April through June 2015

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 6 Shadow 0004 (June 26, 2015)

Laudato Si’

“Life has no reason. You are either here or you are in the Cemetery.”
Giovanni Corsello (June 2015)

Jon Snow Lives — Winter is Coming.

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

 

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY:

 

A. Sicily Agonistes.
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The morning sun lighting up Mt. Pellegrino and the Port of Palermo.

I got up early and watched our arrival into Palermo from the deck of the ferry.

After disembarking, we left Palermo to drive across the island to Agrigento. Being spring, the countryside was still green and bright.
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Since it was still early by the time we arrived in Agrigento, we decided to visit the Valley of the Temples. Actually, valley is a misnomer. The temples are sited on a two-mile long ridge atop a cliff facing the sea that formed the fundamental defensive structure for the city. The ancient Greek City of Akragas itself sat in a long flat valley between the ridge and the heights on which the modern city is built. The temples, made of sandstone and originally covered with plaster and painted bright colors, run the gamut from the almost complete Temple of Concorde through various stages of ruin.
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Temple of Concord                                               Temple of Giove

Having been there before, I knew the site would be hot. I had hoped out morning visit would shield us from the worst of it. It did not. Approaching the end and unhappily contemplating returning, this time uphill, I flung myself on a bench in the direct sun, too tired to search for one in the shade. I was still sick, exhausted, old, thirsty and despondent because I had not taken my happy pills for three days. I felt like an aging tiger licking his wounds in the shadow of a rock, contemplating his rising urge to slay and destroy everything in sight, buildings, people trees — all of it.
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Jason, noticing my distress, helped me into the shade of a small park where I could rest. The park, noted by Camilleri in one of his novels, is the attempted restoration of the area where the ancient Greeks used to fish and recreate among the olive trees. Like most operations of this kind, its hopes did not match its funding or staffing levels. Staring at the trunks of 2000-year-old olive trees soon bored me so Jason walked me to a little cafe where I sat quasi-conscious while he trudged the two miles back to the car and then get lost, as one must before he could return and pick me up.

B. Paradiso Siciliana.

We drove to Canicatti. I tried to remember the way to Antonio’s BnB but could not and after a contretemps with Jason and a comedy with the locals over the name of the street, Antonio arrived and led us to his house.
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There we were restored by a lunch of a spectacular caponata and sun dried tomatoes, Pesto Siciliana, local sheep cheese and sausage. I went to sleep until 9 pm when it was time to meet the neighbors.

The neighbors, in this case, being those renting out the two other rooms in Antonio’s house. They were two youngish couples, one French from Montpellier and the other Belgian from Brussels. After a round of introductions and a few pleasantries, we sat down to dinner.

The dinner began with Eggplant Parmigiana made with local tomatoes that look like large chili peppers and have a stronger more piquant taste than regular tomatoes. This was followed by arancini, (Sicilian fried rice balls, rice packed with cheese [mozzarella] and a meat sauce). After this came a plate of mussels cooked in a heavenly sauce that I will not even try to describe. After sopping up the dregs of the sauce with local bread, Antonio presented us with a pasta with clams, mussels and swordfish and some vegetables. All this was accompanied by four wines, three of which were supplied by Antonio, a Grillo and two varieties of local Criso di Campobello. The fourth bottle was a surprise brought by one of the couples, a red from Nimes.

All this was followed by an orange salad, (large pieces of orange covered in well-cooked onions and lightly dusted with black pepper). Then we were served Sicilian cassata, accompanied by a Sicilian Limoncello. And, of course, fruit freshly picked from Antonio’s garden.
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Antonio is a local pediatrician and a leading member of Sicily and Italy’s Slow Food movement. The house has been the family home for at least three generations. It sits on a little less than an acre of land at the edge of Canicatti. There is a small industrial park on one side and a roadway on the other, yet sitting here one feels far away from urban life. On this tiny bit of land, Antonio grows most of the fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, and some of the nuts with which he serves his guests — and of course, the flowers. When I sit at the outside table at which we eat, I see the following:
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The yard has a litter of kittens, the mother of which has disappeared. They romp through the gardens and in and out of the house catching mice and one another’s tails. Now and then one will take a swipe at your big toe should you wiggle it under the table as you eat.
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I ought to mention the recipe for polpette that Antonio made for Jason and I one evening as we were taking a break from the relatives —take very (hard) stale bread, soak in water for about three hours, squeeze out the water; add meat (half pork and half beef), coriander, three eggs, capers, pecorino cheese, garlic, mint, Italian parsley, salt and pepper and nutmeg. Knead, roll into balls and cook in hot sunflower oil.

At that same meal, we enjoyed a pasta with shrimp and prawns and a meat dish made like braciole.
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Pookie digs in

Later in the week, after the two couples left, we were joined by a German couple. They were here to attend the wedding of a friend. The wife, an ex-bartender, was seven months pregnant. The husband was director of business planning for Siemens wind power subsidiary. We had a number of interesting conversations. They both spoke English well having lived in England and India where the husband worked as a medical systems consultant.
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Jason eats a Cannoli                                           Venerdi and Jason

Toward the end of the week, the figs ripened on Antonio’s trees so we pigged out on them as we watched him turn some of them into preserves and other delicacies.

C. Meet the relatives and eat a lot.

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View of Canicatti
Visiting relatives one has not seen for a while is always a mixture of stress and joy — everyone straining to make each other comfortable for the brief time they have together yet wishing for the easy communication of an ongoing relationship.

Anyway, my eighty-year-old cousin Giovanni arrived with his son to take us to his farmhouse on the top of a hill overlooking Canicatti, the town in Sicily where my mother was born and where I lived for a short while over forty years ago. Giovanni likes to sneak away from home most afternoons to drink wine and nod off to sleep free from his wife’s observation. While he enjoys his pleasures, his son putters around the property. A few days later, we spent a lovely Sunday afternoon at the farm with Giovanni and his entire family.
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Jason, Giovanni, and his son.

On another day we had lunch with an additional group of cousins, Guglielmo, his wife Giovanna and their two sons, his sister Elina and their mother Giuseppina. Giuseppina, Giovanni’s sister, still lives in the same building Jason and I lived in so long ago. Guglielmo is a banker and committed marathon runner. His wife, Giovanna runs half marathons. His sister Elina teaches school in Catania. We had an excellent meal as always.
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Guglielmo and Family                        The view of Canicatti from Giuseppina’s window.

Alas, the next day we had planned a tour of the area with Guglielmo and Elina but unfortunately, he took sick and we had to cancel. That was a disappointment as we looked forward to spending the day with them.

Jason, the good guest that he is, ate everything placed in front of him at the various lunches and dinners. I on the other hand, with varying degrees of success, tried to beg off food offerings before they were served, blaming my all too true intestinal maladies.
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Giovanni and his son, his two daughters Teresa and Maria and their children.
One day, while being driven around the city and its environs, we passed Piezzu Giumeddru (I think it is spelled this way), a large outcropping on the outskirts of the city. It dominates the landscape and it appears to have been split apart by a great force. According to the relatives, it is here the Paladin Orlando, in the great Italian epic “Orlando Furioso,” feigning madness over the woman he loved choosing to bed his best friend, sliced the rock in two with his sword.
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We also visited the beach (it was too windy and cold to swim), and the wonderful Spanish Baroque City of Naro, seat of the Chiaramonte Family, tragically mistakenly bombed by the allies in WWII — but mostly we ate and talked.
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D. Our evening with GiGi.

One night we visited my friend GiGI and his wife. Unfortunately, GiGI suffers from Parkinson’s and has a great difficulty getting around. We spent some time looking at photographs of his illustrious automobile racing career and later we went downstairs into his garage to look at the cars he used to race and where Jason was able to view for the first time in over 40 years the tiny three-wheeled Trojan motorcar that he and I travelled in across Europe from England to Sicily when he was only two and one-half years old.
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E. Departure and return to Sabina.
Eventually, our time in Sicily was at an end and with great regret, we set off for Palermo and the ferry to take us back to Sabina. We spent several hours in Palermo, before boarding the ferry to Naples, getting lost, viewing a few historical sites and shopping.
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Pookie in front of Palermo Cathedral
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Our last view of Sicily

The next morning we drove back to Sabina stopping along the way at Nemi in the Castelli Romani and enjoyed a fine lunch overlooking the lake.
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PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

A. Quigley on Top:

“So I told them about the USA — really very hair-raising when it is all laid out in sequence: . . . .1. cosmic hierarchy; 2. energy; 3. agriculture; 4. food; 5. health and medical services; 6. education; 7. income flows and the worship of GROWTH; 8. inflation. . .showing how we are violating every aspect of life by turning everything into a ripoff because we. . .have adopted the view that insatiable individualistic greed must run the world.”

“Although our cognitive system has made our civilization the richest and mightiest in the world, its continued use without cognitive sophistication is leading us to disaster. Lynn White, Jr., pointed this out in his article, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” in Science for March 10, 1967.”

“Professor White’s thesis is that when the Judeo-Christian faith established the view that there is no spirit in nature other than the human, the world was reduced to a created object to be exploited by humans, and the way was thus opened to the destruction of nature and to the total pollution of the world — a consequence that may have become inevitable with the rejection, in the latter thirteenth century, of the message of St. Francis to treat all nature as sacred.”

“The cognitive techniques derived from our underlying outlook have included ( a) using analysis rather than synthesis in seeking answers to problems; (b) isolating problems and studying them in a vacuum instead of using an ecological approach; ( c) using techniques based on quantification rather than on qualification study done in a contextual situation; (d) proceeding on the assumption of single-factor causation rather than pluralistic, ecological causation; and (e) basing decisions and actions on needs of the individual rather than needs of the group.”

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“When all is said and done, it is not how many toys you die with, but how many stories.”

C. Today’s Poem:

Who invited him in? What was he doing here,
That insolent little ruffian, that crapulous lout?
When he quitted a sofa, he left behind him a smear.
My wife says he even tried to paw her about.
If that is what his friends thought of him, what of his enemies?
Norman Cameron on the visit to his home by the famed poet, Dylan Thomas.

D. Emotions people feel but cannot explain — from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
(Thanks to Denise Mina — may she soon write another novel.)

Sonder. The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own.

 

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Categories: April through June 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 33 JoJo 0004(June 18, 2015)

 

“If I didn’t believe in the miraculous nature of talent and in the sacred duty of the recipient, by now I would have gone so insane that I’d qualify for numerous high government positions.”
Koontz, Dean. Odd Apocalypse: An Odd Thomas Novel (p. 4). Random House Publishing Group.

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SABINA:

The area of Sabina lies about 40 miles northeast of Rome. It was named for the Sabine tribe that lived around here about 2500 years ago*.
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The hills, sky and countryside of Sabina

Jason and I stayed at the home of his long time friend Gianantonio Rando, a farmhouse a short way from Casperia, the Sabina town Jason lived in for a few years when he was young. The farm house and assorted buildings were originally a monastery built in the 1600s. The area is crisscrossed by many tiny dirt and gravel roads. Here and there, fresh water springs still pour water into the tubs where the residents of the area met to do laundry and collect water needed for domestic purposes. Jason having drunk at these same springs every day he lived here as a youth considers the water the purest aqua minerale on earth. I’m not so sure.
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The two windows on the corner of the upper story open into my room.

Gianantonio rents, sets up and operates sound and recording equipment for performances and festivals and also produces music videos — one I particularly like, his own group playing “I can’t give you anything but love baby,” including cuts of film from the 1920s and 30s can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Zd3RquVvWo (Listen to the follow-up video also. The singer in both is from the Naples Conservatory. The guitarist is a teacher and master of classical and jazz guitar at Santa Cecelia.) Gianantonio lives in Rome and uses the house in Casperia as a video, sound and recording studio, to store some of his equipment and as a weekend retreat.
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Gianantonio is also an accomplished musician, a graduate of Santa Cecilia in Rome with a Master on the double Bass. His musical group and company, Mad Cap Official Ensemble can be reviewed at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mad-Cap-Studio-Musicale-Sale-

The first day we searched for a restaurant for lunch and found most of them closed. (The first phrase in Italian both Jason and Hayden learned was “tutti chiuso,” [It is all closed] reflecting the general status of museums or anything in Italy one would want to visit at that moment.) We did find a fairly good place eventually. Jason ordered a marvelous linguini with local mushrooms and truffles.
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That evening Gianantonio and his friend Marcella prepared us a light dinner at the farm house. It included sausage made on the farm, local cheese, and wine, Parma ham, an excellent frittata and finished off with some grappa and organic ice cream that Marcella produces and sells throughout Europe.
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The next day at lunch we drank beer from a micro-brewery owned their friends. The beer was named Club 27 in honor of the many musical artists (e.g., Morrison) who died at 27.
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Another day, another food fest, this time with family at a Neapolitan restaurant near the Tevere. Most of us had pizza but Jason had tuna cacciatore. The high point of the meal was the antipasti, a collection of Neapolitan delicacies including various forms of zeppole, supli, and fried zucchini.
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The next day was barbecue day.
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Sitting beside Gianantonio is Claudio, Marcella’s son, who is trying to break into the events business. He and his family are longtime cacciatori (hunters) and so the talk got around to hunting and fishing. What was most interesting to me was that he also hunts mushrooms and truffles on a few properties nearby. He showed us a photograph of mounds of black and the rare white truffles he found recently. When we questioned him about his ability to find truffles without the assistance of specially trained dogs or pigs, he took us out into the nearby countryside and filled a bowl with truffles in about a half an hour. “It’s all a matter of knowing where to look,” he said, “and I do.”

