TODAY FROM THAILAND:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN TRANSIT:
The last few days before leaving on a trip are usually part of the voyage itself, even if, like me, you just fuss and fume about not doing anything to prepare. A few days before departure, I did manage to throw some clothes and medicines into a suitcase.
Usually, I have no anxiety about going on a trip — no matter how long and arduous it may be. This time, however, I was apprehensive. Perhaps, it is because of the state of my health or maybe it is my age. In any event, whenever I think about my travels this summer an indefinite shadow of concern rattles around the back of my mind.
On Wednesday evening, Dick drove me to Sacramento Airport for my overnight flight to New York. After saying goodbye to him and to HRM, I walked into the airport. I decided to act the part of a bent and befuddled and creepy old man. An easy task since I am, in fact, a bent and befuddled and creepy old man. So, leaning heavily on my imitation black thorn shillelagh cane, I stumbled around and forced everyone to repeat whatever they tell me twice. I did this because I thought it would help me get assigned better seating and boarding preference (it did), and also because many, many years ago when introduced to “method” acting one of the exercises was to stumble around like an old man. Now that I am an old man, I thought it would be interesting to see how accurate we had been. It was great fun.
In New York, I managed to spend a bleary-eyed day at Kennedy Airport waiting for my flight to Milan. It doesn’t matter how old, bent and befuddled you may be, in New York they will still tell you to “go fuck yourself” or the like if your responses are too slow.
No matter how tiring and uncomfortable traveling may be, especially by airplane, there is usually something interesting to watch. That is probably because unlike passing strangers on a street or in a restaurant, on a plane or waiting around an airport boarding area you are involved in a short term community and with people with similar goals— to survive the trip.
While waiting in New York’s Kennedy Airport at what I thought was the correct gate, I noticed that the boarding area across from me was fitted out with tables and chairs decorated as though a party was going to be held soon. Waiters spread out among the other gates in the area offering everyone free fruit juice. Soon strangely dressed people began to drift in outfitted in various odd costumes usually including a strong dose of sequins. It all began to resemble a Fellini film. Then the star of the show arrived. At least I think it was the star since almost everyone in sequins and some without would come over to her, smile and then kiss and hug her. She was about six feet two inches tall with one of those tight skinned expressionless faces like Trump’s wife’s that are the frightening wonders of modern cosmetic surgery (you wonder how and why). Her breasts were out of a porno comic, her butt something that would make JayLo’s appear malnourished and her dress easier described by what it did not cover than what it did.
Anyway, eventually they all gathered at the tables and after about 20 minutes or so of partying and picture taking, they all got up, including the super-star, and marched through the gate marked “Vienna.” So, if you read or hear about anything unusual happening in Austria during the second week in June, I’d love to hear about it
Shortly after the carnival departed, I learned I that I had been waiting at the wrong gate. So, I rushed across the airport to the correct one where I was met by Frank Cozza, an Alitalia employee, who Nikki arranged to take me through security and generally ease my transit. He told me that he had paged me for an hour or more. But, I guess, with my diminished hearing and all the partying, I did not hear it. Frank arranged for me to decompress for a half hour in the first class lounge.
The most interesting thing about the flight was that sitting a few rows from me was about five deaf Italian women who had been visiting the US and were now returning to Italy. Although I cannot read sign, I could understand them easily since I am proficient in Italian facial expressions and hand gestures. In the US and most other places, I guess, signing carries the message with facial and hand gestures used for emphasis. In Italy, or at least among these women, facial expressions and hand gestures carried the message while the signs seemed to be used only for emphasis.
They were loud also. At the luggage carousel, everyone’s eyes were drawn to them as they talked or argued in sign over the various pieces of luggage that trundled by.
B. TAMIL AND SACILE:
The following day, I arrived in Italy, the land of expressive hands and dramatic noses. Nikki met me as I exited the plane at Malpensa near Milan. He was scheduled to fly a plane to Tokyo in a few hours. We had lunch. I ate spaghetti and lobster. I actually could taste the lobster. Perhaps my taste is returning. Or, perhaps I can only taste things that come packed in their own slime.
Then it was off across northern Italy by train to Sacile where I was met by Vittorio who promptly drove me to a cafe where the two women owners implored me to assist them with drafting their proposal for developing a techie way of assuring artist profits in the face of discount sales. I agreed. At a little after one AM, I finally got to bed following well over two days of traveling with little sleep.
At 8 AM the next morning, Vittorio and I drove across the Veneto farmlands toward another town where he was to play in a marching band during a commemoration ceremony for the town’s Alpine troops who died in the two world wars. As we drove, on our right the pre-alps rose above the fertile plain like a Roman shield wall before an assault by the Gauls. It was a lovely day.
Vittorio plays tuba in a number of bands and orchestras in the area. Like with Peter Grenell, who I often follow along to his various gigs, I happily follow Vittorio along to his whenever I am here. I guess I can be viewed as a “geriatric groupie.”
Vittorio and His Tuba
Vittorio’s band mates and the Alpini veterans all wore their distinctive hats with one stiff erect eagle feather jutting above each. I learned that the dark feathers ment the person had been an enlisted man and the lighter stiff erect eagle feather signified an officer. I could not help noticing that the stiff erect feather of the officers was, on the whole, distinctly smaller than those of the enlisted men’s except for one or two of the officers whose stiff erect feathers were larger than everyone else’s. You may make whatever sociological conclusions from that you want.
Upon our return, we stopped in Sacile for Prosecco at Lucia’s “Le Petite Cafe.” Disney-world is not the happiest place on earth, Lucia’s “Le Petite Cafe” is.
Lucia and Vittorio at “Le Petite Cafe” in Sacile.
Following an afternoon nap, we set off for a bon voyage dinner in honor of Vittorio and Teacher Brian’s impending 30-day walking pilgrimage to Compostela in Spain. But, that is for my next post.
