“Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo”
(“I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care”)
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
Roving bands of wild turkeys have taken over the streets of EDH. On our street, Moonstone Circle, the local gang begins flocking in the morning at one end of the street and continues pecking and gobbling along it until they reach the other end or the heat of the day forces them to take shelter like everyone else. I’ve named them the Moonstone Peckerhead Gang. (Now, I know that peckerhead is synonymous with dickhead, someone so stupid he may as well be thinking with his genitals, in other words, irretrievably stupid — but we are talking about turkeys here, the avian species to which that description most applies since the unfortunate disappearance of the Dodo.)
As long as I am writing about life in the Golden Hills — ever since HRM has gotten old enough to be fascinated with calling out the make and models of cars as we drive about, I have been stunned by the number of Teslas, Ferraris, Lamborghinis Maseratis, Bentleys and the like driving through the neighborhood. A few drivers spend their days in their outrageously priced vehicles tooling around the local shopping center parking lots for some reason.
On weekends groups (usually made up of middle-aged overweight men) owning similar brand automobiles gather in the same shopping center parking lots, drinking lattes from Starbucks. They then jump into their cars and drive aimlessly through the town in packs. They remind me of the Moonstone Peckerhead Gang — all dressed up with nowhere to go.
The weekend was pleasant. On Saturday night, Dick and I had dinner with Stevie and Norbert on the patio of a restaurant overlooking the lake in Town Center. We talked about things that mostly took place about 40 years ago. The next day, I had lunch with Naida and Bill at the same restaurant. They had their new dog with them that they acquired from the rescue center. The three of us are about a decade older than my companions of the previous evening and Bill and me, at least, have passed our use by date. We discussed books, current events and future goals along with sharing recent personal medical adventures. Bill took a moment to delve into the past to dredge up a story about when he and the recently deceased Warren Hinckle served on the staff of the Stanford University humor magazine.
Mornings, after breakfast, I walk around Town Center Lakes for exercise. The path takes me past the health club pool. Since I am not allowed to swim until after my post-op doctor’s appointment, I often stop by the fence that separates the pool from the path and watch the swimmers. At that time of day, the pool is usually taken by the “alters’” (people my age and a bit younger) dance exercise class (wet Zumba, dripping disco ??). I sometimes get the urge to dance with them — they in the water and me on the path. Of course, I would be too embarrassed to do so. So I don’t.
So after a few more days of doing nothing really, it was time to leave for Thailand
B. POOKIE’S MARVELOUS ADVENTURE FROM EL DORADO HILLS TO BANGKOK or FEAR AND LOATHING IN HYPOCHONDRIAVILLE:
As most of you know by now, I am a hypochondriac. I overreact to the slightest bodily unease with visions of my imminent demise. I guess you can say I am a melodramatic hypochondriac. What follows is my experience during my recent travels to Thailand.
With SWAC’s 20 kilo suitcase to deliver to friends and family in Thailand in tow, Dick dropped me off at the Capital Corridor station in Sacramento. About four hours later, I found myself standing at the Air China counter at SFO listening to the attendant tell me that there were no aisle seats available. I responded that if I did not get an aisle seat I would die of a pulmonary embolism like I almost did once before and I would bleed all over the plane from my recent operation and then my estate would sue the airline for all they were worth* and there would be a lot of trouble. She laughed, repeated “trouble” and gave me an aisle seat.
(* As my old torts professor told us that the victim in a lawsuit is worth far more injured and in permanent horrible pain than dead. So if you are ever at fault in an accident make sure your victims are dead and not injured. You will make your insurance company very happy.)
In the plane, a Philippine-American woman of indeterminant age (clearly too old to be young and a few years short of being old) sat in the middle seat next to me. She asked if I would be willing to change seats with her. I laughed and said, “I fought too hard for this seat to give it up now.”
During the flight, as I watched the movies (mostly cartoons), I noticed the woman next to me talking to the movie on her screen. So, I shut down mine, watched hers, and listened to her non-stop dialogue with the actors.
About two-thirds of the way across the Pacific, I realized I had not taken my blood thinner pill. Convinced I would die of an embolism if I did not do so, I rooted through my carry-on, found the bottle, and swallowed a pill. Alas, after I had done so, I recalled that I normally break the pill apart and take only about one-quarter of it. Believing my now super-thinned blood would soon leach into my body cavity followed by the bursting of the scars from my recent operation, I was sure I would be dead before we landed in Beijing.
