“[I]nstinct was a word lazy people had come up with to make guessing sound like something more impressive.”
McDonnell, Caimh. Last Orders (The Dublin Trilogy Book 4) (p. 169). McFori Ink.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
It is Wednesday, March 7, HRM’s 13th birthday. On our drive to school this morning, he turned to me and said, “Yesterday I was a child and today I am a teenager. I liked being a child.”
The weather was mixed. I spent much of the morning trying to persuade myself not to exercise. I lost the argument and after a lot of grumbling, I managed to walk three miles around the lakes in Town Center. After that, I felt so good that I jumped into the pool for a 30-minute swim.
On my drive with HRM that morning, I sang and acted silly. I asked H whether he preferred me silly or grumpy. He answered, “It doesn’t matter. You’re silly whether you are grumpy or not.”
Before getting into the car this morning, H announced he wanted to put off his birthday party until Saturday when he was scheduled to go to the scooter camp in the Sierras. I learned then that I was to accompany H, several of his friends, and the other three fathers into the mountains to drop the new teenagers off at the camp until its was time to gather up birthday boy and his cohorts and retreat back down the mountain. Dick told me that later that evening, all four fathers were supposed to go to a western themed Karaoke Bar. There we were expected to drink and sing. I was told we would all dress in cowboy outfits also. I assumed they were joking.
Hayden (in the hat) with his book if western poetry. Tall Jake holds the dancing chicken birthday card.
Days passed, things happened. When the weekend arrived, H and two of his friends had a campout in the redwood trees alongside the house. Dick was away at some earthquake preparedness conference and Nikki, Adrian and I spent time grumbling about life, but not too deeply.
Tall long haired Jake in the top Hammock, Hayden in the middle and Graham in the bottom,
My strategy to let things slide regarding travel plans for March and April worked. I still do not know what will happen but whatever I thought might occur will not and a few things actually resolved themselves. So, no lengthy travel plans are in the offing for the next few weeks. Hooray.
Yrrggh! —Everything from here on that I had written during the past four days suddenly disappeared from my computer for some reason. I am furious. How could that happen? I now have to recreate it from memory — something of which I am in short supply —
Let’s see — what happened next:
The weather cleared up for a day or so. Nikki and I went to the health club one morning. On Saturday or Sunday, we had dinner at Wanni’s restaurant, Thai Basil in Roseville.
Adrian, Richard, Hayden, and Nikki in Thai Basil.
Nikki, Dick, and Wanni went on to the Western Karaoke Bar deep in the wilds of Loomis. I went home. Nikki had dressed in a leather jacket, a black cowboy shirt with elaborately embroidered designs in black thread and black buttons that sparkled like rhinestones in the light. I got it on good authority that at the Karaoke bar he performed a magnificent rendition of “That’s Amore.” Microphone in hand, he passed from the stage and into the audience. While crooning like Dean Martin, he stared into the eyes of several of the startled but appreciative aging matrons. No, he was not thrown out or beaten into sausage by the ex-hippies turned redneck husbands and boyfriends of the bemused ladies.
The next day, we went to Denio’s Auction (flea market) to play our usual game of “see who could buy the most useless object.” Often Nikki and I would compete over who would return with the most outrageous shirt. He preferred Mexican and I was more into Hawaiian. Unfortunately, I had to leave early to go to see “The Shape of Water” and thereby conceded the contests to the others.
As for Del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” although I enjoyed it, I preferred the acting and directing in “Lady Bird” more. As typical in Del Toro’s movies, there was a short period of stomach-turning violence. Tarantino movies have a lot of violence also, blood and death everywhere but it is cartoonish with little regard to actual pain and suffering. Del Toro’s violence on the other hand although briefer makes up for it by focussing in on the agony and anguish. I was surprised at how closely the story of this movie matched that of Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” — In a world of pain and despair, a damaged but innocent young woman enters into a complex relationship with an alien creature, dies violently but is resurrected into a far better universe — all very Catholic.
