TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:
Why are these people smiling?
So, I spent the Memorial Day weekend at my sister’s house in Mendocino. The sky was overcast and the ocean calm and gray. It was abalone hunting season. Parked cars filled the side of the road along the bluff disgorging their black-rubber suited occupants and their tire irons. The divers lined up and marched down the sinuous steep paths that snaked along the bluff face to the water below. From the top of the bluff, they looked like a dark ant army covering the rocks and invading the kelp beds. A lot of them were Asian, Japanese and Chinese tourists I guess, flown over here for the abalone hunting season. I suspect, if they were Muslim the current administration in Washington would suddenly become abalone conservationists.
Most of the time, Mary, George and I sat in the house by the large windows overlooking the ocean talking and laughing among ourselves or buried in some book or reading the NY Times.
On Sunday, we went to the Casper Community Breakfast and Flea Market. Mary and George set up a few tables in the grassy area at the side of the Casper Community Center. On the tables, we placed a few things they had lying around their garage to be sold at the market.
I headed off for the community breakfast leaving them to their commercial endeavors. The community volunteer waitpersons sat me in a middle seat at a rectangular table seating six. I did not know anyone else at the table. Having as a result of my therapy an upset stomach, lost most of my hearing and taste, and blurry eyesight, I had little expectation of enjoying either the food or the company. Suddenly across the room, I saw a nose — Not just any nose but a magnificent nose. The nose was appended to the face of one of the woman volunteers waiting on the tables. As noses go, it was extremely well shaped. It was also huge as though insisting we all acknowledge its magnificence. It moved through the dining room like an icebreaker through the Arctic. I was enthralled.
As many of you know, I abhor the cult of small noses and people who have them. It is insulting to those individuals proud of their prominent noses to know that others are encouraged to cut theirs off so they may become fashionable. Why are tiny-tot noses so fashionable anyway? What are they hiding behind those tiny nostrils? How do they enjoy the full aromas of life around them? Where is the facial drama — the character — the pride?
Now that is a Nose to Remember.
B. BACK TO THE GOLDEN HILLS:
On Monday, Memorial Day, I drove back to EDH. It was a long but relatively pleasant drive— past Lake Mendocino, Lucerne (The Switzerland of California), Clear Lake, through the wildfire ravished forests of blackened trees, the folded hills and out into the green expanse of Great Valley and into the Golden Hills. Since returning, I have resumed exercising — walking around the lakes in Town Center and swimming in the pool at the health club.
One day, I took HRM to the orthodontist to have his braces removed. I was startled when, following the removal, I was invited to watch everyone, including the orthodontist himself, sing, dance and throw around balloons to celebrate HRM’s relief from two years of discomfort.
That is the orthodontist on the right showing off his dance routine.
When I was a kid I never heard of dancing dentists. I still think it is odd. Lampedusa in his novel Il Gattopardo has his main character, the aging Prince, after observing the antics of the younger nobility at the great ball of the Sicilian nobility, comment, “Just look at them. In another generation, they will be climbing back into the trees.”
My departure next week for Italy and Southeast Asia has me a bit anxious. A few months ago I spent two days planning the trip knowing I will still be suffering the side effects of my treatments. I researched and listed in a notebook all the things I absolutely should bring along with me and how they should be packed. I planned out meticulous itineraries and identified all the pertinent phone numbers and contacts I would need. Finally, I prepared a detailed budget. Then as I always do, I promptly ignored everything finding it all too complicated and deciding instead to wait for my departure date, grab whatever is near at hand and take off hoping for the best.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
For eight years I have sent out This and that from re Thai r ment to my best and closest eighty or so friends.(I have also published them in a blog https://josephpetrillo.wordpress.com/ ) I thought it would be interesting (to me at least) to go back and look at my first post from each year. Here are some excerpts:
January 17, 2010: From Thailand.
“I arrived safely in Thailand and am now attempting to cope with jet lag in my hotel.
Normally, I despise 20-hour plane rides, but sometimes, like on this trip, the movies make up for the discomfort. I managed to see:
‘The Bastards’: Great Tarantino. All the gratuitous violence you could want wrapped into an engaging story.
“Surrogates,” with Bruce Willis. He seems to make a career out of appearing beat up and disheveled. This was a lot like, but not as good as, “Twelve Monkeys” but worth seeing nevertheless.
“Zombie Land.” I expected to hate it but enjoyed it a lot. A road picture with 4 misfits who hook up and find a life, if only to fight zombies. Great bit with Bill Murray.
Some coming of age French flick with the usual, but much more intelligent, teenage angst and starring an actress whose name I did not catch playing the mother of one of the slightly wayward girls and who is one of the most engaging actresses I have seen in a while.
Well, that’s all for now, most of the rest has been sleep.”
January 11, 2011: From 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.”
January 1, 2012: From Thailand.
“Yesterday I was in my manic state, the drooling but happy one. On my way to exercise in the morning, I felt good enough to do an impromptu little soft shoe on the street corner including a Durante-like shuffle with my hat waving in my hand by the side of my face. The Little Masseuse was embarrassed and asked me to stop before people began to think I was not 100 percent.”
