“When weird comes knocking, gray hairs count.”
Fforde, Jasper. The Woman Who Died a Lot: A Thursday Next Novel (p. 8). Penguin Publishing Group.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
There has been little adventure in the rain-swept Golden Hills this past week or so, and for that matter even less for Pookie unless one considers watching one’s body become foreign to oneself an adventure.
It has rained pretty steadily for a while now, forcing me indoors except for my daily trips to treatment and chauffeuring HRM to and from school. As for my body, no longer am I amused by one or another side effect of my treatment. It seems as though my whole body has rebelled from the attacks upon it. Neither food nor drink nor locomotion seems any longer of interest. Even breathing seems to take a conscious effort. I try to content myself with the knowledge that only two more weeks remain before the assault ends. But that seems a long way off — two weeks too far. I try to boost my morale by telling myself that others have gone through this and much worse with less complaining. I see them every day at the treatment centers, sitting quietly, sometimes with slight smiles on their faces — not like me slumped on my chair scowling. I guess, for a confirmed hypochondriac and wuss like me, I shouldn’t expect more of myself than scowling and complaining.
Actually, what bothers me most — other than the dark thick viscous scum that now seems to permanently coat my mouth and throat that, when I spit into the bathroom sink, sticks there like an alien being. It cannot be washed away by water but must be scrubbed off. What is something like that doing in my mouth? …… Where was I? Oh yeah, what bothers me most. What bothers me most is that it is all-consuming. It is hard to notice other things — just me and the effects of the treatment. It has become hard to see the humor in things. It doesn’t matter whether it is dark, cynical or cruel, eventually, seeing the humor in my experiences has always been important to me — maybe even more important than anything else. There certainly have been a lot of absurdities during these weeks of treatment to smile at. Perhaps, I will describe some of them further on, but not now. Now is the time for bitching. Bitching is therapeutic.
Those who live in Northern California are experiencing “The Rain” caused by a storm surge that occurs only every 10 years or so driven by something called the “Pineapple Express” which delivers warm moist air from somewhere near Hawaii and drops it on us in Northern California. It has been raining fairly steadily for about 10 days. Although I spend most days indoors, every few days I like to drive around the subdivision observing the water as it flows in the streams and along the drainage ditches that run by the roadways and are disguised to look like natural streams with rocky bottoms and clever landscape. Unlike natural streams, however, they are as straight as a ruler and conveniently disappear whenever they meet up with suitably developable properties. Near our house, they empty into the Duck Pond in several pretty little waterfalls. The pond itself is swollen, drowning the willows that line its banks. With all this rain, I expect spring to be especially flamboyant this year.
Ends and beginnings
All thing end, I guess. Good things seem to end long before I would like them to and the bad things generally hang around far too long. On Friday my treatment ended weeks after it had worn out its welcome. The doctors told me that the side effects, the pain, the blood filled pus and the general feeling that death would be a welcome option would remain for a while and they have proven to be right.
Following my last radiation treatment, the radiation technicians congratulated me for making it through as though it was some aboriginal coming of age right where most of the participants die – – I guess it was in a way. After the technicians and other nurses left the room, one nurse, a tall slender black haired woman with round black rimmed glasses, remained. She gave me a tight long hug. I could feel her breasts and hips pressed against my body. She kissed me and then hugged me again for a long time. I did not know what I was supposed to do or say. I mumbled, “You guys were great” as I untangled myself and shambled out of the room with my hospital gown flapping open at the back and ran back to the changing room.
Now I wait for a few weeks for the results of some testing and meetings with the doctors to find out if I am a dead man walking the short or the long mile. One thing I know, if it is the short mile, I refuse to do this again no matter the promises.
The sun has broken through the clouds over the golden hills for the first time in over three weeks. I felt good enough to exercise by walking around the lakes in Town Center. I have not exercised since treatment began. It was good.
I am now ending the third week since treatment has ended. The doctors told me that things would get far worse before getting better and some things may not get better at all. As for the side effects getting worse, the doctors were right. I have never felt this bad in my life. Nothing seems amusing anymore.
A light between tunnels
My brother-in-law George came by and spent three days with me. He has gotten me to eat and drink a bit and feel better about myself.
B. BOOK REPORT: The Marriage Tree by Christopher G, Moore.
While passing through those empty times during my treatment when there is little to do other that dwelling on my discomfort or sleeping, I read. Mostly, I read things that pass the time, amusing but like after taking some narcotic and trying to remember what you did while stoned, you know you did it but cannot recall what it was you did while you did it. Along the way, I read my friend Christopher G. Moore’s book, The Marriage Tree. This was different.
To Moore, Bangkok is a mirror revealing the dark soul of humanity. In Thailand, that dark soul, that we like to pretend does not exist wherever we live, drips out bloody and foeted onto the streets of Bangkok. Like gods, the rich and powerful are immune from judgment and punishment, except by other gods like them. The rest of us are condemned to seeking a rough justice for those of our peers who may have harmed us. Those who truly set into play our small difficulties and tragedies are almost never forced into any court to answer for their complicity.
How many people have died or suffered from the products and services of the corporate entities these godlings control? How many wars have been fought to protect private interests and not the public interests? Has slavery really disappeared where laws have been passed to prohibit it, or are some of the powerful still able to command indenture of the less powerful?