There is a proposal to privatize the Nation’s air traffic controller system. Air traffic controllers are responsible for airline safety in take offs and landings at the Nation’s airports and the skies around them. In other words, like traffic cops except with more authority and responsibility.
I guess, the first question that comes to mind is how comfortable will passengers be knowing their safety rests in the hands of the lowest bidder on the contract. Will we find ourselves sooner or later hearing a corporate executive of the traffic controllers private company paraphrase that infamous pharmaceutical exec and claim his job is not to assure the safety of the passengers but the profits of the shareholders?
The Secret of Thai Soap Operas as Revealed by the Little Masseuse:
During my weekly massage, my masseuse likes to watch Thai soap operas on television while she administers the various pains and pleasures of her therapy.
Now, as I am sure we all know, soaps are a window into the dark, twisted soul of a society, so it is with Thai soap operas.
To me, all Thai soaps appear to tell the same story and contain the same characters. There is usually the beautiful innocent heroine and another equally beautiful though not so innocent young woman. You can usually tell them apart by their eyebrows. The innocent heroine’s eyebrows are somewhat rounded, while her evil counterparts appear straighter. They are accompanied by two equally attractive young men, one good and the other not so good. Both men are clearly in charge although in general, they are often remarkably oblivious and at times stupid. These four then are supported by a cast of actors and actresses of varying ages often playing family members of the protagonists. There are also one or two comic characters, usually played by ladyboys.
Although the stories are, generally, all the same, their location varies. I have seen Thai soaps set in the homes of the rich, and others in the homes of the poor living beside a klong somewhere. I have also seen them set in grocery stores, health clubs, and farms. Some occur in modern times others in old Siam and still, others are set in times of magic or in some guerrilla campaign somewhere. One, although clearly set in Thailand, had everyone dressed in American cowboy clothing. There was even a western saloon with swinging doors. Ghosts are popular but production values are low.
Anyway, this particular day, the masseuse was watching a soap in which the straight-browed beauty dressed all in black and carried a sword had just done unspeakable things to a group of poor people locked in cages.
Viewing this through my western acclimated eyes that see everything as a conflict between good and evil no matter the atrocities performed by either side, I commented, “She must be the bad girl.”
To which my masseuse responded, “Good or bad, it makes no difference. She is beautiful and everyone cares about her and what she does. If she were not so beautiful no one would give a damn at all about her or anything she does.”
The Little Masseuse
According to David Wong, who is definitely not an authority on anything, monsters come in two types — those that breed and those that do not. Frankenstein is one of the latter. Once he is dead everyone can go back about their business. The breeders, however, are another matter. Zombies, vampires, and werewolves are breeders. That means, if you come across one of them, you can be reasonably sure there are more of them out there.
Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
Life is a maximum security prison in which all the inmates live on Death Row.
The Young Trenz Pruca
“The English language needs a word for that feeling you get when you badly need help, but there is no one who you can call because you’re not popular enough to have friends, not rich enough to have employees, and not powerful enough to have lackeys. It’s a very distinct cocktail of impotence, loneliness and a sudden stark assessment of your non-worth to society.”
Wong, David. This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It (John Dies at the End 2) (p. 23). St. Martin’s Press.
English does have a word for it dude. It’s the second word in the phrase “you’re fucked.”
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:
Why are these people smiling?
So, I spent the Memorial Day weekend at my sister’s house in Mendocino. The sky was overcast and the ocean calm and gray. It was abalone hunting season. Parked cars filled the side of the road along the bluff disgorging their black-rubber suited occupants and their tire irons. The divers lined up and marched down the sinuous steep paths that snaked along the bluff face to the water below. From the top of the bluff, they looked like a dark ant army covering the rocks and invading the kelp beds. A lot of them were Asian, Japanese and Chinese tourists I guess, flown over here for the abalone hunting season. I suspect, if they were Muslim the current administration in Washington would suddenly become abalone conservationists.
Most of the time, Mary, George and I sat in the house by the large windows overlooking the ocean talking and laughing among ourselves or buried in some book or reading the NY Times.
On Sunday, we went to the Casper Community Breakfast and Flea Market. Mary and George set up a few tables in the grassy area at the side of the Casper Community Center. On the tables, we placed a few things they had lying around their garage to be sold at the market.
I headed off for the community breakfast leaving them to their commercial endeavors. The community volunteer waitpersons sat me in a middle seat at a rectangular table seating six. I did not know anyone else at the table. Having as a result of my therapy an upset stomach, lost most of my hearing and taste, and blurry eyesight, I had little expectation of enjoying either the food or the company. Suddenly across the room, I saw a nose — Not just any nose but a magnificent nose. The nose was appended to the face of one of the woman volunteers waiting on the tables. As noses go, it was extremely well shaped. It was also huge as though insisting we all acknowledge its magnificence. It moved through the dining room like an icebreaker through the Arctic. I was enthralled.
As many of you know, I abhor the cult of small noses and people who have them. It is insulting to those individuals proud of their prominent noses to know that others are encouraged to cut theirs off so they may become fashionable. Why are tiny-tot noses so fashionable anyway? What are they hiding behind those tiny nostrils? How do they enjoy the full aromas of life around them? Where is the facial drama — the character — the pride?
Now that is a Nose to Remember.
B. BACK TO THE GOLDEN HILLS:
On Monday, Memorial Day, I drove back to EDH. It was a long but relatively pleasant drive— past Lake Mendocino, Lucerne (The Switzerland of California), Clear Lake, through the wildfire ravished forests of blackened trees, the folded hills and out into the green expanse of Great Valley and into the Golden Hills. Since returning, I have resumed exercising — walking around the lakes in Town Center and swimming in the pool at the health club.
One day, I took HRM to the orthodontist to have his braces removed. I was startled when, following the removal, I was invited to watch everyone, including the orthodontist himself, sing, dance and throw around balloons to celebrate HRM’s relief from two years of discomfort.
