GOOD RIDDANCE TO 2017
“We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking. It is held in reverence. Some think it the voice of God.”
—MARK TWAIN, “Corn-Pone Opinions” (1901)
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
I went to see Bill on Thursday having received an email from Naida asking me to come to visit him as soon as possible and containing the following:
“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.”
I found Bill lying in bed. He appeared relatively upbeat. While Naida was out of the room scurrying about with the two full-time caregivers and the visiting nurse, I sat with him and held his hand. Later, Naida brought us some cookies and milk. As we drank the milk and ate the cookies, Bill turned to me and said, “You know, I always thought I was going to die with a shot glass full of whiskey in my hand, now it looks like instead, I will go out holding a glass of warm milk and a soggy cookie.”
We mostly sat in silence but now and then we talked about old times or about our respective maladies. After a few hours, the skies began to darken and I left promising to return again tomorrow or Saturday on my way to San Francisco to return the cane Peter left behind at my sister’s house.
On my way home, I wondered about how brave people die and why we do not throw up monuments to all those who face the endless dark with grace and humor.
I have not gone swimming in the pool since I returned from Mendocino. It is not that it has been too cold. It is more than I have felt too cold. I walk and lift weights but I feel especially tired and lethargic. Is it a harbinger or merely a result of sleeplessness? My nights are spent in repetitive dream states both exciting and disturbing. I wake often and now and then fear going back to sleep. I have a disturbing feeling in my stomach — heavy like constipation but it does not move.
Moe has died. I received this from Ruth today:
“I’m not sure how far the grapevine has already reached, so you may already know that, alas, Moe passed away yesterday afternoon.”
“His last round of difficulties began a few days after Thanksgiving with overwhelming inability to breathe. Luckily the property manager stopped in as he was gasping and called 911. I didn’t find out about any of this until the following Monday, by which time Moe was able to talk on the phone. He made it out of hospital into rehab a few days after that, and Jeoff and I visited him on Saturday 12/15 where we ran into Olga and Marshall. He was to go home, with help, the next Thursday–which was the day I flew to Vancouver, where I still am. Apparently, he did go home but then had another no-breathing episode which put him back in the hospital. He was in a ventilator, but they were unable to wean him from it and he seemed to lose brain function, at which point friends and family did what they (and I) were sure he would have wanted.”
“All I have heard so far is there will be a memorial but not immediately.”
“Please notify anyone you think may not already know and would want to.”
“And I wish you a happier year next year.”
More than an acquaintance and less than a companion, Moe was someone whose life and mine have intertwined or another one way for over 40 years. Rest in peace Moe.
Is it my age or the time of the year that is bringing such sorrow and loss? I do hope it will be a happier year next year.
HRM’s winter vacation is drawing to a close. I do not see him too often. He is at the age where he drifts in and out of the house, a sly smile on his face as though he has just discovered something that the rest of us could not possibly know or understand.
I was too ill on Friday to drive to Sacramento and visit Bill but on Saturday, feeling a bit better, I set off again. I first stopped at Raley’s and bought some cookies, candies, and dates for them. Remembering Bill’s quip about milk and booze, I purchased a small bottle of Jack Daniels.
When I got to the house, I found Bill fairly comatose and Naida understandably distressed. When I showed Naida the whiskey and explained my reasons, Bill, who we had thought was asleep, let out an explosive laugh and whispered something that sounded like, “I don’t believe it.” Naida found a shot glass and we put it into his hand, filled it with the Jack and helped guide it to his lips. He drank it down, gave the expected cough and went back to sleep. It was probably my imagination but I thought I saw a bit of a smile play across his lips.
Back in EDH, I drove HRM and his friends here and there, read a bit, and spent more time than I would like in bed feeling a bit under the weather. On New Year’s Eve, we all retired early. The next morning I drove HRM and his friend, Tyson, to the Skate Board Park. From there I called Naida to see how Bill was doing. She told me that he had died in the middle of the night just as the old year also passed. She was understandably quite distressed. During her ramblings about his last hours, the many things that need doing now and reminisces she mentioned something about Bill that I had not known before.