It seems, since arriving in Sabina, all I do is eat and sleep. After lunch and an adequate time for conversation over coffee, I took a long nap.

Eventually, I did manage to get sick — stomach pain and constipation requiring a trip to the emergency room, purchase of various medications and confinement to my room. Nothing has worked yet.

One night Gianantonio’s recording business brought an Italian Ska group in for a recording session and a promotional video. The video required the studio to appear like a nightclub with flashing lights and a smoke machine. About 50 people showed up effectively turning the small house into a nightclub. They sold Club 27 beer, wine, and grappa to the attendees. I was not feeling well enough to get out of bed, but I loved listening to the music nevertheless.
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Gianantonio’s music group (Mad Cap Official Ensemble) is headlining a concert on American Jazz (Maratona Jazz a Roma) next week, so the musicians came by the studio today to practice. I felt I had time-travelled back to tin-pan-alley and the Jazz of the 20s and 30s which they treated with the same reverence and respect as the New York Philharmonia treats Beethoven or Mozart. For some reason, I started to cry. They played many of the old standards. Their amazing singer was able to change her voice and phrasing to sound like Josephine Baker, Lady Day or Ella Fitzgerald as the song required.

I spent the day listening and taking a few videos which I cannot send with T&T because of technical space limitations, but here is a photograph.
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In spite of my illness, this was one of my life’s more transcendent experiences.

Tomorrow we leave for Sicily. I am still in pain, have not eaten or shit for three days. Perhaps the overnight boat ride from Naples to Sicily and the sea air will cure me of whatever sickness I’ve got.

Because of an airline strike, Nikki will not be able to join us for a night in Naples so I put off leaving here for one more day. The pains have lessened.

Today I had a mild success, some symptoms of whatever I have passed so, Jason and I went to a friends restaurant in Cantalupo and I enjoyed hand-made spaghetti unique to the area in a heavenly mushroom sauce.
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Jason with pasta
The next day the sun was shining brightly while we left the farm. After breakfast, we drove to the Autostrada to Naples.
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Another photograph of Sabina.

About one o’clock, we had a mediocre lunch and drove up the many switchbacks to the famous Monastery of Montecassino. While there I gave Jason one of my bullshit lectures on the history of the monastery until his eyes glazed and he mumbled “Nice building.”
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The Grand Staircase at Montecassino

Returning to the Autostrada, we drove to Naples.

The stress on a 75-year-old father traveling together with his 50-year-old on a long trip like this, is roughly equivalent to the stress on a 50-year-old son traveling on a long trip with his 75-year-old father. I remember taking this trip almost 50 years ago with my 50-year-old father. My brother and I were insufferable, but my father took it all with surprising grace (for him) and reasonable good humor — certainly better than I am now. But, hell, he was only 50 at the time about my son’s age now and I was 25. So it goes, same old, same old. Or, what goes around comes around. Or, about 1000 more tired old cliches.

Arriving a little early in Naples for embarkation onto the boat, I suggested that we drive on to Sorrento and have dinner at a hotel where at least five generations of Petrillo’s have stayed including Jason when he was only a lad. I always stopped there for a night or two whenever I happened to be in Sorrento. It sits right on the edge of the bluffs with Vesuvius to our right and Capri to the left. The last time I had been there was with Margret Azevedo, Denise, and the very young Jessica.

I was shocked when we got there. The place was closed and in ruins.
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So sad, so sad.

So, after dinner at a local restaurant that was not to bad, we returned to Naples and boarded the car ferry for the overnight trip to Palermo.
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Another picture of me eating.

Although I felt better, I still was not over whatever illness I had contracted and felt exhausted so, I collapsed on to my bed in our cabin and fell right asleep while Jason explored the nightlife of car ferries. There is none.
*Pookie’s fractured history: It was the conflict between an outlying village of Sabines encamped on the Quirinale Hill across the pestilent swamp that became the forum and the Roman tribe camped upon the rocky, smaller, less fecund Capitoline hill that the famous story was written about. One night, the Romans, annoyed that the wealthier Sabines considered themselves superior in intelligence and ability and also believed that the Roman penury was due to their lack of intelligence and general laziness and not the crappy soil of the rocky promontory they lived on, or the sharp dealings of the bastards inhabiting the Quirinale Hill, snuck across the marsh and, in biblical fashion, killed the men and took the women for wives and slaves. (There was little difference between being a wife or a slave at that time, except that a wife could lord it over the slaves now and then.) The Romans realizing how simple it was to get rich and how much less work was needed to kill people and take their land than work the land themselves, attacked other tribes in the area, took their land and made them slaves. Eventually, the Romans began to think they were superior to those others and began to consider them ignorant, lazy and menial — and the rest is history.

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quigley on Top:

“For years, I have told my students that I have been trying to train executives rather than clerks. The distinction between the two is parallel to the distinction previously made between understanding and knowledge. It is a mighty low executive who cannot hire several people with command of more knowledge than he has himself. And he can always buy reference works or electronic devices with better memories for facts than any subordinate. The chief quality of an executive is that he has understanding. He should be able to make decisions that make it possible to utilize the knowledge of other persons. Such executive capacity can be taught, but it cannot be taught by an educational program that emphasizes knowledge and only knowledge. Knowledge must be assumed as given, and if it is not sufficient the candidate must be eliminated. But the vital thing is understanding. This requires possession of techniques that, fortunately, can be taught.”
Carroll Quigley. The Evolution of Civilizations. 2nd ed. 1979. p. 420

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“Western Europe during the Middle Ages was the only society in history to prohibit their brightest minds from reproducing by forcing them into celibate religious orders if they evidence the slightest curiosity or passion for knowledge  while at the same time encouraging the most sociopathic and violent to rule and breed at will.”
Trenz Pruca

C. Today’s Paraprosdokian*:

Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.

*A collection of paraprosdokians is called a paradox.

D. Today’s Poem:

Steamboat Willie

I saw Mickey Mouse
As Steamboat Wille
On the telly
Last night.
We both have skinny arms
But I can’t whistle.

(Eat your heart out Emily)

E. Apologies, Regrets, and Humiliations:

Popes: Last issue I indicated the Barberini Pope was Urban VII. That is a mistake. It was Urban VIII. Urban VII was Pope for only 13 days before he died. I should be burned at the stake. Mea culpa.

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“The offices of officials were stormed, and the records destroyed. Serfs became lords. The land was revolving like a potter’s wheel. The high-born were starving, and the fat lords had to work in place of the serfs. Their children were hurled against the walls. High honors went to female serfs, who wore precious ornaments, while former great ladies went around in rags begging for food. Weeds were eaten and water was drunk; food had to be taken from the pigs. The learned man had only one wish: ‘May the people perish and no more be born.’ Those who had been poor suddenly became rich. Upstarts now rule, and the former officials are now their servants.”
Papyrus from the Middle Kingdom Egypt 1991-1786 B.C.

(Same old, same old)

 

Categories: April through June 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 28 JoJo 0004 (June 12, 2015)

“Pessimism is strictly for people who are over-educated and unimaginative.”
Koontz, Dean. Brother Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel (p. 273). Random House Publishing Group.

 

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN ROME:

Sadly I left Sacile and took the night train to Rome. I enjoyed lying on my bunk rocked to sleep by the swaying of the car and the rhythm of the wheels clicking along on the tracks.

I had not intended to do much in Rome except wait for Jason to arrive and then leave directly for Sabina before moving on to Sicily.

I checked into the same pensione I always do — the one near the Via Veneto that services penniless priests and others on their pilgrimages to Rome as well as the odd traveler or two like me, and where, in the mornings, breakfast is accompanied by recordings of Gregorian chant.

After checking in and dropping off my luggage, I walked over to the Borghese Gardens to see if I could get into the museum. I couldn’t, so I strolled around the park.
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The Pines of Rome — The Borghese Gardens (Respighi, first movement)

I ambled down one of the lanes crisscrossing the park, sat down on a bench and watched the tourists pass by on foot or peddling a variety of vehicles.
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In the woods, I could see two people who appeared to be doing something that seemed not completely legal. Nearby a musician was playing the accordion. While I sat there and listened, he worked through many of the great tunes of the 18th Century including those of the Justin Bieber of his era, Wolfie Mozart. — — I can’t believe I just wrote that. I should be ashamed of myself.
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That night I unwittingly locked myself in my room and broke the key off in the lock. I could not raise anyone to get me out until the next morning. I’ve had worse experiences. I convinced myself I was being punished by fate or karma for that line about Mozart.

The next morning, having escaped from confinement, I decided to take a short morning walk for exercise and stop by some of the places I do not consider my visit to Rome complete unless I do.

I planned to begin at Piazza Barberini near my pensione, walk up the hill to Quattro Fontana and the church of San Carlo. I consider this church, Borromini’s first commission, to be among the finest examples of an architect combining art, design, and mathematics in a single building. I then planned to continue on past Bernini’s St Andrea, skirt the Quirinale Palace and push my way through the tourists at Trevi Fountain. Then over to Piazza da Spagna to visit the Keats-Shelly museum dedicated to three young men who unfortunately died before enjoying all the lives most of us are endowed with. But then, perhaps they were only allowed one life to live (except perhaps for Byron [Childe Harold himself]). I planned to follow this up with espresso at Cafe Greco, walk up the Spanish Steps and wind my way home before the heat of the afternoon leaves the streets of Rome to the tourists.
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As I walked from the Triton Fountain toward Quattro Fontana, I noticed that visiting the art collections in Palazzo Barberini was free today and even more surprising, it was open.

Palazzo Barberini is stark proof that there was a time when all a family needed was to produce one Pope (Urban VII in this case) to become unbelievably wealthy and set for generations. The Palazzo now is also the National Art Museum containing an art collection that, although not quite as spectacularly focused as at the Borghese (which I am resigned to never finding open again) nor as vast as the Vatican, nevertheless, is remarkable in its own right.
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I often forget classical artists, in addition to their obsession with murder and mayhem, also struggled mightily to inject sex in all its varieties into their paintings and sculpture.
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“Maddalena Penitente in Estasi” by Guido Cagnacci

This painting below (Betsabea al Bagno by Jacopo Zucchi [Firenze 1541-Roma 1593]), while I was there, seemed to be the most popular among the women visitors. They would stop to discuss and take numerous pictures of the painting while the men mostly strolled by without glancing at it. I could not figure out why.
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Some of the Museum’s more famous paintings (capo lavori) below, from left to right: “Narcissus,” by the incomparable artist, drunkard, sociopath and murderer Caravaggio; “Beatrice Cenci,” by the gifted Guido Reni; “Fornarina,” by the sublime and subtle Rafael (although perhaps not all that subtle this time).
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After leaving the museum, I walked to San Carlo to pay homage. I was so moved while there, that for the first time in 50 years I attended mass — a high mass no less.
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The woman in red has been begging at this spot for as long as I can remember.
I left San Carlo feeling virtuous, slipped a Euro to the woman in red at the door and walked on.

As I was passing the Quirinale Palace, the home of the Italian President, I discovered that for the first time in my experience it was open for tourists. I took advantage of the opportunity and entered. The palace was opulent as could be expected and contained a remarkable number of tapestries. As usual, it was guarded by a special branch of Carabiniere who some have suggested are, “as tall as angels (over 6’6’’?) and as dumb as stones.” One, stationed in the center of an especially ornate room so as to be seen by all, seemed to be at least 7ft. tall. With his golden helmet and irritated eagle on top, he appeared to approach 8ft. His feet clearly hurt him as he leaned on his sword and shifted from one foot to another.
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Future recruits.
I left the Quirinale and after skirting the Trevi Fountain ate lunch in a little restaurant where 40 years ago the woman who owned it then had me try, for the first and last time, cervello (brains). Then it was over to the Keats-Shelly museum and an espresso at Cafe Greco.
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A Pookie selfie in Cafe Greco.

Following my coffee break, I walked up the companion stairs to the right of the Spanish Steps that used to be the leather glove center of Rome and on back to the pensione.
When I arrived back at the pensione, as I passed small room off the stairs, I heard the woman who runs the place and two others laughing loudly. One of the women I had surprised when I opened the toilet door this morning. I was more embarrassed than she was. It seems strange this establishment dedicated to religious pilgrimages has unisex bathrooms.

