“In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY GEORGE DREAPER
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE VISITS THE STATE CAPITOL:
1. A walk in the park:
A few days ago the car needed to be serviced. After dropping off the automobile, Dick drove me to Sacramento where I waited for the repair shop to complete the repairs.
He left me by the Capitol. After some coffee at a café with tattooed lady baristas, I walked into Capitol Park located directly behind the Capitol building. I love Capitol Park. It is one of my favorite urban parks. Although smaller than Central Park or Golden Gate Park, I find that I enjoy my time there as much as I do in those larger parks. Basically it is a large arboretum with hundreds of fully mature trees from all over the world. I wandered around for an hour or so contemplating each tree and reading the little information plaque identifying its species and common name. It is a little known fact that there are three or so redwood trees in the park that were grown from seedlings that traveled to the moon on one of the Apollo missions. They are referred to as the “Moon Trees.” For years their location was a secret in order to forestall eager collectors from removing the trees until they got big enough to fend for themselves.
Another thing I enjoy there is visiting the small memorials to various wars and other things nestled among the trees. They’re a lot more humble than the garish marble mausoleums demanding our worship that abound Washington DC.
2. BT and me:
While walking I came upon a plaque dedicated to BT Collins embedded in the concrete in front of a bench. I sat down on that bench to reminisce.
For those who did not know him, BT lost an arm and a leg leading a Guerrilla team in the early days of the Viet Nam War when we were still assisting the South Vietnamese government defend itself before deciding to take over the entire war. He returned, was fitted with prothesis’ attended Santa Clara Law School and was working in the first Jerry Brown administration in the Governor’s office when I met him. Ultimately he served in many capacities in State government most often as the person who actually got things done. He was outrageous in word and deed. While Director of the State’s Civilian Conservation Corps during the controversy over aerial spraying of pesticides to combat a fruit fly invasion, in order to prove its safety he famously drank a glass of the pesticide in front of reporters.
One day while sitting in a bar with BT and getting seriously drunk, we, as drunks often do, became sloppily nostalgic about our past lives. We traced our paths from those adjacent bar stools back to NY, to Westchester County, to Stepinac High School and into the same classroom. Until that point neither of us and recognized the other as having known each other previously. He sat in the back of that classroom at one side among the Irish toughs and I sat on the other side of the back row among the Italian thugs.
Every year while I was working in Sacramento he and I would collaborate on a bill to reform portions of the Civil Service law. We would appear together before the appropriate legislative committee each year and never receive a single vote in favor of our proposal.
A life-long Republican, he could teach many so-called liberals about compassion for the underdog.
Rock on BT….
3. I know a Reuben when I see one:
At about lunch time I sat at some outdoor tables on L Street directly across from an entrance to the Capitol. I thought that as the people in the Capitol left for lunch I would recognize some and perhaps have lunch with them and talk of old times. I recognized no one and no one recognized me.
I then tried to guess which of the people walking by was a legislator. I identified one by the sneer he wore on his face when he thought no one was looking at him.
I ordered a Reuben sandwich for lunch that turned out to be fried chicken.
4. On monuments and things:
In the afternoon I resumed my walk through Capitol Park. I sat for a while at one of my favorite monuments dedicated to those that served in WWII. The monument itself is an elongated pyramid with a broken top and a crack down the middle. Its smooth facades are imprinted with actual photographs of scenes from the war that appear like ghosts emerging from the mists of time.
World War II I consider one of this nation’s three “good” wars.The other two were the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. For whatever other objectives one can also ascribe to these wars, a major purpose of each was to establish a transcendental ideal of freedom.
The Revolutionary War was fought to free the nation from government by hereditary wealth and power by those who controlled the nations resources. The sons and daughters of the homicidal maniacs who established the dynasties managed one of the greatest PR coups of all time by persuading everyone to refer to them as “Nobles.”
The Civil War engaged in an effort to end that pernicious institutional representation of the concept that human beings were merely economic objects that could be bought and sold at will.
In World War II the allied nations took up arms against the ideology that humanity can be divided into classes in which some enjoy the full rights of citizenship and respect and others were not quite human and so forfeited their rights even to their own lives solely because of the accident of their birth or the nature of their beliefs.