January 4, 2013: From El Dorado Hills.
“I am considering starting a new blog. It will focus on commentary about historical events. Of course, if it is anything like my current and past attempts at blogging, I can expect that after a year of effort, I will have received about 35 hits and perhaps a dozen comments. About half of the comments will be from Nigeria or someplace like that letting me know that my efforts have changed their lives and inquiring if I would be willing to open up a bank account in their name where they could deposit $20 million they just happened to find lying around in the jungle that, for “technical” reasons, they cannot move out of the country. The other half will come from people with names like Cindy, Mindy, Sandy, Darla, and Isabel telling me how “awesome” (yes, that is the word they use) they found my post to be and how awesome (again) it would be to get together sometime where we could exchange blogs in private.
Anyway, I am thinking of naming the blog, ‘A Commentary on Historical Events or What the Fuck Happened?’”
January 16, 2014: From El Dorado Hills.
“I have not written here for about three weeks in part because I have grown a bit tired of T&T, but mostly because my blood clots have returned and I am too depressed to do much of anything. Today was the first day I have been able to walk for any length of time since the clot was discovered. I walked this afternoon to the duck pond and back. It felt good to be up and about. The sun was shining and the weather was quite warm for this time of year.”
January 9, 2015: From El Dorado Hills.
“Today I said to myself, “The hell with the temperature or my physical maladies I’m going swimming.” So I dove into the outdoor pool at my new health club and swam for twenty minutes which is pretty good since I have not seriously exercised for over two months. After my swim, I spent some time in the hot tub, took a steam bath and showered. It made me very happy.”
January 14, 2016: From El Dorado Hills.
“On this the first day of the year 2016 of the Gregorian Calendar, my 76th year of life on this minor piece of interstellar detritus, I decided to review the 200 or so books I read in the past year. I discovered, to my not so great surprise, that I would classify all but about 20 of them as entertaining trash. My first resolution of 2016 is to reduce the number of non-trash novels I read to below 15. At my age, I see no pressing need for self-improvement.
My goal in life is to have no goals — a few desires perhaps but nothing greater than the most ephemeral of longings. When I was 5 or 6 years old and someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always responded, “ a bum” or “a hobo.” It seemed to me, even then, that any other life choice demanded submission to the desires usually of others but sometimes my own and not to the simple limits of nature. I guess this means I craved a minimalist life of aimless wandering punctuated by brief moments of inconsequential obsessions. It is a very hard thing to do. I usually just take a nap and consider the day a success.
Speaking of naps, I take them not so much to rest but to enter an alternate reality when my waking life seems to be on re-run. As an example, on Sunday HRM was gone on a play date, Dick decided to take the day off to rest and I had no car. It was cold and rainy, so going for a walk was out. I was soon bored with reading Facebook posts and decided to nap and visit my alternate reality. In this case, I found myself in a large log structure during the dead of a snow-filled winter day. There were several families living there in a communal arrangement. Most of the families were led by women but some were led by men. Children happily played around the fire pits. We seemed not to be stressed by any outside events that may have caused us to be there but, in fact, we appeared quite happy… and then toilet overflowed and things got weird — I could not get the plunger into the bowl, people kept telling me I was doing it all wrong, strange creatures appeared in the snow then disappeared and the overflow topped my shoes and drenched my socks. “Shit,” I exclaimed unnecessarily. So I woke myself up before things got worse and I went back to Facebook which although just as weird as my dreams at least my socks stay dry.”
January 1, 2017: From El Dorado Hills.
Treatment has begun to take on the feeling of a deadly boring job. Get up, off to work, come home and prepare for the next day, catch a few social interactions and some entertainment where one can.
HRM has settled happily into the Christmas dither, shopping for presents and planning the cake he intends to bake for us. I asked him what he would like for a present. He said, “A toy I can play with for a day and then forget.”
The week that began with great promise as to the course of my treatment came to a close with me feeling more like road kill. So, I complained to the hoards of technicians attending me at the hospital that I was beginning to question the value of experiencing the pain and that I considered balancing that against possibly living five more years or so. They gave me a prescription that I was to pick up the next morning at a pharmacy near the hospital.
The next morning, I arrived at the pharmacy and was given a bottle filled with a pink liquid. The medicine was labeled, “Magic Mouthwash.”
Now, I am of that generation where referring to something as Magic this or that was usually not medicine and certainly not approved by the FDA. In addition, this particular medicine did not come accompanied by those inserts containing, in small and unreadable print, descriptions and warnings about your purchase. Instead, it contained a one-page notice that read in part:
Uses: Consult your pharmacist.
How to Use: Consult your pharmacist.
Precautions: Consult your pharmacist.
Drug Interactions: Consult your pharmacist.
Side effects: Consult your pharmacist.
Overdose: Call 911 or local poison control center.
So, I asked the pharmacist. He took me into a corner and, sotto voce, rattled off several long GrecoRoman words representing the contents of the medicine. I gleaned there were a least two antibiotics and a pain control substance. The other two or three ingredients escaped me.