Anyway, as I passed by, the proprietress saw me, mentioned to the others my unintended imprisonment last night and called out to me. They all laughed some more and invited me to join them. Too embarrassed, I excused myself, scampered up the stairs, locked myself in my room hoping the key would not break and crawled into bed.

The next day I decided to spend the morning wandering around the Villa Borghese again. As I walked up the Via Veneto, I thought about the club I often frequented 45 years ago. It was underground located in the crypts not needed by the adjacent Capuchin monks for their diorama of death. It was dark and smokey, the music a mix of jazz and rock. We, dressed in our turtle neck shirts, huddled in the tiny crypts drinking wine and discussing poetry and the war in Viet Nam. We were the last gasp of the Beats before they were swept away by the flower rebellion and folk rock. It is still a nightclub today, but an expensive one and the crypts are now used for gambling. It just goes to show, give a hippie enough money and he will spend it on high priced booze and gambling (well, dope too).

The Borghese Gardens are the lungs of Rome and perhaps a bit of its soul also. I used to hang out here in the Gardens many years ago. It was my retreat from city life.
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As I entered the Gardens I noticed signs for something called, “Social Network Week.” I have no idea what they meant, except perhaps free Wi-fi hookups among the pines for Facebook addicts.

While strolling along, I saw a pair of bright green birds flitting about in the trees. At first, I thought they were Rome’s version of San Francisco’s escaped parrot colony. These, however, did not make the raucous sound of the SF flock and their tail feathers were as long and their bodies.
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Recently they have added an exact replica of the Globe Theatre, barely visible among the trees. I hope they show a selection of all Elizabethan plays and not just Shakespeare. In other posts, I have expressed my dissatisfaction with the general exclusion of other Elizabethan dramatists in the academic world and at drama festivals.

I went by the Borghese Museum. It was closed Mondays so I sat on the bench near where the accordionist usually plays his Baroque medleys. I guess he was closed Mondays also. The guy with the electric mandolin was there, however. The plinking sound of Neapolitan folk tunes made into 1950’s hit songs skittered through the trees. A splatter of young teens armed with eggs, flour and aerosol cream whirled by and, in a lengthy pre-coital ritual, gaily covered each other and the pathway with bits of uncooked pastry.

On the way back to my pensione, I passed a small but loud protest in front of the American Embassy. I watched for a while. It was not the mass rallies against the war that I remembered from the late sixties but it still had the homemade signs, the slogans, and the whistles. I could not figure out what they were protesting but, since in general I believe protests are a good thing, I shouted my support. I was not arrested nor beaten with a police baton so the demonstration could not have been all that significant.
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All in all, it was a wonderful morning.

The next day Jason arrived. He will drive directly to Casperia in Sabina being unwilling to brave the traffic of Rome (no one has ever written a symphonic piece entitled, “The Traffic of Rome”). I will take the train and join him there tomorrow. Meanwhile, I have another day to wander the city. I think today will be ice cream day. I’ll probably walk to Piazza Navona for a lunch of bad spaghetti carbonara and good ice cream.

The walk from the Via Veneto to Piazza Navona even if you take the narrow back alleys is tourist highway. Hundreds of flag-waving tour guides lead legions of eager sightseers to the not to be missed marvels along the way. I veered slightly off the track to visit St Ignatius’ Trompe d’oil ceiling and the magnificent but unappreciated piazza in front.
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I passed through the plaza in front of the Pantheon and braved the masses to drop into the old building to pay my respects. I was surprised when I entered to discover it putting on an unusual light show of its own.
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In the piazza, a woman was playing a mournful “Ave Maria,” (is there any other way to play it?) on the accordion. Surprisingly, as I departed the piazza I could still clearly hear it as I walked along the backstreets. Other people and sounds seemed to disappear until I felt there was only me and the music floating above the gloom of the alley.

Just before arriving at Piazza Navona my heart skipped a beat, the door to the state archives containing Borromini’s master-work of his mature years was open. Because it was located in the archives, I had never been able to visit the church before. As with San Carlo the site was difficult to build on and Borromini had to design a church unique in Christendom to fit there. Instead of basing the design of the interior on circles, ovals and squares, he used interlocking triangles. Alas, my hopes were crushed. The small library he designed to house the Pontifical Academy’s Library was open, but the church was not. I did find out access to the church was now available on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.
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St Ivo in Sapienza

I passed through Piazza Navona and into the warren of streets on its far side. I had hoped that I could get far enough away from the piazza to find edible food. Until now, since I have been unable to get to places like Piazza Tuscola (outside the walls) and the like, I have been stuck eating the overpriced inedible stuff served in Centro. I found a place right by one of my favorite churches. There was no one eating there and two surly teenagers who I assumed were the waitpersons sat by the door fiddling with their smartphones. I assumed either the food was so bad everyone knew to stay away or the food was good and the service terrible. I bet on the latter and sat down. I won my bet. The food (gnocchi con buffala mozzarella) was excellent and the panna cotta with fresh raspberries heavenly.
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Pookie is happy when he eats.

The church was notable because the Renaissance and Baroque era Popes, in a vain effort to discourage the location of national churches that were breeding like locusts in central Rome, gave this site to a small German order because he thought the piazza was too tiny to fit a church in it. He was wrong.
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The restaurant is on the left.

I do not recall the architect of the facade but the designer of part of the interior was Bramante. It was he who made it fit, There was a Chagall exhibit going on inside today, but the entrance fee was more than I wanted to spend.

Then I sauntered off to Piazza Argentina with the statue of he who did not cave, like Galileo, to Papal pressure, Giordano Bruno (he was burned at the stake instead) rising above the daily market.
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While approaching the Via Veneto on my return, my right ankle gave out and I fell hard on to the sidewalk. Two American tourists helped me up and inquired if I was all right. “Embarrassed,” I responded, “but otherwise all right.” And, after thanking them, I walked off trying to appear unaffected by my tumble.

If it were Bangkok and I fell on the sidewalk, I would be quickly eaten by soi dogs and street rats and no one would help me get up. Instead, they would stand around and laugh at the clumsy fat farang in his death throes.

Ah, well, tomorrow I am off to Sabina.

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quigley on Top:

“Experience may be the best teacher, but its tuition is expensive, and, when life is too short, as it always is, to learn from the experience of one’s own life, we can learn best from the experiences of earlier generations. All such experiences, whether our own or those of our predecessors, yield their full lessons only after analysis, meditation, and discussion.”
Carroll Quigley, Weapons Systems and Political Stability.

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“The last refuge of scoundrels is not patriotism but the claim that no one could see it coming.”

C. Today’s Paraprosdokian*:

The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

*Paraprosdokians devour their own minds.

D. Today’s Poem:

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d advertise — you know!

How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one’s name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
Emily Dickinson

(Everyone has a bad day now and then.)

E. Message from the Old Sailor in Bangkok

“….having an interesting day ….a guy died in the lobby ….too many ladyboys ….dirt on his shirt …..from his last meal or his last ladyboy…..from Denmark ….drank too much and smoked.

Good name for a book: Dead Guy in the Lobby”

 

Categories: April through June 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 24 JoJo 0004 (June 9, 2015)

 
Sam Spade: “Ten thousand? We were talking about a lot more money than this.”
Kasper Gutman: “Yes, sir, we were, but this is genuine coin of the realm. With a dollar of this, you can buy ten dollars of talk. “

Happy Birthday Good/Bad David

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN VENETO:

Back in Sacile and Tamai:

Following my return from Venice, I awaited news whether HRM would be joining me here. On June 2 he arrived in Milan. I was very disappointed when I heard that he would not be coming to Sacile before I left for Rome. So, I moved my departure date up to June 5. Sadly I realized I probably would not see him again this summer.

On the other hand, my son Jason, through the formidable efforts of his wife Hiromi, finally notified me that he will be able to join me on this trip. That made me happy.

In the meantime, I spent my days roaming around the farm or walking in the mornings to Tamai about two miles away for coffee and a brioche.
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Vittorio plows his fields

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The farm. Barely visible in the haze, Mt. Cavallo rises in the background about 6000 feet above the flood plain, hiding the Dolomite and the Alps from view. From its slopes on clear days, one can see Venice and Trieste.

Some barnyard humor: Hens lay eggs. Roosters become dinner.

Vittorio once told me that Tamai was named after the sheds in which the local farmers dumped their cow feces to be reused as fertilizer. You may amuse yourself, as I have, thinking up ways to translate Tamai into English. My favorite, Cowpattyton.
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The cafe at which I enjoy my espresso and brioche and the Tamai clock tower in the background, tall enough for all the farmers in the area to see the time from their fields or hear the bells.

In the evenings, I joined Vittorio and his family for dinner. I have forgotten what daily meals in extended families were like; full of talk and noise, lots of arguments, some laughter and bits of unintentional cruelty. The food was always enjoyable and hardy and the wine mellow. I missed the presence of Vittorio’s father who died about a year ago. He would not consider the meal ended without a healthy dose of grappa.

Often I sat on the porch dozing or watching the intellectually challenged sister endlessly sweep the tile pathways that Vittorio laboriously installed the last time I was here.
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One evening I joined Vittorio for band practice in the nearby Town of Porcia. He plays Tuba in the Porcia Symphonic Marching Band (not its real name). I enjoyed myself immensely.
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Another evening we traveled to Pordenone, a somewhat larger city and the administrative center of the area. Vittorio disgustedly told me that the town of about 60,000 has over 400 lawyers. They were having a town wide antique sale that evening with booths lining the streets in the center of town. As we walked from booth to booth, I stopped at one specializing in antique sword canes. I used to collect walking sticks. I picked up some of the more interesting ones to examine more closely, then regretfully put them back down because I no longer could afford such extravagances.

On June 2 the holiday celebrating the foundation of the Italian Republic, Vittorio, dressed in his band uniform, invited me to join him in Pordenone to listen to the political speeches and occasional band music. I declined and instead spent the day wandering about Sacile taking photographs of things I have photographed before and a few I haven’t.
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One scene I had not photographed before.

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And one that I have.

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Where I had pizza and of course, prosecco.

While sitting outdoors in one of the cafe’s in the piazza, a cheeky pigeon landed on my table and boldly stared me in the eye. It then arrogantly strutted, as only a pigeon can, across the table. After looking into my eye once more as if challenging me to stop it, it dipped its beak into my espresso and flew off. I sat there staring at the cup wondering if I were enough of an environmentalist to view this as an opportunity to mystically bond with one of nature’s creatures and drink the rest of the coffee. I decided, in agreement with Bill Yeates, that I was not and left to continue my exploration of the city.
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The piazza with the cafe on the near left where my espresso was attacked by the pigeon.

One blissful evening while wandering through Sacile, I happened on a concert in the piazza. The Trieste Percussion Group, led by composer-director Fabian Perez Tedesco, performed a number of interesting pieces. They were fine musicians. One piece, performed by three drummers got everyone’s blood racing.
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Thursdays were market days in Sacile. The streets of the town were covered in stalls selling just about everything. I would linger by those selling flowers, cheese, fruit or leather enjoying the color and aroma.

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After shopping and completing our tour of the stalls, we would visit our favorite bar/cafes for coffee, prosecco and whatever before returning home to Tamai.

There are three bar/cafe’s in Sacile that I along with Vittorio and Anita frequent; Lucia’s with the happy Prosecco; Nadia’s near the piazza where the young man with the Elephant Boy’s disease can sometimes be found. Despite his facial deformity, it seems to me that when he speaks his voice is magnificently beautiful and angelic. He sounds so compassionate and humble that people gather around for the sheer pleasure of listening to him. He also owns the most spectacular tricked out Moto Guzzi I have ever seen. I did not see him this trip and Vittorio indicated that he had not seen him around in a while.

The third cafe is Maria’s. It is always open. From daybreak to about midnight every day, Maria is there behind the bar. That day, when I asked her if she served lunch, she brought me some wonderful chicken croquettes and local wild mushrooms that she had prepared for her family and which I washed down with two glasses of prosecco. She did not charge me for the meal. One evening I was at the cafe drinking some pear juice when Maria confided how much she likes the music of Queen.
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Vittorio, some of the regulars and I sit and smile in front of Maria’s cafe.

Another afternoon Vittorio pointed to a man who drops by Maria’s every day and sits in the bench by the window drinking wine and reading the newspaper. Vittorio said he was 99 years old and has been following this routine for many years now. He does not even wear glasses.

Like most of the bars and cafes, Maria’s has an electronic slot machine at which some of the local pensioners spend all their money within the first few days after receiving their checks and spend the rest of the month cadging drinks from their friends. Vittorio told me that when he asked a few why they did this when their pension money would allow them to live well in a low-cost jurisdiction like Thailand, they usually respond with something like, “Ah yes, I know, but this is home and this is what I choose to do and where I want to stay.”

