imagine my surprise when that Facebook post received a “Like”  from her.

Now, I believe Facebook is one of the most pernicious things to have been foisted on humanity since the invention of warfare, nevertheless, for the anziani like me, something like this can make our day — perhaps even our whole week.
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Facebook Addiction.

I spent Monday helping Naida move some things around her house and disposing of some of Bill’s old clothing at Goodwill. While erecting a bookcase in her office, I noticed an amazing collection of books set in or about California during the period in which she set her great California Gold Country Trilogy. Many of the books she used for research. She pointed out a few places where she adapted the information for use in her novels. She also told me that while writing the books and even after they were published she received a number of original diaries written by people who lived in the area at the time in which the novels were set, including one that was so fantastic and dramatic that I still cannot get it out of my mind.

While the story contained in that diary (now lost) that she told me about while we took a coffee break is too long and mysterious to relate in its entirety here, some of the background is quite interesting. It all had something to do with the gold discovery at John Sutter’s Mill in 1748. Marshall was not the first to discover gold in California. Several others had done so before him. There was even an anemic and brief gold rush when gold was discovered In Southern California about 20 years before — in the San Gabriel Mountains I believe. About a year before Marshall’s find, a Mormon family had found gold in what is now the City of Folsom. They busily packed the gold dust and nuggets they had located in the local creeks into barrels. They intended eventually use the treasure to found the Temple City of the Mormons in the golden hills somewhere near where I currently reside. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your view of the Latter Day Saints, Brigham Young, their leader, took sick with rocky mountain spotted fever somewhere near the desolate shores of the Great Salt Lake in what is now the State of Utah and declared to all that God had decided he would build his New Jerusalem there rather than in California. The Mormon gold digging family tried to dissuade the leader of their church by pointing out the golden hills were indeed golden, the great valley contained some of the richest farmlands on earth and the native people were willing slaves. But, despite their arguments, their entreaties fell on deaf ears. So, about the time Marshall and his cronies were setting about publicizing their find, they packed up their treasure and returned over the hills to found their blessed City on the Mountain or in this case the desert.

Marshall found the gold at John Sutter’s the mill site in early January of that fateful year but did not announce it publicly until May. What he and his cronies — among which was the writer of one of the diaries Naida obtained — spent those almost five months searching for additional rich sites, securing the land, obtaining the supplies miners would need, establishing the campsites the miners would require as they traveled from San Francisco to the future diggings in the foothills and so on. In other words, it was intended to be a vast real estate scheme in the grand California tradition.

To put everything in context, it is probably important to recognize that San Francisco in March of that year when Sam Brannon — who may or may not have been one of the conspirators — prematurely ran down the City’s main street shouting that gold had been discovered, only about 350 persons of European descent and about 800 of African, Asian and Latino heritage lived in the City by the Bay. The Europeans who reaped most of the benefits of the scheme, as they usually do, were for the most part little more than thugs. Within the next five years or so, over 80,000 people flooded into the City in pursuit of the riches that ultimately mostly ended up in the hands and pockets of the thugs and conspirators. After all, in good old American business theory, the greedy grubby miners could be viewed as little more than unpaid workers and small independent contractors who paid to the conspirators for supplies, food, drink, and rent almost every penny of value they received from anything they dug up.

And what of Marshall? He was by some reports a very dislikable man, contentious, perhaps violent and a bit deranged who, after all this, died broke. But not before, along with some friends, Folsom, Ord (of Fort Ord fame), and others had dinner as guests in the home of William L. Leidesdorf. Leidesdorf, a black man from St Croix, a shipowner, and accountant, was the wealthiest man in San Francisco at the time (he is also considered the founder of San Francisco). He owned the land upon which the Mormons discovered their gold. He, in partnership with John Sutter, had acted as agent for the sale of the gold discovered in the area charging a 50% commission for their efforts while trying to keep the existence of the discoveries quiet. During that very dinner, according to the now lost diary, the host died under mysterious circumstances. Shortly thereafter Leidesdorf’s mother living in St Croix and his only heir received almost $800,000 (out of over $2,000,000 promised, the remainder of which she never received) in today’s money for renouncing her interest in her son’s estate that had been left to her by him and worth more than $50 million today’s value. When the estate was finally probated the land containing most of the value in that estate passed into the hands of the guest whose name the city eventually built thereon now bears his name. But, that is all another story.
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Leidesdorf                                          Folsom

Today, the skies and clear, the temperature in the mid-sixties. I continue to kick the can down the road as to not only what I shall be doing next month and to where I may be traveling but for the rest of my life as well. There are some days that that bothers me a lot and some nights it actually makes me thrash about in despair for a few minutes before I fall asleep.

