“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Stevie Dall.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
Over a week of temperatures above 100 degrees baked the parched golden hills and drove me indoors for most of each day. HRM and Richard leave for a week in Hawaii and SWAC has invited friends to join her watching the sprinklers turn on and off. So, I decided to leave for my sister’s house in Mendocino.
I first drove to SF for lunch with Terry during which we opined on the frailties of growing old and life’s regrets. For me, while many things I have done or experienced have saddened and humiliated me and harmed others, I cannot conceive or even wish that they never happened because then I would no longer be me sitting here and typing this. I would be someone else. Would I be willing to surrender all the memories, good and bad, accumulated from the point that the distressing event occurred? I do not think so.
On a cold New Year’s morning in our house in Yorktown Heights, New York, I was awakened by my wife’s scream, “My baby is dead.” Later as we drove away from the cemetery, I recall glancing back the burial site on that cold forgotten hilltop. Does it sadden me still? Yes. But, had it not happened, I would not a few months later have left for Europe, my life in a shambles and begun the rest of my life. Would I surrender all my life’s memories, the good and the bad, since then for her life? Then, yes. Now over 50 years later would I surrender my life since then, my memories, all loves, joys, and sorrows? I am not so sure. Would she have been happy? I do not know. In my experience most of us simply endure, taking happiness when we can. Our musings as we pass from old to aged raise more questions than we dreamed existed when we were younger.
After lunch, I drove over to Bernie’s Coffee Shop in Noe Valley in hope of meeting up with Peter and Barrie, but they were not around. I then called my son, who I planned to have dinner with, but he was still working and I, fearful of driving long distances at night, decided to leave for Mendocino.
B. MENDOCINO ON MY MIND:
Where the weather in the Golden Hills is blazing hot, here at the edge of the continent it is winter cold, socked in with fog and strong wind. My morning walks steer clear of the bluff edge and winds its way from coffee shop to bookstore searching for warmth, coffee and the latest mystery thriller with which to pass the time.
One morning, I drove along the Navarro and Albion Ridge Roads a few miles south of Mendocino to search for the house of Michael Moore. Michael was a dear friend during the seventies. He was a Monterey County Supervisor when I first met him. Later, he built a house here in Mendocino on one of the two ridges — I do not remember which. Still later, when he was in his late forties, he accepted a fellowship to pursue an economics doctorate at Cambridge in England. One night, while standing on a bridge over the river contemplating reasons to go on living, a little man in a wheelchair, the great Steven Hawking, scooted out of the darkness, rolled up to him and asked, “Are you all right. Is there anything I can do to help?” A few days later on a call to me, Michael remarked, “Can you imagine Steven Hawking, confined to a wheelchair most of his life by a horrible degenerative disease asks if he could help me?” That was the last time Michael and I spoke.
A few days later, I was stricken again by the infection that had driven me twice before to the emergency room. With George and Mary’s help, we got some antibiotics from my doctor and following three days of shakes, chills, confusion and what have you, I began sweating heavily, my fever broke and I was able to think clearly again. It is strange that whenever that happens, for a few days, my mind seems better able to focus. The last time, I wrote in my mind a number of short stories. One, if you can believe it, was an update of Poe’s A Cask of Amontillado. This one takes place in the Berkley Hills where a not so happily married upper-middle-class retiree decides to kill someone. He chooses a man he hates simply because of a slight he received many years ago. He entombs his victim live in a mausoleum at a cemetery located in the hills along with a bottle of Amontillado purchased just for the occasion. The next day, he resumes his unremarkable life and joins his wife at the Opera where they have had season tickets for the past 35 years. He hates opera.
This time, I decided to concentrate on myself as the hero here in Mendocino. I went through stories of earthquakes, murder mysteries, secret tunnels under the town, but the one I liked the best was the Selkie. Here is a synopsis of some of it.
Feeling a little better, I drove to Ft. Bragg and went for a walk along Ten Mile Dunes. Being tired, I sat on a grass tussock with my walking stick propped on my knees. The fog had moved in shrouding the place in pearlescent mist, the ocean placid and dark. I noticed a seal or sea lion playing in the water. It seemed almost like it was performing a dance of some sort. I smiled. It stopped its play for a moment and stared at me with a liquid dark eye. Then, I saw a shadow and a fin of what I thought was a shark rippling through the waters heading toward the seal. I jumped up, ran across the sand and shouted, “Look out! Get away!” I even threw my beloved walking stick at the shadow in the hope it would drive it away. The exertion of getting so quickly to my feet brought back the fainting spells I had been suffering recently. The world started to go black. I began to spasm as I tried to fight the sudden loss of muscle control. I felt awful that I could not help save the seal. I settled back on my haunches onto the wet sand and passed out.
