“Sometimes charity toward others is the only respite you get from thoughts about death.”
Burke, James Lee. Robicheaux: A Novel (p. 188). Simon & Schuster.
Happy Spring Festival Season to All: Easter, Songkran, Semana Santa, Holi, Nowruz, Passover, Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake, Holla Mohalla, Cimburijada (Festival of Scrambled Eggs), Walpurgis Night, Las Fallas, and Spring Equinox in Teotihuacán.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:
On Tuesday morning, Naida, Boo-boo and I left the Enchanted Forest for the Big Endive by the Bay and my meeting with the surgeon. Upon crossing the Bay Bridge, we drove directly to Peter and Barrie’s house where we unloaded and dropped off Boo-boo. We then proceeded to Mission Bay and my appointment. The night before, we had received a call informing us that the appointment time had been changed from 2:15 PM to 2 PM and insisting we be on time. We waited in the waiting area for over an hour before we were admitted into the examining room where we waited another hour before the surgeon showed up. During that second hour, we were first visited by a young woman who introduced herself as a “swallowing technician.” Yes, she did.
Interspersed between the happy talk and questioning me about the state of my swallowing, I was asked to make funny faces such as blowing out my cheeks while sticking out my tongue. I was also asked to make growling noises for some reason. Finally, a balloon was placed in my mouth and I was directed to press it with my tongue against the roof of my mouth three times. The only reason I could come up with for why I was subject to this silly but not particularly unpleasant activity was that I surmised it allowed the hospital to submit additional charges to Medicare. On the other hand, it could have been intended as entertainment in an effort to cheer me up for what was to come later.
The swallowing technician was followed by another young woman who introduced herself as the doctor’s assistant. Strangely, her first question was to ask me why I was there today. I responded, “Because I wanted to know whether I was a dead man walking or not.” She then looked up my records on the computer and informed us that there was a growth on both sides of my throat that had been there since my first CT scan way back in September. “O,” I said, “that’s interesting, no-one ever mentioned that before. Why is that?” She did not know and became confused and said she would have to ask the doctor. She then busied herself with administering a sonogram to me and left.
Eventually, the surgeon arrived and his message sounded far less encouraging than I had hoped. Basically, he said that in his opinion it would be unsafe to operate at this time, and implied that at my age it would always be dangerous because my arteries were brittle from age and the effects of my radiation treatment. After musing about altering my chemotherapy regime, he advised me that I should enjoy myself as much as possible now. I did not take that advice as a positive comment on the state of my health. He then said, “I will see you in three months.” That seemed a bit more positive. At least he seemed to expect I would still be around three months from now.
That evening we had dinner back at Peter and Barrie’s. Barrie had cooked a very nice spaghetti carbonara for us. We were joined by a delightful friend of theirs from across the street who also happens to be my most responsive Facebook friend although I had never met her until that evening. She told us she was the daughter of a wealthy family in Orange County and that she had been kicked out of every college she attended until she ended up at some college in Mexico City before migrating to San Francisco at the height of its reign as the capital of hippiedom. There she was involved with people like Chet Helms and other leaders of the movement during those brief but wonderfully bizarre times.
The following morning we returned to the Enchanted Forest.
B. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
As I age, like many Vecchi, my short term memory seems to be…. well, a vague memory. If I do not write here every day, I often forget what has happened. It is Friday evening. We returned on Wednesday. I recall little of what occurred in between. We walked the dog several times. I visited EDH a few times and drove HRM and Jake to Dick’s house. Susan McCabe called to see how I was doing. That made me happy. So did the Good/Bad David today. He was calling from the doctor’s office. It seems he is having blood-clot problems. That did not make me happy.
Today, I picked up Hayden, Jake, Caleb, and Hamza and drove them all to Dick’s house. I asked them how they were doing in school. Jake said his marks were improving because he was studying more. Hayden said his were also. I asked H why that was. He said that Dick promised he would be allowed to move from his small bedroom to the large family room downstairs if he gets certain grades on his final report.
I left them off at the house. There would be no adult supervision there (H is a latch key kid now) because I was returning directly to the Enchanted Forest. I made them promise they would get into only a little bit of trouble. I worry about him. I know how distressing loneliness can be for an adolescent.
