“There is not always a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Pike, J. Zachary. Son of a Liche (The Dark Profit Saga Book 2) (p. 363). Gnomish Press LLC.
Happy Birthdays to Athena, Aaron, and Anthony
DON’T FORGET TO VOTE —
Happy Birthday to me.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
The weekend passed quietly. October began. It is the birthday month for the Petrillo family. Three of my grandchildren and I have birthday’s this month.
Arron, Athena, Pookie, and Anthony many years ago.
On Tuesday, I learned the results of my PET scan. The bad news is that they found cancer cells in the lump on my neck. The good news is that it does not appear to have spread to other parts of my body yet. I will need an operation to remove the lump. The bad news is that it will be tricky since the lump sits between a muscle, a tendon, and my carotid artery. The operation will be scheduled by the end of the month or soon thereafter and take about five hours. The bad news is that I will probably lose the muscle in that part of my neck. So it goes.
On Saturday, my nephew is getting married. My sister told me that I had to wear a jacket and tie. I did not know they still did that. Anyway, I first thought of the Brioni and Kiton suits I used to wear and realized I could no longer indulge myself (read afford) with that form of conspicuous consumption. So, Naida and I set off for Goodwill. There I bought a nice almost formal black jacket to go with my black Levi’s and a not so flashy tie which seems not to match any of my shirts. I am ready.
I do not understand when people are referred to as “fighting cancer.” I picture some metal encased knight attacking a fire-breathing dragon. So far for me, it has been no battle at all. I feel more like a slab or rancid meat crawling with maggots surrounded by people in hospital scrubs burning, poisoning and cutting the piece of meat in hope that what is left can get up and walk after they finish.
One day I noticed Naida working hard at the piano, seeming to struggle with some music. “What are you doing,” I enquired? “I am trying to compose a piece based on your breathing while you sleep,” she replied. “Here are the low sounds,” she said while she ran off some low notes on the piano. “And here are the high ones,” she added running through something on the right-hand part of the keyboard. Then she put them all together. It sounded pretty good to me. She said, “It needs some work.” “The low sounds were a lot like what one hears from a double bass and the highs sounded a bit like a clarinet.” I never suspected the unconscious sounds my body makes when I sleep were melodious. Perhaps, it is only when I sleep. I certainly would not call most of the random noises that I hear issuing from my body when I am awake tuneful.
One should not think my health problems have led me into deep depression and anger. Yes, as I have always done, I describe it all with my usual cynicism and melodrama. But in fact, I am about as happy as I have ever been. If anything, I would like it to last for a few more years rather than a few more months. I used to hope to live long enough to witness the election of the first woman president of the United States — Alas, that disappointment may not be rectified in the time I have left. Perhaps, I could replace that hope with living long enough to hear a thump and a slash or orange passing through the trap door of a gallows. But that is probably not to be, so I am quite happy watching an adolescent grow to adulthood and lying at night in the arms of someone I love.
B. A WEDDING IN NEVADA CITY:
On Saturday, we drove up to Nevada City to attend the wedding of my nephew Brendan to his beloved Ashley. I had not visited this section of the foothills (Called the “Northern Diggins” during gold rush days.) It was a warm autumn day as we drove through three old mining towns along Route 49, Auburn, Grass Valley and Nevada City. When I last passed through these towns, they were quaint western towns set in the forested foothills (Not like the “Southern Diggings” that were settled in the more open easier to mine grassy foothills that I call the Golden Hills.) Back then there was always a small stream of tourists and a steady migration of aging Hippies returning to the land.
Now the streets of old towns — whose downtowns have preserved their relatively decrepit exteriors — are flooded with throngs of tourists and the remote old hippy cabins squeezed by advancing subdivisions marching up from the valley crushing the land and tearing down the trees as they come. The connecting roads between the towns, at one time bucolic country lanes, are now lined with commercial sprawl. Ah well, so it goes.
The wedding was held in the Historic Foundry that used to provide the machinery for the now disappeared gold mining industry. The Foundry, now restored, serves as a museum and a venue for events like weddings. Naida told me she had been here several times to book fairs and to lecture at the Foundry. One time she had worked so hard in the heat that she passed out on the streets of downtown Nevada City and had to be taken to a hospital.
The wedding was quite lovely, the Groom was handsome and the bride lovely, the parents of the couple beaming and the guests getting pleasantly inebriated as the evening wore on. The food was better than expected at events like this and the wine spectacular. The following photographs describe the celebration better than words.