Of course these wars against those three curses of humanity: Government by inherited wealth; Monetizing a person’s value and; Classification of groups of people where some groups enjoy fewer rights, including the right to live (racism is but one aspect of this) did not end those scourges. They only addressed the clear and present danger presented by those institutions that promoted or represented them. The scourges are always with us only their names change over time. They always change their names.
B. POOKIE’S DREAMS (Continued):
I called someone over to run and find one of the paramedics that worked in the village. We bundled the injured child into an old Land Rover and drove him to the hospital.
The hospital located about 10 miles away on the other side of the valley was quite new and surrounded by a small town. I assumed the town was peopled by medical personnel who worked at the hospital and those who worked in the preserve but were unwilling to live the spartan lifestyle enforced by Mama in the village.
Tre, Yu and I sat outside the emergency room waiting. Mama arrived a few minutes later and waited silently with us.
The child, all bandaged up and still unconscious was placed in a hospital room after emerging from the emergency ward. There we spent the night. Tre, Yu and I alternately napping and talking quietly among ourselves. Mama sat in a chair rigid and silent, never moving her eyes from the child as though she was willing him to recover. Recover he did and we all returned to our various duties.
Following this I learned that the preserve had been under political, economic and physical assault for many months. Terrorists, resource extraction organizations and the like all hungered for access to the reserve and its resources.
It was a though having fouled every place else (their own nests so to speak) they now ravenously looked at this unspoiled place like the rapist observing his next victim.
Many preserve workers had been injured and some killed. On one of my visits another child had been attacked and Mama and I spent another sleepless night at the hospital.
I noticed on each of my visits the stress on her exacted a greater and greater physical toll. Then on day when I returned to the village I learned that she had been taken to the hospital. I rushed there and into her room. She was lying in bed. He body was horribly shriveled. Her skin had lost its luster and appeared dry and brittle like a piece of cardboard.
I stayed there with her day and night. She still ran the preserve from her bed. She continued to decline. Finally I told her that I had some experience it managing organizations like the Preserve and I would be happy to do so until she got better. She said, “No, this is my life, my world. Your life is somewhere else.” I woke up back in my bed. I knew she had died.
I returned to the village two more times after that to visit with my friends. But, the colors of the place seemed washed out and I had trouble holding on to the dream for more than a few moments. Eventually I stopped going there.
Since then every once in a while in that period between sleep and wakefulness the image of us in the hut, or on the rock outcropping or even in the hospital hovers for a while before disappearing. It comforts me knowing that this is not a dream but a memory. END.
C. ABOUT PEIG, A BOOK REPORT:
“I am an old woman now, with one foot in the grave and the other on its edge. I have experienced much ease and much hardship from the day I was born until this very day. Had I known in advance half, or even one-third, of what the future had in store for me, my heart wouldn’t have been as gay or as courageous it was in the beginning of my days.”
Peig Sayers, Peig,
Peig Sayers’, Peig, is considered one of the classics of Gaelic literature as well as all literature. She lived much of her life on Great Blasket Island off the Western Coast of Ireland. The island at the tip of the Dingle Peninsula is bleak and barren. It housed between 100 to 150 souls until in the 1940’s the Irish Government in a fit of uncharacteristic responsibility removed the remaining twenty-two of them and resettled them in other parts of the country. As far as I know, none of the islanders objected to the relocation.
I met the ferry-man in the pub that stands on the bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and persuaded him (for a few dollars) to row me there. There is a regular motor ferry now.
Although the passage between the islands is no more than a couple of miles wide, it was too stormy and impassable during much of the year for the small traditional row boats available at the time the island was inhabited. So, the residents of Blasket were often marooned and had to live exclusively on what they could glean on the island.
The tiny village on the lee of the island lay in ruins and deserted. I climbed through the ruins and into Peig’s cottage. It was little more than rocks piled on one another for walls with more rocks to make the roof (I understand it has been made into lodging for a small hostel now). Peig’s home contained a single room in which she spent most of her life.