On Saturday, Naida and I exercised at the gym in the Nepenthe club-house. On Sunday, we sat in the studio, Naida editing her memoir in hopes of having it published before the State Fair opens in July while I passed the time writing this and trying to find something interesting enough on the internet to banish the pit of ennui into which I seem have fallen. I am not unhappy, in fact, I am as happy as I have ever been. It is just that I find this much sedentary living unsettling. Usually, whenever I have had this little to do, I take a nap. For some strange reason, I am both napping less and doing less. I will think more about this tomorrow, or the next day and perhaps understand it better.
It is now Tuesday afternoon. Tomorrow I leave for The Big Endive by the Bay and my infusion appointment. As usual, I will stay at Peter and Barrie’s house for two evenings before returning here on Friday.
C. OFF FOR TWO DAYS IN THE BIG ENDIVE WITH QUESTIONS OF MORTALITY.
So, three weeks have passed since my last Chemotherapy infusion and we are off again to San Francisco for what may be my final Chemo infusion and hopefully to find out more about my prognosis. As usual, we spent the night a Peter and Barrie’s home. My grandson Anthony arrived and joined us for dinner along with a friend of Peter and Barrie. She, suffering from incurable ovarian cancer, has lived for four years so far on immunotherapy alone. She has spent those four years happily traveling around the world. Hiromi and my granddaughter Amanda joined us a little later but Amanda was suffering from a bad cold and since I was told by my doctors to avoid such contacts they left after a brief meet and greet.
Barrie prepared a great meal that featured excellent polenta. During the meal we told stories and played “small world.” You know, recalling the famous and near famous we may have run into in our long lives. Sometimes, I feel a bit like Zelig that mysterious character played by Woody Allen in the film of the same name who appears in the background of photographs of significant historical events. If I can be excused for name dropping and I can (this is my Journal after all) let me list the US president’s I have met and known — Reagan, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — and presidential candidates, Fred Harris, Mike Dukakis, and Hillary Clinton. I assume most of us as we age have brushed shoulders with the so-called great and near great and experienced at least a passing contact with significant events. I guess we are all Zeligs to some extent.
The next morning I met with my oncologist, he told us that this was to be my last chemotherapy treatment and that surgery to remove the tumor was off the table because of my age and the fragility of my cartroid artery. This opinion was devastating to me since it was essentially a death sentence. However, he also told us that the chemo has stabilized the tumor and it appears to have been effective in preventing cancer from spreading to other parts of my body. He informed us he was putting me on a two-year immunotherapy regime and advised me to enjoy life to the fullest. He appears quite confident that an early onset of death would be delayed to sometime beyond the two years and perhaps held in check long after that. This cheered me up — but only a bit.
That evening back at Peter and Barrie’s during dinner we had to break up a contretemps between Ramsey and Boo-boo over possession of a well-chewed tennis ball.
Boo-boo Hiding Out at Peter and Barrie’s House after Misbehaving.
The next morning we returned to Sacramento.
D. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST AND A BRIEF TRIP INTO THE FOOTHILLS.
After dropping Naida and Boo-boo off at our house in the Enchanted Forest, I drove up to the Golden Hills and Picked up HRM and the gang and drove them to Dick’s house. H and I discussed the possibility of making a trip to Portland, Idaho, and Montana during his spring break. I then returned home and wrote this while watching Ray Milland and Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder. We then walked the dog. I feel good.
It is now Sunday. Spring seems to have slipped into the Great Valley and taken hold, bringing with it sunny days, warm weather, flowers of every color and hay fever (It’s always something —Rosanna Rosannadanna.) It being such a beautiful day, I decided to walk the dog along the meandering pathways of the enchanted forest. The new leaves of the ground cover ivy were a bright almost iridescent green in the bright sun.
On Tuesday at about 2PM, I went to bed. Not for a nap, I knew I would not get up until the following morning. The side-effects of the Chemo infusion, depression, and general fatigue had exhausted me. I woke up periodically during that afternoon and evening. During those brief periods, I would read a chapter of Elena Ferrante’s Novel, “My Brilliant Friend,” or check up on Facebook and then return to sleep.
Ferrante’s book is marvelous and its translation extraordinary. The translation often preserves the Italian language’s ability to express itself in long (at times a page or more) complex sentences encompassing vast emotions and multiple events that in English must be broken up into many separate sentences.