That is the orthodontist on the right showing off his dance routine.
When I was a kid I never heard of dancing dentists. I still think it is odd. Lampedusa in his novel Il Gattopardo has his main character, the aging Prince, after observing the antics of the younger nobility at the great ball of the Sicilian nobility, comment, “Just look at them. In another generation, they will be climbing back into the trees.”
My departure next week for Italy and Southeast Asia has me a bit anxious. A few months ago I spent two days planning the trip knowing I will still be suffering the side effects of my treatments. I researched and listed in a notebook all the things I absolutely should bring along with me and how they should be packed. I planned out meticulous itineraries and identified all the pertinent phone numbers and contacts I would need. Finally, I prepared a detailed budget. Then as I always do, I promptly ignored everything finding it all too complicated and deciding instead to wait for my departure date, grab whatever is near at hand and take off hoping for the best.
For eight years I have sent out This and that from re Thai r ment to my best and closest eighty or so friends.(I have also published them in a blog https://josephpetrillo.wordpress.com/ ) I thought it would be interesting (to me at least) to go back and look at my first post from each year. Here are some excerpts:
January 17, 2010: From Thailand.
“I arrived safely in Thailand and am now attempting to cope with jet lag in my hotel.
Normally, I despise 20-hour plane rides, but sometimes, like on this trip, the movies make up for the discomfort. I managed to see:
‘The Bastards’: Great Tarantino. All the gratuitous violence you could want wrapped into an engaging story.
“Surrogates,” with Bruce Willis. He seems to make a career out of appearing beat up and disheveled. This was a lot like, but not as good as, “Twelve Monkeys” but worth seeing nevertheless.
“Zombie Land.” I expected to hate it but enjoyed it a lot. A road picture with 4 misfits who hook up and find a life, if only to fight zombies. Great bit with Bill Murray.
Some coming of age French flick with the usual, but much more intelligent, teenage angst and starring an actress whose name I did not catch playing the mother of one of the slightly wayward girls and who is one of the most engaging actresses I have seen in a while.
Well, that’s all for now, most of the rest has been sleep.”
January 11, 2011: From Thailand.
“I guess leaving Paradise by the Sea and traveling to the Big Endive by the Bay can be looked at as an adventure that at least began in Thailand and ended back there as well.”
January 1, 2012: From Thailand.
“Yesterday I was in my manic state, the drooling but happy one. On my way to exercise in the morning, I felt good enough to do an impromptu little soft shoe on the street corner including a Durante-like shuffle with my hat waving in my hand by the side of my face. The Little Masseuse was embarrassed and asked me to stop before people began to think I was not 100 percent.”
January 4, 2013: From El Dorado Hills.
“I am considering starting a new blog. It will focus on commentary about historical events. Of course, if it is anything like my current and past attempts at blogging, I can expect that after a year of effort, I will have received about 35 hits and perhaps a dozen comments. About half of the comments will be from Nigeria or someplace like that letting me know that my efforts have changed their lives and inquiring if I would be willing to open up a bank account in their name where they could deposit $20 million they just happened to find lying around in the jungle that, for “technical” reasons, they cannot move out of the country. The other half will come from people with names like Cindy, Mindy, Sandy, Darla, and Isabel telling me how “awesome” (yes, that is the word they use) they found my post to be and how awesome (again) it would be to get together sometime where we could exchange blogs in private.
Anyway, I am thinking of naming the blog, ‘A Commentary on Historical Events or What the Fuck Happened?’”
January 16, 2014: From El Dorado Hills.
“I have not written here for about three weeks in part because I have grown a bit tired of T&T, but mostly because my blood clots have returned and I am too depressed to do much of anything. Today was the first day I have been able to walk for any length of time since the clot was discovered. I walked this afternoon to the duck pond and back. It felt good to be up and about. The sun was shining and the weather was quite warm for this time of year.”
January 9, 2015: From El Dorado Hills.
“Today I said to myself, “The hell with the temperature or my physical maladies I’m going swimming.” So I dove into the outdoor pool at my new health club and swam for twenty minutes which is pretty good since I have not seriously exercised for over two months. After my swim, I spent some time in the hot tub, took a steam bath and showered. It made me very happy.”
January 14, 2016: From El Dorado Hills.
“On this the first day of the year 2016 of the Gregorian Calendar, my 76th year of life on this minor piece of interstellar detritus, I decided to review the 200 or so books I read in the past year. I discovered, to my not so great surprise, that I would classify all but about 20 of them as entertaining trash. My first resolution of 2016 is to reduce the number of non-trash novels I read to below 15. At my age, I see no pressing need for self-improvement.
My goal in life is to have no goals — a few desires perhaps but nothing greater than the most ephemeral of longings. When I was 5 or 6 years old and someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always responded, “ a bum” or “a hobo.” It seemed to me, even then, that any other life choice demanded submission to the desires usually of others but sometimes my own and not to the simple limits of nature. I guess this means I craved a minimalist life of aimless wandering punctuated by brief moments of inconsequential obsessions. It is a very hard thing to do. I usually just take a nap and consider the day a success.
Speaking of naps, I take them not so much to rest but to enter an alternate reality when my waking life seems to be on re-run. As an example, on Sunday HRM was gone on a play date, Dick decided to take the day off to rest and I had no car. It was cold and rainy, so going for a walk was out. I was soon bored with reading Facebook posts and decided to nap and visit my alternate reality. In this case, I found myself in a large log structure during the dead of a snow-filled winter day. There were several families living there in a communal arrangement. Most of the families were led by women but some were led by men. Children happily played around the fire pits. We seemed not to be stressed by any outside events that may have caused us to be there but, in fact, we appeared quite happy… and then toilet overflowed and things got weird — I could not get the plunger into the bowl, people kept telling me I was doing it all wrong, strange creatures appeared in the snow then disappeared and the overflow topped my shoes and drenched my socks. “Shit,” I exclaimed unnecessarily. So I woke myself up before things got worse and I went back to Facebook which although just as weird as my dreams at least my socks stay dry.”