Apparently, many years before Bill, Naida and many other parents in the neighborhood were upset with Little League because its rules and regulations excluded many children from participating, so Bill created and for several years managed a youth baseball league open to everyone, boys, girls, and those too young or too un-athletic to thrive in the Little League. The kids loved it. Naida added that throughout the years since they would run into people who had played in that league who would tell them how much it meant to them and how much they enjoyed it.
I spent the rest of the day moping around the house.
2017 was an awful year. It began awful and ended even more so. It began with “Not My President” taking the oath of office and me in treatment for throat cancer and ended with the death of friends, fear of cancer’s return and “Not My President” still in office. I hope for all our sakes we do not experience its like again.
January 2, 2018, began with clear cold sunlight slashing through the windows. Dick had already left for work and Hayden was still asleep in his room. I puttered around a bit hoping that H would wake up soon so that I could take him and his friend Tyson to the Skate Park. After all, this is the first day of the rest of my life and I am determined to make it a good one. A great day is not required, pleasant will do —even better than average would be acceptable but I will try for great. I think I will do the laundry today.
As that great American philosopher Scarlett O’Hara opined, “Tomorrow is another day.” I certainly hope so.
Who am I?
I am at that point in my life where, I suppose like many people, I begin to contemplate that ineffable question, “Who am I?” — or perhaps “Why?”— then again maybe not. Who cares?
Let’s cut to the chase. I have always thought of myself as… Well, in a quantum world “always” does not exist or matter. So let me instead begin with — As I write this, I think of myself as an ascetic hedonist. That makes no sense you may say. How can one be both ascetic and a hedonist at the same time? (I guess, a person who gets pleasure out of self-flagellation can be described that way. But, that is beyond what I can handle right now.)
Anyway, let me explain the image I have of myself. I picture myself as a hermit living in a remote cave in the middle of a great desert somewhere. Every morning I get up just before sunrise, go out to some miserable rocky place, contort myself into an unpleasant and uncomfortable pose and contemplate or hum or something else all day.
I would contemplate life’s meaning — real meaning like, “Why was I doing this in the first place?” “Am I just a sick human being?” “What happens after this, whatever this is ?”
If I may digress from my digression, let me discuss my problems with what some large groups of people say comes after this, whatever this is?
There are, for example, a large group of people who believe that if you are male and an efficient killer after you die you get to be locked up forever with a bunch of young virgin women who probably will not remain virgins for long. Everyone else, other than other killers locked up like you, gets to sit on the outside doing nothing apparently except wondering what you guys are doing inside. I think I would prefer to be with the outsiders, at least we probably get to shrug our shoulders and roll our eyes now and then.
Another large group seems to believe that if in your life you get to avoid people who disagree with you, or force them to agree with you, or kill them if they don’t or they get too close to you, you then get to spend all eternity staring a some self-important serial killer surrounded by armed hermaphrodite thugs and listening to Gregorian Chant. Those not so lucky get to spend their time boiled in flaming vats of sulfur and oil. Now I have nothing against Gregorian Chant, but I think I prefer being boiled in sulfur and oil if I could not hear something else now and then — even country and western. Well, maybe not that.
Then, there are those that believe if you do nothing but not hard enough or if you do something during life after you die you return as a maggot. If you’re lucky, you get eaten by a crow before you do anything and if you come back again, say a thousand times, doing nothing you may get to be good enough at doing nothing other than thinking about yourself so that after you die you then get to come back as… well, nothing, forever. What’s the point?
There are also those who believe that, if you spend your life running around killing people and you get to be so good at it that other people make up songs about how efficient you were at mayhem, or they erect statues to you, you then get to spend all eternity with homicidal maniacs like yourself in a sunny place with a lot of grass playing something like football and drinking warm beer. Everyone else gets to live in a cold dreary place weeping and crying forever, except for one or two who get to push rocks up hills or have their liver torn out every day by hawks. Given the choice of eternal football and warm beer or weeping and crying in a cold dreary place, I’ll take the latter. It seems more like life, doesn’t it?
Well, enough of that. Let’s get back on topic, “Who am I?”
On the Hedonist side, I would want my cave to have a nice bed, internet connection, food delivery, maid service, a sauna and of course hot water. Even at a minimum, I could tolerate a well-padded sleeping bag as long as all the other things were included especially hot water preferably in a tub or a pool and in my espresso.