As for my projected travels, while I agree with Josiah Bancroft’s dictum “Never let a rigid itinerary discourage you from an unexpected adventure,” I prefer to dispense with the “itinerary” altogether and get right on with the “unexpected adventure.”

Today, I saw my first ornamental fruit tree in bloom. Spring has arrived, appropriately on Valentine’s Day.
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I never liked Valentine’s Day. In grammar school, before they began requiring everyone to receive a Valentine’s Day card, I rarely got any even though my mom made me bring one for each kid in the class. I wasn’t a bully, just the quiet weird kid who sat in the corner and read history textbooks. The bullies all received Valentine’s Day cards. Everyone likes winners. Come to think of it, there were (and still are) very few holidays I liked, As a kid, I liked Fourth of July. The volunteer fire department in the little town I grew up in always put on a bitchin fireworks display. Memorial Day was pretty good also. A bunch of families would gather together at a place called Peach Lake in Westchester County, New York. The men would eat raw clams all day, drink beer from kegs and get drunk. The women would get angry because the men were all drunk and then the arguments would start. In a way, it was a little like Fourth of July, lots of fireworks. One day, my father drove the car into the stream that fed the lake — my brother and me sitting in the back seat thought it was great fun — my mother, not so much.

Another week has gone by, more trees have burst into bloom and the daffodils have pushed through the earth and splashed some of the local gardens with streaks of buttery yellow. I have not felt well this week, fatigue and listlessness. It could be the change of seasons. It often affects me like this. Well, not to worry, it is whatever it is.

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On Saturday, I helped Naida move more things out of the house, drove HRM to various skate parks, read late into the night and struggled with my fury over the latest massacre of innocents in school by right-wing fanatics with an assault rifle.

 

B. PONDEROUS PONDERINGS AND MEANDERING EPHEMERA:

Like most people I guess, I have lived more than one life — in my case three. We all live our own timelines of course, from birth to death and whatever might happen in between. I seemed to have lived my life in about five year or so increments usually ending in some life altering collapse, usually self-inflicted. After that, there would be about three years or so of wandering in between each phase as I tried to put my life back together.

My second life was the almost 15,000 books I have read in the past 75 years or so, most of them fiction — and most of the fiction fantasy — the farther from the mundane the better. I do not read words. Only images run past my eyes.

My third life is my dreams. Often they impinge on my waking memory and I believe things occurred in my life that never happened. For example, for years I believed there was a seacoast town I would periodically visit. I knew the people, the shops, streets and so on. One morning, I thought it would be pleasant to visit the place for a day or two. I searched for how to get to it and discovered it did not exist. It made me wonder not whether I was crazy or not but what else it was that I remember that also may be fantasy. On the other hand, I could be stuck in an ontological cul de sac or is it an epistemological dead end. There is no question, however, that I live in a metaphysical planned unit development with Descartes my neighbor on one side, Schrodinger on the other and Timothy Leary showing up once a week with a philosophical leaf blower strapped to his back.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

Almost a week has gone by since I returned from Mendocino. Most of the time, I have felt too exhausted to do much other than driving HRM to and from school, sleeping, and reading. Hopefully, I will get back to swimming this weekend. The weather seems to be getting warmer.

SWAC returns in early March. It will probably better for all concerned that I leave for the month or so that she will be here. While it is a bit of a bother, I look forward to a little traveling if my health allows. The problem I have is in deciding where to go and what to do when I get there.