In addition to Professor Hank, another of my American friends here is Brian the Teacher. He is the science teacher for the high school students and the American army base. He grew up in South Dakota somewhere near the Good/Bad David.

I love the towns, Vittorio and his family and the people I meet at the three cafes.

Across the street from Maria’s, behind a hedge of sweet smelling honeysuckle, there is a large palazzo originally owned by a man, now passed away, who most likely made his money manipulating the government (he may have started as a plumber or perhaps a farmer or a plastic fabricator). His wife I understand, now old and leaning toward infirm, lives there alone. Sometimes when I sit at the small table outside of Maria’s and look up at the palazzo I speculate whether or not she ever stands at the window looking down at us with our glasses of wine in hand laughing and talking and wonders if that life she had convinced herself was so much superior to that of her childhood friends, really was.
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And suddenly it was time to leave.

B. Book Report:

Although I am traveling, I still manage to put in time reading novels. Recently I read Arturo Perez-Reverte’s latest. Perez-Reverte whose taut but lush adventure and mystery novels generally take place in Spain during its long sad decline from world empire until the old order was finally snuffed out by the armies of Napoleon. His series of books, featuring the melancholy but indomitable soldier and peerless swordsman Captain Alatriste, are classics.

The Siege, as its name implies, takes place during the interminable multi-year siege of Cadiz where the armies of Napoleon and his brother Joseph, the imposed King of Spain, had chased the government of the tattered empire and its inconsistent allies, the English. Cadiz, however still had access to the sea and many of its merchants, smugglers and privateers flourished even while the bombs daily rained down on parts of the city. The plot revolves around the attempts by the brutal and corrupt Chief of Police to solve a series of exceedingly vicious murders.

Unfortunately, Perez-Reverte introduces a sub-plot, a bodice ripper straight out of Danielle Steele — A romance between the dashing but crude and dangerous, curly haired, handsome and muscular captain of a privateer, Pepe Lupo (Joe Wolf) and his employer, the refined, learned, capable, aristocratic, accomplished and almost beautiful owner of one of the city’s premier shipping companies, Lolita Palma. Lolita, virginal from to tip of her leather boots to the top of her lace mantilla, unfortunately is 32 years old and unmarried. In the Cadiz of that time, at 32 she hovered between the twilight of fuckable and the onset spinsterhood. Perez-Reverte, damn him, shamelessly introduces a scene where Joe confronts Lolita at an elegant ball, causing her to snap open her fan and rapidly cool down the rising warmth of a blush.

“At least,” I thought, “he does not have the poor woman wet her drawers.” Alas, not more than a couple of dozen pages later, as Joe Wolf’s cutter heads off on another venture in legalized piracy, the still virginal Lolita, standing behind the crenellations of the tower above her Palacio and staring at the corsair’s ship as it disappears over the horizon, does just that. Arturo Perez-Reverte, you should be ashamed of yourself

Nevertheless,
Pookie says, “check it out.”

“…all things have their allotted time in the suicidal order of things— in life, and in its inexorable outcome, death.”
Perez-Reverte, Arturo. The Siege: A Novel (p. 358). Random House Publishing Group.

Note: Reading this book makes me wonder if getting involved in the shithole that was Spain at that time was not as great a mistake for Napoleon as his march into Russia. It is usually the inability of empires to know their bounds that bring them to ruin. I wonder if that was the genius of Augustus Caesar; to recognize there were limits to expansion of empire beyond the need to establish secure boundaries. It probably enabled the Roman Empire to survive for another 1000 years until the thugs of the Fourth Crusade finally put it out of its misery.

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quigley on Top:

Will history repeat itself?

“In the west with which we are concerned here, there was a climate change after A.D. 200, marked, it would seem, by a retreat of the polar icecap and the polar area of high pressures; this allowed the prevailing westerly winds and rains to move northward so that they passed over the Baltic Sea and Scandinavia, with great growth of forest in all northern Europe, and with greatly reduced rainfall in the Mediterranean, North Africa, and east of the Caspian Sea.

In the same period, war and disease resulted in a decrease of population of up to 60 per cent in Europe or in the Roman empire from about 200 to after 800, that is to say over six hundred or more years. Careful studies of the population of the Roman empire seem to indicate that its population fell from about 70 million persons at the time of Christ to about 50 million in 300. The wars, migrations, spread of plagues, and abandonment of much family life, including the spread of chastity for religious reasons and of sexual perversions for other reasons, all contributed to this decrease. This had a very adverse influence on economic production as well as on defense, especially when it was combined, after 200, by a flight from the cities to the rural areas, and a movement of economic activities toward self-sufficiency.

One of the chief characteristics of an economic depression is a reduction in roundabout modes of production by a decrease in investment, although not necessarily in savings, along with a reduction in the specialization of production and exchange of products. The links in any chain of activity from the original producer to the final consumer are reduced in number; individuals retreat from very specialized activities to more general ones; the use of exchange and of money decreases.

All of these changes are to be found in weapons systems and in defense, where we find a similar tendency to fall back on the simpler, less complex, and more general forms of weapons, tactics, and organizational arrangements, including, for example, the belief that the same man should produce food and fight (peasant militia) or a reduction of defense to a single weapon or only two. We may not notice these military consequences when the depression is brief, as the world depression of 1929-1940, but these effects do appear when such an economic collapse continues for centuries, in a dark age.

The effects of such a change are also important on the non-material aspects of the society, where we find a tendency for people to turn toward a more personal and existential life, with emphasis on day-to-day interpersonal activities, decreasing emphasis on planning for the future in this secular world, and a decrease in abstract thinking and generalizations, but instead, a great emotional and intellectual emphasis on a few symbols and words. Life tends to polarize into almost total absorption in momentary empirical activity, with intellectual life reduced to a few large symbols.”
From Weapons Systems and Political Stability (1976) by Carroll Quigley.

It appears that many of these things are occurring again today except for the population reductions, although in Western Europe and English-speaking North America immigration is all that is keeping those areas from experiencing a precipitous population decline.

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“Crises like climate change, food sufficiency and water availability probably cannot be resolved if human population continues to increase. Hydrocarbon emissions, food consumption and water use are not increasing on a per capita basis anywhere near rate of growth in the total use of those resources. The direct approach to dealing with population growth has been to provide greater access to birth control. This is a good thing and should be continued. Still, despite decades of trying, the growth of human population continues out of control. The only successful population control other than war, famine and plague has been the liberation and education of women. Wherever women are free and informed, rates of population growth decline.”
Trenz Pruca

C. Today’s Paraprosdokian*:

Some people are like Slinkies … not really good for anything, but you can’t help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs.

*Paraprosdokian was not the name of a Governor of California.

D. Today’s Poem:

Watching blue mold of bread grow,
Birds fly, cocks crow,
Autumn leaves come falling by,
How many days before I die?

(As one wag said after reading this poem, “The sooner, the better.”)

E. A Skype message from The Old Sailor in Bangkok

“I have been drunk now for over two weeks
Passed out and I rallied and I sprung a few leaks
But I’ve got to stop wishin’, got to go fishin’
I’m down to rock bottom again.

 

Categories: April through June 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 22 JoJo 0004 (June 5, 2015)

 

“What we fear too much we often bring to pass.”
Koontz, Dean. Odd Apocalypse: An Odd Thomas Novel (p. 95). Random House Publishing Group.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM

 

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN VENETO:

Venice and the Biennale.

The next day I left Sacile by train for Venice and the Biennale. The sky was overcast but my spirits were high. I was excited because the Biennale was something I always wanted to visit, even though I was never sure what went on there. As I discovered, it includes the visual arts, music, a film festival and architecture exhibits. Menotti’s Festival of the Two Worlds was another I longed to see although I had no idea what two worlds he was thinking of (actually the US and Europe). I imagined I would walk down the streets of Spoleto with strains of Vivaldi alternating with snatches of Amahl and the Night Visitors cascading down upon me from open windows.

I always try to remember when I visit Wonders of Nature or the Glories of Humanity that they also usually are someones home and that pride of place is not all that it is cracked up to be.

By the time I arrived in Venice the sun was shining. There may be cities with more canals or more bridges than Venice, but there are none more picturesque. Every time I come here, I am overcome with an uncontrollable urge to snap pictures of the same buildings and scenes that I have taken perhaps a hundred times before. It is either Venetian magic, hypnosis or some dread disease that crawls out from the foetid canals at night.

I could imagine some old Doge sitting in an elegant room in his palace surrounded by his architects and engineers, looking up at the paintings by the Republic’s greatest artists and saying, “You know guys, someday everyone will be able to make a picture of this town just by pressing a button. At least, it will rid me of those arrogant overpriced artists cluttering up the piazza — they flit around like locusts, worse like lawyers. So remember, whatever you do make it picturesque so that should this town ever sink under the sea everyone can still recall the glory of the Serenissima.”

And so, I plunged into the mass of tourists, taking photographs along the way.
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First photo upon arrival.

As usual, whenever I visit Venice, I try to lose myself in the tiny and dark passageways of the city. Yet no matter the mysterious lanes one explores, or even if you, like a character in a Thomas Mann novel, feel compelled to follow a flash of color of someone crossing a small bridge and disappearing into a maze of alleyways, you always end up at either the Rialto or Piazza San Marco.
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In case you doubted that this is the Century of the Woman, I came across the following election posters in a plaza along the way.
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Near the Academe Bridge, I stopped for a glass of cool white wine at a tiny cafe where, a few years ago Hayden, Nikki and I stopped for some wine and sandwiches. Sitting next to us at that time were two middle-aged teachers from England who shared a home together in Venice. We talked and drank more wine until I became tipsy and tripped over the sign in the alley outside as I left.
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Pookie’s selfie on the Rialto

After pushing through the crowds of tourists thronging Piazza San Marco and taking the requisite photographs, I walked along the waterfront that Canaletto painted almost as many times as I had photographed it.
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The light was typically Venetian, luminous and indistinct that made everything shine like it was lit from within and, unlike the sharp lines of the chiaroscuro light further south, turned the shadows gray and fuzzy. I stopped at the church of La Pieta to pay homage to the Red Priest (Vivaldi) and his teenage all-girl marching band that used to delight the Venetians with the Baroque version of a rock concert.
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I always liked this much-photographed scene.

It was lunchtime as I passed beyond the Arsenale, so I searched for the restaurant that Professor Hank recommended. Eventually, I found it and sat down. From the waitress with tattooed arms, I ordered the Sarde con Saor that Professor Hank suggested along with a side dish of eggplant and peppers and a glass of Prosecco since they served the Pinot Grigio Professor Hank suggested only by the bottle and I was not prepared for either that expense or to get that drunk.
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The Restaurant is on the right.

The Sarde con Saor was quite tasty although sardines are far down on my personal list of favorite foods. The dish is prepared by covering the sardines with onions cooked in olive oil until they are soft and drenching them at the table with wine vinegar and is accompanied by some polenta.
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Following lunch I continued along the embankment toward the park (Giardini) at the far end of the City in which much of the Biennale’s visual arts were displayed.

In the many times I had visited Venice, I had never ventured beyond the Arsenale before. It is surprisingly comfortable neighborhood that is much less overrun with tourists than other parts of the city.
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Many of the Biennale exhibits and performances are spread throughout the city in museums, churches and storefronts that, due to the Italian notorious genius for hiding their entrances or misstating their opening times, I unknowingly passed by, but I thankfully found a few. Here are some.
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A sculptress who likes balancing big rocks on their narrow end.

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An art commune that specializes in reusing refuse.

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An artist who paints her buildings strange colors.

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An exhibit of ancient musical instruments.

There was even one by an artist named Tsang Kin-Wah called, The Infinite Nothing (I think it was the Hong Kong exhibit). It contained a totally lightless room. As I stood before the door, I became very frightened especially because I could not see one inch into the room even though the hall in which I stood was well lit. Despite the urgings of the hostess, I refused to go further and left. I guess I will never become the reluctant hero of a science fiction novel or ghost story.

The main venues for the visual arts exhibits, however, were grouped in the Giardini and the Arsenale.
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The entrance to the Giardini.