I did not die. Instead, I experienced the Chinese international flight transfer passengers ritual. In the USA, the TSA continues to add more and more personnel to stand around and bully passengers but they never seem to increase the number of lanes for processing. The Chinese, on the other hand, place a single functionary at each end of several long halls through which the transferring passengers are forced to walk. Each functionary slowly checks over the same traveler’s documents (passport and ticket) as they pass from hall to hall. Finally, the travelers having had their passports checked by several functionaries, arrive at a place where many signs are posted requiring the passengers to empty their luggage of just about everything they could possibly carry and place them in separate bins to pass through the security equipment. This whole procedure so slows down the process that only a single security apparatus is adequate to handle the dribbling in of passengers as they emerge from the lengthy bureaucratic gauntlet.
Anyway, off I flew from Beijing on a much smaller aircraft. One without personal TV at each seat. About an hour into the five-hour flight, I developed a need to use the lavatory.
When I was discharged from the hospital after my recent operation, I was given a number of sheets of paper describing what I should or shouldn’t do as I recuperate. On one, in bold type, was written: YOU MAY EXPERIENCE AN EPISODE WHEN YOUR URINE STREAM IS THE COLOR AND TEXTURE OF CATSUP. THIS IS NORMAL. DO NOT BE AFRAID. At my post-op meeting with the urologist three days before my flight, the doctor repeated the warning and urged me not to be afraid if this happens. So here I was in the tiny restroom of an airplane 35,000 feet above China and I looked down to see a steady stream of catsup flowing out of my body into the bowl. Despite all the warnings, I was afraid — very afraid.
I made my way back to my seat and sat there somewhat rigidly, persuaded I was sure to die before we arrived in Bangkok. We arrived in BKK at about midnight and I was still alive. I took a taxi to my apartment and upon entering it went directly to the bathroom. The catsup was still flowing.
Now, convinced death certainly would overtake me before morning, I contemplated the possibility of spending my last night on earth running up Soi Nanna, dashing through the ladyboy center of the universe at Nana Plaza, climbing to the top of the building and throwing myself off to crash through the roof of Bangkok Hooters or Bangkok Bunnies night club as a demonstration of my opposition to the corporate commercialization of what used to be simple two-part exchanges. Alas, like most people when confronted with the end having not completed their bucket list, I went to bed — and dreamed:
I dreamt I was a very very rich and very corrupt man who realized that the world was rapidly going to hell, primarily because of the activities rich and corrupt people like me. I could, I thought, use my wealth and power to protect myself and continue living the high life while the world careened to its end. Perhaps even building a huge underground bunker somewhere in the Rockies where I could live with my mothballed yachts and automobiles until it all blew over.
Alas, I realized instead, sooner or later things would get so bad that the proles would grab their guns, break into my bunker and shoot my sorry ass even before the rest of the world ends. So, I decided the best way to protect myself was to save the world myself and while so doing become even richer and more corrupt. As an added benefit, should I be successful, I, eventually, would be considered a saint or hero by the public who survive along with me.
The next day I woke up at about noon and found that I was still alive. In the bathroom, I checked and found the catsup gone replaced by something that looked more like year old green tea dregs. I took this as a sign that I would live for a few more days at least, so I decided to eat a breakfast of instant coffee and some buns from 7/11 that were renowned for their lack of taste. By the time I finished eating and staring at the wall, it was 4 o’clock and almost time for dinner, so I dressed, went to a small restaurant near the apartment and had a pretty good plate of sweet and sour pork. I returned to my apartment and was struck with jet-lag so I went back to bed. And I had another dream:
I was riding in a car driving along a ridge near the California Coast and as I looked our over the ocean I saw, far off, a wave building that was higher than the ridge we were driving on. The driver said it looks like we were going to be hit by several giant tsunamis and we must get over the mountains and into to the Central Valley to be safe. He drove me about five miles inland where he dropped me off to meet my brother. We planned to ride our bicycles across the coastal range and into the valley. But, unfortunately, my bike was lost. So my brother (who was nine years old) and I ran for our house. We climbed to the third floor hoping to ride out the Tsunami. The first wave hit. I protected my brother with my body. We survived. I knew we had to leave before the next wave arrived.