Peig’s cottage today
Beyond the village exposed to the fierce winds off the Atlantic the rest of the island was covered in a thick mat of furze, Irish gorse and heather, with peat (or bog or turf) beneath much of it. When I walked on it it supported my weight. It felt as though I was walking on a springy mattress. There were no trees or bushes. I climbed part way down the cliffs on the island’s north side where the residents would scramble down to pilfer the eggs of the shore birds that nested there. I did not go further than perhaps 10 feet or so because the cliff quickly became much steeper. It was on those steep cliffs according to Peig that several of Blasket’s citizens met their death trying to secure enough food to carry them through the winter storms.
As hard as life was on Blasket, during the Irish persecutions and famines several mainland families settled on the island, “Because life was better there.”
Perhaps the most astounding thing about Blasket was that Peig was not the only one from there who wrote a Gaelic literary classic. Two others, Twenty Years a Growing and The Islandman, were written by Blasket natives also.
How hard was life on Blasket? Tomas O’Crohan in The Islandman wrote the following about his children:
“Ten children were born to us, but they had no good fortune, God help us! The very first of them that we christened was only seven or eight years old when he fell over the cliff and was killed. From that time on they went as quickly as they came. Two died of measles, and every epidemic that came carried off one or other of them. Donal was drowned trying to save the lady off the White Strand. I had another fine lad helping me. Before long I lost him, too.”
2013: During this year 146 American children were given the name Khaleesi at birth. Khaleesi is the word for “Queen” in a made up language found in the “Game of Thrones.” Before 2013 no one in real life had ever borne that name.
In about that same year a Restaurant named Khaleesi’s was opened in Mission Texas featuring pizza.
Pizza was the favorite food of the Targaryan nobility. They cooked the pizza in dragon fire.
It is often said that generals (and countries) fight new wars using the strategies and tactics of the last. Unfortunately for the generals and many politicians alike, it appears that the real wars of today among the major powers are economic and not military.
B. Apologies, Regrets and Humiliations:
Re: The NEW YORKER
As you know I like to post some of the well written and interesting comments I receive about things I have written in T&T. This from Stevie:
“Over half a century ago as an 11-year-old growing up in a California railroad town that, for all I know, still doesn’t have a book store, I had the good fortune to make friends with a recent transplant from New York whose mother subscribed to The Atlantic, The Nation, The New Republic, The Saturday Review AND (always my favorite) , The New Yorker.
This was definitely a horizon widener over the Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Boys Life (my brother’s), True Magazine (my father’s — and mine), True Story Magazine (my mother’s), Saturday Evening Post, and Newsweek (mine) that we received at my house, and my grandparents’ Life, Look, and Reader’s Digest, all of which I read from cover to cover.
The one thing they (almost) all had in common were cartoons, and I attacked every new issue from the back thumbing through quickly to read every one of the cartoons as quickly as I could. In The New Yorker, though, I would again go through, once more starting from the back, to read the poetry, followed by the book and movie review.
Only then would I turn to the fiction (there were frequently multiple stories, as I recall, at that point) to savor it the way I do the last morsel of lobster or abalone, leaving everything else to be read (of course I read everything else — there were just so many books one could carry back and forth to the library on a bike!) haphazardly, in no particular order.
That’s still the way I read The New Yorker. I did attempt reading the electronic version on my iPad but gave it up when I couldn’t even muster the interest to make it through the cartoons, which don’t seem to read as well from front to back…
This past issue had a Shirley Jackson story — almost 50 years posthumous — but I keep hoping something new and exciting will come along, and I’ll read it in The New Yorker :o)”
The Huffington Post reports:
“The New Yorker led the pack Thursday night at the annual National Magazine Awards, winning four prizes…
Love the magazine as I do I still find its Poetry inept, the articles too long and at times insipid and the cartoons, amusing but not funny. I suggested to Stevie that some rap lyrics could greatly improve things.
According to Matt Daniels (http://rappers.mdaniels.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com) a designer, coder and data scientist at something called Undercurrent in New York City, after analyzing the percentage of unique words used by various rap artists with Shakespeare, fifteen rappers use of unique words exceeded The Bard’s for roughly equivalent sets. Aesop Rock came in first by a mile followed by Wu-Tang Clan, Kool Keith and Cunnlynguists.
So, no apologies this time.
“Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such abominable business.”