January 1, 2017: From El Dorado Hills.
Treatment has begun to take on the feeling of a deadly boring job. Get up, off to work, come home and prepare for the next day, catch a few social interactions and some entertainment where one can.
HRM has settled happily into the Christmas dither, shopping for presents and planning the cake he intends to bake for us. I asked him what he would like for a present. He said, “A toy I can play with for a day and then forget.”
The week that began with great promise as to the course of my treatment came to a close with me feeling more like road kill. So, I complained to the hoards of technicians attending me at the hospital that I was beginning to question the value of experiencing the pain and that I considered balancing that against possibly living five more years or so. They gave me a prescription that I was to pick up the next morning at a pharmacy near the hospital.
The next morning, I arrived at the pharmacy and was given a bottle filled with a pink liquid. The medicine was labeled, “Magic Mouthwash.”
Now, I am of that generation where referring to something as Magic this or that was usually not medicine and certainly not approved by the FDA. In addition, this particular medicine did not come accompanied by those inserts containing, in small and unreadable print, descriptions and warnings about your purchase. Instead, it contained a one-page notice that read in part:
Uses: Consult your pharmacist.
How to Use: Consult your pharmacist.
Precautions: Consult your pharmacist.
Drug Interactions: Consult your pharmacist.
Side effects: Consult your pharmacist.
Overdose: Call 911 or local poison control center.
So, I asked the pharmacist. He took me into a corner and, sotto voce, rattled off several long GrecoRoman words representing the contents of the medicine. I gleaned there were a least two antibiotics and a pain control substance. The other two or three ingredients escaped me.
Anyway, I took the magic mouthwash with me to the hospital parking lot where, in my car, I poured the amount of liquid the pharmacist recommended into a small plastic cup and swished it around my mouth.
Suddenly pain shot through my entire body and everything went white. Sort of like what happens when one takes those magic potions that appear so prominently in the cheap fantasy novels I am so fond of reading. When my eyes cleared, I fully expected to see a few pixies tossing gold dust dancing in the car in front of me, a unicorn in the parking space beside me and Marley’s ghost. Instead, I found myself free of pain and washed in a warm comfortable glow.
So, I left the car, skipped through the rain and into the hospital to find the chief nurse of the Radiation Oncology Department.
She was in her office dressed in fuzzy antlers and Santa Claus cap and a dark green tunic covered in Christmas ornaments. “What do you know about “Magic Mouthwash,” I enquired?
The nurse is from England and speaks with a Cockney accent so thick that, at best, I could understand only every other word. She also refers to me as “my darling” instead of Joe, or Mr. Petrillo or even Pookie. “Oh that,” she responded. “That’s your doctor, Dr. Jones’, favorite potion.(yes she used that word).” “He and the pharmacist cooked it up for when the patients are experiencing too much pain.” She then listed the ingredients like the pharmacist did. This time I caught that one of them was a steroid. That, I thought, explained the skipping through the rain.
“Oh,” I said. “Uh, what about the FDA?”
“Don’t worry my darling, all the ingredients have been approved. They only mixed them together. The patients seem to like it a lot.”
“I can well understand that,” I responded.
A. Iroquois on Top:
“Who were the Haudenosaunee? (Pronounced Ho-deh-no-shaw-nee.) We know them as the Iroquois, a league of six nations of the Northeastern Indian tribes, consisting of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas (the original Five) and later the Tuscaroras. Their confederacy stretched across most of New York State to Lake Erie, south to the Adirondack chain, west to the Ohio Valley, and north into Ontario. Iroqu (meaning rattlesnake) was the name given to them by their enemies the Algonquins. The French added the suffix “ois,” as an insult, thus the name Iroquois. They preferred to be called the Haudenosaunee (People of the Long House).”
“Dekanawidah, born in Ontario, founded the Iroquois and bound the original five nations together into a Confederacy, establishing the Gayanashagowa – The Great Binding Law – which ensured a lasting peace among these independent tribes. They were bound together with this formal “constitution.” To this day the Iroquois are the oldest, continuous participatory democracy on Earth! The Ha do no sau nee, living in peace under one common law. They have practiced this representative form of government for centuries. In the Iroquois’ Book of the Great Law, there are striking parallels with our country’s Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches. It is well acknowledged by historians that the democratic principles of the Six Nations influenced and shaped the Constitution of the United States.”
“Apart from this remarkable fact is an even more astounding item. The clan mothers (or Gantowisas) were female officials who enjoyed political, economic, religious and social powers unprecedented and unparalleled in any civilization! These ladies owned the land and homes, and all the children. They had the right to adoption, to determine life and death. They declared and ended wars. They conferred or retracted citizenship. They had the exclusive right to raise up or depose Chiefs. They had to be represented in all councils. They made or abrogated treaties. They also held trusteeship of tribal property. The tribes relied on their opinion and ability to make wise decisions. These women were the political and social backbone of all the Confederacy.”
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
I have always craved a minimalist life of aimless wandering punctuated by brief moments of inconsequential obsessions.
C. Today’s Poem:
Excerpt from Lyrics to “The Crickets Have Arthritis,” by Shane Koyczan.
It doesn’t matter why I was there, where the air is sterile and the sheets sting.
it doesn’t matter that I was hooked up to this thing that buzzed and beeped every time my heart leaped, like a man whose faith tells him:
God’s hands are big enough to catch an airplane
or a world,
doesn’t matter that I was curled up like a fist protesting death,
or that every breath was either hard labor or hard time,
or that I’m either always too hot or too cold
it doesn’t matter because my hospital roommate wears star wars pajamas,
and he’s nine years old
His name is Louis
and I don’t have to ask what he’s got, the bald head with the skin and bones frame speaks volumes.