The Bride and Groom
Their first dance.
A Cute Flower Girl
Proud and Relieved Parents of the Groom
Some of the Happy Guests.
Two of the guests, friends of Mary and George, flew out from the East Coast for the wedding. They are also Facebook friends of mine. I had not met them in person before that night, but we had communicated in the weird and wired way of social media. I was excited to meet them and delighted when I did. I hope I will be able to spend a bit more time with them if I see them at Mary and George’s Anniversary next weekend.
C. HOME AGAIN HOME AGAIN
Since the wedding, I have been running around submitting to the several tests and consultations required before my operation. Outside of that, I wait for the insurance company to approve the procedure. It has been interesting to contemplate that my life depends upon the decision of some bureaucrats working for a large corporation whose financial position is bettered if I should die before any approval is given.
About every two weeks, I receive a lovely postcard from Barrie containing a brief vignette from her life and now and then a comment about the most recent T&T post. It appears she can make her own postcards. Each one comes with something interesting on the front — The most recent postcard came with a photograph of a painting by Peter’s mom of a tall thin fashionable woman. I eagerly await to receive the postcards. I store them in a little box and now and now and then open it to look at them.
We are off to Mendocino for the weekend to attend Maryann and George’s anniversary party. (Do those two seem to have a lot of parties?)
When I return, I will be 79 years old. An old man my age on the day I was born would have been born on the day 11-year-old Grace Bedell writes to Abraham Lincoln telling him to grow a beard.
Other events that happened on this day:
533 Byzantine general Belisarius makes his formal entry into Carthage, having conquered it from the Vandals.
1520 King Henry VIII of England orders bowling lanes at Whitehall
1660 Asser Levy granted butcher’s license (kosher meat) in New Amsterdam
1881 1st American fishing magazine, American Angler published
1952 “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams is published by Harper & Brothers
1985 Shelley Taylor of Australia makes fastest swim ever around Manhattan Island, doing it in 6 hours 12 minutes 29 seconds
So, if you want to celebrate my birthday, grow a beard, conquer some Vandals, go bowling, eat some kosher sausage, go fishing, have a swim or write a book or at least read one and above all VOTE.
My estranged son among other more sordid invectives called me a “political hack.” While some of his more scurrilous accusations may be true that certainly is not. I “was” a political hack, now I am just an old hack with regrets.
A. Travels with Hayden:
I decided to post some of the more amusing stories that Hayden and I shared during our travels together through life.
Hayden and the Naked Chef.
Like in the US where urban private schools tend to locate in transition zones (the rent is cheaper), so it is with Hayden’s pre-school here in Bangkok.
This morning as I walked Hayden up to the gate of the school across the street along an extended cement platform in front of some shops, a beefy fortyish bald farang, naked to the waist, reeled about obviously stoned. He had scars on his head and body but was surprisingly bereft of tattoos. Accompanying him was a naked lady-boy clearly showing the major points of her conflicting sexes (known as “pre-op”) and another professional woman. It appeared that they had spent the night there. As the lady-boy put on what seemed to be the man’s shirt to cover the most conflicting parts of her, the man himself staggered across the street and tried to enter the school grounds.
Now like most private schools and important buildings in BKK, every morning and evening, four or so regular BKK police are stationed by the gate in order to direct traffic and provide rudimentary security. The School also has its own set of uniformed security. One spiffy dressed cop (all BKK cops dress spiffy), upon seeing the man approach, held up one hand palm vertical to the ground in the universal sign of stop and with the other made a no-nonsense gesture that the farang should return to the other side of the street.
Now, it is important to understand that at no time did the Thai cop in any way indicate he would touch the farang nor did the evidence any demonstration of anger. In Thailand that would cause him to appear less than human and lose face. Imagine what people from this culture must see when they view western entertainment that shows uncontrolled fury and violence as a manly virtue. John Wayne must appear to them to be like a circus clown (come to think of it…. )American football with its glorification of anger and violence probably appears to be played by water buffalos rather than humans.
Anyway, the bald farang took the hint, returned to the other side of the street and after a short period of slack-jawed milling about the trio ambled off in the general direction of the gates of hell (Nana Plaza).
After it was all over, I asked Hayden what he thought.
He said, “The girl was naked and the policeman had a gun”.
Just in case you may think that Hayden is too young to know the meaning of the word naked, a few nights ago while we were preparing for bed, he took off all of his clothing and put a paper bag on his head like a hat, pranced in to the bathroom where I was brushing my teeth and announced, “Look at me. I’m the Naked Chef.”