In the Giardini there were many pavilions, some permanent and some constructed just for the Biennale. Most pavilions featured a single artist or a small group of artists and most were installations. I dislike installations. They always remind me of industrial junk yards but not half as interesting.
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Spain                                                                        I don’t know this one

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The cafeteria

The US pavilion contained a pretty good installation by an artist who did things much like my brother in his installations 30 years ago. What it had to do with All the World’s Futures, the theme of the Biennale, I had no idea.
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The US pavilion

By far most of the art displayed was self-important and bombastic but, now and then, one came upon a piece that gently rolled down your socks and kissed your feet.
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An apotheosis of self-importance and bombast, from Britain

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This Japanese installation tickled my toes

Speaking of apotheosis, there actually was a pavilion entitled Apotheosis. It was either Czech or Polish or something. I never found out.
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Upon entering you found yourself in a large white room with a big blank white canvas-like feature at one end, perhaps 20 feet high and 15 wide. Most people would stand there, attempt to puzzle out what they saw, give up and leave. But, if you approached the slab you would find an elaborate painting the same size behind it. Unfortunately, the slab and the painting were so close together that you had to squeeze in between them to see the painting and then you could only see it by looking into a mirror pasted on the back of the white slab. The painting itself was a reproduction of a somewhat well-known allegorical painting of about 50 years ago entitled, “Apotheosis of the Slav rising from Slavery.” (I’m not kidding.) The current artist who prepared the installation had added to the painting things like a chain around the neck of the main figure, a tattoo on his arm that said, “Revolver” and a lot of other graffiti. “Obviously,” I thought, “there’s a whole lot of symbolism here longing to be free.” Alas, I was far too exhausted at this point to try to figure it out, so I moved on.

Completing my tour of the pavilions and exhibits in the Giardino, I retraced my steps to the Arsenale.
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There the exhibits dealt mostly with the arts of war and were pretty gruesome so I passed through them quickly and on to the few others not dedicated to the subject.
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A Russian artist built this.

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At first, I thought this was a covering for some remedial work on the walls of the Arsenale, but I was assured by a placard that this was a work of art. There are times I wish that Marcel Duchamp had been strangled in his cradle.

After this, I thought it was time to head back to the station. I decided to first explore the area to the northwest of the Arsenale that had been the haunt of Dibdin’s Aurelio Zen before he was exiled to Sicily for solving a crime no one wanted him to.
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Having walked across the length and breadth of the City, my aging legs began to fail me, so eventually I collapsed into a Bellini. That is, I fell into a chair at a cafe that specialized in Bellinies (?). (If the plural of Bellini is Bellini then shouldn’t the singular of Bellini be Bellino?)
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Pookie and his Bellino

After this short rest, I staggered back to the train station taking one last photograph before I left.
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On the train, I mused about the many more artworks and innumerable musical performances and movies included in the Biennale that I had not seen or experienced. But, I contented myself with the knowledge that checking off an item on my bucket list is not that bad a day at all.

I arrived back in Sacile at dusk, tottered over to Lucia’s and drank glasses of Prosecco until Vittorio arrived to drive me back to Tamai.

Postscript: In the Andorran display (yes there is an Andorra and it has at least one artist) hidden somewhere among the haunts of Aurelio Zen, I saw this broom leaning against a wall. It was not the exhibit but could well have been.
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(The actual exhibit was a bunch of ruined canvases tossed into a corner. I assume the broom was to be used on the exhibit at the festival’s close — come to think of it, perhaps the broom was part of the exhibit after all.)

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quigley on Top:

“There have been three periods in the history of Western Civilization during which we have been overwhelmed by lawyers and judges, who tell us again and again that we cannot do certain things because they are illegal, even if those things are absolutely essential. The first period would be from 1313 to about 1480; the second was from about 1690 to the French Revolution; which was a revolt against a mass of confused, legalistic rigidity preventing necessary reforms. The third is our own day, when judges and lawyers are running everything and we are obsessed by legalism and litigation.”
Carroll Quigley Ph.D. Public Authority and the State in the Western Tradition: A Thousand Years of Growth, A.D. 976 – 1976.

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“Most wealthy individuals are scoundrels. Only very few admit it and they usually are already in jail.”

C. Today’s Paraprosdokian*:

When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

* A pile of paraprosdokians is called a stand-up comic.

D. Today’s Poem:

The frost has known,
From scattered conclave by the few winds blown,
That the lone genius in my roots,
Bare down there in a jungle of fruits,
Has planted a green year, for praise, in the heart of my upgrowing days.

Written by Dylan Thomas when he was only fourteen years old.

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“Republicans continue to refuse to extend [unemployment insurance]. You know what, I am beginning to think that they’ve got a point. If you want to get paid while not working, you should have to run for Congress just like everybody else.”
Barak Obama

 

Categories: April through June 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 15 Jo Jo 0004 (May 30, 2015)

 

“Fearlessness is for the insane and the arrogant.”
Koontz, Dean. Deeply Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel (p. 132). Random House Publishing Group.

 

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN LOMBARDIA:

1. International Food EXPO.

I spent the night in Nikki’s apartment in Busto Arsizio, a nondescript residential suburb outside of Milan.
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It took a day to sleep off jet lag after which we went to the International Food EXPO being held in Milan until October. If you get a chance, you should go also. It is fabulous. What is more enjoyable than a festival celebrating food and wine? It’s also gratifying to attend an international exhibition that replaces “my technology is better than yours,” with, “welcome, eat my food and drink my wine.”
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The exhibition is immense. A large covered promenade extending well over a mile lined with pavilions featuring form over function architecture (buildings with no conceivable use) formed the focal center of the EXPO. I especially appreciated, given that my aging legs soon gave out, that the whole fair was amply supplied with places to rest, to sit or lie down and, of course, to eat and drink.
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The Promenade                                             The mechanized EXPO centerpiece

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A Pavillion

In the twelve hours we spent there, we were able to visit only about six or so of the national pavilions.

At the Czech pavilion, we drank some excellent beer. The pavilion seemed to be one of the party centers of the fair. In front was a large shallow pool surrounded by beach chairs on which fair-goers would sit in the sun sipping their beer. Late at night, tipsy young people would jump into the pool and splash around. Nobody minded.
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At the Czech Pavilion

The Rumanian exhibit featured a log cabin on the roof of the pavilion at which Nikki and I sat, ate some Rumanian native foods and drank a bottle of strong almost black Rumanian wine.
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The Rumanian Pavillion

By the time we got to the Turkish pavilion, I collapsed in a small gazebo type structure with a fountain in the middle where I slumped comatose on the pillows until Nikki revived me with some strong Turkish tea.

We, also visited the USA pavilion (mostly meh!), the Brunei Pavilion, Slovenia (more beer) and one or two others. The various Arab pavilions, which we did not visit, seemed very popular, but I was told they did not serve food or wine. What they did in there I never found out.

By far my favorite place was the immense EATALY pavilion. EATALY, the company that builds and operates emporiums featuring Italian regional foods, created a site containing about 20 restaurants, each featuring foods and wines from a different region of Italy, along with a fabulous collection of artworks. Food, wine, and art, what is more civilized than that? We ate lunch and dinner there and drank lots of wines, Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc, Chianti and a wonderful red from Piemonte.
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The EATALY Pavilion

We met up with a friend of Nikki’s, the last Count Visconti. The great Visconti family ruled Milano from the Thirteenth to the Fifteenth Century until one of their sons-in-law established the Sforza dynasty. The Count’s father managed to eat, drink, whore and generally misinvest the family fortune leaving Marco, the present Count, penniless and forced to seek work. He is, along with Nikki, a pilot for Alitalia. He was accompanied by his girlfriend a successful attorney, her son a precocious six-year-old who, when tricked into it, speaks English without a noticeable accent and the Count’s daughter, an adolescent who knows her own mind.
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The Count on Nikki’s left, the lawyer on his right, the Count’s daughter and, the Little Prince, Giacomo, above.

The next day I took the train into Milan to meet with Marco Gallo. Marco is the son of my friend Luigi who lives in Sicily and who I expect to visit in about three weeks. Marco is a doctor of nutrition specializing in sports nutrition. He is deeply in love with an attractive young woman the way only the young can be.

We went to the Piazza del Duomo, where we had lunch at a superb restaurant specializing in Neapolitan cuisine. The restaurant is located in an alley off the piazza right next to the Galleria. Unfortunately, I do not remember its name except that it ended with the word Ciminio.
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We at an excellent Mozzarella in Carroza and the most perfectly prepared Eggplant Parmigiana I have ever tasted in a restaurant. When I commented on it, Marco suggested that maybe Americans use the wrong type of eggplant for the dish. Sicilian eggplant has either more or less water, I do not remember which, than other types. We finished off with a Neapolitan pizza and of course espresso — the wonderfully thick kind from southern Italy.

After lunch, I visited Marco’s office located in the city’s canal district. As we passed through central Milan, I noticed a number of extremely tall, thin and unusually long-legged women rushing along the sidewalks. Although they were undeniably attractive, their thin bodies and exceptionally long legs made them appear deformed. When I mentioned this to Marco he explained that most of them were fashion models hurrying between photo shoots.

The canals of Milan long ignored and long derelict are being restored and a new urban waterfront is being created. 40 years ago, I lectured and wrote about the unrealized social, economic and environmental values of the urban waterfronts that most cities had turned their backs on or used for industrial sewers. Since then cities like Denver, San Antonio, New York City and a few others have enjoyed an urban renaissance along their waterfronts. Now Milan is having a go at it. Real estate prices have already sky-rocked.
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According to Marco, the original canal was designed by Leonardo da Vinci to carry Carrara marble from the quarries in Tuscany to Milan in order to construct the Duomo. From this bit of socialism emerged one of the sources of the West’s rise from also-rans to the economic and technological colossus that dominated the world for the next five hundred years.

Marco’s studio, located in the district, contains a consulting room, a waiting room and a small garden. While he met with a client, I dozed off.

We then left the office in search of one of the rent-a-cars (like Zip cars) parked around the city. On the way, we said hello to Marco’s friend, Italy’s arm wrestling champion who owns a vitamin supplement shop nearby. We soon found a car. They are operated by the national energy companies and are quite inexpensive. During the drive back to the train station Marco showed me some of the sights of Milan and demonstrated why he was at one time a championship race car driver.

3. Nikki in pain

The following day Nikki had an operation on his wrist for a cyst so I spent the day as his nurse, chauffeur and companion.
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Then it was time to leave and head for Sacile, Venice and the Biennale.

B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN VENETO

Sacile

The train slid across the plains of Northern Italy — the Alps looming all dark gray and white on the left. I arrived in Sacile late in the afternoon.

Sacile is an attractive little city at the base of the Dolomite. A photograph of it adorns my Facebook page. During Venice’s heyday, the river that formed one of the main trade routes between the Venice Lagoon and the North passed through Sacile. The series of rapids located there required trade goods be off-loaded and transported by land above the rapids. As a result, a port and town grew up around the portage. As often the case, first the workers moved into the village, then the merchants and finally it became a favored spot for Venetians themselves to locate their summer homes in an effort to avoid the miasmatic atmosphere of the lagoons. Eventually, it began to be called “Il Giardino della Serenissima.”
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My friend Vittorio picked me up at the train station and we drove immediately to one of my favorite places in the world, Lucia’s bar, “Le Petite Cafe.” Some wines achieve greatness because of the quality of the grape, others because of the location of the vine, still others on the ability of the winemaker, here in Sacile the greatness of the Prosecco is based on the person who pours it into your glass and that person is Lucia who adds a lot of happiness to the wine. If I were asked to recommend places to see before you die, Lucia’s bar would be right up there among the top.
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Lucia and Vittorio

Vittorio, Lucia and I were joined by Professor Hank and a friend. Professor Hank is an economics professor at a college in New Jersey who used to also teach at the huge American military base a few miles north of here and lives part of the year in Sacile. Not only do I enjoy his company and stories but I appreciate his gentle and passionate belief that his economic theories (with which I, less gently but also less passionately, disagree) are a force for good.

After lifting very many glasses of Prosecco, laughing too hard and talking too loud, we said goodbye to Lucia and Hank and set off for Vittorio’s farm in the Village of Tamai where I was to spend the next few days.

The next day was market day in Sacile. I happily lost my way among the flower, fruit and clothing stands that lined the streets of the town until I turned down a quiet little lane that smelled of honeysuckle and found myself, not surprisingly, at Lucia’s bar. Vittorio, Professor Hank and a number of other aging American ex-pats and their Italian wives joined me there. After some espresso to clear my mind, we began on the Prosecco and talk until it was time to return to Tamai for lunch.

After lunch and a brief nap, I walked around the small farm and spent some time talking to the chickens before returning to the house, sitting on the porch and for the next few hours staring at the traffic passing by.
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PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quigley on Top:

“The economic expansion of industrialization has been based on plundering the natural capital of the globe that was created over millions of years: the plundering of the soils of their fertility; the plundering of the human communities, whether they were our own or someone else’s, in Africa or anywhere else; the plundering of the forest. In 1776 the wealth of forest in North America was beyond belief; within 150 years, it has been destroyed and more than ninety percent of it wasted. And it had in it three hundred years of accumulated capital savings and investment of sunlight and the fertility of the soil.

The energy which gave us the Industrial Revolution — coal, oil, natural gas — represented the accumulated savings of four weeks of sunlight that managed somehow to be saved in the earth out of the three billion years of sunshine. That is what the fossil fuels are. This is not income to be spent; this is capital to be saved and invested. But we have already destroyed into entropy — a form of energy which is no longer able to be utilized — eleven or twelve days of that accumulated twenty-eight days of sunlight. And we have wasted it.”

