“Take everything as a compliment. You can never be insulted.”
Abercrombie, Joe. Half the World (Shattered Sea Book 2) (p. 106). Random House Publishing Group.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. IN MEMORY OF WILLIAM (BILL) HOEY.
Bill Hoey, a lover of trains and social justice and a devoted reader of T&T, passed away recently. He was 73 years old and died of pulmonary fibrosis/pulmonary hypertension. I will miss him and our exchanges on Facebook.
B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
Another weekend crept in. For the retired, it promised little different from any other day of the week. On Sunday, however, as I was swimming laps, a beautiful iridescent dragonfly flew by. During its beguilingly aerobatic performance, it dipped too low and splashed into the pool. After making my turn, I swam by again and spotted it entrapped in its aqueous meniscus struggling to rise from the water and failing. I took a few more strokes before I suddenly stopped like I had been netted. A feeling of need to save the dragonfly engulfed me.
“Why?” I thought. “If it were just a fly, I would let it die and a mosquito I would try to kill even before it hit the water.” I felt caught as Tuesday Next would say, “within a dense cloud of moral relativism (Fforde).” Nonetheless, a belief that I had to do something for this particular creature overwhelmed any internal debate on the nature of ethics I may have contemplated. So I cupped it in my hands and brought it to the edge of the pool and placed it where I hoped it could recover.
As I watched it struggle to dry its wings and rise, other thoughts struck me. “It would probably die here too weakened by its dunking; a death perhaps worse than if had it had died in the water. So, what had I accomplished except to prolong its agony?” “What about the possibility one of the many birds in the area would swoop down on it in its weakened state and devour it?” “So,” I inquired of myself and generations of existential and moral philosophers, “why did I do what I did in the first place?” Suddenly everything began to go dim as I found myself standing on the edge of the abyss staring into a solipsistic nightmare.
I jumped out of the pool and rushed home where I buried myself under the covers in the hope they would muffle the screams of dying dragonflies, long dead metaphysicians and legions of moral philosophers.
My travel plans continue to change. I may fly out to NY on the 21st — then again, maybe not. I had planned to visit my sister in Mendocino for the Memorial Day weekend, but in an effort to avoid further annoyance from HRM’s mom, I may spend most of next week there instead.
C. A BRIEF STOP IN SACRAMENTO:
On Tuesday, I left the Golden Hills for Sacramento on my way to San Francisco to meet my sister and her husband who were driving me to their home in Mendocino. In Sacramento after breakfast at the coffee house across from the Capitol that I like, I walked around my beloved Capitol Park until lunch time. Then I ambled over to K Street to have lunch with Bill Yeates. Bill, as you know from my last T&T post, is fresh from victory in his age class in the Big Sur Marathon.
We had lunch at a vegetarian restaurant called “Mother.” The food was very good. We reminisced, swapped stories, played ain’t it a shame and generally had what passes for a good time among aging males. One bleak note, I learned his wife is having serious medical difficulties.
He then drove me to the train station. I rode the train to Emeryville where George and Maryann picked me up.
D. POOKIE’S MENDOCINO TRAVELOGUE:
On the ride to Mendocino, we stopped for dinner at a wonderful restaurant in Geyserville named Diavola.
Mary and I at Diavola
The next day, it was beautiful outside. Brilliant yellow flowers filled the field at the back of the house.
The view from the house.
I spent the morning with George watching someone who actually works for a living mill the lumber to be used for the house remodel. He milled the lumber from the cypress tree that fell and crushed the pump house last winter.
George supervising the milling.
In the afternoon, it was too windy to walk about on the bluffs, so George and I went to Ft. Bragg’s spiffy new community recreation center. I swam laps in the tarted up pool with the Mendocino Coast Sea Dragons Girls Swim Team while George exercised on the machines.
The following day the winds died down so I went for a walk along the bluffs and into the town. Spring wild flowers of every color were in bloom. The ocean, a deep aquamarine and winking white foam, sparkled in the sun. At times, I sat on a bench and day-dreamed. At other times, I practiced taking selfies.
On my way back I met up with George. We spent several hours in the lumber yard and the hardware store. Feeling very rural and manly, I walked back home, took a nap and contemplated the nature of contentment.