On March 24th, I intend to accompany Peter to another concert at SFJAZZ. That breaks things up nicely in the middle. Two weeks in March during which I can travel visiting friends in other parts of California and perhaps stay with my sister and George in Mendocino for a few days. Then, my finances willing, spending the next three weeks or so in Italy, or Thailand or on some adventure cruise somewhere. Alas, this needs all too much planning. I hate that. Probably, I’ll just drift and see what happens. Something always does. Didn’t I just go through this a month ago?

Recently, Dick requested an update from the school counselor about HRM’s performance. Amid a generally upbeat report, the counselor mentioned that in a recent History exam on a question to be answered in three paragraphs, the first two paragraphs of HRM’s answer were “positively brilliant” but the third was, “from Mars.” Should we worry?

On Saturday, after almost a month of finding reasons not to do so, some real others make believe, I got it together to exercise again. Even while I sat at the edge of the pool, I still told myself it would be too cold, I was too sick or tired yadda, yadda, yadda and I should simply return home, clutch my hot pad, and put myself back to bed. But, in the end, I dove in and enjoyed myself immensely. I feel good tonight, better than I have felt in a while.

That same night, I had a wonderful dream that seemed to last for hours. In that dream, there was an ancient Roman Ruin located on San Francisco’s shoreline somewhere near Candlestick Point (this is a dream after all). There the Roman Nobility would greet the ships returning from war, their holds full to bursting with treasure. It was decided by the present day city fathers to restore those ruins as another tourist attraction — sort of like Fisherman’s Wharf. To kick everything off, they held a grand party in the ruins prior to restoring them. I assisted in the preparations for the party throughout the day. That night, the rich and the powerful and even the not so rich and powerful arrived dressed in period costumes, togas, chitons and the like. The richest and most powerful men were often old and shriveled with paper thin skin and blue veins pulsing beneath. The women came in all shapes and sizes and were aggressive and bejeweled.

Each room had something different going on — different food, music, dances, conversation, drinks and the like. I visited most of them and enjoyed it, especially the dancing and the music.

During the evening, I noticed there were about five or six people who traveled through those rooms and hallways that had not been fixed up for the party. They clearly were searching for something. One large room was filled with water and they used small boats to search for whatever they were looking for. They appeared to be led by a tall, handsome man dressed in a tuxedo.

Later, after most of the guests had left, I joined them. I never learned what it was they were looking for, but I enjoyed going from room to room with them looking for it. Later, we all sat by a campfire in the corner of a vacant roofless room and talked about lots of things for awhile.

Dawn came. I knew that I would have to wake up soon and rejoin my waking life. I was a bit sad knowing I probably would never return.

While I lay in my bed in that grey time between sleep and wakefulness, I wondered if the dreams of our waking life were our reality — whether life was just a long daily slog from the darkness of the womb to the night with no morning or if it was a series of time garbled one night stands that go on changing each night forever.

The week has gone silently by. Looking out the window as I enjoy my afternoon snacks of Oreo cookies dunked in milk, I watch the days zip by like cars on a freeway.

I have given some thought to my spring travels. One half or about 3 weeks I probably will wander about California visiting friends. The other half, when I began to look into it, seemed to depend somewhat on cost.Thailand, Italy, A Caribbean cruise, and Cuba all seem to cost about the same and may be affordable. Only my dream boat trip down the Peruvian Amazon looks as though it is too expensive. I still need to get a new car. Oh well, I guess I will kick the can down the road for another week or so. Maybe something will happen to force a decision or change my options.

The week has trundled by. During my walk around the lakes this morning, I saw the first greening of the trees. It seems to be a bit early for that. I think of the wintertime in the golden hills as the silver time. The naked deciduous trees have a silver cast to them and the often overcast skies are silver also. Late summer is the gold time — golden hills with deep blue skies. Autumn — red, brown and yellow, and spring — virescent and speckled in brazen pastels.

One morning while driving HRM to school, I in my grandfatherly mode mentioned to him that he is now getting big, adult-sized, and that simple physical actions like suddenly spreading his arms wide or rushing through a restaurant that to an adult would seem cute were he a small child, now that he is almost man-sized would make some people frightened and when frightened adults often act angry. I wanted to warn him that now that he is a teenager simple physical actions that may have drew smiles when he was little may cause a different reaction now that he is becoming man-sized. “Stop!” he responded, “I do not want to hear that. I do not want to be a teenager. I do not want to grow up. Why should I want to?” I could not answer that. Sometimes, grandfathers are just old and not too wise.