“Public Authority and the State in the Western Tradition:A Thousand Years of Growth, A.D. 976 – 1976” by Carroll Quigley Ph.D.

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“Lying to oneself is necessary for survival. If not, how would anyone make it through puberty? “
Trenz Pruca
C. Today’s Paraprosdokian*:

“You’re never too old to learn something stupid.”

*Paraprosdokian is a sickness that begins with a tickle in the back of the mind.

D. Today’s Poem:

Rhyme and alliteration

The sun sits
on worried wings
and soft sings
of dreams of fire
and ghostly things
with deep desire.

Without desire
for all those things.
he banks his fire.
Burned wood sings
through smokey wings
where he sits.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“Normal human behavior, honed during evolution, is to meet people in the village center — dancing, competing, gambling, sharing food, or just getting water from the well. Those are the people you invite to your house, not a stranger.”
Naida West

Categories: April through June 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 14 JoJo 0004 (May 26, 2015)

 

“…a cheapskate always pays twice.”
Rus, D. The Clan (Play to Live: Book # 2) (p. 302).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESSICA

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN NEW YORK CITY:

1. A brief stop in San Francisco:

As I sat on the train from Sacramento to San Francisco grieving about leaving HRM behind, I amused myself trying to understand what I find so objectionable about the golden hills. Compared to most places, it is a paradise; well-designed subdivisions with ample natural areas and parks, stately homes, excellent schools and recreational facilities and large automated gates. What are the gates protecting? Attacking hordes of tattooed skinheads and black insurrectionists would sweep then aside with ease. The sneak thief who traveled all the way from the city to rifle a chosen house will not be hindered. The lunatic or the drunk, those are better handled by neighborhood policing, less expensive than the building and maintaining of gates and walls. But, that would require associating with one’s neighbors and trusting them as well.

My first stop in San Francisco was Bernie’s Coffee Shop in Noe Valley and a conversation with Peter Grenell. I learned that the navigator of the clipper ship Flying Cloud, when it made its record 89 day run from New York to San Francisco around Cape Horn, was a woman, the captain’s wife. And, that the ship’s owner was named Grenelle. Later we had pepperoni and pepperoncini pizza. Still later we had dinner at Peter’s house where we drank Pacific Star Winery Charbono. I did most of the talking. When I got to the airport I discovered my flight was delayed.

2. New York, New York:

I took the A Train from Kennedy Airport. We passed Brooklyn stations with mysterious names like Schermerhorn, Rockaway, Nostrand, Van Siclen and Euclid; places rarely visited by outsiders. In fact, there are neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens that have not seen outsiders for almost 100 years. Google Street View still probably has not penetrated some of the by-ways of Bedford-Stuyvesant. In all likelihood, many of the video-equipped cars and vans that ventured there probably lie about 25 yards within its boundaries, burned, on blocks, stripped and the expensive video equipment sold to the Russian Mafia in Canarsie.

I left the subway in the old Garment District where rolling racks stuffed with dresses used to have the right-of-way over everything even automobiles — no longer, unfortunately they have disappeared. When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I’d accompany my grandmother, who I lived with at the time, on her monthly buying trips to the district. She owned a dress shop. I would crawl around the racks of clothing, slightly drowsy from the fibers in the air, reveling in the feel of the cloth sliding across my skin and dreaming of becoming a dress designer.

It was always my secret ambition to become a clothing designer. I used to design some of the outfits for the women who worked in my bar in Thailand. I had hoped to open a boutique featuring my designs called “Dress Like A Bar Girl.” Alas, it never happened, the Thais stole my designs whenever I returned to the US.

After bribing the bellman $20 to check my luggage at the hotel, I set off walking the thirty blocks up Broadway from Herald Square to Lincoln Center to meet Terry Goggin for lunch.

The walk amazed me. New York City has the ability to transform itself every score or years of so — this time into an ongoing outdoor street festival. All along Broadway, the street’s uptown lane was closed off and converted to bicycle lanes, table and chairs and markets.
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Times square has become one great urban park with events occurring everywhere, delighting both tourists and city dwellers alike.
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I saw a group of people standing on the sidewalk beneath a Revlon display so I joined them.
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Every once in a while, a camera would turn on the crowd. They would wave and scream at their images on the giant screen above.
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Where’s Pookie?

As I continued north, a beautiful woman with a derby hat, bow tie, cutaway jacket and black tights tap-danced across the sidewalk to present me with a brochure for a new production of Chicago. I began noticing places I had known that were no longer there, like black spaces in an aging smile — The Stage Door Deli, several blocks of buildings, Power Memorial High School. Even my old law school at Lincoln Center, where I was a member of the first class in the newly built building, was gutted. I remember Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) walking by the law school after school at Power Memorial next door. The coach at Power had prohibited Lew from ridding the NY Subways because at that time they still had rotating ceiling fans.

I sat in the park across from Lincoln Center recalling my time at the law school located on the Center’s southern edge (Juilliard sits on its north border). The old needle park near by lost to gentrification and the deteriorating hotel that was priced right for assignations by performers at the Center and law students, now remodeled as upscale accommodations.
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At lunch, Terry reminded me that the US Constitution was constructed to make it difficult to get anything done or as the case may be undone. Difficult to get things like Obamacare and Social Security enacted and difficult to repeal them. One has to work hard to get laws passed and equally hard to defend them when nature of the political environment changes.

After lunch, I walked back to the hotel.
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A typical NY scene along Broadway today — a woman fiddling with her Smart Phone, rental bicycles awaiting riders and a guy giving me the finger.

That evening Nikki, Terry and I had dinner at a Barbecue place that served meat and more meat. With apologies to Bill Yeates, I have included a photograph of our meal.
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The meat                                                         Nikki and Terry

The next day, I had coffee in the park on Herald Square.
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Nikki and I then walked south on Broadway past more street markets and festivals to the Strand Bookstore one of the World’s great bookstores. Browsing through the Strand makes me want to throw away my Kindle.
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Nikki sitting on the dog sofa and standing in front of Strand’s

After we left The Strand we walked to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. It was graduation day for some Students at NYU. We had coffee at Figaro’s.
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We then walked over to High Line Park and strolled along the park until we returned to our hotel where we hurriedly packed and caught the bus to Kennedy Airport.
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Nikki was the Captain of the flight and I was his guest. Alas, I was not able to join with him in the cockpit during the flight, but I did enjoy eating the first class food and drinking their wine with the crew. And so, about 8 hours later we arrived in Milan.

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quigley on Top:

1. “All men who have made history have been socialized. Thus they respond to desires and not to needs. In fact, it is very doubtful if men have any innate recognition of their needs, except as they have been socialized in a particular social context to respond to drives (which are innate) by desires (which are socialized responses).”

2. “Men have no more innate appreciation of what makes security or even when they are secure, than they have of what objects are edible or poisonous. The desires which a society or a tradition may associate with security are not only often self-defeating, but they are usually unconscious, so that a people may know that they feel secure or insecure, but they often do not know what it is in a situation which engenders such feelings or what security is made up of in their own traditions and experience.”

3. “In most periods of human history, exploitation of natural resources to satisfy human needs could be achieved with less expenditure of energy and with less danger, even in less desirable territories. In other words, war has never been a rational solution for obtaining resources to satisfy man’s material needs. …

…But of course, men have never been rational. They are fully capable of believing anything and of adopting any kind of social organization or social goals, so that warfare became at least a minor part of life in most societies.”
Carroll Quigley, Weapons Systems and Political Stability.

 

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“Western civilization’s eternal quandary: How does one evade responsibility without feeling guilty?”
Trenz Pruca

C. Today’s Paraprosdokian*:

“If you are going through hell, keep going.”

* A fat bigoted paraprosdokian drunk on brandy and lying in bed smoking a big cigar is a Winston Churchill.
D. Today’s Poem:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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It is hard to imagine how much time and effort went into creating this work of art for our edification. The next time when you feel your own efforts have no value, make someone laugh.

 

Categories: April through June 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 4 JoJo 0004 (May 19, 2015)

 

“When men cannot change things, they change words.”
Jean Jaurès, speech at the International Socialist Congress, Paris (1900).

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. A BRIEF SOJOURN IN SAN FRANCISCO:

After tearing through the Sunday NY Times in the morning and downing some strong black coffee, we left Mendocino for The Cool Grey City of Love to visit my mom for Mother’s Day.

The 98-year old’s short term memory may be in decline and her heart weakening but she gave as good as she got in the exchange of good-natured intra-family insults that characterize our family get-togethers.
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The matriarch and family.

After leaving the nursing home, I visited with Peter Grenell at Bernie’s Coffee Shop in Noe Valley. Peter just had part of his shoulder replaced and was still feeling a bit of pain. We sat on a bench outside, drank our coffee and, in the increasingly halting style of the aging, swapped tales. Given that anyone over 70 has passed his dispose-by date, I lamented that our age we have become little more than cartons of curdled milk. Peter responded by advising, “when all you have is curdled milk, you might as well make cheese.”

On the way back to Peter’s house where I was to have dinner and spend the night, Peter pointed out the incredible prices commanded in the Techie Paradise that Noe Valley has become. The following photograph shows a house about three doors down from Peter’s that is on the market for four million dollars.
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A Four Million Dollar House

At dinner that night, I played with their granddaughter a one-year-old two-fisted eater whose Hawaiian name I do not recall but it sounds like Aurora. I also learned that Barrie, Peter’s wife, swims an hour every morning in frigid San Francisco Bay. I was shamed. I refuse to swim anywhere the water temperature is below 80 degrees.

In the morning, riding on the J Church on the way to the Amtrak office downtown, a large androgynous African-American female and a small, skinny equally androgynous white male began a loud altercation right above where I was sitting trying to avoid eye contact. They were shouting at each other about something; or rather the larger of the two was shouting and the other cringing while pleading with the driver to call the police. I pictured myself appearing on the local television news as the unwitting and unwilling victim of an only in San Francisco perplexing racial and gender contretemps. Luckily for me, at the next stop, the larger combatant ran off while the smaller continued trying to explain to the driver what happened.

B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

I am back in El Dorado Hills. Alas, adventure does not seem descriptive of anything one does here. I get the impression that even a change of seasons can cause anxiety among some of the denizens of these golden hills.

It has been four days since I have returned and I can happily report the rose bushes in the back yard are in bloom — now the weekend cometh. I leave for NY next Wednesday.

On Thursday evening, the rains came. I was eating pepperoni pizza at Mama Ann’s in Town Center when the storm hit full of lightning and thunder. Like in the tropics, the deluge flooded the streets but lasted only about two hours. It departed as suddenly as it arrived leaving the air clear of pollen and dust. I slept well that night.

I read somewhere a doctor observed that patients as they aged experienced an ever increasing series of maladies most of which were curable but eventually they begin to occur so rapidly that the body simply gives up the fight. Today while eating breakfast at Bella Bru Cafe a piece of a tooth fell out and embedded itself in my bagel. Since I leave in a couple of days, I will be forced to travel with a dark black empty space in my smile until I find a reasonably priced dentist to insert a bridge.

The weekend flew by like an osprey falling on its prey. The weather was cold and overcast so no swimming for me. Instead, I went to see Mad Max: Fury Road to get my blood pumping.

HRM’s flag football team lost the championship game to the hated Seahawks 34 to 6. The coach was devastated. The kids were happy with their ice-cream after the game.

Since I seem focused on aging this week, I thought I should mention the three phases of aging among old men: First you forget to zip it up; then you forget to zip it down; then you die. I am at phase-one. I’ve taken to wearing long shirts outside my pants because, no matter how much I try to remember, at least once a day I forget.

Monday came in cold and cloudy. I leave on Wednesday, so I set about on last minute things, the bank, the pharmacy and tackling the conundrum of how to pack a single carry-on for a two-month trip.

The last day before I bolt town. What have I forgotten?

 

 

TODAY’S FACTOID:

According to a study by Microsoft Corporation, human attention span has supposedly dropped from 12 seconds in 2002 to only eight seconds in 2013, which is a second shorter than a goldfish.

If this is true, perhaps we would be better off running a goldfish for President. I’m sure the goldfish would win the Republican presidential nomination debates hands down. Wouldn’t it be wonderful then to watch the goldfish and Hillary to go at it in the general election.

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quigley on Top:

Sovereignty

“Sovereignty has eight aspects: DEFENSE; JUDICIAL, i.e., settling disputes; ADMINISTRATIVE, i.e., discretionary actions for the public need; TAXATION, i.e., mobilizing resources: this is one of the powers the French government didn’t have in 1770; LEGISLATION. i.e., the finding of rules and the establishment of rules through promulgation and statue; EXECUTIVE, i.e., the enforcement of laws and judicial decisions. Then there are two which are of absolute paramount importance today: MONETARY, the creation and control of money and credit — if that is not an aspect of the public sovereignty, then the state is far less than fully sovereign; and lastly the eighth one, THE INCORPORATING POWER, the right to say that an association of people is a fictitious person with the right to hold property and to sue in the courts. Notice: the federal government of the United States today does not have the seventh and eighth but I’ll come back to that later.”
Carroll Quigley Ph.D. ”Public Authority and the State in the Western Tradition: A Thousand Years of Growth, AD 976 – 1976.”