The Gameboy and feather pillow booms like, they’re trying to make him feel at home ‘cause he’s gonna be here a while
I manage a smile the first time I see him and it feels like the biggest lie I’ve ever told.
so I hold my breath
cause I’m thinking any minute now he’s gonna call me on it
I hold my breath
cause I’m scared of a fifty-seven-pound boy hooked to a machine, because he’s been watching me, and maybe I’ve got him pegged all wrong, like
maybe he’s bionic or some shit.
so I look away…
“They say Los Angeles is like The Wizard of Oz. One minute it’s small-town monochrome neighborhoods and then boom— all of a sudden you’re in a sprawling Technicolor freak show, dense with midgets.”
Wong, David. John Dies at the End (p. 23). St. Martin’s Press.
The Second Most Embarrassing Photograph Ever Taken of Me.
“Time erodes events into stories, stories into recollections, recollections into impressions, impressions into vague sensations that eventually dim altogether.”
Pike, J. Zachary. Orconomics: A Satire (The Dark Profit Saga Book 1) (p. 76). Gnomish Press LLC.
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
The sun is out today. Dick and HRM have left for a few days in San Diego. Dick, who is a graduate of the University of San Diego and worked with its administration on several projects over the years, will introduce HRM to some of his friends in the university administration and tour the campus. They also will spend some time with the people developing drone technology there. It sounds like a great trip.
I, on the other hand, remain back in EDH on fish feeding duty. The fish in question, an extremely large goldfish named Sharky, requires special handling and becomes upset when absent human companionship for more than one day.
When not attending to my duties as fish feeder-in-chief and if it is sunny, I wander around EDH town center and sit on the benches overlooking the lake. I look and feel a lot like some old homeless person. Come to think of it, maybe that is exactly what I am.
A couple of weeks have gone by since I wrote the above. The sun is out the weather is warm and I am for the most part feeling better. I have turned my attention to summer plans. I originally intended to drive south of Rome to Puglia and stay in a Trulli house. Then on to Matera and to Sicily to spend a few days at Antonio’s. However, for the first time in my life, I felt that traveling that long alone was beyond me. So, I probably will terminate my Italy portion of the trip at Rome and Sabina. That is unless someone wants to join me and share the costs and the driving.
In the meantime, I have continued reading book after book waiting for my body to recover from the medical assault on it. I rarely read a book more than once. Most of what I read is not worth it — trash is trash — no need for second helpings. Nevertheless, I decided to reread Stephen King’s magnum opus (It is obviously an opus, but I doubt it is magnum unless that word simply means long.) a seven-volume novel called The Dark Tower (soon to be a major motion picture starring Matt McConaughey and Idris Elba). I decided to read it again because I had first read the 5000-page novel about 10 years ago and was tired of what I had been reading these last few months. Not that it was any less trash than I had been reading, even King who appears as himself in the novel admits that as a writer he is a hack — a very successful hack but a hack none the less. I heard he had penned a new edition so, since I had now and then thought about the novel over the years, I wanted to see what was new.
The most surprising thing was how little of the new edition I recalled from my reading of it so long ago. In fact, it had little in it that I remembered. Either he completely revised it or I did in my imagination.
My mom is rapidly approaching the end of her life. She mostly sleeps now only now and then waking briefly. Still, she remains feisty, fighting off the orderlies when they try to feed her and still trying to get out of bed and get a job. She will be 100 years old in June if she lives that long. My sister disagrees with me about her age. Maryann insists she will be only 99.
TO YOU ALL, LONG DAYS AND PLEASANT NIGHTS.
I was going to continue my favorite eras of history with something about the present. How you may ask, can the present be history? Well, since we humans, at least, are post hoc rationalizing creatures, everything is in the past when we perceive it. Quantum theory suggests that it may not even exist until we perceive it. But, science and philosophy aside, the present has become too bizarre and distasteful for me so I will leave it to lie and fester and jump directly into the far future — but not today, that is for another post.
I wrote the following about 5 years ago. Since then my obsession has diminished but not my admiration.
Rumination on an Ashkenazi Theme
Everyone should know a little Yiddish:
Now, why you might ask would it be important for we goyim to learn a few words of Yiddish? Well, besides the fact that many of these words are already common and well-integrated into English, there is another reason as well. You see, some languages have many words that essentially describe what a non-speaker would imagine being the same thing. For example, 200 words or so for snow or a hundred and fifty words for a camel’s hoof. Yiddish enriches English because it contains hundreds of words to describe human foibles. Even when it ostensibly refers to a thing like a knickknack, the Yiddish word “tchotchke” seems to say more about the observer and the owner than about the object itself.
Many people have the mistaken notion that Yiddish is a Jewish language like Hebrew. True it was spoken primarily by Jews. However unlike Hebrew which until the establishment of the state of Israel served as the “religious” or “intellectual” language of most Jews; much like Latin was used in western Europe until the last century, Yiddish generally was spoken by only one of the major branches of the Jewish Diaspora. That branch, known as the Ashkenazi were those Jews who lived primarily in eastern Europe and originally included Northern France until various pogroms forced them further east. Like the Kurds of today, they were a nation without a land of their own. Until the 19th century, most Jews spoke a pastiche of Aramaic, Hebrew and the indigenous language of the place they were living at the time. The roots of Yiddish are primarily German with Aramaic and Hebrew influences. It also includes words and expressions from several Slavic languages in varying degrees depending upon where the speakers lived. There are several different “Yiddish dialects” including that spoken as the official language in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in the Russian far east near Vladivostok. Its capital is Birobidzhan. The First Birobidzhan International Summer Program for Yiddish Language and Culture was launched in 2007.