At some point during the evening, I finally came to terms with the fact that I was going to die, sooner rather than later. It is clear that an operation is infeasable and any potential chemical cure has run its course unsuccessfully. I recalled when Bill Yeates’ wife in a similar situation had had enough of the suffering from attempts to prolong her life and chose to take advantage of the new law to end it humanely. I do not believe I will choose that approach. Primarily because I am, in fact, happier than I have ever been in my life. At night, every night, I lie entwined in Naida’s arms ( sometimes so entwined we giggle over our inability to easily identify whose arms and legs belong to whom). There is a peace and happiness I never experienced before. Yes, I always had hoped I would find that, but there was always something else to do, something more to explore. Perhaps happiness needed accomplishment and experience. And, it did — but only for the stories with which to pass the time and perhaps a bit of justification for one’s life. But enough of this. I woke up on Tuesday. It is another day. When I awoke she was in my arms and that is all that matters now.
Damn, I cannot connect to the internet today. I cannot figure out how to fix the problem. Naida’s computer is connected. My smart-phone after a brief problem connected, but my computer remains— stubbornly unresponsive. What to do.What to do. Is interruption of internet service a modern form of Death? I sit in my chair typing this and feeling a strange form of fear. What happens should I not be able to re-connect here, am I doomed to trundling off to Starbucks every day to access the internet and confirm my existence? Is my life so bereft of meaning that I am reduced to depending on the friendship of people on Facebook many of whom I have never met? Is social media simply an updated version of those two-way radios long-distance truck drivers used to use to avoid the boredom and loneliness of their working lives? Have we become the physical and emotional slaves of our machines? Are we needed for anything beyond self-indulgence? Am I so bored that I need to ask these questions even in jest? Is anyone laughing? If I were connected to the internet I could find out.
Ha, one of our medical student borders just came downstairs and said her internet connection was down also. She marched over to the modem that I had fiddled with for a very frustrating hour or so, pressed a button on top and the internet connection popped right up again. I feel like an idiot. Now if she can do the same with my failed medical treatments I would call today a very good day.
This morning, Hayden called to ask me to pick him up after school. It was unusual for him to call like that, so despite not being completely over with the side-effects of the infusion, I drove into the Golden Hills. I met HRM and Caleb at the skatepark. They were planning to go to the Wednesday church youth get together. He said that his mom appears to have relaxed her opposition to him attending. She had wanted him to become a Buddhist and not a Christian. He felt Buddhism was a way of life and not a religion. “Besides,” he said, “it’s boring for teenagers.” She seemed to concede by responding “Whatever makes you happy.” So I dropped them off at Caleb’s home where they would spend the afternoon until it was time to go to the teenage get-together. I left them with my advice that they should be kind to all as much as they can but to be fair to everyone and drove back to the Enchanted Forest where I was met by a happily yapping little dog and a hug from Naida.
Etymological Origins Of Ethnic Slurs
David Tormsen November 27, 2015
Human beings like to divide themselves into different categories, a process that began with family units and tribes and eventually worked its way up to nationalities, races, ethnicities, and vaguely defined civilization groups. Another aspect of humanity is its natural tendency toward creativity. It was perhaps unavoidable that we’d spend so much time and effort coming up with nasty words to call each other.
Here Tomsen discusses the derivation of common several ethnic slurs including the following:
This term, used chiefly in the United States to refer to people of Italian descent, has a number of false etymologies being bandied about on the Internet claiming that it derives from “Without Papers” or “Without Passport.” Supposedly, immigration officials at Ellis Island used stamps, chalk, or placards to designate those arrivals lacking sufficient documents as “WOP.” However, the association with immigration documents makes little sense, as the term has been recorded since 1908, while immigration papers weren’t required until 1918.
“Wop” actually derived from the Sicilian and Neapolitan slang term guappo, which means “thug” or “gangster.” Guappo may have come from the Spanish adjective guapo (“bold”) during the period of Spanish rule over Southern Italy. The Spanish term was itself derived from the Latin vappa, meaning “sour wine,” which the Romans used to describe a worthless person or loser. Southern Italian immigrants to the US used guappo among themselves, and it only acquired an offensive meaning when it was picked up by other Americans and mutated into “wop.”