Anyway, I took the magic mouthwash with me to the hospital parking lot where, in my car, I poured the amount of liquid the pharmacist recommended into a small plastic cup and swished it around my mouth.
Suddenly pain shot through my entire body and everything went white. Sort of like what happens when one takes those magic potions that appear so prominently in the cheap fantasy novels I am so fond of reading. When my eyes cleared, I fully expected to see a few pixies tossing gold dust dancing in the car in front of me, a unicorn in the parking space beside me and Marley’s ghost. Instead, I found myself free of pain and washed in a warm comfortable glow.
So, I left the car, skipped through the rain and into the hospital to find the chief nurse of the Radiation Oncology Department.
She was in her office dressed in fuzzy antlers and Santa Claus cap and a dark green tunic covered in Christmas ornaments. “What do you know about “Magic Mouthwash,” I enquired?
The nurse is from England and speaks with a Cockney accent so thick that, at best, I could understand only every other word. She also refers to me as “my darling” instead of Joe, or Mr. Petrillo or even Pookie. “Oh that,” she responded. “That’s your doctor, Dr. Jones’, favorite potion.(yes she used that word).” “He and the pharmacist cooked it up for when the patients are experiencing too much pain.” She then listed the ingredients like the pharmacist did. This time I caught that one of them was a steroid. That, I thought, explained the skipping through the rain.
“Oh,” I said. “Uh, what about the FDA?”
“Don’t worry my darling, all the ingredients have been approved. They only mixed them together. The patients seem to like it a lot.”
“I can well understand that,” I responded.
A. Iroquois on Top:
“Who were the Haudenosaunee? (Pronounced Ho-deh-no-shaw-nee.) We know them as the Iroquois, a league of six nations of the Northeastern Indian tribes, consisting of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas (the original Five) and later the Tuscaroras. Their confederacy stretched across most of New York State to Lake Erie, south to the Adirondack chain, west to the Ohio Valley, and north into Ontario. Iroqu (meaning rattlesnake) was the name given to them by their enemies the Algonquins. The French added the suffix “ois,” as an insult, thus the name Iroquois. They preferred to be called the Haudenosaunee (People of the Long House).”
“Dekanawidah, born in Ontario, founded the Iroquois and bound the original five nations together into a Confederacy, establishing the Gayanashagowa – The Great Binding Law – which ensured a lasting peace among these independent tribes. They were bound together with this formal “constitution.” To this day the Iroquois are the oldest, continuous participatory democracy on Earth! The Ha do no sau nee, living in peace under one common law. They have practiced this representative form of government for centuries. In the Iroquois’ Book of the Great Law, there are striking parallels with our country’s Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches. It is well acknowledged by historians that the democratic principles of the Six Nations influenced and shaped the Constitution of the United States.”
“Apart from this remarkable fact is an even more astounding item. The clan mothers (or Gantowisas) were female officials who enjoyed political, economic, religious and social powers unprecedented and unparalleled in any civilization! These ladies owned the land and homes, and all the children. They had the right to adoption, to determine life and death. They declared and ended wars. They conferred or retracted citizenship. They had the exclusive right to raise up or depose Chiefs. They had to be represented in all councils. They made or abrogated treaties. They also held trusteeship of tribal property. The tribes relied on their opinion and ability to make wise decisions. These women were the political and social backbone of all the Confederacy.”
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
I have always craved a minimalist life of aimless wandering punctuated by brief moments of inconsequential obsessions.
C. Today’s Poem:
Excerpt from Lyrics to “The Crickets Have Arthritis,” by Shane Koyczan.
It doesn’t matter why I was there, where the air is sterile and the sheets sting.
it doesn’t matter that I was hooked up to this thing that buzzed and beeped every time my heart leaped, like a man whose faith tells him:
God’s hands are big enough to catch an airplane
or a world,
doesn’t matter that I was curled up like a fist protesting death,
or that every breath was either hard labor or hard time,
or that I’m either always too hot or too cold
it doesn’t matter because my hospital roommate wears star wars pajamas,
and he’s nine years old
His name is Louis
and I don’t have to ask what he’s got, the bald head with the skin and bones frame speaks volumes.
The Gameboy and feather pillow booms like, they’re trying to make him feel at home ‘cause he’s gonna be here a while
I manage a smile the first time I see him and it feels like the biggest lie I’ve ever told.
so I hold my breath
cause I’m thinking any minute now he’s gonna call me on it
I hold my breath
cause I’m scared of a fifty-seven-pound boy hooked to a machine, because he’s been watching me, and maybe I’ve got him pegged all wrong, like
maybe he’s bionic or some shit.
so I look away…
“They say Los Angeles is like The Wizard of Oz. One minute it’s small-town monochrome neighborhoods and then boom— all of a sudden you’re in a sprawling Technicolor freak show, dense with midgets.”
Wong, David. John Dies at the End (p. 23). St. Martin’s Press.
The Second Most Embarrassing Photograph Ever Taken of Me.