February 12, 2014.
B. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week:
One of my favorite blogs is “Strong Towns” (https://www.strongtowns.org/), a blog devoted to Urban Planning. It takes the general position that many so-called “pro-growth” initiatives and a few slow-growth ones will bankrupt the local governments over time. Recently, they identify the “Ponzi” scheme that causes many of the financial problems that local governments are faced with today.
[T]he underlying financing mechanisms of the suburban era — our post-World War II pattern of development — operates like a classic Ponzi scheme, with ever-increasing rates of growth necessary to sustain long-term liabilities.
Since the end of World War II, our cities and towns have experienced growth using three primary mechanisms:
1. Transfer payments between governments: where the federal or state government makes a direct investment in growth at the local level, such as funding a water or sewer system expansion.
2. Transportation spending: where transportation infrastructure is used to improve access to a site that can then be developed.
3. Public and private-sector debt: where cities, developers, companies, and individuals take on debt as part of the development process, whether during construction or through the assumption of a mortgage.
In each of these mechanisms, the local unit of government benefits from the enhanced revenues associated with new growth. But it also typically assumes the long-term liability for maintaining the new infrastructure. This exchange — a near-term cash advantage for a long-term financial obligation — is one element of a Ponzi scheme.
C. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
A mob boss prefers to operate outside the law because it pays them well. The owners of large business enterprises prefer to manipulate the law because it pays them well. Both provide products consumers want. Neither can claim moral superiority over the other.
D. Giants of History: Peter.
At the beginning of his comments on my last T&T posts, Peter reminisces on his time in India.
Back from a week in Grosse Point Woods visiting old Indian friends, probably for the last time, before they return to India. Met them at first in 1964 just after we arrived in Bhubaneswar, Orissa (now Odisha), where I was to do my city planning field research. Bhubaneswar is the post-Independence state capital, a planned town drawn up originally by a Swiss planner named Otto Koenigsberger, who Nehru asked to do a low budget version of Chandigarh. The scrub jungle site was across the Calcutta (now Kolkata)-to-Madras (now Chennai) railway line from the ancient Hindu temple pilgrimage town of Bhubaneswar. The temple is a Siva temple, visited by Hindus from all over India. We were not allowed within the precinct, had to look at the 165 Ft tall temple tower from a raised viewing platform.
We rented a small house midway between the two settlements and lived there for 18 months or so. My faculty advisor, Harvard’s Zemurray Professor of Anthropology, was Cora Du Bois, a contemporary, colleague, and friend of Margaret Meade, Franz Boaz, and other notable anthropologists. Cora was also a close friend and near neighbor in Cambridge, MA. of Julia Child; the two of them were in the OSS in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), during WW2. Cora’s own research focused on the “confrontation of traditional and modern values,” and Bhubaneswar old and new presented a fabulous physical analog for such a study: old Brahmin temple town, filled with over a hundred superb temples (in the old days there were thousands), and newly built western-style planned government town (think New Delhi, Canberra, Washington DC). Besides her own research, Cora arranged for her Harvard anthropology phd students to do their respective thesis researches in Bhubaneswar (serially, not all at once, or they would have found a Trump surrogate to push to evict the swarm of academic immigrants). She also got three students from the local Utkal University to do likewise. Then I walked in and she added me to the mix. A unique venture!
The friends we just visited were a South Indian couple, he a senior IAS officer (Indian administrative Service), posted to Orissa and at the time head of the Orissa Mining Corp., a public corporation. His big things during our sojourn were developing manganese mines in the interior and overseeing development of the new port of Daitari, where they would export the ore to Japan to earn foreign exchange. He just finished writing his memoirs; his daughter just edited it for him. I’ll be very interested to read that. His wife looked after their two very young children, played the veena (south Indian cousin of the sitar), learned to fly a plane, and later took up sculpture, which she still does a bit of. The Ramchandrans are now in their early 90s; their children are grown, married with families, and live in Houston and Detroit area.
“Melville wrote to Hawthorne (about the Transcendentalists): What nonsense!… This “all” feeling…there is some truth in. You must often have felt it, lying on the grass on a warm summer’s day. Your legs seem to send out shoots into the earth. Your hair feels like leaves upon your head. This is the all feeling. But what plays the mischief with the truth is that men will insist upon the universal application of a temporary feeling or opinion.”
Andersen, Kurt. Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History (p. 102). Random House Publishing Group.