“However many sorrows you drag along with you, you’ll only have walked a few steps before bumping into someone who will remind you that there’s always another person with a far worse set of cards than yours in the game of life.”
Ruiz Zafon, Carlos. The Labyrinth of the Spirits (Cemetery of Forgotten Books) (p. 193). Harper.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
(In 1919, one hundred years ago:
WWI officially ended in June 1919.
Einstein’s theory of general relativity is tested/confirmed by Arthur Eddington’s observation of a total solar eclipse in Principe and by Andrew Crommelin in Sobral, Ceará, Brazil.
Women’s rights: The United States Congress approves the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which would guarantee suffrage to women, and sends it to the U.S. states for ratification.
Prohibition begins: The United States Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto.
The American-born Lady Astor is elected to the British House of Commons, becoming on December 1 the first female MP to take a seat.
Female suffrage in Germany and Luxembourg.
May 25 Madam C. J. Walker [Sarah Breedlove], African American entrepreneur (First American self-made female millionaire, Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company), dies of kidney failure complications at 51.)
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST AND THEREABOUTS:
The Coming of the Holidays
Sickness eventually, like most journeys, features periods of high and low adventure stitched together with periods of annoyance and joy. Then one briefly feels the excitement of reaching his or her goal. — Well, a goal if you achieve health — other options, not so much. A few days telling the stories of high excitement follow, then creeping boredom begins urging you to move on again to somewhere or someplace else. I’ve, alas, grown tired of my adventures with the dread disease. It’s been a week since my actual treatment began. Things went right, then wrong, then right once more, and so on. I thought when treatment began I would be happy and see each visit as another adventure of sorts or perhaps even experience a few descents into slap-stick. No, no such luck, they have now just become boring.
Anyway, the Holidays are rumbling on toward us. I am disappointed that I will not be able to attend my sister’s Christmas celebration this year. I will miss visiting with my Mendocino friends, Debbie, Nancy and Duncan, Maryjane and her clown, Brendan and Ashley, Katie and Quinn, Ester, and everyone else. Buon Natale to all.
Christmas in Mendocino
I usually hate the holiday season — too much expectation, scant reward. My sister’s celebrations, however, are different, always better than anticipated.
More news about the Mysterious Orb.
Apparently, my announcement about the disappearance of the Mysterious Orb was premature. As you may recall, it appeared suddenly in the street in front of our home with a sign attached reading something like, “Take me — free.” It sulked around for a few days. Suddenly, the sign attached to the orb sprouted some more words declaring, “I am a fountain.” A day or two later, it disappeared from lurking in front of the house. I not many days after that, I dutifully reported here in “This and That” that I thought it had departed to find neighborhoods exhibiting greater empathy.
I was wrong. Naida told me today, that she has seen the Mysterious Orb skulking about in the alleyway that leads to the garages in back of the homes. She described both its demeanor and location as “slinking about.” It stayed about one week moving from one unmemorable location to another until It disappeared again a few days ago.
While writing this, I thought it would be a good idea to leash up the dog for his evening constitutional and have a look around to see if the whereabouts or fate of the Orb could be discerned. And so, Boo-boo and I departed the house and set out on our search. We explored the front lawns of the nearby houses, the street and the alleyway behind the homes. Not a trace of the Orb could be found. So, I decided to ford on off the property and into the narrow woods that covered the small hill separating Campus Commons from Howe Avenue.
Suddenly, as I brushed by some waist-high bushes, I glanced down to my right and discovered the Orb hiding behind a bush from which, I was sure, it could furtively observe the alleyways and garages. It was not more than a one or more quick steps from bustling Howe Avenue.
What to make of all this: Is it not as it declared, “A fountain?” Does it secretly travel about the neighborhood spying (Remember there are at least two human “spies” living in the subdivision.) Is someone, screwing with my mind by rolling that cement ball around — gaslighting me? Why? Who? Is Naida playing a joke on me? Is this a Christmas present from an alien presence on earth? Is the dog thinking of telling me something I should know? Too many questions, too little time.
I did it.
I mentioned in my last post that my frenetic repostings of two of my blogs on Facebook and other sites were intended as an effort to beat my annual number of views received by each. Well, by Christmas Eve I did it. I am proud of me. It makes me about as happy as learning that the Mysterious Orb still exists and is prowling about outside our door tonight. I can rest until the New Year.
A Christmas Story.