B. Artie’s Death:

Stevie Dall commented on the death of the dragonfly riff in my previous issue of T&T:

“Similar moral quandaries here, too. I spent quality time this morning rescuing, drying, and relocating the spider who occasionally falls into the shower because last night sweet Artie, a cat who hung out at the canal beside our house, died.

Though Artie would eat treats placed for him on the counter outside our kitchen window, he would never allow himself to be caught.

Last week Artie pranced into the backyard carrying a deceased adolescent gosling. By the weekend he seemed under the weather, but he still evaded capture, and by last night he was a goner.

I’m thinking of giving the spider a name.”

C. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“In the United States we have often elected to public office the stupid and at times the crazy. It has only recently, however, that most of those we elect happen to be both stupid and crazy.”
Trenz Pruca

(Note: Trenz Pruca is not me — nor is he my alter ego. Trenz is my Harvey; but instead of an invisible rabbit, he is a six-foot-two-inch invisible white rat with dark glasses wearing a black fedora and a red and white striped scarf. He carries a Mac-book with him wherever he goes. He can usually be found sitting in the dark corners of lightly patronized coffee houses in San Francisco or during the winter months, Marrakesh, typing away on his Mac-book and obsessively downing endless cups of strong doppio espressos. I only see him on my name day, March 15, when he stops by to celebrate with a glass of wine. Otherwise, he sends me reams of emails each day, most of which are gibberish. Every now and then, however, I find he has written a clever bon mot or an interesting sentence or two that I share with you in T&T or on Facebook.)

D. Today’s Paraprosdokian*:

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

* A paraprosdokian with a mustache and a cigar is called a Groucho Marx.

E. Testosterone Chronicles:

“The dwarf lives until we find a cock merchant.”
Line from a recent episode of Game of Thrones.

(Note: a dwarf’s member is considered an aphrodisiac in certain parts of Westeros, similar to the way some East-Asians regard a rhinoceros’ pizzle.)

F. Today’s Poem:

I live on borrowed things

I live on borrowed things
On stories and songs
On breath and brawn

Borrowed then left
When I move on.

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:

worldpopulat

This is perhaps one of the more informative charts explaining the source of many of the seemingly intractable problems we are facing today. Since 1915, only 100 years ago, population has grown from somewhat over 1 billion people in the world to slightly less than 8 billion today. About a seven-fold increase. It the next 35 years that population is expected to increase by almost 1/3, close to 10 Billion.

During the same one-hundred year period, the per capita use of energy has barely doubled but total energy use has increased more than twelve-fold.

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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Categories: April through June 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 22 Capt. Coast 0004 (May 12, 2015)

 

“Take everything as a compliment. You can never be insulted.”
Abercrombie, Joe. Half the World (Shattered Sea Book 2) (p. 106). Random House Publishing Group.

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. IN MEMORY OF WILLIAM (BILL) HOEY.

Bill Hoey, a lover of trains and social justice and a devoted reader of T&T, passed away recently. He was 73 years old and died of pulmonary fibrosis/pulmonary hypertension. I will miss him and our exchanges on Facebook.
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B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

Another weekend crept in. For the retired, it promised little different from any other day of the week. On Sunday, however, as I was swimming laps, a beautiful iridescent dragonfly flew by. During its beguilingly aerobatic performance, it dipped too low and splashed into the pool. After making my turn, I swam by again and spotted it entrapped in its aqueous meniscus struggling to rise from the water and failing. I took a few more strokes before I suddenly stopped like I had been netted. A feeling of need to save the dragonfly engulfed me.

“Why?” I thought. “If it were just a fly, I would let it die and a mosquito I would try to kill even before it hit the water.” I felt caught as Tuesday Next would say, “within a dense cloud of moral relativism (Fforde).” Nonetheless, a belief that I had to do something for this particular creature overwhelmed any internal debate on the nature of ethics I may have contemplated. So I cupped it in my hands and brought it to the edge of the pool and placed it where I hoped it could recover.

As I watched it struggle to dry its wings and rise, other thoughts struck me. “It would probably die here too weakened by its dunking; a death perhaps worse than if had it had died in the water. So, what had I accomplished except to prolong its agony?” “What about the possibility one of the many birds in the area would swoop down on it in its weakened state and devour it?” “So,” I inquired of myself and generations of existential and moral philosophers, “why did I do what I did in the first place?” Suddenly everything began to go dim as I found myself standing on the edge of the abyss staring into a solipsistic nightmare.

I jumped out of the pool and rushed home where I buried myself under the covers in the hope they would muffle the screams of dying dragonflies, long dead metaphysicians and legions of moral philosophers.
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My travel plans continue to change. I may fly out to NY on the 21st — then again, maybe not. I had planned to visit my sister in Mendocino for the Memorial Day weekend, but in an effort to avoid further annoyance from HRM’s mom, I may spend most of next week there instead.

C. A BRIEF STOP IN SACRAMENTO:

On Tuesday, I left the Golden Hills for Sacramento on my way to San Francisco to meet my sister and her husband who were driving me to their home in Mendocino. In Sacramento after breakfast at the coffee house across from the Capitol that I like, I walked around my beloved Capitol Park until lunch time. Then I ambled over to K Street to have lunch with Bill Yeates. Bill, as you know from my last T&T post, is fresh from victory in his age class in the Big Sur Marathon.

We had lunch at a vegetarian restaurant called “Mother.” The food was very good. We reminisced, swapped stories, played ain’t it a shame and generally had what passes for a good time among aging males. One bleak note, I learned his wife is having serious medical difficulties.

He then drove me to the train station. I rode the train to Emeryville where George and Maryann picked me up.

D. POOKIE’S MENDOCINO TRAVELOGUE:

On the ride to Mendocino, we stopped for dinner at a wonderful restaurant in Geyserville named Diavola.
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Mary and I at Diavola

The next day, it was beautiful outside. Brilliant yellow flowers filled the field at the back of the house.
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The view from the house.

I spent the morning with George watching someone who actually works for a living mill the lumber to be used for the house remodel. He milled the lumber from the cypress tree that fell and crushed the pump house last winter.
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George supervising the milling.

In the afternoon, it was too windy to walk about on the bluffs, so George and I went to Ft. Bragg’s spiffy new community recreation center. I swam laps in the tarted up pool with the Mendocino Coast Sea Dragons Girls Swim Team while George exercised on the machines.
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The following day the winds died down so I went for a walk along the bluffs and into the town. Spring wild flowers of every color were in bloom. The ocean, a deep aquamarine and winking white foam, sparkled in the sun. At times, I sat on a bench and day-dreamed. At other times, I practiced taking selfies.
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On my way back I met up with George. We spent several hours in the lumber yard and the hardware store. Feeling very rural and manly, I walked back home, took a nap and contemplated the nature of contentment.

Later in the day, I went swimming again. The Aquatic Center had been funded primarily by the trust of a man who was born in Fort Bragg and worked in a local ice cream parlor before heading off to Shanghai where he started a company selling insurance to the Chinese. That company eventually grew into AIG the largest insurance company in the world. AIG was one of the chief culprits in almost destroying the world’s economy in 2008.
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On Friday, although the day began sunny, clouds from the South skittered across the sky settling softly on the village. The cooling temperature turned me away from the ocean bluffs and through areas of the tiny town of Mendocino that I had not seen before in my more that 40 years visiting here.

That evening we had dinner with some neighbors who are planning their first trip to Italy. I drank a lot of Charbono and talked too much.
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On my last full day here in Mendocino, the skies were overcast. I sat an hour or two holding on to a cooling cup of coffee while staring morosely at the gray sea.

Later, we drove up the coast and stopped in Fort Brag to see the new extension to the ocean front park near Glass Beach. For about 40 years since the demise of the logging industry, I and many others have urged the city to focus on their magnificent natural waterfront to replace the lost lumber economy. They ignored the advice and attempted many other development schemes that ultimately failed. Now with the new extension, the waterfront natural area extends from more or less Noyo Harbor to the north end of 10 Mile Beach about 15 miles away. Although it is poorly marketed, people already are coming from far away to enjoy the experience. The Glass Beach area parking lot was full and we even met some Italian tourists who heard about the new park somewhere.
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Mary and George at Glass Beach

On the other hand, the land around Glass Beach was gifted to the city on a not so long term lease by the Koch brothers who bought the huge old mill site adjacent to the coast. I assume the Koch’s plan to develop the portion of their property nearest to Highway One and as the value of the remainder of the property escalates along with the popularity of the park, either take over and develop the leased park land when the lease ends or, force the city to buy it at the expected inflated values at the time.

We then continued on north to Pacific Star Winery to sample their wares and spend some time with the vivacious Sally, the owner and winemaker, and Marcus her boyfriend/partner. Marcus is one of the sweetest people you would want to meet. I hate him deeply for his relationship with Sally, a woman I have secretly loved for the past three years. Alas, at my age love is something best avoided or at least indulged in with moderation and in silence.
IMG_20150509_143758_603Sally, George and Maryann at Pacific Star Winery
We sat outside at a picnic table, ate some salami, cheese and grapes, drank some wine and gazed at the ever-changing ocean while we argued about the proper response to the earthquake in Nepal.

A pod of female seals swam by, each with one flipper extended out of the water. A bob of males sleeked toward them like heat seeking missiles. When the two groups met the water erupted in a frothy frenzy. The happy orgy drifted off to the South until they were lost from view.
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The view at Pacific Star Winery sans seals

That evening, after we returned from the winery, we attended the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department Spring Pot-Luck at the firehouse. For those who know Mendocino know downtown contains a one-hundred-year-old fire house with a large bell in front to call the volunteers to the occasional fire in town. I was surprised when we drove across Highway One to a new modern firehouse about the size of a small shopping center containing at least 8 fire trucks, 5 boats, two humongous ski-boats and enough equipment to provision a small army.
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At the pot-luck dinner, I sat next to a board member of the Fire Dept., who also is the NRDC representative for the North Coast Marine Sanctuary and who helped construct the handicapped access-way along Jughandle Creek, the Conservancy funded that was allowed to fall into ruin. His daughter, a recently minted Phd., has opened a yoga studio in Fort Bragg.

Toward the end of the pot-luck, I sat back and looked around at the denizens of the small town milling about the room. I got the sudden and frightful feeling that I was trapped in a David Lynch movie. I fully expected a mysterious dwarf to appear and saunter across the floor.

 

 

DAILY FACTOID:

1548– The Hispaniolan Edible Rat becomes extinct.

A few years ago, I lived in a Bangkok apartment infested by rats (the non-edible kind). At night, after the lights were out, they gaily scampered about the rooms. At one point, the maid put out an anti-rodent device consisting basically of a plastic sheet covered with glue that traps any rat unlucky enough to step on it and produces, I am sure, a cruel and painful death for the creature.

My feelings about the Rodentia situation in my apartment were somewhat ambiguous. I felt neither fear, sympathy nor disgust for either the infestation or the rodenticide. It was more like the feeling I have when I try to avoid meeting someone I prefer not to meet. On the one hand, I always feel a bit cowardly skulking away while on the other, I generally am aware that forcing a meeting through some misplaced moral sense is probably as stupid a thing to do as can be imagined.

This ambivalence about rats I find strange given my history with the species. Growing up in New York, I generally fell asleep with the sound of rats scurrying through the walls. As a child, I was never able to settle on whether these sounds in the walls by my bed frightened me or comforted me.

When I was about six-years-old my family was homeless for a while. Ultimately, we found an abandoned store that we moved into and soaped up the glass front for privacy. There was neither heat nor hot water in the place and at night the large Norwegian roof rats would slink into the room through the spaces between walls and the various pipes and plumbing servicing the residential apartments above us.

Every night, while my brother and I slept, my mother armed with a bread knife would remain awake to chase away the rats. One evening while so armed and on guard she fell asleep sitting beside the kitchen table. Suddenly she was jolted awake by the sound of rats scrabbling to get into a cake box on the table. The rats startled by her movement leaped on to her face and head as it was the highest point in the room between the floor and the exposed pipes available to them to make their escape. She fell to the floor and had an epileptic seizure, beginning a multi-year period of seizures and hospitalizations.

After my mother was taken away in an ambulance that night, I spent the next four years living with various relatives and strangers who took me in, but mostly with my grandparents. I never knew where my brother lived during this time.

After a few years and many hospitalizations of my mom, we began living together again but her periodic fits continued until I was about 17 years old when, in a surprise to everyone, mom became pregnant with my sister and the seizures suddenly stopped. She considered both the pregnancy and the curing of the epilepsy a miracle. I was not so sure.