Later in the day, I went swimming again. The Aquatic Center had been funded primarily by the trust of a man who was born in Fort Bragg and worked in a local ice cream parlor before heading off to Shanghai where he started a company selling insurance to the Chinese. That company eventually grew into AIG the largest insurance company in the world. AIG was one of the chief culprits in almost destroying the world’s economy in 2008.
On Friday, although the day began sunny, clouds from the South skittered across the sky settling softly on the village. The cooling temperature turned me away from the ocean bluffs and through areas of the tiny town of Mendocino that I had not seen before in my more that 40 years visiting here.
That evening we had dinner with some neighbors who are planning their first trip to Italy. I drank a lot of Charbono and talked too much.
On my last full day here in Mendocino, the skies were overcast. I sat an hour or two holding on to a cooling cup of coffee while staring morosely at the gray sea.
Later, we drove up the coast and stopped in Fort Brag to see the new extension to the ocean front park near Glass Beach. For about 40 years since the demise of the logging industry, I and many others have urged the city to focus on their magnificent natural waterfront to replace the lost lumber economy. They ignored the advice and attempted many other development schemes that ultimately failed. Now with the new extension, the waterfront natural area extends from more or less Noyo Harbor to the north end of 10 Mile Beach about 15 miles away. Although it is poorly marketed, people already are coming from far away to enjoy the experience. The Glass Beach area parking lot was full and we even met some Italian tourists who heard about the new park somewhere.
Mary and George at Glass Beach
On the other hand, the land around Glass Beach was gifted to the city on a not so long term lease by the Koch brothers who bought the huge old mill site adjacent to the coast. I assume the Koch’s plan to develop the portion of their property nearest to Highway One and as the value of the remainder of the property escalates along with the popularity of the park, either take over and develop the leased park land when the lease ends or, force the city to buy it at the expected inflated values at the time.
We then continued on north to Pacific Star Winery to sample their wares and spend some time with the vivacious Sally, the owner and winemaker, and Marcus her boyfriend/partner. Marcus is one of the sweetest people you would want to meet. I hate him deeply for his relationship with Sally, a woman I have secretly loved for the past three years. Alas, at my age love is something best avoided or at least indulged in with moderation and in silence.
Sally, George and Maryann at Pacific Star Winery
We sat outside at a picnic table, ate some salami, cheese and grapes, drank some wine and gazed at the ever-changing ocean while we argued about the proper response to the earthquake in Nepal.
A pod of female seals swam by, each with one flipper extended out of the water. A bob of males sleeked toward them like heat seeking missiles. When the two groups met the water erupted in a frothy frenzy. The happy orgy drifted off to the South until they were lost from view.
The view at Pacific Star Winery sans seals
That evening, after we returned from the winery, we attended the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department Spring Pot-Luck at the firehouse. For those who know Mendocino know downtown contains a one-hundred-year-old fire house with a large bell in front to call the volunteers to the occasional fire in town. I was surprised when we drove across Highway One to a new modern firehouse about the size of a small shopping center containing at least 8 fire trucks, 5 boats, two humongous ski-boats and enough equipment to provision a small army.
At the pot-luck dinner, I sat next to a board member of the Fire Dept., who also is the NRDC representative for the North Coast Marine Sanctuary and who helped construct the handicapped access-way along Jughandle Creek, the Conservancy funded that was allowed to fall into ruin. His daughter, a recently minted Phd., has opened a yoga studio in Fort Bragg.
Toward the end of the pot-luck, I sat back and looked around at the denizens of the small town milling about the room. I got the sudden and frightful feeling that I was trapped in a David Lynch movie. I fully expected a mysterious dwarf to appear and saunter across the floor.
1548– The Hispaniolan Edible Rat becomes extinct.
A few years ago, I lived in a Bangkok apartment infested by rats (the non-edible kind). At night, after the lights were out, they gaily scampered about the rooms. At one point, the maid put out an anti-rodent device consisting basically of a plastic sheet covered with glue that traps any rat unlucky enough to step on it and produces, I am sure, a cruel and painful death for the creature.
My feelings about the Rodentia situation in my apartment were somewhat ambiguous. I felt neither fear, sympathy nor disgust for either the infestation or the rodenticide. It was more like the feeling I have when I try to avoid meeting someone I prefer not to meet. On the one hand, I always feel a bit cowardly skulking away while on the other, I generally am aware that forcing a meeting through some misplaced moral sense is probably as stupid a thing to do as can be imagined.