This is perhaps the darkest of Moore’s books. Even the soiled hero of most of his novels, Vincent Calvino, a half Jewish, half Italian disbarred attorney from New York City, who has taken up life as a private detective in Bangkok, finally accepts that true justice, the capping of the godling responsible, is hopeless except by chance, and even then there is always someone else willing to take over and step in to play the godling role. Although it is cloaked in the guise of a detective thriller, it is not. It is a scream against the gathering darkness across our world as those wealthy and powerful self-styled godlings take control and the rest of us slowly realize we all now live in Bangkok without happy endings to content us.
Moore is Canadian and like most Canadians, his moral outrage stops just short of throwing the bomb.
When I am in Bangkok, I sometimes see Moore across the street or at some artist do. I no longer see in his face that little knowing smile he seemed to effect. He now appears haunted as though he’s glimpsed the future and found only more hopelessness there … or perhaps a local godling has happened to read his book and begun to turn his hooded eyes in his direction.
Pookie says, “Check it out.”
A. The New Yorker Magazine halo as the nation’s best-edited magazine slips a bit:
“Because her subject was longitudinal change across the span of hours, days, and years, she needed to set her spatial position in order to see time move across the proscenium of her subjective imagination.”
A review by Dan Chiasson in the Books section of the New Yorker Magazine, December 5, 2016, reviewing a new book about the Poetry of Emily Dickenson.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“When we were young with our peers about us, we dreamed and hoped for that which we had not yet experienced. Now in our old age, we dream and hope for one last chance at that which we will soon no longer have.”
“Symmetry is a beautiful thing.”
Among those who have created great religions, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Paul perhaps receives the least recognition. After all, he took the tiny organization of a Hebrew cynic and miracle worker and created the largest religion of them all.
Who was he? His family had been ennobled by the Herodian reforms of the Hasmonean aristocracy. He undoubtedly had a franchise to collect the Herodian temple tax from among the diaspora Jews of the Syrian saddle and south central Anatolia. He was quite active in Second Temple politics. Whether he was also a tentmaker or that was just a metaphor is of minor importance.
So what happened? According to Big Paulie himself, about three short years after Jesus’ death, somewhere along the road to Damascus where he was to impose the Jewish form of Inquisition upon a nest of Jesus followers, Jesus himself struck him blind and suggested that instead of persecuting these unfortunates wouldn’t be better if he became one of their Apostles.
Now, whether or not one believes in gods or their wish to speak with members of our species, one must ask why would Jesus after spending a number of years carefully choosing and instructing its leaders, suddenly decide they were not doing a good job with the good word and would be better off following some random guy with mayhem in his heart walking along a road to Damascus after speaking with him for all of a minute or so?
So, what sort of a man was Big Paulie? Well, from his own words in Galatians 1:7 Paul made it clear that he did not discuss with the apostles and disciples chosen by Jesus (“Pillars of the Church”) after he had received his revelation to be an apostle,[Gal. 1:15-16] that he saw no one except Cephas (Peter) and James when he was in Jerusalem three years after the revelation[Gal 1:18-24] and implies he did not explain his gospel to them until 14 years later[Gal 2:1-2] in a subsequent trip to Jerusalem. Also, he declared himself an Apostle and passed himself off as one without informing the Apostles themselves he was doing so. I would think, at the least, he was a man on the make if not an out and out crook.
At the time Big Paulie was rapping with Jesus alongside the Damascus Road, the original Apostles, disciples, and believers in Jesus brand of reform Judaism were part of Second Temple Judaism, in other words, a Jewish sect of the time period, the Jesus sect. Gentiles that wished to fully join the movement were expected to convert to Judaism, which likely meant submission to adult male circumcision for the uncircumcised, following the dietary restrictions of kashrut, and more. During the time period, there were also “partial converts,” such as gate proselytes and Godfearers. Paul insisted that faith in Christ was sufficient for salvation and that the Torah did not bind Gentiles. That was not what the other Apostles believed, the ones who spent years with Jesus and actually heard his preaching. While they were willing to bend over backward to make it easier for gentiles to join the Jesus sect, they required not just the faith that Big Paulie based his religion on but also to those good works implied in the Law and preached by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and other Rabbi’s in the Hellenic Judaism tradition, like Hillel. At the very least they should subscribe to the Noahaid Laws.
After years of accusing the other apostles of being virtual heretics and fighting for his turf among the Jews living north of modern day Israel and the uncircumcised living there, Peter and James who was the spokesman for the remainder of the Apostles who supported the Law and Jesus interpretation of it met with Don Paulo at his home base, Antioch in Syria one of the largest cities in the empire.
Peter was probably in fact and effect the person who did more than any other to hold together the diversity of first-century Jesus movement. James the brother of Jesus and Paul, the two other most prominent leading figures in the development of first-century Christianity*, were too much identified with their respective “brands” of the movement, at least in the eyes of those Jews and Gentiles at the opposite ends of this particular spectrum. But Peter, as shown particularly by the Antioch episode in Gal 2, had both a care to hold firm to his Jewish heritage, which Paul lacked and an openness to the demands of developing Christianity, which James lacked.
Later Paulie brags in his epistles how he bested Peter and James at this meeting. This was probably not true since left Antioch, the site of the meeting and Paulie’s long time center of operations, in a huff and never returned.
But enough of Paulie, whatever one may think of Big Paulie and his character, he would probably be at best a footnote in history but for events in that occurred Jerusalem at the end of the first century and the beginning of the second.
* We must remember, at this time, Peter, Paul, James and all the believers still thought they were part of Second Temple Judaism. It was not until the end of the first century before the then bishop of Antioch first referred to the believers as Christians.