I went to the front of the house where some relatives lived to see if they survived. I despised this family — no that’s not strong enough — I loathed them. Even that is not strong enough. I hated them since I was two when I went directly from the security of my baby bottle to loathing these people. (I have many unresolved anger management issues in my dreams.)
During my youth, not knowing where my parents were, I spent much of my time being passed around to various families among whom were these particular relatives. Among the many reasons for my hate of them in addition to their generally detestable behavior was that they told me told me Santa Claus was not real then laughed at my disappointment. Actually, there was one member of the family I could tolerate. He was always very nice to me. Many years later I learned he became a serial child molester.
They all survived the tsunami except for my uncle by marriage’s mother. “I had hoped you all were dead” I screamed at them. “I’m glad the old lady is dead. Now we don’t have to drag her wretched boney ass across the mountains.” I ran back up to the third floor and picked up my brother who had shrunk from a nine-year-old to a three-year-old.
We stood there by the window looking out at the mountains. We saw our father driving what looked like a 1925 Rolls-Royce Phaeton racing a 2016 black Lexus down the mountain. They drove straight at the house. At the last moment. they swerved off in a wide circle around the house. When they appeared again, they seemed to be heading back up the mountain. Suddenly my father’s car slid on a puddle of water, skidded across the road, bumped over the curb careened through a large parking lot and over another curb, smashed through a fence and climbed up a billboard where they stopped teetering on the edge. My mother and father exited the car and climbed down from the billboard on which it hung. My father stood there, arms upraised shouting, “Why me God? Why me?” My mother, furious, stalked away. They were dressed in 1940s style. My mom in a smart floral print dress and a tiny hat and my father looking a bit like Clyde Barker.
I was distraught, I imagined that we would have to walk up the mountain with slight hope of crossing it before the next tsunami. In addition, I would have to carry my now screaming and urine soaked brother. I also would be traveling in the company of relatives I despised and wished were dead while being forced to listen to my parents argue. I imagined my mother saying something like, “Why God? I’ll tell you why God. Because you’re stupid, no you’re a fucking idiot, that’s why God.”
Suddenly I started laughing uncontrollably and the laughing woke me up and it woke up the Little Masseuse who was sleeping on the floor at the foot of the bed. She said, “You crazy. You very crazy.”
I lay back on my pillow and tried to figure out what the dream meant. I remembered that I had read somewhere that dreaming about water had something to do with sex. Putting that together with the rest of my dream, I realized I did not want to go there. So, I practiced my breathing exercises and contemplated the words of that great American philosopher and wry observer of antebellum Georgia society Scarlett O’Hara who, following Sherman’s laying waste to everything important in her life, opined, “Tomorrow is another day.”
At least, I certainly hope so.
This is the continuation of a somewhat irreverent look at those eras in history of particular interest to me and over which I obsess.
The First Centuries, continued.
The reckoning began in the mountains not too far from Jerusalem. Not everyone loved the Hellenes. Among the goat herders, smugglers and camel drivers of rural Judea the hijinks and highlife of the cities did not sit well. And as often happens in these cases, a group of aggressive young men took up the cause of freedom or, in this case, the protection of their way of life from what appeared to be godless liberalism. The aggressive young men were five brothers. They were called the Maccabees or translated, “Hammers.” And, hammers they were. As a guerrilla band, they eked out the conquest of the stony hills and eventually the hedonistic and increasingly Hellenic City of Jerusalem. And, as these things go, having achieved their objective of imposing a Calvinistic state on Jerusalem and the rest of Judea, they set of to conquer Samaria, Galilee and a few other bits and pieces or the area — well, just because they could — until they had built themselves a nice little kingdom, not large as kingdoms go but not too shabby. During the conquests, sadly the brothers were killed one by one until none remained. Not to worry, one of the cousins valiantly volunteered to take on the onerous job of King. He was no hammer and held on for dear life.
During the one hundred or so years of the Maccabees and the Hasmonean (The Maccabee family name) dynasty, the Judean national emphasis became more pronounced in the religious documents as several new books were added to the bible, older ones revised, and commentaries written. The Maccabees alone added four new books glorifying their exploits and their Judean historical focus. This was so outrageous that even the Hebrews of the time rejected including them in the Old Testament. For some reason, the Christians. on the other hand. decided to add the first two to their version.