 

 

B. RAGGED ROBIN’S NATURE NOTES:

End of January means it is time for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – like many of you I’ve been doing this for years and it is always interesting to read on other blogs what people have seen in their gardens.

It was raining heavily on Saturday and there were few birds about so I did my birdwatch yesterday when it was dry and sunny. Our garden faces South making photography (and even watching birds at times!) a bit of a challenge but it did cloud over a bit for the last half hour.

So what did I see?

House Sparrow x 5
Wood Pigeon x 5
Robin x 2 (sometimes we get 3 in the garden and it is amusing to watch the “resident” robin chasing away the other two intruders!
Blackbird x 2
Great Tit x 1
Blue Tit x 3
Dunnock x 3
Goldfinch x 3
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Starling x 1
Long-tailed Tit x 2

As many of you have commented several species fail to put in an appearance during the hour – here it was Magpie, Carrion Crow, Stock Dove, Wren and Coal Tit. The Blackcap we had on the feeders for about two weeks has disappeared but the Ring-necked Parakeets are still visiting – they turned up an hour after the Birdwatch finished.
MONDAY, 29 JANUARY 2018

(JP — It appears that the non-native Parakeets have become as common in the English Midlands as Parrots have on San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill. Sometimes, when I used to walk home from my office in Embarcadero Center to my apartment, the parrots would congregate in the trees that grew in the little park I crossed to reach my building. They were a raucous bunch, as noisy as a singles bar on Friday evenings. Perhaps they were mating too.)

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Hayden and I, March 2011.

The following post from 2011 describes some of my impressions of California upon returning after spending one year living in Thailand.

“I guess leaving Paradise by the Sea and traveling to the Big Endive by the Bay can be looked at as an adventure that at least began in Thailand and ended back there as well.”

“Some of my Impressions of America after a one-year absence”:

“Following the adjustment of my system to the shock of the relatively cool and dismal weather, my initial impression was distress at the dark, drab, shapelessness of the clothing that everyone seems to prefer wearing. It was interesting to me that when I commented to others about my perception they readily agreed that the fashion was indeed dark and perhaps drab, but they denied it was shapeless. One person even went so far as to hold up a dark grey T-shirt as evidence that some people (himself in particular) did not wear shapeless clothing. And indeed, I could discern that it had the classic shape of a T-shirt.”

“Although the Bay Area looked mostly the same wherever I go, the latinization of the Mission district in San Francisco continues unabated, extending at least another 5 to 10 blocks in either direction along that thoroughfare and into the neighborhoods surrounding it. On the other hand, the Sinoization of North Beach appears to have slowed in favor of the Sunset.”

“The Holidays were, as usual, a mixed bag and the serious illnesses and suffering of several of my friends made almost everything appear listless. Nevertheless, my traditional Christmas Eve dinner with my daughter and seeing my son and his family along with my sisters family and my grandchildren cheered me up.”

“During my stay, I re-connected with many friends, Maurice Trad and his daughter Molly, Bill Gates, his daughter and his friend Tiffany, Peter and Barry Grenell, Sheldon Siegel, Terry Goggin et.al. and Bob and Charlotte Uram. Unfortunately, I was only able to contact others by phone.”

“In Sacramento, I spent three lovely days with Bill Geyer and Naida West on their ranch and a day with Stevie and Norbert Dall. Surprisingly, I was asked to take Hayden with me during this time so that his mother could go off to the coast (Pismo Beach) with “friends”. He had just returned the prior evening from spending 5 weeks with a family he hardly knew in Seattle while his mother traveled to Thailand to have what appeared to me to be a facelift. Nevertheless, I enjoyed his company and was quite sad when I had to leave him and return to San Francisco.”

 

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A. CHRISTMAS IN MENDOCINO:

Peter and Barrie returned to the Bay Area the day after the Christmas party. I resumed spending my days sitting by the window watching the waves crest over the bluffs and a hawk hunting gophers in the backyard. When not daydreaming by the window or amusing myself on Facebook, I wander about the town Christmas shopping, searching for the appropriate and affordable gifts for those on my list.