By the 1890s, it was being applied to Italians in general as well as restaurants (“wop-house”), spaghetti (“wop-special”), and Italy (“Wopland”). It may have been popularized throughout the English-speaking world by early talkie films and was in wide use in English-language newspapers during World War II.
A. Procopius on Top:
Periodically, I like to peruse a site called, “The Fold of the Bards,” (http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/index.html) a blog dedicated primarily to translations of ancient Celtic poetry. It sometimes also contains bits of prose commentary on historical events often written by those who actually lived during the time the events occurred or shortly thereafter. The following, by Procopius, contains a brief history of the departure of the Romans from Britain in the Fifth Century written about one hundred years after the events described. It is interesting, and fascinating to me at least, in that it departs from the often laconic and unsatisfying descriptions found in most history books — namely one form or another of the statement, “The Romans left Britain in 410AD after 400 years of occupation.” It leaves so many questions, “Do you mean a few bureaucrats packed up their documents and left.” Why did the population decline so radically immediately after departure? Did they just get up and leave? Why? Was there a sudden and vast die off? From what? Did they just suddenly choose to migrate? Why, they were not under serious military attack? And so on.
Here Procopius informs us that in the vast turmoil of the 5th century of the Roman Empire during the reign of the last Emperor of the West, Honorius, the armed bands, tribes and the like saw an opportunity for profit by taking over (plundering?) a resource-rich and valuable section of the Empire. After all, the Roman Empire had been organized and always was a profit-making enterprise for the benefit first of the Romans themselves and then of those they chose to make citizens. They acted like corporations do today. They did not know or suspect the Empire was ending. They were not prescient. Like today’s corporations, they saw short term profit and did not recognize, appreciate or care whether or not a great historical era was ending.
It seems reasonable that the “corporate” leaders of 5th Century Britain saw the apparently far more valuable lands of Brittany and Galicia free for the taking and assembled their bands and their people and set off from dismal fog-shrouded Britain to conquer them. Sort of like a modern company moving their head office, administration and production to someplace that would increase short-term returns to their management and investors.
From Procopius’ De Bellis
c. 540ts CE
[Years 408-450] And the island of Britain revolted from the Romans, and the soldiers there chose as their king Constantinus, a man of no mean station. And he straightway gathered a fleet of ships and a formidable army and invaded both Spain and Gaul with a great force, thinking to enslave these countries. But Honorius was holding ships in readiness and waiting to see what would happen in Libya, in order that, if those sent by Attalus were repulsed, he might himself sail for Libya and keep some portion of his own kingdom, while if matters there should go against him, he might reach Theodosius and remain with him. For Arcadius had already died long before, and his son Theodosius, still a very young child, held the power of the East. But while Honorius was thus anxiously awaiting the outcome of these events and tossed amid the billows of uncertain fortune, it so chanced that some wonderful pieces of good fortune befell him. For God is accustomed to succour those who are neither clever nor able to devise anything of themselves, and to lend them assistance, if they be not wicked, when they are in the last extremity of despair ; such a thing, indeed, befell this emperor. For it was suddenly reported from Libya that the commanders of Attalus had been destroyed, and that a host of ships was at hand from Byzantium with a very great number of soldiers who had come to assist him, though he had not expected them, and that Alaric, having quarreled with Attalus, had stripped him of the emperor’s garb and was now keeping him under guard in the position of a private citizen. And afterwards Alaric died of disease, and the army of the Visigoths under the leadership of Adaulphus proceeded into Gaul, and Constantinus, defeated in [411 a.d. ] battle, died with his sons. However the Romans never succeeded in recovering Britain, but it remained from that time on under tyrants. And the Goths, after making the crossing of the Ister, at first occupied Pannonia, but afterwards, since the emperor gave them the right, they inhabited the country of Thrace. And after spending no great time there they conquered the West. But this will be told in the narrative concerning the Goths.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
The Media, whether left-leaning or right, generally dispenses its information about political proposals not by exposing the public to the specifics of the proposals themselves but by limiting its discussion to the feasibility of those proposals being accepted by the political decision makers. Media insiders call this “Tactical Framing.” The reason for this, I guess, is because the conflict over a political issue they believe is more “newsworthy” than the actual proposals themselves. This is wrong.