On the day before Christmas, I did not leave the house until the evening. That was OK. It was a grey day with a light drizzle and I was not feeling well. I did not sleep much during the night and the side effects of the cancer treatment played havoc with my body and emotions. I spoke with HRM on FaceTime. He had just finished a day of snowboarding at a ski-resort above Lago Maggiore. He looked well and happy.
HRM at Lago Maggiore
Nikki was there also. He looked pleased but seems to have put on weight. HRM is soon off to England to spend a few days with Adrian’s family after which they will all fly with Nikki to NYC to welcome in the new year among the Times Square throngs.
I rested in the afternoon. Then I prepared to attend the Christmas Eve party with Naida’s children and their families. Naida spent part of the day practicing Christmas Carols on the piano. I concluded that meant we would spend a good part of the evening caroling.
I expected the side effects of the treatment will limit my eating, drinking, and singing. I hoped it would not put a damper on anyone’s enjoyment.
I remember, one night in Sicily about 50 years ago following the local automobile races. The participants and their families gathered at a large farmhouse among the vineyards. The old grandmother, who was bedridden, insisted her bed be dragged from the bedroom and positioned in the center of the salon. She spent the evening lying there telling all who would listen that she was happy everyone was having such an enjoyable time singing and dancing and how much suffering her various maladies caused her. It was all great fun. Later my girlfriend and I slipped out of the house and walked through the vineyards until the music and the laughter drifting out from the open windows spread across the hills adding their silver sounds to the silver light of the full moon. There we spent the rest of the night until the first light of sunrise brightened the eastern skies somewhere beyond Mt. Etna.
Shortly before we were to leave for the Christmas party, I gave Naida the present I had bought her, a large brown leather purse. She was distressed that the present she had gotten for me had not arrived yet. She rushed out to the mailbox to see if there was a late night delivery.
She returned carrying a large box and happily announced, “It arrived!” She then left me to open the box, took the purse and went upstairs to prepare herself to leave for the party.
I set about cutting away through the tough cellophane tape that bound the box closed. After a while, I had severed enough of them to be able to rip open the box. In it, I found the box filled with dried flowers. Lot’s of dried flowers.
Now, I have learned in the past few months that Naida’s thought processes could be quite subtle and so I decided not to jump to any conclusions and spent the next 15 or 20 minutes attempting to unravel the conundrum of symbols and goals that this gift, one of love I was sure, represented.
I couldn’t help but recall the 0’Henry story of the down and out Babbitts of NY. She who cut off her magnificent hair to purchase a watch fob on which he could hang his grandfathers pocket watch of which he was so proud and he in turn selling that same watch in order to buy her a glorious baret to display in her hair.
Eventually, I gave up trying to rationalize my way through the puzzle and carried the box upstairs. There I found Naida in distress. “I cannot find the purse,” she exclaimed. “It just disappeared.” Now, this was not some little purse, but one of those giant ones that someone could carry everything they own in it, even a small car. We searched everywhere. No purse.
I then showed her the box of dried flowers. “No,” she said, “it’s supposed to be a Hat. The winter hat you wanted, not dried flowers.”
We eventually reasoned that the dried flowers belong to one of the medical students living with us who plans to wed in a month or so. “But,” she said, “where’s your hat?”
We drove to her daughter’s house. Along the way, I noticed Naida appeared distressed. I asked her what was that matter. “I must be losing my mind,” she replied. “First, your present to me disappears and then there is no hat.”
The party was pleasant. We sang carols. Naida and Jenifer, her daughter, played the piano. I was a little too ill to fully enjoy it all.
Caroling in Sacramento.
After returning home, I climbed the steps to the bedroom with the dog trailing along behind. He scooted over to his bed and sat in that proud erect way dogs sometimes do. He stared a slightly arrogant stare into my eyes. “Oh ho,” I thought, “what do we have here?” I looked closer and saw a small patch of brown leather peeking up from a fold in the dog blanket. He glanced were I looked. He knew he was caught out. He tried to resume his arrogant look but could only manage shame. “The game is up.”
Apparently, while Naida was otherwise occupied, he dragged the leather purse to the dog bed — the purse being about the same size as the dog bed. He carefully tucked it in the bottom so it lay perfectly flat. He then dragged over one of his blankets and tucked that in so that the purse was well hidden.
