“[T]he only way to live without failure is to be of no use to anyone.”
Sanderson, Brandon. Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive (p. 789). Tom Doherty Associates.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
It was still raining as I set off for my biopsy appointment this morning. I soon discovered something wrong with my car. It would suddenly slow down as though climbing a great steep mountain while the engine screamed like it raced the devil himself. Nevertheless, I had little choice but to push doggedly on if I were to enjoy the pleasure of having needles poked into my throat today.
But, it was not to be. The car gave out on the freeway, all smoking, and rattling. I managed to get it to roll into a nearby gas station. Luckily, Dick was in the area and picked me up on his way to work. He drove me to my appointment in Sacramento. After, an anticlimactic but still unsavory experience having someone jab needles into my neck, I found myself without a means to return to EDH and attend to my automobile crisis. So, I called Stevie and Norbert who, once again, rescued me without complaint. Norbert drove me back to EDH.
Unfortunately, it appeared my car had blown a gasket and remained little more than junk and sat uselessly at a gas station in Folsom. Woe is me.
I needed to spend the day figuring out where to tow it to and find another car to buy. So, I got to work and soon rose to the level of my incompetence and began to panic. For someone who has managed significant organizations now and then, panic should not be in my vocabulary, but alas, there it was peeking up at me like a rattlesnake in a leaf pile. What would a high powered executive do in this situation? Simple, I thought, find someone else and tell him (or her) to do it. But, who? I am not paying anyone who I could inspire (trans. terrorize) to do it. Perhaps, it is time for a nap I suggested to myself — that always makes me feel better.
I didn’t nap — ate a sandwich instead (peanut butter and jelly on an English muffin) and turned to the Amazon website and bought some books — the newest James Lee Burke novel “Robicheaux,” and the third book in a series with a video game plot where the adventurers explore a dungeon and kill things in order to amass wealth or are often themselves killed by the dungeon. What makes it even remotely tolerable is that it is written mostly from the dungeon’s perspective. These books, in addition to the two I am currently reading, should occupy my time until January 16 when two novels I have really been looking forward to are scheduled to be published.
Having done that, I was still stuck deciding what to do about my car. It was 4:30 PM so I thought it was a good time to finally take my nap.
Anyway, to make what is becoming a long story a little bit shorter eventually, I thought I had resolved everything. Alas, here it is two days later and most of my resolving has fallen through. The broken down car remains parked at the gas station waiting for the charity I blessed it with to pick it up on Monday. My inability to arrange until next weekend for a co-signer on the loan for the car I chose to buy to replace my charitable donation leaves me carless for the next 10 days or so. Oh well, as Terry says, “Onward and upward.” Well, perhaps not so much upward…and maybe not so much onward either…so, I guess I am left with just, “Whatever.”
Today, since I still do not have a car, Dick, after taking HRM to school, dropped me off at Bella Bru for my usual breakfast. The walk back home was pleasant. It is about as long as my daily walks around the Lakes. I passed the Indomitable Oak on the way. It finally lost its leaves.
The now leafless Indomitable Oak.
I have finished reading Dungeon Calamity and am half-way through Robicheaux. Dave and Clete continue their bromance while, with their usual violence and self-indulgence, maneuvering through Burke’s typical plot focused on Southern guilt and Dave and Clete’s maudlin memories. (It should be noted that whenever Dave does something wrong, he either get’s drunk, goes to an AA meeting or goes to church. Sometimes he just beats someone up. Clete, on the other hand, either gets drunk [he never goes to an AA meeting or into a church], beds the wrong woman or lifts weights. Sometimes he too just beats someone up. They both like to fish from a pirogue floating on the bayou — it seems to relax them.)
I cannot get enough of Burke’s lush poetic sentences.
“Regardless of the time of year—even in spring, when the petals of the azaleas were scattered on the grass and the sunlight was transfused into a golden-green presence inside the canopy of live oaks—the rooms of the house remained cold and damp, the lichen on the trees and flagstones and birdbaths and even the tombs of the original owners a testimony to the decay and slow absorption of man’s handiwork on the earth.”
Burke, James Lee. Robicheaux: A Novel (p. 163). Simon & Schuster.
In two days, I have my appointment with the doctor who will tell me if my cancer has returned. Obviously, it is on my mind. Tonight, I feel neither fear nor despair — just the sense that life goes on and on until it no longer does and worries about the inevitable have little reason to impact my consciousness, emotions or behavior.