C. Today’s Poem:
As I mentioned, I periodically like to visit the Blog “The Fold of the Bards,” (http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/index.html) containing mostly the poetry, original and in translation, of the Celtic bards of antiquity. Posting of much of the poetry, epic in form, is far too long to include in T&T so I often look for shorter pieces or excerpts like the one I include below.
The poems themselves were not originally written down. In order to become a bard one had to spend as much as eighteen years memorizing the poems of the past. Most of the poems concerned battles or the doings of the various gods or other supernatural creatures of Celtic mythology. Often when the heroes of one tribe met the heroes of another in battle, the bards of the respective warrior bands would retire to a nearby valley and conduct a bardic competition. The victor’s poem in that competition often would become the record of the battle in the bardic canon no matter the actual outcome of the battle.
One epic poem I read concerned a powerful tribe in northern England who had achieved dominance over a large area of what is now Northumbria. The battle was fought and the tribe was wiped out to a man. The only record we have of the tribes and that battle is a long poem listing every warrior on that losing side, what each was known for and how they died in battle (heroically of course). As for the winners, virtually nothing appears in the bardic canon. They disappeared from history as though they did not ever exist.
The Flooding of the Braint River
LlGC 9094 (i, ii) [Robert Vaughan’s Notebook]
Peniarth 120 (iii) [Edward Lhuyd’s copy of Vaughan’s Notebook]
Handid haus genyf gerdet yn ddigynvyl
o adaw kymbry wrth ynghussyl
Can dodyw pen Edwin lys Aberffraw
a dyfod Cymru yn un andaw
Neus duc Gwynedd gorvoled i Vrython
The Flooding of the Braint River
Ease the flood without strife
From Wales to forsake my council (?)
The head of Edwin came to the court at Aberffraw
And the Welsh came in an assembly
The lord of Gwynedd brought joy to the Britons
NOTES: This five-line fragment of what we assume was a longer poem is found in only two manuscripts, the second a copy of the first. Robert Vaughan records it, but it’s believed to be much older, at least before the 14th century, based on its orthography, and perhaps not much longer after the life of Cadwallon ap Cadfan, about whom this poem is apparently about. Cadwallon defeated King Edwin of England, who was beheaded; Bede says the head was taken to York, but this poem claims it was taken to the royal court of Aberffraw on the Isle of Anglesey.
The title is difficult to understand on its own; it’s believed that gofara should be amended to gorlifa, “flooding”, and thus evokes the image of the Braint River on Anglesey, overflowing its banks after the death of Cadwallon.
The image of the river overflowing in grief–essentially the land weeping for its fallen lord–may have its origins in the old Celtic concept of the king marrying the goddess of sovereignty. The name of the river–Braint–is derived from Brigantia, the tutelary goddess of the Brigantes, the powerful tribe of North Britain. The name Brigantia, it is argued by scholars like D.A. Binchy, gave rise to the Welsh word for king, brenin, i.e. brenin < breenhin < *brigantīnos, “consort of the goddess Brigantia”. It certainly was the origin of the word braint, meaning “privilege”, for instance privileges concerning land grants (i.e., the Braint Teilo).
This possibly points to either a general wider worship of Brigantia, or to the settlement of Gwynedd by the legendary Cunedda from the part of North Britain where Brigantia was worshipped; however, this presupposes Cunedda to have still been pagan in the fifth century, which while possible is unlikely. It’s also possible that the river was named by the Irish who settled North Wales, including Anglesey, in the fifth century; indeed the Llŷn Peninsula that stretches southeast from the area bordering Anglesey is named for the Laigin, i.e., the Leinstermen, who were likely descended of the Brigantes in Ireland (their territories overlap), and whose patron saint was, not coincidently, St. Brigit.
SOURCES: Gruffydd, R. Geraint. “Canu Cadwallon ap Cadfan”. Astudiaethau ar yr Hengerdd: Studies in Old Welsh Poetry. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. 1978.
“…Had I so interfered on behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or on behalf of any of their friends… it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.”
John Brown the abolitionist at his trial for the attack on Harpers Ferry in 1859.
(It seems like nothing ever changes for the one-percenters.)