Yiddish developed among the Ashkenazi, one of the three main branches of Judaism. The other two being the Sephardim (primarily originating on the Iberian peninsula) and the Mizrahim comprising most of the others. The Sephardim and the Mizraim, if they spoke it at all, did not speak Yiddish as their mother tongue as did many of the Ashkenazi before emigrating to the US.
They all more or less can trace their patrimonial heritage through the male Y chromosome to a single individual living somewhere in the middle east about 5000 years ago, about the time when Abraham was reputed to have lived. A recent study of the Cohen, the traditional priestly class descended from Aaron, Moses’ brother, using DNA from males with that surname worldwide, indicates that most of them are descended from a middle eastern male alive about 3000 years ago; about the time the Bible indicates that Moses and Aaron lived. Given that several hundred years of the most intensive archeological investigation in the world, while turning up scads of evidence of the other Peoples and nations mentioned in the Bible, failed to turn up much evidence at all of Jewish history older than somewhere between 200 and 600 BC, it is remarkable that modern genetics has been able to confirm at least this part of the story. (Not that it proves that Abraham, Moses, and Arron actually existed, but it does confirm that during those times there was in all likelihood some horny goat-herd in the Near East busy shtupping a shikse or two thereby giving birth not only to the great Jewish nation but, in all likelihood, a significant portion of the population of the entire Mediterranean basin. I guess it could fairly be observed that Arron wielded a mighty rod.)
The Ashkenazi male line descends primarily through southern Italian and Sicilian Jews who migrated into Northern Europe about 400-600 AD to escape persecution by the newly dominant Christians. Genetically Southern Italians and Sicilians and the Ashkenazi appear to be closer related to each other than to most of the rest of trans-mountain Europe. Unlike the other branches of Judaism, the Ashkenazi seem to have picked up a small but strong Central-Asian component primarily from the Caucuses and the area around the Caspian Sea, the ancestral home of the Khazar’s, the almost legendary medieval Jewish empire.
On the matrilineal side DNA testing shows that although there is strong evidence of middle eastern origins among the women, there is significantly more evidence of non-middle eastern origins than among the men (Again with the shikses.)
Among the Ashkenazi, there is a high incidence of Tay-Sachs an inherited and inevitably fatal disease. The Sephardim and the Mizrahim seem to have no greater incidence of the disease than the general population, an indication that the effects of natural selection and genetic drift happen quite rapidly and do not require the eons that mutations take to be reflected in a population. The Tay-Sachs’ discovery may have revealed another startling fact, that the genes causing Tay-Sachs may be related to those controlling for intelligence. * Based on standard IQ testing as much as 20% of the Ashkenazi score 120 or higher, scoring higher in verbal and mathematical elements and lower in spatial than the general population (in other words, great scientists, and writers but lousy athletes). In the general population, the average is about 4-5% including for the Sephardim and Mizrahim. It is not so hard to guess why that is the case. The Christian pogroms and prohibitions against land owning for the Jews and against charging interest for the Christians coupled with high literate demands of the rabbinate made those excelling in abstract thought high-quality breeders so to speak.
On the other hand, among the Christian West, strangely enough, those who were most literate were prohibited from breeding. From the fall or the Roman empire until the success of the Protestant revolt, for the most part, the most literate of the Western Christians were forced into the clergy where, unless they were Popes or Cardinals, they were strongly discouraged from breeding.
Instead, we placed our genetic basket on the shoulders of homicidal maniacs whose claim to fame was their preternatural ability to take someone else’s technology and turn it into a more highly efficient means of slaughter.
As luck would have it, due to the plague almost wiping us out, and our short-term tendency to compensate by breeding like rabbits, coupled with our forced procreation of prescient psychopaths equipped with proficient killing machines and a resistance to disease, we in the West were able to conquer the world. Hooray for us.
*Note: Contrary evidence for the genetic connection between Tay-Sachs and a certain type of intelligence is provided by the fact that the Irish appear also to be prone to the disease. On the other hand, perhaps the Hibernians were one of the lost tribes of Israel like the American Indians and just about everyone else, except for the Mormons, who never get lost.
So what’s it to me?
Some of you have inquired about my fascination with Judaism given that I am goyim and all that. Actually is in not Judaism that fascinates me but the Ashkenazi. The Ashkenazi used to be a sizable stateless nation in eastern Europe that barely escaped annihilation. It now has a state of its own in the Near East that exists under the extreme stress of annihilation. Many of the surviving descendants of the original Ashkenazi not living in the Near East now live in the US.
I used to think that my fascination was because my great great grandmother was Jewish (and given mathematics of human generation, whose wasn’t somewhere along the line). Her family (named Tau) was from somewhere in Austria. In the early 1800s, they left Austria, probably under the pressure of one pogrom or another and could not afford the ticket to the US, and settled in a tiny Italian hill town named Roccantica in the then Papal States. Go figure.
More recently, however, as I read about the newest advances in genetic analysis of population migration over time, I was fascinated to learn that the modern Ashkenazi, at least on the male side, were primarily descended from Sicilian and Southern Italian Jews who migrated to Northern Europe to escape the emerging dominance of Christianity during the latter stages of the Roman Empire.
I recall looking at a photograph of my maternal Sicilian grandparents. In the photograph, both my grandfather and grandmother were photographed separately. He, with his tightly curled blond hair, long narrow nose and wispy blond mustache, appeared to be one of those Sicilians descended from either the Normans or later French settlers who bequeathed their blond hair and surnames to their descendants (Cigna and Gallo common Sicilian surnames and my mother’s name Corsello appear to be examples). However, my grandmother, a DeFalco, was different. Her photograph always fascinated me. Dark where my grandfather was pale, long black hair and eyes coal black, not haunted nor haunting but quietly alive as though they saw more and deeper than the rest of us. DeFalco seems to be an old Sicilian name. Several Castelo Falconaras, that may or may not relate to them, dot the Sicilian landscape. Could they be the remnants of that gene line left somehow behind when the rest of them set off for El Norte and became Ashkenazi? Who the hell knows.