By Monday, Nikki and Adrian had left to return to wherever they go after they leave here. Following my morning exercises, I called the good/bad David. He lives in South Dakota now — in a little town called Andover. We commiserated about him sitting in his house staring at the snow while I sat on the porch in the golden hills enjoying the 70-degree sunshine. Later, I got on Google and David took me on a tour of the highlights of Andover — there were not many of them — the Lutheran church, the threshing barns, a post office, the railroad tracks and lots and lots of flat grassland with a few grazing cows.
I had an interesting dream last night. I seemed to be watching a movie and did not participate in the action. I recognized the main protagonist, a minor television actor whose name I could not remember. I seem to have come in during the middle of the story. The main protagonist was a pirate of sorts but had not always been so. He was preparing his band and some poorly equipped villagers to defend themselves from the expected attack. Although they were confident they could prevail in the conflict when their enemy showed up it became clear they would be overwhelmed. They agreed to a meeting with the opposition commander who proved to be an old friend of the hero (from an earlier scene in the movie that I had missed). The two friends agreed that the hero and his motley but competent crew would undertake a difficult and somewhat questionable assignment to lead a sneak attack on the commander’s enemy. I then woke up. It was raining again and after dropping HRM off at school and eating breakfast, I put myself back to bed and slept until the afternoon when it was time to pick up HRM again. And, so it goes in the waning years of my life.
The weather turned miserable again. I feel better, however.
News on the adolescent front: HRM’s march beyond childhood accelerates. He may have just graduated from the scooter gangs to the bicycle maniacs all in one day, putting him further removed from his past and mine. Our influence over his environment diminishes with each additional mile he can now place between us. I currently drive him to the skate park the outer limit of his universe. In two weeks he will be riding his bike far beyond that.
The weekend approaches. Yesterday morning I listened to the heart-rending memories of a dear friend. Life has been described as a vale of sorrows. It is that for most of us — even living through the greatest Golden Age in the history of humankind and consider ourselves fortunate we have not had to experience sufferings like our predecessors in the past, most of us sooner or later experience unimaginable pain. Some handle it better than others and some worse. Some are able to smile through it all and some complain bitterly (I am of the latter group). Like it or not we are all riding together it the same Looney-Tunes cable car careening through the mountains, some cringing in fear, others filling themselves with hate over who they suspect caused them to be in this place, some laughing deliriously, some crying and some just stare at the sky, fist outstretched middle finger extended — but one thing cannot be denied, for most tomorrow will be another day — And for me, the weekend begins and I intend to make it a happy one…
B. BOOK REPORT: STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT.
If you continue to read beyond this, you will notice (if I am able to reconstruct them from wherever this evil machine hid them) an excess of items of and about Sicily. The reason for this is because I have just completed reading a mystery novel entitled “Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions” by Mario Giordano. Surprisingly, the author is not Sicilian. He is German. A descendant of a Sicilian laborer who had left the Island seeking work and a better life in the Colossus of the North. The novel itself is no classic work of literature. In fact, it barely makes it as light summer reading. I liked it, however, because of the kind-hearted way it plunges into the history, landscape, and foibles of the people and places that I have grown to love.
The main conceit of the novel lies in the author’s alter ego, a young struggling writer recording, at the behest of his Auntie Poldi, her adventures, and misadventures in Sicily. Auntie Poldi a dipsomaniac, over-sexed, bi-polar, caftan-wearing, overweight, sixty year old widow from Bavaria who, after the death of her Sicilian born husband, buys a home in a small coastal village in Sicily in the shadow of Mt Etna where she intends to “drink herself to death with a view of the sea.” Unfortunately for everyone, Auntie Poldi is also loud, pushy, nosy and her father was chief of detectives in some city in Germany. As a result, when she discovers, on the beach, the dead body of her part-time handyman, the handsome young Valentino, she drafts her dead husband’s three sisters and goes on a hunt for the murderer. Along the way, she also shags the handsome but mature local detective with the improbable name of Vito Montana.