Nights are another thing. I sleep ok but, before I fall asleep and after I wake up, I feel an existential malaise that is difficult to describe to those who have not felt the night that never ends bearing down on them like an out of control train. It isn’t fear, I think. More like the sad wonder of a sunset.

For the past few days, they have been removing some of the large trees that menace the house. Over the last year or so, two of those trees have blown down, one of which destroyed the pump house. During my walks, I sometimes stop to watch them work. I find that watching other people work relaxes me. I wonder if Gautama sitting under his bodhi tree observed some people working in the fields when he decided to live a life of contemplation was a good thing and we should all do it if we could figure out a way to get away with it.
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People have begun arriving for the Christmas Eve celebration my sister holds every year. A few years ago about twenty of us, friends and family, gathered together at a house that she rented for the holidays a few miles up the coast. Some of us slept on the floor. I slept on a sofa. We all cooked most of the day and ate and drank in the evenings. A great storm blew in Christmas Eve, throwing up giant waves that crashed on the beach, driving us all inside where we sang carols and opened presents.

That was a far cry from the Christmases of my youth when uncles, aunts, and cousins would gather with our family. The women would prepare endless amounts of food while the men napped in the living room. Dinner was a loud affair with everyone shouting and drinking wine until the arguments and tears erupted among the adults while the children hid in quiet corners and learned to hate the holiday for which they had spent weeks in eager anticipation.

Anyway, this year it was planned to be a smaller affair than usual. First to arrive late Friday evening were George and Maryann’s children Brendan and Katie with their significant others, Ashley and Quinn. The next morning we all got up, fitted a Christmas bow on Bingo the dog and watched Brendan, dressed in fuzzy brown PJs, make us all breakfast.
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Chewbacca and MaryAnn Rule the Kitchen.

That afternoon, I went to Fort Bragg and my favorite bar in the area, Milano. They were having their Christmas party and it was crowded. Most of the regulars were there. The old man who owned the place and always sat on the stool by the wall at the end of the bar, however, was missing. Perhaps he died. He was not looking well the last time I saw him well over a year.

I took an empty stool and ordered a Stella. There was food at the party, a potluck. The bartender urged me to get some food but I demurred for some reason or another. The noise in place was almost defining, There were several little groups talking loudly, others pounding their dice cups on the bar-top. A few people sat quietly staring at their drinks. I made a friend.

I Usually, I do not talk to anyone preferring to watch. But Gene, who sat down next to me, insisted that I engage him in conversation. “What’s your nationality?” he asked. “Italian,” I responded. “I’m Bohemian,” he said. I thought he was playing with me, but since I could not figure out the joke, I ignored it. I then asked him what he does for a living “I’m a stone contractor,” he said. Not knowing what a stone contractor was, I ignored this too. “I’m retired,” he went on, “but I still work 5 hours a day.” How one can work five hours a day and still consider himself retired I could not comprehend but I let that pass also. “I like my clients,” he then declared. “I did not like mine,” I responded. He stared at me a moment then said, “Attorneys are the most difficult to get to pay their bills.” “I can understand that,” I replied. “After all, they spend most of their working lives helping people to avoid paying their debts, financial or otherwise.”

I was happy when I left and drove back to my sister’s house. Shortly after I got back, two additional weekend guests, Debbie and Shelly, arrived. We had risotto for dinner.

The next morning, it was the day before Christmas. We had a long breakfast where we talked about many things that made us laugh and some that did not.

That evening, we gathered for Christmas Eve dinner. Maryjane (she who had married a clown) and her current husband Jovan, and Nancy and Duncan joined us. Before dinner, we snacked on stuffed calamari, baked eggplant, crab cakes, shrimp cocktail and a lot of other things — too many for me to remember.
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Debbie and Katie.

At dinner, we toasted to good friends and holidays and then dug into the marvelous cioppino my sister had prepared.
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Happy Holidays to All.