I do not know how long I sat there hunched over, but the next thing I became aware of was a hand on my arm pulling me up and someone saying, “Are you OK mister.” The darkness receded. I looked for the seal in the water or for blood but saw neither. I then noticed the person holding my arm, She was a slight young woman, short not slender having that soft layer of fatty tissue that can make a woman round everywhere. I guess she was beautiful in her own way. She looked slightly Asian or Amerindian, perhaps Intuit. She seemed to be about 30 years old and was wearing what appeared to be an animal skin inside out. Her hair was thick dark brown that hung down in wet strings below her shoulders.
She took my hand and a sudden warmth flowed through me. I felt much better. Better than I had felt for quite some time now. She said, “Thank you for what you tried to do,” and handed me my walking stick back.
She accompanied me back to my car. Holding my arm to help my balance should I become dizzy again. We saw each other every day thereafter. I eventually learned she was a Selkie.
She explained that many years ago the Selkies, recognizing the threat from the far more populous and aggressive Humans, like many of the spirit creatures, decided to hide among us rather than fleeing deeper into nature. Although Selkies were extremely long-lived, they still could be killed. So, they tried to live wherever they could avoid becoming the objects of violence. She, for example, lived in an isolated house on the banks of the Navarro River where she could secretly slip into the water whenever she wanted and change into her Selkie self.
They, however, at the very beginning, presciently established an investment program that over the past 400 years made the few Selkies remaining quite wealthy, despite their modest living arrangements.
There are many things I could tell about those first few days after we met and thereafter, but that is for another time. I should mention, however, that one day I asked her why she, a young woman, was so interested in a friendship with me, an old man. After mentioning her gratitude for my actions on the beach when we first met, she added that she also saw I was one of the spirit ones.
It seems, many years ago, in the Apennines of Italy and especially near Mt Vergine there lived a group of mountain and forest spirits. When not in their human shape, they cavorted among the peaks as large black bears. With the movement into the mountains by men, they knew their times were ending. So they bred with humans when they could and their sons and daughters lived among them eventually forgetting what they were.
After a lengthy process, she enabled me to reassume my identity, Unfortunately, in my human form I would always be an old man. Nonetheless, I began traveling to the tundra of Alaska where I built a tiny remote cabin. There I would change into my bear form. I loved standing up on my hind legs, feet planted in the muck front paws flapping at my sides and roaring my head off at the other bears in the area. I had to be careful, though. I could mix it up all right, but one of the massive paws of those big boys and girls could tear your head off. I also liked getting drunk on the spring berries and rolling around in the mud. Sometimes, I would spend most of the day standing ankle deep in a crashing stream batting salmon onto the banks. That was fun.
I hated hunters, though. Not all hunters. I ignored the other hermits living in the wilderness hunting for food. Trophy hunters, however, would enrage me. Sometimes I would bring a rifle with me. If I discover hunters lurking about, I would resume my human shape, hunt them in turn, and kill them. Now and then, in my human shape I would join up with the hunters and just when they would get ready to shoot a bear or an elk, I would turn back into a bear grab them and throw them off a cliff or something like that. I liked to see the fear in their eyes. Once, I came upon hunters who had just killed a magnificent elk. I grabbed them, one in each arm. I called a herd of elk over and allowed some of the bigger and stronger bucks to drive their antlers into them and carry them off screaming and bloody into the woods.
I also hated that in my bear shape I was addicted to honey. I despised sitting there with a silly grin on my mouth stoned on honey, all sticky with honey covering my paws, snout, and fur while angry bees crawled all over me. I’d then fall asleep and wake up all groggy and promise myself I would never do it again.
This is a continuation of my ramble through my favorite eras of history that I began in my previous post.
The First Centuries:
The first centuries here means the first centuries on either side of the BC-AD (or in more modern terms BCE-CE) dividing line. Why is this period important? Well, for a lot of reasons known to many but for me, it marks the point in time when religion changed from adaptive to exclusive.
You see, it used to be that when one tribe with their gods marched in to conquer someplace with different gods, whoever won would often either install their gods on the top of the losers gods or adopt those gods if it appeared advantageous. Over the years, with the priests and minstrels telling the tales, things got pretty mashed up and no one could really remember what was what and what actually happened when and to whom. And, when you think about it, for the average citizen what difference did it make whose god was on top as long for their day to day needs they had their local god to take care of them? It made no more difference to them than whether the king came from this side of the river or the other side.