I called Naida to come upstairs. When she arrived, I told her the story and added, “See you are not going senile at all.” She seemed dubious. “Look at it this way,” I said. “We solved not one but two mysteries. We had a good time at the party. We discovered our dog to be a master criminal and we came away with a great story. What better Christmas could one have.”
She remained dubious. “Yes,” she drawled, “but what about your hat.”
An old year ends
On Christmas night at the early hour of 6PM, I slipped into bed, sipped from my well-steeped cup of cannabis tea and opened my computer. My thought was to make some sort of plan for the remaining six days of the year. Not so much a to-do list as a muddle-about-file which I could, now and then, dip into without too much difficulty in order to pass the time while waiting for this arbitrary section of my life to dribble on to the next.
The first thing to pass through my mind was Joyce’s opening line to Ulysses: “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”
I haven’t the slightest idea why it did. Except perhaps, to encourage me to contemplate why I would consider ending the year pondering the opening line of Ulysses. Perhaps, having not yet consumed enough tea made such reflection worthwhile. Maybe, my subconscious was attempting to jump-start the evening’s descent into irrelevancy.
The second item to suggest itself as a subject worth ruminating on was the first thing I read on my computer after opening it. Under a heading entitled notable events on history on this day, I read: “1194 Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, King of the Romans [Germany], Sicily and Jerusalem, born in Lesi, Italy.”
That was something I felt was of little more consequence. Or, at least, I generally considered that someone who in his time was referred to as “Stupor Mundi” (Wonder of the World) was someone of greater consequence than “stately plump Buck Mulligan” and his shaving utensils — Then again perhaps not. Fredrick later in life was also referred to as “The Anti-Christ.” Nevertheless, I still felt, someone who held suzerainty over most of Medieval Europe, was of more consequence than a fictional med-student with flamboyant grooming habits — Then again, perhaps not.
“Stupor Mundi” was clearly not fictional, although his adventures and the stories about him rival that of any character inhabiting the world of fiction. As to why I would consider intentionally including the contemplation of one or the other or both into my remaining six day’s of 2018, I have no idea. Perhaps it is because it is a mystery requiring a solution and that always pleases one’s consciousness. Perhaps it does not. Maybe it just has something to do with the cannabis. Take chess, for example, it has always appealed to me as a worthwhile way to cut two or three hours from one’s life. On the other hand, cocaine, cannabis and a host of other things, I think would do so as well, without requiring your consciousness to leap from the chair in which it had been dozing and actually exert itself entertaining you.
Since upping my medications in order to mitigate the side effects of my treatments, my dreams at night have become even stranger than usual. Last night, I found myself, a much younger man, well-dressed wandering about my dream New York. My dream NY is not at all like the NY I remember. It is a real estate development made up of large buildings in vibrant colors and streets dark, bleak, and dank. In this dream, a young man I knew, for some reason lost to the vagaries of dream memories, had been killed by the authorities. People were organizing to protest the death. The mayor and his advisers swore to put down the disturbance with maximum force.
I put myself front and center swearing to risk body and health in protest. As the police and soldiers could be heard approaching, everyone ran away leaving me alone to confront them. Alas, the police never arrived.
I then noticed another group of protestors forming. This one, well equipped with PR people. Again I put my body at the forefront willing to risk it in the name of the right and good. Again as the military closed in, the protestor’s disappeared, leaving me alone once more. After about four more events like this, I decided, I was not going to give up body and soul in the name of the right and good or anything resembling it, so I went home to take a nap and ponder the imponderables of life.
The Cat in the Hat.
The day after Christmas my hat arrived. It is red. It has a fluffy band around the outside. It might be a women’s hat or a pimp’s. I love it.
Here I am, the cat in the red hat standing by the wreath made by Naida from detritus from the Enchanted Forest
The Cat, The Hat, The Wreath, and The Hibiscus.
From Christmas to the New Year
The first day after Christmas I spent with Dick, exchanging presents, picking up mail, and discussing Governor-elect Newsom’s plans for California and the possibility of his running for President in 2020. Hayden left me a much needed back-scratcher shaped like a stretching cat. Dick gave me a fine elegant sweater.
The next day, George and Maryanne arrived bringing gifts. George brought me a brown winter hat and Mary a bitching shirt. Here I am, The cat in the red hat on the top of the brown hat wearing the bitching shirt.
The Cat, the Red Hat, The Brown Hat, The Bitching Shirt and a Pair of Sunglasses.