When I was a little kid my first playmate other than cousins, was a boy named Ian who lived down the block. I would now and then have what passed for a play date then with him. I liked going over his house. He had a sand box in his back yard. I did not. I only had a grape arbor. We would play and after a while, if he got frustrated, he would punch me. I did not know why he did that.
At the other end of the block, beyond the large black rock that jutted onto the sidewalk, lived an older boy. He was about seven (I was only four or five years old). I was afraid of him because he was big and he would punch me also. Nevertheless, it was always an adventure to walk down the block all the way to the flat rock and sit there. I would not go further because I then could no longer see my house.
At that time we lived on the one street in the lower part of Tuckahoe where no other Italians (or for that matter any blacks) lived. My grandfather built the house when he had gotten rich from his construction company. Unfortunately, he lost it all in the depression, so we divided up the house among the family and still lived there. My father, mother, baby brother and I lived upstairs. The floor had been converted to an apartment. My Grandparents lived in an apartment on the ground floor and my Aunt had a room made out of the old sun deck. We all shared the living room. The rest of the neighborhood was mostly peopled by what became referred to as WASPs, but I knew them then as Americans. There were three Jewish families that I was aware of on Dante Avenue as the block was named, two of them belonged to the boys who would punch me.
Even though I was afraid of him, I soon found out that all the bigger boy wanted was just someone to talk to. I did not understand that at the time. In any event, we would sit on the rock and talk about those things of interest to little boys, like pirates and the like. I later learned that they were both being bullied horribly by the older boys, in part because they were Jewish.
I never understood bullying. I learned to live with the name calling, but when it moved beyond that I always had to step in. I was able to get away with it, not because I was strong or brave, but because I realized that the object of bullying was to take advantage of the ease of dominating someone weaker than you. However, when someone interposes himself then the object of the exercise becomes muddled. To pass through someone who puts up even slight resistance to get at the weak is simply not worth the effort. Besides, most bullies were that way because someone else was bullying them. It was always a risk for them when someone fought back. I would find myself stepping in to stop bullying about once a week. No one ever decided to fight with me about it even though I was small and weak at the time. That puzzled me for a while because I otherwise fought almost every day with someone who I thought was trying to bully me. I wondered why. Eventually, I came up with a theory. But that is for another time.
I did not know what Jewish, or Christian, or Italian, African-American and so on meant then. They were simply words to me. Of course, sometimes those words indicated a difference I could see, for example, “colored” kids as we called African-Americans back then, were often, but not always, darker than Italian kids and American kids were pinker with blue veins. I couldn’t see much difference in most of the others. Later I learned what people meant when they used those words to describe themselves or other people. Most of the time when they were not describing themselves, they used those words because they were a little afraid of the others.
The woman many considered my second mother, was a member of the third Jewish family. They lived next door. I called her Anna Banana, probably because I could not pronounce her last name. She was married and childless. She had a narrow face and freckles. She also had carrot-colored hair that seemed to be all wiry and would fly about her head at odd angles whenever she moved around, which she did a lot. I spent almost every day all day with her at her house. She never seemed to mind. She taught me how to pick and eat scallions and play the piano. Nights, I would spend sitting on my grandmother’s lap before the fireplace that my grandfather built with big rocks that he had carried himself from somewhere. I would repeat from memory all the nursery rhymes I had learned from my mom and Anna Banana, sing songs and recite poems in English and Italian that my grandmother taught me. I felt very and happy with Anna Banana and my grandmother.
Then my father decided to sell the only asset we had, the house, in order to open up a business, a bar, and restaurant. Six months later we were homeless and living on the streets. But that is another story.
A. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
On the Role of Civil Society:
Why would anyone be morally bound or wish to be morally bound to a civil society that does not share the goal that its citizens deserve a fair distribution of wealth, income, and power? If the civil society is not dedicated to that end what else could it possibly be dedicated to? What is freedom, to those without wealth, income or power?
B. Today’s Poem:
Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still ‘Fie, foh, and fum
I smell the blood of a British man.
Shakespeare— King Lear, Act 3, scene 4
(In the play, Gloucester’s son, Edgar, disguised as Tom o’ Bedlam speaks these words and others in an effort to mislead Lear. Later Browning used the first line in his epic poem “Childe Roland.”)
“The great American pastime is no longer baseball. Now it’s sanctimony.”
Hill, Nathan. The Nix: A novel (p. 284). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY FEDERICA
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
Rain rain go away
come again when I say.
Pookie wants to laugh and play
So please please come again another day.
The problem with rain in the Golden Hills is that it either hangs around too long or cannot be found when you need it. The constant series of storms have forced me to remain indoors and read or stare out the window. The good thing is I no longer feel like road kill. I can eat and drink almost normally now. Hooray for me.
The rain has stopped falling for a few hours. The sun peeks in and out among the cloud mountains.
The results of the CT-scan show the tumor is barely, if at all, noticeable. Good for me. Hooray again. I have a few more examinations to go through between now and May with at least three doctors before I know more. However, since I was originally diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer I may already be dead and not know it yet. Meanwhile, the various side effects of the treatment continue to slowly ebb.
I have lost about 40 pounds and my wrinkled and sagging skin makes me look like a lizard or, with my big ears, a little like Gollum. I wonder about those advertisements for various creams and things that are supposed to mitigate the “heartbreak” of flabby wrinkled lizard skin after weight loss — to me, I think I look kind of cute.
The sun has finally come out for more that a few hours in the day. In fact, it has lasted for almost a week now. I would normally be quite happy, unfortunately, SWAC is due to arrive today and that has driven us all into a more somber mood than would be expected from the return of the sunshine.
A few weeks have gone by. The sun has shined down on the Golden Hills more often than not. I feel good some days and not so good and equal amount of the time. Dick has left for a 10 day trip to Thailand. HRM, SWAC and I remain in El Dorado Hills, turning on and off the sprinkler system, putting out the garbage and attending to the daily maintenance of the home that Dick usually attended to.