Pookie says, “Check it out”
“[T]he worst thing that can happen to any Italian male, especially a Sicilian. Economic crises, volcanic eruptions, corrupt politicians, emigration, the Mafia, uncollected rubbish and overfishing of the Mediterranean—he can endure anything with fatalism and a bella figura. The main thing is never to present a brutta figura, a figuraccia. Bella figura is the Italian credo. The basic equipment for this includes a well-groomed, unostentatiously fashionable appearance, a pair of good shoes and the right make of sunglasses. Above all, though, bella figura means always looking good, never foolish. For an Italian this is a must, not an option, and quite indispensable. It also means you don’t embarrass your fellow men. Impatience is unacceptable and direct confrontations are taboo. You share restaurant bills with your friends, don’t put your foot in it, never receive guests in a dirty or untidy home, ask no intimate questions, address anyone with a university degree as dottore, bring some dessert with you when invited to dinner and—even at the risk of rupturing your abdomen—finish everything on your plate. You put your faith in beauty and proportionality and try to make the world a better place. Sometimes you even succeed.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (An Auntie Poldi Adventure). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
The Sicilian language has no future tense.
(JP— It is scary to think about a culture that lacks the ability to express the future. It does have a special tense to express the remote past that has ended. Sicilians use it a lot in their conversations — Everything is in the present or the far past and there is no future.)
A. On Top —The Quotes of Steven Wright:
1 – I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.
2 – Borrow money from pessimists-they don’t expect it back.
3 – Half the people you know are below average.
4 – 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
5 – 82.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
6 – A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
7 – A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
8 – If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.
9 – All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand.
10 – The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
11 – I almost had a psychic girlfriend, ….. But she left me before we met.
12 – OK, so what’s the speed of dark?
13 – How do you tell when you’re out of invisible ink?
14 – If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
15 – Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
16 – When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.
17 – Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.
18 – Hard work pays off in the future; laziness pays off now.
19 – I intend to live forever … So far, so good.
20 – If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?
21 – Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.
22 – What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
23 – My mechanic told me, “I couldn’t repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.”
24 – Why do psychics have to ask you for your name
25 – If at first, you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.
26 – A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.
27 – Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
28 – The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.
29 – To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
30 – The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.
31 – The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.
32 – The colder the x-ray table, the more of your body is required to be on it.
33 – Everyone has a photographic memory; some just don’t have film.
34 – If at first, you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.
35 – If your car could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?
B. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week:
While doing some research on things Sicilian, I came across the blog, “The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife,” (https://siciliangodmother.com/2013/02/12/sicilian-women-are-scrubbers/) It contains some amusing stories about the life of a foreigner (in this case a British woman married to a Sicilian man) in Sicily, especially regarding her relationship with her Mother-in-law whom she refers to as “The Godmother.”
One day, The Godmother came round to my house when I had just swept and mopped all the floors. She was wearing her black skirt and black blouse, which is what Sicilian housewives put on when they really mean business. She gave me a pitying, or perhaps critical, look and said,
“Oh, you poor thing! You must be so worn out with all this unpacking and organizing that you haven’t had time to clean the floor.”
“Erm, yes,” I said.
“Don’t worry,” she said, her nose already in the cleaning products cupboard she had given me as a housewarming present. “I’ll take care of it.”
She extracted a thing which looked like a broom with no bristles and then wrapped it in a cloth which she dipped in something that smelled pungent enough to make my nose run and proceeded to rub it all over the floor with so much verve I thought she might actually erode the glaze off the tiles. “That’s just given it a quick removal of the main dirt,” she said, as she got on her knees and proceeded to pull the plinth away from the fitted cupboards under and around the kitchen sink.
She put the steel strips on the balcony and then proceeded to remove the entire underside of the island unit as well. Not satisfied with this, she then prised all the knobs off the hob, did something that looked downright painful to remove the oven door and then turned the extractor fan over the cooker into no less than eighteen separate, yet almost identical-looking, pieces of plastic grille.
Whilst I was profoundly shocked to see her calmly pull my kitchen to pieces, I was also flabbergasted that she was actually able to. For my whole life, up to that point, I had believed you needed men with exposed bum cleavages to do that type of thing.