I sat between Nancy and Shelly. Nancy told me about her father (or Duncan’s, I forget which) who led a wonderful and exciting life and at 95 years old lives by himself in a house in Oregon, still drives and cooks his own meals and refuses to go to a senior home. Shelly, a potter by trade who’s studio is at the Women’s Pottery Studios on Noe in San Francisco told us about her good friend and studio mate who died at 105. She began her ceramics career in her late 40s. When she was 80, she was “discovered” by the critics and became a bit of a celebrity. She made well over 5 million dollars from her pottery in about 5 years. Because so many of her clients and friends were in the entertainment business, she began being offered roles in the movies. She was the voice of the grandmother in “Titanic.”

Following these uplifting tales and several different desserts, I went to bed.

The next morning, Christmas, it was Panettone and presents, coffee and wrapping paper, giggles of happiness and moments of silent contemplation of fleeting pleasures that penetrated the veneer of joy like no-see-umm pricking your skin.
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Christmas Morning with Bingo and George.

I then left drove five hours back to the golden hills where I opened more presents.

A woman, Wanni, who I assisted in the sale of her business, gave me a lovely blanket, fleece on the inside and smooth and soft to the touch on the outside. Adrian also gave me a number of great gifts as did Dick and Hayden. We then had dinner and I immediately went to bed where clutching my marvelous new blanket I thankfully quickly fell into a deep almost dreamless sleep.

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An Aging Childe Harold.

 

 

B. MOLLY HAD A BABY ON CHRISTMAS DAY:

On Christmas Day, Molly had a baby. I was not there at the birth, but I had been there over 20 years ago at Molly’s birth along with her father Maurice, a dear friend and a kind gentle man. When the nurse brought tiny Molly into the nursery, Maurice. for a long, long time, stared through the glass at her with a wonder and love that stayed with him for the rest of his life. Molly soon became the child of all of us, our family and friends. She was a quiet waif of a child. Usually, she sat silently at the edge of things — an innocent in a cynical world. She wore large round glasses and had a shy smile. Often, she babysat my grandchildren, traveled with them and at lived with them in their house when Maurice worked.

When we awoke on Christmas Day, we learned she had given birth — to a boy, a Christmas baby she named Amir, Emmanuel, Duncan Trad (Trans: Prince, Messiah [God is with us], Dark Warrior [dark of visage, not of heart] Trad) a fitting name for someone born on this day. A few years ago, Molly wrote a prescient poem that she shared with me. Read it slowly.

A New Years Poem
I have a desperate attraction to new beginnings
Sometimes the numbers on the calendar look so beautiful
I think
Today’s the day I drink less and run more
No smoking, all veggies
Honesty, integrity, self-reliance, perseverance, creativity,
No fear, live large,
Dream big, be bright, believe in love and believe in yourself!
And I do
Today is an auspicious day
Today is my new beginning
Sometimes I just feel it, on a Tuesday
Today’s the day I keep doing yoga
I don’t back down when I’m right
I go to bed at a reasonable hour, pay my bills on time
Clean out the toe jam, learn all those languages
All the little steps start here and I’m climbing
I can feel it now, right now, and I won’t look back
This is it!
Today is an auspicious day
Today is my new beginning
Then I find myself making the same mistakes
Who manufactured the grooves in my record?
How would it feel if the dj scratched me across the turntable?
The dissonant rip, like a zipper coming undone
A cut away from the 4/4 time that I was trying so hard to hold
But this is why the crowd came to the club
To hear the sound of the universe tearing into a new song
The maligned has become music
We throw our hands up and we dance
I am scratched across the turntable and the crowd is screaming
We are scratched and screaming
And the dj takes it back, and the song plays
All of it is beautiful
Every moment new
Every moment auspicious
Every moment beginning
Molly Trad

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Molly and Amir Emmanuel Duncan Trad

 

 

C. SORROW.

Within minutes of finishing the above joyous account of a Christmas birth, I received the following distressing email from Naida regarding my dear friend Bill:

“I have been sitting with Bill next to his bed. His coughing woke me at 5 a.m. He asked me what my name was. I told him and, when asked what I’ve done all day, explained that I am his wife and I’ve been taking care of him. He said he’d been put away into in some attic. I told him he’s downstairs. He said he wants to see out the window. I explained that the sun wouldn’t come up for a couple of hours. He said, “OK. When it’s light I want to see out the window.” He also said, “I feel weird like I’ve been separated from all civilization” — followed by his characteristic sarcastic “huh” of a laugh. Then he asked if any of his relatives were coming to see him.”