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quigley on Top:

“Since most government officials felt ignorant of finance, they sought advice from bankers whom they considered to be experts in the field. The history of the last century shows, as we shall see later, that the advice given to governments by bankers, like the advice they gave to industrialists, was consistently good for bankers, but was often disastrous for governments, businessmen, and the people generally.”
Quigley, Carroll. Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time. GSG & Associates Publishers.

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“The ability to lie to oneself is nature’s compensation to those she has cursed with consciousness.”

(Note: I have been asked if Trenz Pruca is me. No, nor is he my alter ego either. Trenz is my Harvey, but instead of an invisible rabbit, he is a six-foot-two-inch 220-pound invisible white rat with dark glasses and wearing a black fedora. He carries a Mac-book with him wherever he goes. He can usually be found sitting in dark corners of lightly patronized coffee houses in San Francisco or during the winter months, Marrakesh, typing away on his Mac-book and obsessively downing endless cups of strong dopio espressos. I actually only meet him on my name day, March 15, when he stops by to celebrate with a glass of wine. Otherwise, he sends me reams of emails each day, most of which are gibberish. Every now and then, however, I find he has written a clever bon mot or an interesting sentence or two that I share with you in T&T or on Facebook.)

C. Today’s Paraprosdokian:

I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need, if I die by four o’clock.

(A paraprosdokian with a violin is called a Henny Youngman. [IF you understand this you probably are even older than I am, from New York City and Jewish.])
D. Today’s Poem:

VOX POPULI

When Mazarvan the Magician,
Journeyed westward through Cathay,
Nothing heard he but the praises
Of Badoura on his way.

But the lessening rumor ended
When he came to Khaledan,
There the folk were talking only
Of Prince Camaralzaman.

So it happens with the poets:
Every province hath its own;
Camaralzaman is famous
Where Badoura is unknown.
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

 

 

E. Apologies, Regrets and Humiliations:

1. Ruth Galanter, who remembers more about my life than I do, reminded me that Jason had been in Italy 18 years ago and not 30 as I reported in my last T&T post. I apologize.

2. Gail Osherenko pointed out that I misspelled Antarctica by leaving out the first c. My mind and my spell-check failed again. I apologize.

Gail, by the way, is another intrepid traveller. Unlike the others I mentioned in the last issue of T&T, she travels both for pleasure and as part of her professional responsibilities. Like Ruth she visited Antarctica a few years ago but also stopped off at the Falklands and South Georgia as well. She often posts photographs of her travels on Facebook.
 

TODAY’S CHART:
CalWater3

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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Marco Gallo

Marco is the son of my friend in Sicily, Gigi. He lives in Milan and is a Sport’s Nutritionist by day. My sister says he looks like a movie star. I love the jacket he’s wearing. It is Milan after all, the city of the well-dressed.

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Categories: April through June 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 14 Capt. Coast 0004 (May 1, 2015)

 

“We live in a distressed culture where anything like a conspiracy theory will be embraced by more people than will the simple and obvious truth,”
Koontz, Dean. Odd Hours: An Odd Thomas Novel (p. 178). Random House Publishing Group.

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

Another weekend rolled down from the Sierras bringing cool rainy days until Sunday when the warmth slowly returned. The dregs of my cold kept me wheezing and coughing and in and out of bed. Saturday we attended HRM’s flag football game.
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On Sunday, we visited the Archery shop where we bought HRM some new arrows and watched him shoot at targets for almost an hour.

That evening, feeling outdoorsy but unwilling to submit myself to the whims of nature, I began to re-read one of my favorite novels Blood-Sport: A Journey up the Hassayampa. It is a comic novel about manly men at play (see below).
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Speaking of manly men, I learned from Facebook that this weekend Bill Yeates ran in the Big Sur Marathon and won Best in Class. Way to go Bill. I hear that after the race he rode his bicycle all the way back to Sacramento stopping only to clean out a nest of meat-eaters attending a barbecue somewhere near Vacaville.
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Karen Cogan, Dick’s long-time administrative assistant and someone who I have known for almost as long as I have known him, has achieved what I call the “Delightful Life.” She travels to exotic places she likes and paints. When she paints a picture of, say a restaurant, she tracks down the owner and gives them her painting. This has allowed her to meet many interesting people ( e.g., the Cipriani’s of Harry’s Bar fame).
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The office manager of one of the law firms of which I was a member (and a recipient of T&T), Aline Pearl, also spends her vacations traveling. In her case, often places rich with wild nature, like Africa. Her art is professional quality nature photography. I remember the pleasure I got from sitting in her office and looking at the wall full of well-mounted pictures of African animals in the wild. Alas, I have no examples of her photographs to post.

Ruth Galanter, on the other hand, likes to add the truly exotic destinations like Antartica and Mongolia in between trips to Nantucket.
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Ruth by her Ger
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Regarding travels, it is time for me to begin to seriously focus on this summer’s trip to Italy, Sicily and Thailand. I hope to spend a few days in New York also. This year I will be traveling through Italy and Sicily with my son Jason who, although he spent much of his childhood there, has not returned in almost 30 years.

In Milan where I will begin the Italian portion of my trip, Expo 2015 Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life will be under-weigh. Marco Gallo the son of my good friend Gigi and a renown expert in sports nutrition has invited me to attend the festival. Marco sometimes posts a few of his recipes on my Facebook page. If you would like me to forward them to you, please let me know.
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On Tuesday, it was warm enough and the severity of my cold had diminished enough for a swim. The next day we all went to the passport office to submit the complicated application for HRM’s passport. And so it went until another weekend rumbled around again.

Meanwhile, the valley heat slowly crawls up the slopes making the golden hills appear like old melted wax candles slumping beneath a deep deep blue sky empty but for columns of brilliant white mushroom clouds standing motionless on the mountains far to the east.

B. BOOK REPORT:

In 1974, Robert F. Jones an editor for the magazine Field and Stream, wrote a critically acclaimed but relatively unknown satiric novel on acid (it was 1974 after all) about a manly man obsessed with hunting and fishing who takes his almost pubescent son on a camping trip in order to toughen him up. The trip takes them up the mythical but mighty Hassayampa River to its headwaters and back. The Hassayampa winds its way from eastern China through upper Wisconsin until it flows into Croton Lake near the sleepy town of Valhalla in Westchester County NY. During their trip, they manage to slaughter and eat a goodly number of representatives of most species that now live on earth, some that do not and never did and a few such as aurochs and mastodons that no longer exist anywhere other than along the river. They also dispatch a few Communist Chinese troopers and various criminals until they run into the famous, feared and immortal bandit, “Ratanous.” Ratanous persuades the son to abandon his father and join his band of brigands. In order to save his son’s soul, the man tracks down the bandits and challenges Ratanous to a deadly duel to the death by fly rods with poison hooks.

This is not a novel for the esthetically, intellectually and morally squeamish. Its violence would make William Burroughs proud and its gonzo style cause Hunter Thompson to blush. There is a certain amount of cannibalism complete with recipes. Also there is a morbid fascination with vaginas and their infinite variety. After all, to manly men a woman is merely a vagina with tits, everything else is superfluous. It is a man’s book even as it satirizes them. There is no sentimentality about killing and little risk avoidance — and almost no women (other than participants in orgies) except for an absent wife and daughter, a lusty Ukrainian laundress and a young bandit named Twigan.
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Pookie says, “Check it out.”

“My madness was total: sublime, ecstatic, unmarred by any doubts or sulks. At no point during the months I roamed that mean, lean country, killing for food and pleasure, do I recall one moment of reason, one instant of unhappiness. It was as if a caldron of liquid laughter had come to a slow, steady boil behind my eyes, perking joyfully there, sending shots of giggly steam down my nostrils and up my throat, exploding from time to time in scalding, superheated guffaws that left my vocal cords raw and aching with delight. I felt no fear, no hunger, no worry— only the immense, ridiculous power of my freedom.”
Jones, Robert F. Blood Sport: A Journey Up the Hassayampa . Skyhorse Publishing.

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

During the past decade or so in America, we may have witnessed an extremely rare event in history. Not since the hay-day of JP Morgan and his cronies has such a small group of oligarchs managed to stage a, more or less, bloodless coup over a major democracy. What makes it so unusual is that this time they have captured control of two of the significant instruments of ideology in the society — the media and religion — while silencing perhaps the most potent voices in opposition, the scientific and intellectual community. In doing so, and with the assistance of the Supreme Court, they have arranged to assume almost absolute control over one of the two major political parties in the country such that all policies of that party must now meet the needs of that select group.

In order to achieve this coup, it was essential that growth of certain groups underpinning the middle class be halted — such as those in the intellectual trades (teachers, researchers, artists and the like), the technocrats (engineers, scientists and technicians) and very small business owners (shops etc.) and replaced with a smaller middle class primarily made up of clerks, financial analysts, and accountants, in other words those servicing the financial and service industries. As a result, the middle class not only has collapsed but what remains lacks the vibrancy to even be considered a politically significant class. The poor and the working class and in between what used to be called the lumpen proletariat, as they always have been, are usually servants of the dominant ideology that is now firmly in control of this small group of oligarchs.

 

DAILY FACTOID:

Today: In the state of Kansas, poor people soon may be prohibited from swimming in public pools but not from buying guns.

(I wonder if they can trade in their food stamps to buy guns?)

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quigley on Top:

“The state is a good state if it is sovereign and if it is responsible. It is more or less incidental whether a state is, for example, democratic. If democracy reflects the structure of power in the society, then the state should be democratic. But if the pattern of power in a society is not democratic, then you cannot have a democratic state. This is what happens in Latin America, Africa and places like that, when you have an election and the army doesn’t like the man who is elected, so they move in and throw him out. The outcome of the election does not reflect the power situation, in which the dominant thing is organized force. When I say governments have to be responsible, I’m saying the same thing as when I said they have to be legitimate: they have to reflect the power structure of the society. Politics is the area for establishing responsibility by legitimizing power, that is, somehow demonstrating the power structure to people, and it may take a revolution, such as the French Revolution, or it may take a war, like the American Civil War. In the American Civil War, for example, the structure of power in the United States was such — perhaps unfortunately, I don’t know — that the South could not leave unless the North was willing. It was that simple. But it took a war to prove it.“
Carroll Quigley, Weapons Systems and Political Stability,

 

 

B. Xander’s Perceptions:

“I was an idealistic 13-year-old who went with my mom to a Democratic Party club in Southeast San Diego. The United Community Democratic Club met on Sunday evenings at Johnson’s Barbecue, and it was there that I began my keen interest in politics. But when Bobby Kennedy campaigned that June in the California primary, it was for all of the marbles. Kennedy’s win in the hotly contested primary election on June 5th, 1968, presaged the movement that would carry hm to the White House and restore Camelot — the representation of the hope of a nation that we could be better and needed to be better.

Kennedy made a mad dash through San Diego on Monday, June 4th, even including a swing through the South Bay Plaza shopping center in National City. When school ended that afternoon, I ran the approx. 1 mile from my junior high to where Kennedy’s car was making its way slower than a snail, through the throng of people who had showed up to see Bobby in person. In fact, just as I had my hand grabbed by Kennedy, I was shoved off my feet by the crowd pressing against his car, and I dangled for a split second before Kennedy made sure I landed on my feet.

Kennedy’s victory celebration and speech at the Ambassador Hotel in L. A. was more of a sports story — Dodgers ace Don Drysdale had set a major league record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched, and THAT seemed as much a part of Kennedy’s victory as anything else. He congratulated Drysdale, quickly thanked everyone for their support, and said “. . . and it’s on to Chicago!” He flashed the peace sign to the crowd.

Minutes later, he had his head blown apart by SIrhan Sirhan, and America was never the same . . . nor was I.”
Pete Xander

 

C. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“Today the absence of government simply means government by private corporations.”
D. Today’s Paraprosdokian:

Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.

(A Paraprosdokian is not an extinct species of bird.)

E. Today’s Poem:

Moses was a strange man

Moses was a strange man.
He lost his way
in the desert
for forty years.
He told his people
they were better off
in the desert
for forty years
than in Egypt
where they had
running water
and food.

There was no food
in the desert.
Moses did not know
how to farm so,
God had to feed
his people.

Moses told his people,
he would,
lead them out
of the desert
to a land
where people
had milk and honey.
He said
they should kill
those people,
take their land,
drink their milk
eat their honey.

When some of his people thought
another God
might get them out of the desert sooner,
he killed them.

Moses brought God’s law
to his people.
One law said
“Thou shalt not kill.”

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“I’m feeling sorry, believe it or not, for the Speaker of the House as well. These days, the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me, which means … orange really is the new black!”
– President Obama

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:

CalWater1

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

Django&Grappelli

Django&Grappelli

 

Categories: April through June 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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