We ate dinner together that evening a Zocalo’s a local Mexican restaurant the Naida and I have grown to like.
That night I had one of my most difficult dreams. It was a large space and horrible full of screaming, anguish, and fury. I awoke in terror and was afraid to return to sleep so I sat up. Eventually, I fell asleep. The next dream was different. Somehow I was high on a mountain on the border between Russia and some other country, I do not know which. I was living with a pleasant family of one ethnic group and a few steps away across the border lived a poverty-stricken family from the ethnic group they had been at war with for generations. We opened a cantina to service travelers. The other tribe settled down opened shops and prospered. I built a house overlooking the valley.
The next day, my sister, George, Naida and I traveled into downtown Sacramento to walk about one of my favorite parks, Capital Park. During the five years or so I have been living in the Sacramento area, I would try to spend at least day or so a month at that park. I usually would have my breakfast (Coffee and Bagel with cream cheese) at a restaurant called Chicory on the corner of eleventh in a building in which I had my office when I worked in Sacramento. It was a nice attractive place with a back room with a fireplace and a few comfortable armchairs. I also liked to see what new and strange tattoos the baristas had acquired that month. After breakfast, I would cross the street and spend the rest of the day walking around the park or sitting motionless staring at a particular monument or tree.
Surprisingly, of all the Vietnam War Memorials that sprung up following that regrettable conflict, I appreciate that one in Capitol Park the most. As a work of art, it is crabbed and inward looking. That is its beauty, I think. It is a monument to neither the heroism nor the misery of war but its banality, the burden of which is first borne by the troops at the front and then later by those back home who eventually wonder what it was all for. There are no necessary wars only mistakes and aggression.
We spent a good deal of time at the Fireman’s Memorial where George could pay homage to firemen friends who he served with and who died in service. Then George and Mary left, back to Mendocino, and Naida and I returned to the Enchanted Forest. There we will wait out the end of this year.
One night, while waiting for the year to wind down, I had a dream.
Well, first let me tell you about what I think about dreams. No, I do not buy what those strangely obsessed physicians living in and around Vienna thought during the dawning years of the Twentieth Century nor their descendants. To me, a dream is simply non-quantum reality. Time and place are simply mathematical abstractions that impinge upon our neurons. In dreams, however, time and place and most of what we think we know during our waking life are not necessary for existence. They are only arbitrary elements.
Ah… well, enough — the dreams:
I first found myself on an airplane flying into an airport somewhere. We were not too far away, perhaps beginning our descent when I heard the shout. “Kill the Jews.” It came over the speaker and a few passengers jumped from their seats joining in. “The Nazis are at it again,” I thought and hunkered down hoping it was only an idiotic cowardly far-right group like the “Proud Boys” trying to stir things up and then running away. Then the killing started. Somehow, I found myself in the first class section. There were a few Jewish businessmen there. They asked me to help them escape. As we landed I led them crawling through what seemed to be the airplane’s engines into the large terminal. As we ran through the Terminal, others were running to escape the slaughter also. Those too old or weak would slip through a door opening into a side room off the endless corridors hoping their pursuers would not check those rooms. I felt, no I knew, in the dream, in my dream, they were going to die. I did not know who they were. They seem like everyone, every skin shade, and every dress type. I remember a Muslim dressed in a thobe, Bisht and kaffiyeh seeking refuge in one of those rooms. There were all sorts of people. “Why was I helping only the rich escape?” Then I awoke. I sat up and drifted back to sleep. The next four or five dreams all took place on public transportation, ships, planes, and trains. Always, the same — the screaming would start, then the killing. I would rush to the windows and break them. Then, I would help those trying to escape by pushing them through.
Then they would come. Large blood-shot eyes, slightly pointy teeth, they looked like Gollum although not as handsome. They ignored me like I was a wooden post. All they wanted was to get at their victims. I would put myself in their way as best I could in an effort to keep them away from their intended victims. I continued to push their prey through the windows. Often shards of glass would slice into their flesh as I pushed them. I never knew if any survived.
After each dream, I would sit up. Not because I feared to return to the dream but because I simply wanted to restore my strength. I did not know why I had to do what I was doing or whether it did any good or not, but I had to do it.
Then, in my last dream of the night, everything changed. No more was I the blind beast compelled to do what I thought was right but having no idea if it was or was not. In this dream interestingly enough, Goggin appeared. Like in real life whenever he appears, it was interesting — this time to my great surprise, I became rich — six million dollars rich. But as usual, it was not what I wanted, far from it. Perhaps I will tell you about it next year.