Once a week, I would travel to nearby podunk town, go to a loud crowded bar (if loud and crowded were unavailable any bar would do) order a beer, take it to a table in a far corner or the far edge of the bar and sit quietly nursing my beer and watching everything or if there is no one but an old drunk sitting at the other end of the bar then staring at my beer wishing I were back in my cave tucked warmly in my bed. Later, I would return to my cave and, after a warm bath and a joint, crawl into bed, spend a few moments of what is euphemistically called self-love and then drift off to sleep contemplating the pleasures of crouching on the stony ground pondering “what’s it all about?”
What’s it all about? Well, it’s not existentialism. After all, I think I have meaning even if you don’t. It’s not about, oh,… say solipsism. When you think about it, when you’re deaf dumb and blind crawling face down through a sea of mud and you strike something else, it is not just you alone, is it? There are other isms too, a lot of them, but I think they all end up in more or less the same place— usually not someplace I want to end up. As for a Supreme Being who actually cares for you, I think we’ve disposed of that above.
So what else is there? There’s you and there’s me. We may never meet or be the same, but I think that’s the way it should be, don’t you?
And, that is who I think I am —then again, maybe not.
A. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
America was built on the premise of avoiding the question of whether something is true or is fantasy. Whenever, however, such questions could not be avoided, Americans usually chose fantasy.
B. Today’s Poem:
The God Who Only Knows Four Words
Has known God,
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does
But the God who only knows four words
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come dance with Me.”
Hafiz (14th Century Sufi poet)
C. Some Comments on Previous Post:
I loved reading about Christmas in Mendocino, brings back many wonderful memories. We always said it doesn’t feel like Christmas until Christmas Eve at MaryAnne’s. The sentiment remains true. I am thinking next year I’d like to go away to Mexico.
Reading about Molly warmed my heart. She has indeed been like a daughter to me since the first summer she spent here with us.
I’m so sorry to hear about your friend Bill. Much love to you ❤️
Let me know if there’s any possibility of traveling with you in September. The kids & I will look forward to it.
We returned then because Blind Lemon Pledge had a street gig on 24th St the next day. The Noe merchants each year in this holiday season promote some music in the mini-parks on the street where car parking used to be. We’ve played these a couple of years now. Small world frolic — or, a vigorous response to the stochastic dreariness of large numbers – During our performance, a man came up, listened, and after the song introduced himself as a music writer (among other things). Turns out he wrote the article in the recent N.V. Voice that mentioned that Chez Marius, our local bistro, was having music. I had read this and arranged for us to play there (including last night!) and told the writer that he, and his article, were responsible for that.
All those Buddhist monks in their gompas have it, but they have to do a Lot of work, drink that nasty yak butter tea, and wake up at 3 a.m.
Still More Peter.
On the other hand, non-Americans look bemused at Americans’ apparent overriding fixation on money. What is happening just now with the recent American elections and the now-very visible triumph of The Oligarchy of the Billionaires couldn’t make this fixation clearer.
Even More Peter.
Consider: Rather than face the prospect of continued human existence within a limited, enclosed artificial environment where you never feel the fresh sea breeze blow in (assuming, of course, that you had a ticket to ride), people could stop burning fossil fuels, causing droughts and mass migrations, and other suicidal nest-fouling activities. But, seems there are too many who say “apres moi le deluge” and carry on. Survey question: How many of them think that (a) they will go to heaven, or (b) come back as a boddhisatva, or (c) simply don’t give a shit?
Peter Once Again.
It’s Oy Vay. [Technical Note: I had to type this twice because the code-writers, who want to be So Helpful, made the unilateral decision to make this machine show Oy Way (and right here just now, it tried Oy Bay!). This helpful intention results in inefficiency and irritation. Of course, the code-writers are all goyem. (Get this: it just typed “gooey” instead of goyem.) Start a movement: More Yiddish-fluent code writers needed. Fill the Washington DC Mall with hundreds of thousands chanting and waving banners emblazoned with “Oy Vay! All The Way!” (it just tried Oy Bay again).
“Marx famously called religion the opium of the people, and when Lenin founded the Soviet Union, he agreed, saying it was ‘used for the…stupefaction of the working class.’ But neither man had ever been to the United States, to see that for Americans it was as much or more a stimulant and hallucinogen than a stupefying opiate.”
Andersen, Kurt. Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History (p. 292). Random House Publishing Group.