This ambivalence about rats I find strange given my history with the species. Growing up in New York, I generally fell asleep with the sound of rats scurrying through the walls. As a child, I was never able to settle on whether these sounds in the walls by my bed frightened me or comforted me.
When I was about six-years-old my family was homeless for a while. Ultimately, we found an abandoned store that we moved into and soaped up the glass front for privacy. There was neither heat nor hot water in the place and at night the large Norwegian roof rats would slink into the room through the spaces between walls and the various pipes and plumbing servicing the residential apartments above us.
Every night, while my brother and I slept, my mother armed with a bread knife would remain awake to chase away the rats. One evening while so armed and on guard she fell asleep sitting beside the kitchen table. Suddenly she was jolted awake by the sound of rats scrabbling to get into a cake box on the table. The rats startled by her movement leaped on to her face and head as it was the highest point in the room between the floor and the exposed pipes available to them to make their escape. She fell to the floor and had an epileptic seizure, beginning a multi-year period of seizures and hospitalizations.
After my mother was taken away in an ambulance that night, I spent the next four years living with various relatives and strangers who took me in, but mostly with my grandparents. I never knew where my brother lived during this time.
After a few years and many hospitalizations of my mom, we began living together again but her periodic fits continued until I was about 17 years old when, in a surprise to everyone, mom became pregnant with my sister and the seizures suddenly stopped. She considered both the pregnancy and the curing of the epilepsy a miracle. I was not so sure.
A. Quigley on Top:
“Since most government officials felt ignorant of finance, they sought advice from bankers whom they considered to be experts in the field. The history of the last century shows, as we shall see later, that the advice given to governments by bankers, like the advice they gave to industrialists, was consistently good for bankers, but was often disastrous for governments, businessmen, and the people generally.”
Quigley, Carroll. Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time. GSG & Associates Publishers.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“The ability to lie to oneself is nature’s compensation to those she has cursed with consciousness.”
(Note: I have been asked if Trenz Pruca is me. No, nor is he my alter ego either. Trenz is my Harvey, but instead of an invisible rabbit, he is a six-foot-two-inch 220-pound invisible white rat with dark glasses and wearing a black fedora. He carries a Mac-book with him wherever he goes. He can usually be found sitting in dark corners of lightly patronized coffee houses in San Francisco or during the winter months, Marrakesh, typing away on his Mac-book and obsessively downing endless cups of strong dopio espressos. I actually only meet him on my name day, March 15, when he stops by to celebrate with a glass of wine. Otherwise, he sends me reams of emails each day, most of which are gibberish. Every now and then, however, I find he has written a clever bon mot or an interesting sentence or two that I share with you in T&T or on Facebook.)
C. Today’s Paraprosdokian:
I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need, if I die by four o’clock.
(A paraprosdokian with a violin is called a Henny Youngman. [IF you understand this you probably are even older than I am, from New York City and Jewish.])
D. Today’s Poem:
When Mazarvan the Magician,
Journeyed westward through Cathay,
Nothing heard he but the praises
Of Badoura on his way.
But the lessening rumor ended
When he came to Khaledan,
There the folk were talking only
Of Prince Camaralzaman.
So it happens with the poets:
Every province hath its own;
Camaralzaman is famous
Where Badoura is unknown.
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
E. Apologies, Regrets and Humiliations:
1. Ruth Galanter, who remembers more about my life than I do, reminded me that Jason had been in Italy 18 years ago and not 30 as I reported in my last T&T post. I apologize.
2. Gail Osherenko pointed out that I misspelled Antarctica by leaving out the first c. My mind and my spell-check failed again. I apologize.
Gail, by the way, is another intrepid traveller. Unlike the others I mentioned in the last issue of T&T, she travels both for pleasure and as part of her professional responsibilities. Like Ruth she visited Antarctica a few years ago but also stopped off at the Falklands and South Georgia as well. She often posts photographs of her travels on Facebook.
Marco is the son of my friend in Sicily, Gigi. He lives in Milan and is a Sport’s Nutritionist by day. My sister says he looks like a movie star. I love the jacket he’s wearing. It is Milan after all, the city of the well-dressed.