Today was overcast. Dick dropped me off at my usual breakfast place. But because it looked like it was going to rain, I walked home instead of going on to the HC. Back at the house, I took a dollop of medicinal MJ and then, for about an hour, listened to Astrid Gilberto and Brubeck’s, A Girl from Ipanema, and U2’s, Songs of Innocence; finished reading Robicheaux; started on the 4th volume of Maxwell’s Shifting Tides series; and tried not to think too much about the next few days. Then, I took a long nap. When I awoke, it was time for dinner. Tomorrow is more than another day for me.
It’s Wednesday morning, Dick dropped me off an IHOP about 3 or 4 miles from the doctor’s office. After breakfast, I walked to my appointment. Walking through the commercial areas of suburbia is not for the faint-hearted. The drivers cruise down the main streets or squeal out of driveways seemingly oblivious to what their metal clad vehicles could do to flesh and blood should they strike the rare pedestrian walking along. To make it worse, the constant repetition of the built environment lulled me into a drug like trance as I rambled on oblivious to the cars whizzing by and the world around me.
At one point, I spotted a historical marker in the bushes. It identified a strip mall parking lot as the place where in 1848 a Mormon prospector sent by BY himself to scout out a location on which to build the Mormon homeland and to find gold to pay for it, actually did find gold — a lot of it. BY, however, decided he and his co-religious minions were not going to travel any further west than the shores of the Great Salt Lake. So, he ordered the prospector to close up shop and bring the gold with him to Utah. The prospector did so, hiding it in the wagon that transported him and his family over the mountains and across the desert. Once he arrived at the Great Salt Lake they used the gold to finance the local mint, the profits from which funded the Mormon Empire back when it was just a struggling start-up.
Anyway, eventually, I arrived at the doctor’s office fully convinced my dark thoughts were to become even darker following his report.
I was surprised. The doctor bounced into the examination room, said, “Good News. The biopsy was negative,” and after a few seconds of happy-talk sent me on my way with an appointment to see him again in May. It seems, this month so far has been a series of anti-climaxes.
As I waited for the Uber driver to pick me up and drive me back home, I felt both elated and embarrassed. Elated because I now could get on with my bucket list knowing that the inevitable pain and misery that usually comes with the winding down of our clock as we age has been put off for at least another year or two. Embarrassed, because for the past month or so, I have been busily bemoaning to all who would listen to the emotional sufferings generated by the inevitability of my early demise. To all that I have burdened with my now obviously imagined concerns about my health, I apologize.
B. RAGGED ROBIN’S NATURE NOTES:
“I just loved this book — a young botanist’s story of his quest to see every UK orchid in one year. His passion shines through and there is so much information on orchids. It certainly made me want to go out and search for some orchids of my own — a very inspiring writer.”
JP — Every orchid in the UK in one year? Wow! People with obsessions sure make life interesting for those of us who choose just to sit around and watch.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
Since this is the beginning of the New Year, and a time to reminisce as well as to plan for the future, I thought it appropriate to re-post a portion of a prior T&T issue written in 2010 shortly after I had begun living in Thailand:
I last wrote on Friday while waiting for the plane to take us to BKK. Today is Wednesday, March 31 in Thailand. I am sitting in a restaurant in Jomtien Beach situated across the road from the sand and water and in front of the condo complex in which I have rented a studio apt. for the next six months.
When I arrived in BKK from Chiang Mai on Friday, I had a little boy who loved me and who I loved in return and had a large house in Paradise. When I left BKK Tuesday for Pattaya, I had none of them. His mother (SWAC) decided to take him on to Italy and then the US and was not planning on returning anytime in the foreseeable future.
In my life, I have lost a child to SIDS, and two children to domestic turmoil. Eventually, the two returned — one after eight months, surrendered by his mother who could no longer cope, and the other, years later. She returned on her own through an act of courage and self-awareness far beyond that usually found in an eight-year-old. And now, thirty years later, an innocent little four-year-old boy wanting not much more than security and stability is wrenched away from his home back into aimless wandering from place to place and sudden abandonment. With each loss, the pain is deeper but the mourning briefer.
I have moved from Paradise in Chiang Mai to Pattaya that some say is more than halfway to Hell. Jomtien Beach is considered the quiet side of Pattaya, but it still sits squarely on the road to damnation.