So, not only did we have all the problems associated with monotheism, the personal and only deity, but now we have this God obsessed with in a tiny group of people almost a club or fraternity where membership, primarily limited to legacy admissions, was otherwise exceedingly difficult to obtain requiring the surrender of a piece of applicants body.
What I find most remarkable, however, is that this one and only God chose as the promised land for his people the dry rocky land that included Jerusalem and the surrounding hills. He could have chosen Tahiti or Tuscany or hundreds of other places more promising. Even in the Middle-East except for the desert itself, this was about the least desirable real estate one could imagine. But who knows why God does what he does. Maybe he was pissed off at them for getting lost in the desert.
Anyway, while everyone was arguing about this and that, the Romans arrived, and along with the Romans came King Herod and for everyone in the area as well as for much of the earth the world changed and not for the better.
(To be continued perhaps)
1641. Massachusetts enacts the first slavery law in the British colonies in order to enslave its indigenous Native American population.
A. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“Destiny never gets there before you do. So, there’s no need to rush.”
B. Today’s Poem:
Rowan Ricardo Phillips, 1974
I won’t ever tell you how it ended.
But it ended. I was told not to act
Like it was some big dramatic moment.
She swiveled on her heels like she twirled just
The other day on a bar stool, the joy
Gone out of it now. Then she walked away.
I called out to her once. She slightly turned.
But she didn’t stop. I called out again.
And that was when, well, that’s just when
You know: You will always be what you were
On that small street at that small time, right when
She left and Pluto sudsed your throat and said,
Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche
Tú la quisiste, y a veces ella también te quiso.
C. Comments on my previous post:
Well, Warren made the front page of the Chronicle ABOVE THE FOLD!
God speed my friend!
It’s too bad he never saw it. He would have loved the placement of his obit. And the photo of his being arrested for walking his dog without a license.
An amazing character who I had the privilege to know.
…and back page above the fold in this morning’s NYT..
I just arrived in Mendocino where we have a cottage on the coast. We came from Oregon and stopped at Lake Earl and Tolowa which was a place I helped keep from mechanical breaching so that lot owners could build on their submerged lots. It is achingly beautiful and peaceful and a mystery next to Crescent City and the worst prison in Ca. Stuff like this makes me happy–the lagoons not the prison
You’ve written about your adventures in Mendocino so often that you must feel something about this place, or at least your family here. I would live here, arrested in the 60’s if not for my urban mate.
So glad you are feeling better and missed the surgery together. Absolutely the best way to have surgery. Feel well and happy in Thailand.
thank you. my sister has a house in Mendocino on the north side of the high school. it is one of the older ones with a water tower.
we have a family story about how my sister came to love Mendocino and promised herself she would live there eventually.
when she was 16 she and her friend Andrea came out to san Francisco to visit me. they really had never traveled before and relied on me to watch over them. she asked if there was any place I recommended she visit. I suggested Mendocino. they inquired if I would drive them. I explained that I was too busy on things coastal and suggested they take a bus. then I promptly left. so, the girls found a bus which arrived in Mendocino in the dead of night. they spent a horrific night in the old sand and sea hotel fighting off rats. they were tired and angry (at me mostly) when they got up the next day. It was a beautiful day and when she emerged from the hotel and saw the town and the bluffs and water she immediately decided that this was where she wanted to live.
I’m glad to hear you Are feeling well and happy!
If I was there I drove you at home!!!
No one shouldn’t come back home alone after a surgery… I read you are going in Thailand , so
Please take a lot of pictures and send me some of them 🙂
Take care of you,
Loved the description of your surgery and driving yourself home! GO, JOE, GO!!!
And to all those who offered to drive me home from the hospital if they had known I needed a ride, thank you.
“Finance regularly outspends every other industry on lobbying efforts in Washington, DC, which has enabled it to turn back key areas of regulation [remember the trading loopholes pushed into the federal spending by the banking industry in 2014?] and change our tax and legal codes at will. Increasingly, the power of these large, oligopolistic interests is remaking our unique brand of American capitalism into a crony capitalism more suited to a third-world autocracy than a supposedly free-market democracy.”
Foroohar, Rana. Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business. The Crown Publishing Group.
Urban Edginess— https://planningimplementation.wordpress.com/