This mostly dismal year is now ending. Strangely, I think it is one of the best years of my life, even though it began in sorrow. I watched HRM grow from boy to teetering on manhood, discovered in Naida the love I always craved, laughed with joy of life with my Sister Maryanne and my Brother-in-law — no, George I consider my real brother, there is nothing In-law that I feel about him — My friends, Peter, Barrie, Dick, Ruth (my conscience) and yes Terry too and so many others who had been there for me when I most needed them and least expected them to be.
Tomorrow The New Year 2019 begins. To anyone who reads this far and to all those I send it to whether they want it of not, may next year last all year for you all.
One of the pleasures of being old is that now whatever foolish things I say, write or do are usually ascribed to senility or the wisdom of the aged.
Doug Jones writes:
“On Boxing Day [December 26] 2004, a tsunami resulting from a 9.0+ magnitude earthquake killed about 250,000 people around the Indian Ocean. This was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. The Indian Ocean tsunami illustrated a major theme on this blog: the importance of catastrophe in human history, and in the history of life and the universe”
“Earthquakes are one example of a phenomenon following a power law statistical distribution. The frequency of earthquakes drops off as an exponential function of their magnitude, so that on a logarithmic scale, the magnitude-frequency relationship looks linear. This is known as the Gutenberg-Ritter relation. (The deviation from linearity in the upper left part of the chart below may reflect measurement error, with a lot of tiny earthquakes not being detected.)”
“Power law distributions are found in many other contexts, for example, in the frequency of wars versus their magnitude [as measured by the number of war deaths]. A power law distribution is very different from the more familiar bell-curve Gaussian normal distribution: extreme “black swan” events that are astronomically unlikely under a normal distribution may happen at an appreciable frequency under a power law distribution. Depending on the exponent, a power law distribution may not have a well-defined variance or even a well-defined mean.”
“For a technical discussion of why small scale processes sometimes aggregate to generate normally distributed outcomes, and other times aggregate to produce power law distributions, here’s an article on The common patterns of nature. A take home lesson — not always covered in introductory treatments of statistics and probability theory — is that catastrophes and extreme outcomes can be an expectable part of the natural order.”
“Finally, Steven Pinker and Nichlas Nassim Taleb have been squabbling about the implications of all this for the probability of a peaceful future. Here’s a level-headed review. And here are a couple of blog posts from me about why the bloody early twentieth century was maybe more than just a run of bad luck.”
By the way, the competing (or, a) theory is the famous and infamous “Bell Curve.” That placing the data points on a two vector grid events tend to congregate forming a hump or hill and if repeated, a wave. In other words, predicting the future of historical events on a two-axis graph produces either an inclined plane or a bell curve. Why this is so, I have no Idea. Maybe someday, I will find out. Right now, however, I couldn’t give a fig. (Actually, there is very little I would not give for a good fig.)
A. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
The United States is now presented with the age age-old bind of politics: Is the leader an ideologue or just an idiot?
B. Today’s Poem:
All though not my favorite for here in this post, I am aware that this year’s Winter Solstice Holiday’s Season is coming rapidly to a close. So, I decided to post this evening’s poem, In A Drear-Nighted December by John Keats. Unlike many of the other poets practicing in the poetic world, Keats could have done better.
In A Drear-Nighted December
In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne’er remember
Their green felicity:
The north cannot undo them
With a sleety whistle through them;
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.
In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne’er remember
Apollo’s summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.
Ah! would ’twere so with many
A gentle girl and boy!
But were there ever any
Writhed not at passed joy?
The feel of not to feel it,
When there is none to heal it
Nor numbed sense to steel it,
Was never said in rhyme.
C. Adventures with Hayden:
Hayden and I were watching television. Rather he was watching and I was playing with my computer. Someone on the show he was watching was crying. Hayden turned to me and said, “He is crying because his grandpa died. Pookie, I don’t want you to die. When are you going to start getting younger?”
“There is more than one heart unruled, on the walled shore and the new-caulked ships, watching the set faces on the ships grow more and more distant from the set faces upon the land, until the last sight of sails and gilded weather vanes is gone over the curve of the sea, and the day grows bright to noon.”
Saunders, Graydon. The Human Dress. Tallwoods Books.