No more, the well-tended lawns of Paradise in the Mountains or the panting missionaries out to save my soul; the quiet nights were broken by the moans and screams as the rodents, snakes and feral cats play out the drama of life and death in the wild lands surrounding the walled gardens of that Paradise. No more, the bird songs and flowering trees. I realize now that even Paradise without the laughter and squeals of children playing seems dull indeed. No more, the tall blond uniformed children on the manicured playing fields dreaming of a world with a Jesus whose only demands on them are to believe in him and to vote Republican. Instead, I now reside somewhere on the road to hell, peopled by boney nosed tattooed pot-bellied men worshiping the goddess “poon-tang” and slight pretty women dreaming of salvation from the poverty and penury of their lives by the wealth extracted from their tattooed pot-bellied devotees.
As irony would have it, my apartment is located in the Jomtien Paradise Condominiums. At night I can look out from my balcony towards the lights of Hell (Yes, you can see Hell from Paradise.) In my mind’s eye, I see neon reflecting like jewels from the dragon’s fire on the beads of sweat spawned by the desperation of desire. And do you know something, for the first time in three months, I feel like I can breathe.
From Brad Delong’s blog, Grasping Reality with Both Hands:
180.8 Million people are represented by the 49 senators who caucus with the Democrats.
141.7 Million people are represented by the 51 senators who caucus with the Republicans.
65.9 million people voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton and Tim Kaine to be their president and vice president
63.0 Million people voted for Donald Trump and Mike Pence to be their president and vice president.
JP — This seems to indicate we are something less than a functioning democracy.
A. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blogs of the Week:
This article by Dean Baker appears in a blog published by The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). It discusses and analyzes the market values of Bitcoin, Amazon, and Tesla and concludes they all are bad perhaps even catastrophic long-term investments for anyone.
This site contains the study by the Labor Center of “the California Policy Model,” a set of 51 policy measures enacted by California between 2011 and 2016 addressing workers’ rights, environmental issues, safety net programs, taxation, infrastructure, and housing. Critics predicted that these policies would reduce employment and slow economic growth, while supporters argued that they would raise wages for low-wage workers, increase access to health insurance, lower wage inequality, and reduce carbon emissions. The paper assessed some of these claims and concluded that employment and GDP growth were not adversely affected, wages for low-wage workers and overall health insurance rates rose, wage inequality declined modestly and the State was on its way to meeting its 2020 carbon emissions reduction goals.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
1. No society, if it hopes to survive, can, either directly or indirectly, surrender to an individual, institution or groups of individuals or institutions unbridled and uncontrolled dominance over its economic and political well-being, no matter how apparently beneficial it appears at the time.
2. We are better off as a society to first agree to what we want our society look like and then act to make it so than to just hope for the best or trust to individual efforts alone.
3. A fair and just society never ever follows the advice of those with the most to gain financially.
4. A fair and just society resists giving collective funds or financial advantage to those with the resources to compete for them on their own.
5. There is no magic wand, invisible hand, or strong and brilliant leader that can save us from our folly. If we believe that, then Pogo was right when he said so long ago, “We have met the enemy and he is us“.
Quotations to ponder and ponderous quotations.
Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.
A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.
Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.
C. Today’s Poem:
Song to Mead
Book of Taliesin XIX
I WILL adore the Ruler, chief of every place,
Him, that supports the heaven: Lord of everything.
Him, that made the water for every one good,
Him, that made every gift, and prospers it.
May Maelgwn of Mona be affected with mead, and affect us,
From the foaming mead-horns, with the choicest pure liquor,
Which the bees collect, and do not enjoy.
Mead distilled sparkling, its praise is everywhere.
The multitude of creatures which the earth nourishes,
God made for man to enrich him.
Some fierce, some mute, he enjoys them.
Some wild, some tame, the Lord makes them.
Their coverings become clothing.
For food, for drink, till doom they will continue.
I will implore the Ruler, sovereign of the country of peace,
To liberate Elphin from banishment.
The man who gave me wine and ale and mead.
And the great princely steeds, beautiful their appearance,
May he yet give me bounty to the end.
By the will of God, he will give in honour,
Five five-hundred festivals in the way of peace.
Elphinian knight of mead, late be thy time of rest.