While I was still searching for appropriate words, she filled the sink with several potent products, which foamed and gave off a greenish hallucinogenic vapour, and put all the small components of my ex-kitchen in it. While I sat down to regain some breath, she filled a bucket with whatever the Mafia use to dissolve dead bodies away to nothing except a few gold fillings, and started rubbing it into the pieces of stainless steel plinth she had yanked off the cupboards. I had chosen a matt finish but she kept working away at each piece of metal until she had made it look like a mirror.
C. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
I Heard It Through The Grapevine:
During 2016 Presidential nominating campaign there were two candidates who:
Declined to support sensible gun control regulation;
Received support from the Russians and;
Refused to release their tax returns.
D. Today’s Poem:
Isula nascivu, isula vogghiu moriri.
Isula comu mi fici lu Signuri
cu li turmenti e li dulura
ma sempri abbrazzata a lu mari
e figghia pridiletta di lu suli.
Bedda tra li beddi sugnu
‘nghirlannata stati e mmernu di ciuri.
Curtigghiara, baggiana, ciaurusa
mi vestu di milli culura
e cu sta peddi di meli e di rosi
attiru lapuna d’ogni razza e paisi.
Born an island, I want to die an island.
An island, the way the Lord made me
with all its torments and pains
but always embraced by the sea
a favored daughter of the sun.
I’m a beauty among beauties
garlanded in summer and winter.
Plebeian, proud, fragrant
I dress in thousands of colors
and with this blanket of honey and roses
I attract drones from every race and place.
–by Lina La Mattina –translated by Arthur Dieli
E. Charlie Stross on Bureaucracy II:
“The iron law of bureaucracy dictates that most of the people in any large organization will, after a time, be more preoccupied with preserving their own jobs than with fulfilling the mission statement of the agency.”
Stross, Charles. Empire Games: A Tale of the Merchant Princes Universe (p. 322). Tom Doherty Associates.
Sicilian men (of which I am one) prefer to discuss the minutia of history and almost anything else rather than answer a personal question and risk making a brute figura of himself. Here is an example taken from a novel I am reading:
“Uncle Martino talked at me without a break. He pontificated on Sicilian history, the source of the best pistachio nuts, Lord Nelson and the Brontë siblings, life in the Middle Ages, Frederick II, Palermo’s Vucciria market, tuna shoals, overfishing by Japanese trawlers and the mosaics of Monreale. He commented on Radio Radicale’s live broadcasts of debates in the Italian parliament. He lectured me on the Cyclops, the Greeks, the Normans, General Patton, Lucky Luciano and yellow silk scarves. On the only acceptable way of making a granita. On angels, demons, the trinacria, the truth about Kafka and communism and the relationship between physical stature and criminality in the male population of Sicily. His rule of thumb: the shorter the man, the more threatening and the more likely to be a Mafioso. That I scarcely understood a word didn’t bother him. My Italian was appalling—in fact it was practically nonexistent apart from one or two helpful swear words and che schifo, allucinante, birra, con panna, boh, beh and mah, which constituted an adolescent’s vocabulary on the beach.”
Giordano, Mario.Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (An Auntie Poldi Adventure). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
(JP- For those interested:
Che Schifo — how disgusting.
Allucinante — hallucinating, stoned
Birra — beer
Con panna — with whipped cream
Boh — I don’t know
Beh — I don’t care
Mah — maybe yes, maybe no
Facility with these few words will allow you to communicate adequately anywhere in Southern Italy and Sicily, but only if you also know how to gesture properly with your hands [see below]).
These are only a few of the gestures used in Southern Italy and Sicily. As with any language, it takes a while and a lot of repetition to learn. Failure to learn a language properly can lead to confusion and embarrassment. For example, after examining the chart, I realized that during my sojourns in Sicily I never quite understood the difference between What, where, why and you shitted your pants eh — much to my embarrassment in the cases where I have misused them and much to my annoyance is now realizing that I had failed to recognize when someone who I thought was asking a question was, in fact, commenting on my ignorance or worse.