Bill, a gentle giant of a man, has been my cherished friend for more years than I can remember — always cheerful and always seeming happy to see me when I visited he and Naida at their beloved ranch along the Cosumnes River near Sacramento.

Few people know that Bill was quietly responsible for the passage of the California Coastal Conservancy legislation, a key element of California’s Coastal protection program over 40 years ago. We were on the floor of the Senate. We clearly did not have the votes. Bill privately spoke to Senator Denny Carpenter a vocal opponent of California’s Coastal Protection legislation. He asked Carpenter to speak in favor of the legislation when it came before the Senate for its final vote. Carpenter agreed and did so, turning enough votes to pass the bill. So, whenever you visit a beautiful section of the California coast or San Francisco Bay that the Conservancy has had a hand in preserving, please remember Bill, Geyer.

I will miss him greatly.

And, the Great Wheel grinds inexorably on.

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It’s been ten days or so since my last post before I got around to begin this one. Usually, I at least print out the headings for a new post when I send out the previous one. I do not know why it seems so hard to get started. Perhaps I need to adjust my medicines — or maybe it is the coming holiday season. I always found the holidays to be more stressful than joyful.

The intermittent rains have stripped the leaves from most of the trees except for the Indomitable Oak which the remains fully clothed while the other oak trees all around it stand spindly and naked.

On the weekend I traveled to SF — stayed the night with Peter, Barrie, and Ramsey. On Sunday I had a thoroughly enjoyable lunch with Peter, Ruth, and Don at a local French restaurant in Noe Valley. We discussed, old times, old friends and getting old. We laughed a lot.
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Ruth and Her Boys

Meanwhile, back in the Golden Hills life crawls on. HRM, now in the first blush of adolescence, spends his free time among his peer group in what now is referred to by most as “the Scooter Gang.” When not touring the fake hills and valleys of the local skate parks they gather in one or another’s family garage endlessly disassembling and reassembling their outrageously expensive scooters.

For the past few months, my dreams have been especially enjoyable. The difference between the usual ennui of my days and the excitement of my nightly dreams were such that I could hardly wait to go to bed in the evenings. Last night things changed.

I dreamt I was at a very enjoyable party. Eventually, some friends and I decided to leave to get something to eat. After walking through some dark but crowded San Francisco streets, we passed through a busy elegant cocktail lounge where I somehow got separated from them. A youngish (anyone under 60) man with sandy hair called me over to his table. He was a psychiatrist —mine apparently. We discussed my psychological problems at length which I will not bother you with here. Eventually, his sister arrived at the table. She was attractive but blind in one eye which was all dark and milky. This should have warned me.

Anyway, she left and the psychiatrist and I and another gentleman departed from the bar to go somewhere else. As we walked along, I tried to talk to the psychiatrist but he ignored me and continued walking on like he was in a trance. He then climbed up an outside staircase of a building and disappeared inside (second warning). I and the other person continued on and then the shit hit the fan. As I write this, I no longer remember what happened but it was enough sufficiently frighten me that it forced me to wake myself up.

Since I could not go back to sleep fearing I would fall back into my nightmare, I decided to read a book.

The book concerned a man working for a secret British agency combatting the depredations on humanity by beings from the supernatural. The agency’s offices were accessed through a secret door behind a toilet stall in a London train station. Our hero was attending an agency training session when a creature of the underworld, or another dimension or something like that escaped and took over the body of one of the other students (“there were luminous worms writhing behind his eyes”), an agency accountant attending the class to better familiarize himself with the agency’s activity and procedures. Our hero had to kill the accountant in order to save the professor and the other students and was promptly suspended from active duty pending a thorough review of the matter. He arrived back home distressed only to find his roommates, Pinky, and Brains by name, attempting to cook an omelet without breaking the eggs.

At this point, I decided the dream could be no worse than the book so I turned out the light and slept soundly until morning.