This poem refers to the famous drink of the iron age, mead, the honey wine. It is associated with warrior bravado (especially as it appears in the Gododdin) and with poetic inspiration (as in Norse literature). Along with being about mead, it refers to the Ystoria Taliesin, wherein the young Taliesin has to free his patron and foster-father Elphin from Maelgwn Gwynedd’s prisons.
D. Andy’s Musings:
Andy’s father was a pharmacist for most of his life. At 60 years of age, he decided to go to law school and graduated. According to Andy, here is what happened next:
“Then when he passed the bar he joined a firm doing family law. That was the beginning of the end. “That’s a slimy business,” I warned him with my snarky sense of things. “Just you wait.” And for him, it was true. He was now in a profession that forced him to dole out eviction notices and advise women who called him up at 2:00 A.M., telling him that their husband was beating down the door, what should they do? After six months he quit the firm and started working for legal aid. But that wasn’t much better. Most of his clients were drug dealers and multiple offenders, and, yes, they deserved a fair trial, but everyone (including my dad) knew they were guilty. And that fact by itself would have robbed him of any satisfaction if he ever managed to get them off the hook.”
And Weinberger. The Ugly Man Sits in the Garden.
JP — Having done family law, legal aid, International law, real estate and a bunch of other types of law representing clients from the dredges of the earth to the masters of the universe, I can add that all law business could be considered “slimy business.” After all, don’t we learn in law school that our job is to give the best representation and advice to our clients that we can, no matter what scumbags they may be or even how many people may die because of their actions? And, don’t we get paid for doing it? And aren’t we paid well for doing so? And aren’t we happy we are? As someone inquired of me not too long ago, “Given the moral relativity with which lawyers like you must practice their profession, wouldn’t you agree that it would be better for everyone if you were an Uber driver instead?”
E. Some Comments on Previous Post:
1. Ruth L.
My friends and relatives are disappearing quickly, too, and I suppose my phone book will need more and more deletions as they depart.
We’re often told not to dwell upon the past. Well, perhaps we shouldn’t “dwell” on it, but I find it rewarding to examine it frequently and I often end up thinking: “Ah, so that’s what it was all about” concerning incidents I hadn’t truly looked at before. New insights all the time, particularly about my parents. I’ve found a great source of information at newspapers.com, some of it confirming family stories. The Brooklyn Eagle has been particularly interesting.
Keep walking, keep loving this earth and keep sending us your beautiful photos.
Hi, I am ok, You guys? That friend of yours that just passed away is the one who had those vintage cars parked in his yard? Remember we visit him a while ago. I liked one car I believe was an Italian model of some type or French. Curious what is going to happen to those old cars. How HRM is doing in school now?
Glad you liked Andy’s musings. Thought you would. I haven’t seen him/them in several years. They’re back in Sonoma running the bookstore; his brother John and wife live nearby. John was our neighbor in New Delhi in 1972-4. That’s where I met Howard, convalescing from dysentery acquired in Nepal.
I’ll be around next weekend, except for a Saturday night gig in Kensington (North Berkeley). Alex’s girls will be up then; looks like we’ll take them to the Discovery Museum at Fort Baker (Sausalito) at some point. Anyway, if you are in town, we can hook up somehow.
I am in the middle of “Fantasyland”- fascinating book, compliments of our local library branch. Makes stuff seem even more amazing and hopeless. Thanks for the tip in previous TAT.
Every day at least one bad thing happens, and usually at least one good thing happens. Today I left my purse in the basket of a grocery cart in the Target parking lot. I came home, put things away and was settling down with a cup of coffee when the cell phone actually rang! A man on the other end said he found my purse and would drive it to my house. He did, The good and the bad were wrapped together in that instance.
I also got the obit to The Bee, My computer is so messed up without Word that I couldn’t write the obit, and my daughter Jennifer drove over with her laptop — wiped out half a working day for. It was slow and difficult using that different format. Then the deadline loomed so I had to get it in today.
“Every society needs a cry like that, [Remember KoomValley] but only in a very few do they come out with the complete, unvarnished version, which is “Remember-The-Atrocity-Committed-Against-Us-Last-Time-That-Will-Excuse-The-Atrocity-That-We’re-About-To-Commit-Today! And So On! Hurrah!”
Pratchett, Terry. Thief of Time: A Novel of Discworld (p. 421). HarperCollins.
Postcards from Sabina