Then, in about 1300 BC or so in Egypt, the Egyptian King (Pharaoh) named Amenhotep IV had a bright idea. “Why not have just one God?” he enquired. He thought his idea was so clever he changed his name to Anknahten after the god he invented. When they heard about his plan, Pharaoh’s advisors tried to explain to him the political problems with his proposal. For example, what about the cost of making sure ordinary people were not secretly praying to their old gods? What do we do about the unemployed priests of all the other gods? More importantly, when an ambassador from another country comes to town or our hired foreign troops come to town whom do they worship? Wouldn’t it make it more difficult to conquer another country if they knew they had to give up their gods? And so on.
Pharaoh like most kings who think they have a bright idea did not listen to his advisors and his kingdom fell into the toilet in no time. It was so bad that shortly after his death they tried to erase his memory from history.
But alas, bad ideas have a way of popping up when you least expect it or certainly when you least need them to.
(to be continued in the next post)
“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”
A. Pookie on Top:
Perhaps, the most important thing in deciding which candidates to vote for in an election is whether you believe you can persuade them to support your position on an issue after the election not necessarily whether or not they agree with them before it. Few politicians will pick up the heavy load on a policy unless forced into it by the pressure of the citizenry or by the parasite community (lobbyists, etc.). Frankly, irrespective of what most of the electorate hopes for when they mark their ballots, the heavy lifting on changes in policy still demands the commitment, time, and money of the citizens in order to come to pass. The Constitution was drafted, in part, to make major changes in policy extremely difficult without massive support of the citizenry.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
I wonder if even the most obsessive supporter of Donald Trump for President believes he would make an appropriate CEO for say Morgan Stanley, or Google, or a major Hospital and Medical Center in a large urban center, or a General commanding our troops on a battlefield? Probably not. Why then would they consider him qualified to run the nation’s largest financial institution, research operation, medical delivery system, the nation’s military establishment and much much more all rolled into one?
C. Today’s Poem:
“I think a friend’s a man of thought
Who’ll always hold out his decent hand,
To give as true friends surely ought.
He’ll take away not a grain of my sand,
Nor any blade of my greenest grass,
Nor a leaf from any of my apple trees.
He lets all slights and insults pass,
And he says to his friend, ‘You are me.’”
Delaney, Frank. Ireland: A Novel (p. 197). HarperCollins.
D. Some Comments on my Previous Post:
I love your haikus and the astutely sorted-out summary of human origins/migrations. So sorry about the catharsis. Would that we could damn old age and walk away from it with our heads high!
I’m done with the State Fair. Another year gone, 20 yrs since I drafted that contract (renewed each year). Next year I’ll have my memoir to sell. If I can endure another 18 straight 12- hr days of engaged effort, forced smiles, and a din like none other — followed by a 45-min drive home in the flashing headlights and dark and difficult road. Here’s a pic by a booth visitor.
2. The Deep Sea Diver.
Hi there joe. …Eric here …..
Still here….in the same shithouse……with the same problems….only a bit bigger….
But. Interesting…..hope to see you after your Operation……
Can I do anything for you……….please let me know………
Your Friend. Eric
You may not remember this quite as vividly as I do, but it was one of those budget sessions that triggered my contract with the Conservancy. I do not remember what I was doing in Sacramento, but I met you on the lawn at the Capitol and you were smiling, so I asked why and you said, “the Legislature just doubled my budget.” At that point, I clutched your arm and you said, “oh, you want a job.” Statement, not question. “Yes.” “I can’t give you a job; I’ll make you a consultant.” And the rest is history, or herstory.
Hi Joe, how are you feeling?
You are great! I like to read what you send me every time!
Even if I don’t understand every single word, I understand 🙂
Hope you enjoy your sister’s birthday!
Hugs from Italy
Thank you and love you all.
“…the hierarchy of rich and poor – which mandates that rich people live in separate and more luxurious neighborhoods, study in separate and more prestigious schools, and receive medical treatment in separate and better-equipped facilities — seems perfectly sensible to many Americans and Europeans. Yet it’s a proven fact that most rich people are rich for the simple reason that they were born into a rich family, while most poor people will remain poor throughout their lives simply because they were born into a poor family.”
Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (p. 136). HarperCollins.