Sometimes I speculate whether or not there is any difference between dreams and awareness, reality and fiction, mind and matter. After all, consciousness is located somewhere at the base of our brain stem. The brain stem controls our perception and thought. Didn’t the poet say, ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.’ I wonder if we dream after death, the sleep from which we never wake.

Will we eventually know what is consciousness? Do we care? Will we eventually be able to break it down into some irreducible bits like the Meletians insisted comprise reality? Even if we do, it is basically simply descriptive and perhaps even predictive but it does not tell us what it is. Like quantum theory when it tells us that time is broken into bits and in the space between the bits there is no time. Well, what actually is no-time?

The theory certainly is descriptive, we can assign numbers to it, and it has proven to be predictive. Beyond that, whether it makes any sense to anyone remains a question. Maybe that is one of the failures of a pure science like physics, it is only descriptive and predictive and sometimes we somehow feel that is not enough. Mostly, I think most of us don’t care. Some people believe in God in order to avoid the effort of thinking about things like this. Others probably think that those who think like this need a little God or a drink. Certainly, God is little more than place-saver for whatever we wonder about but do not know and do not want to spend too much time on it. Perhaps, Science, as we have come to perceive it, has become an itch deep within our minds. It may be inventive, provide physical comfort and expanded knowledge and more efficient ways of producing the energy we require to survive as a species, but do we really feel we know what we always have wanted to know — why us and who am I? On the other hand, does anyone really care? Perhaps we need to consider a “NEW SCIENCE.” On the other hand, perhaps ennui and disassociation many of us are feeling have less to do with who we are than what we are. Or maybe I just read too much fantasy fiction.

The next evening Dick returned from wherever he had been the past two days and suffering from a bad cold. HRM, after a day of scootering, arrived with three members of the scooter gang for a sleepover. They were very well behaved. In the morning HRM cooked breakfast for everyone. HRM was fascinated by one of the new members of the gang. He lives on the top of the hill in Serrano “where the rich people live.” “All the houses have double doors,” he marveled

This is all new to me. When I grew up boys never had sleepovers, girls had slumber parties, however.

Anyway, Dick retired to treat his cold. The scooter gang piled into HRM’s room, the heavy stench of pre-teen sweat and emerging testosterone crept out from under the door like miasmatic swamp gas. I returned to reading the adventures of the silly supernatural spy until I could feel bits of my brain turning to rot. So, I closed the computer, shut the light and went to sleep.

When I go for my morning walks lulled by the click of my walking stick on the path and the rasp of my breath in my ears, I sometimes pass into a state a lot like dreaming, except here my mind-voice keeps up a patter of words into my mind, like a boring lecturer going on about something until you pass into a trance hearing only the buzzing of the phonemes — click, breath, words —click, breath, words and so on. Sometimes these lectures I give myself seem quite good and I try to remember them so that I can post them here in T&T. At other times they are just trash, detritus to be left on the side of the path like a pile of leaves.

On Friday morning, dawn flung its delicate rosy fingers along the eastern horizon above the golden hills. As I drove HRM to school we played silly buggers and laughed a lot. Then it was off to breakfast at IHOP followed by a short trip down Bidwell for my doctor’s appointment before heading off to my sister’s house in Mendocino. I was in a great mood looking forward to the drive and the week on the coast.

After a bit of an annoying wait, the doctor arrived and announced that the CT scan I took last week showed the lymph nodes in my neck were enlarged. “This is bad, very bad,” he said. He sounded like he was angry and it was my fault his precious chemotherapy may not have worked. “You will have to get a PET scan, probably followed by a biopsy of the lymph nodes and if the biopsy is positive we will have to do immediate invasive surgery on your neck.” I was, to say the least, thunderstruck. Only two weeks ago the doctor managing my treatment, after shoving a tube through my nose and down my throat, announced that I was still in remission. What the hell happened in those two weeks?

The doctor then told me that everything has to proceed very quickly because if cancer has spread it will move rapidly throughout my system. I was devastated. I have appointments with my other two doctors on Tuesday and Friday of next week and await a call to set up the PET scan. I am worried, frightened depressed and angry.

 

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