B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
Having little to do and finding fatigue and despondency condemns me to spend the most of my day (and evening, and often during the dregs of the night) reading. And of course generally searching for something entertaining and enthralling enough to occupy my time.
It is often difficult to explain to others what someone finds good or entertaining.
Among movies perhaps my favorite of all time is The Princess Bride followed by something called Radioactive Dreams. The first of course often can be found on various lists of 100 best or favorite movies. The second, Radioactive Dreams is on no one’s list of best movies, except for mine of course. In fact, I think the only copy of it in existence is owned by some German media company.
It has been over two weeks since I wrote the above paragraph. I now no longer remember what I was going to write about to follow up on that beginning. I think that means I have spent enough time on this post and it is time to move on.
‘Fishing villages might have appeared on the coasts of Indonesian Islands as early as 45,000 years ago.’
Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (p. 48). HarperCollins.
NOTE: This is 35,000 years before settled agricultural villages first appeared in the Middle-east.
A. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
Destiny is simply an issue of quantum dynamics. It happens when it happens, no sooner and no later so, there is no need to worry, shit happens all the time.
B. Today’s Poem:
I WAS asking for something specific and perfect for my city,
Whereupon, lo! upsprang the aboriginal name!
Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly, musical, self-sufficient;
I see that the word of my city is that word up there,
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays, superb, with tall and wonderful
Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and steamships—an island sixteen
Numberless crowded streets—high growths of iron, slender, strong, light, splendidly
uprising toward clear skies;
Tide swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sundown,
The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger adjoining islands, the heights, the
The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the ferry-boats, the black
The down-town streets, the jobbers’ houses of business— the houses of business of
ship-merchants, and money-brokers—the river-streets;
Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week;
The carts hauling goods—the manly race of drivers of horses—the brown-faced
The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing clouds
The winter snows, the sleigh-bells—the broken ice in the river, passing along, up or
with the flood tide or ebb-tide;
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form’d, beautiful-faced, looking you
in the eyes;
Trottoirs throng’d—vehicles—Broadway—the women—the shops and
The parades, processions, bugles playing, flags flying, drums beating;
A million people—manners free and superb—open voices—hospitality—the
courageous and friendly young men;
The free city! no slaves! no owners of slaves!
The beautiful city, the city of hurried and sparkling waters! the city of spires and
The City nested in bays! my city!
The city of such women, I am mad to be with them! I will return after death to be with
The city of such young men, I swear I cannot live happy, without I often go talk, walk,
drink, sleep, with them!
by Walt Whitman
“There’s a lot to be said about merely having a hazy idea of what’s going on but generally reaching the right outcome by following broad policy outlines. In fact, I’ve a sneaky suspicion that it’s the only way of getting things done. Once the horror and unpredictability of unintended consequences gets a hold, even the best-intentioned and noblest of plans generally descend to mayhem, confusion, and despair.”
Fforde, Jasper. The Woman Who Died a Lot: A Thursday Next Novel (p. 33). Penguin Publishing Group.
This is a continuation of my overlong views on a period of history that has always interested me. What I call the first centuries, from 300 BC to 300 AD. A period during which a peculiar belief system developed that altered history for the following 2000 years.
The empire strikes back.
As a general rule, empire to the Romans was just business. What people believed, or how they behaved or dressed had little interest to them as long as it did not disturb the peace or interfere with commerce. Alas, in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas of Judea the warring sects especially the Zealots (The Sicarii faction was the Isis of the time) had finally tried their patience.
In two campaigns, one in about 70AD and the other in 132 AD the Romans destroyed Herod’s Temple and drove the Jews out of Israel.
The Romans realized that the turmoil in Judea while directed at their occupation unlike in other parts of the Levant and Syrian Saddle was exacerbated by the wrangling over the Temple. Issues such as who should be the proper chief priest could cause riots. Since the temple itself as far as the Romans were concerned was something built by their creature Herod, I suspect that in addition to its destruction being a punishment they also believed that its removal would eliminate some of the conflicts among the Jews themselves. So in about 70 AD, they destroyed Herod’s temple.
It did not work, so in I36 after putting down a rebellion by Bar Kokhaba, they removed the Jews from Jerusalem.
After the dust had settled most of the squabbling sects disappeared, along with the Jesus church leaving only Pauline Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism to continue their disputes in other areas until at the end of the first centuries Constantine declared a particular syncretic form of Pauline Christianity (centered intellectually primarily in Egypt) the winner over not just its competing sects but Judaism and paganism as well.
“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”
~ Jimi Hendrix
Happy Birthday to my granddaughter Athena and Happy Anniversary to my sister MaryAnn and her husband George.
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
One afternoon when it was not raining, we decided to walk to Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s central urban park. LM liked to feed the birds (mostly pigeons and a few large crows) and the fish (gaping toothy jaws large enough to swallow your arm).
As we began to climb the steps to the sky-path over the freeway and into the park, we were stopped by some police who told us to wait. After a little while, I saw a cavalcade of automobiles from the Royal Family’s fleet come speeding down the freeway. “Oh look,” I said and pointed to the cars. “It must be a member of the Royal Family.”
After the motorcade passed by, one of the policemen approached and got into a heated conversation with the Little Masseuse. “What’s going on,” I inquired? “They want to arrest you for pointing at the Royal Family entourage,” She answered. According to LM, they felt that what I did was disrespectful and they could possibly mistake my pointing for a gun.
I guess, unlike in the United States, the police in Thailand first announce their reasons for possibly killing you instead of waiting until after you are dead.
It was agreed, eventually, that I was adequately warned and could spend the rest of the day neither behind bars nor dead.
Lumpini Park, like many great city central parks, is magnificent in concept but a bit seedy and down at the heel in places. Recently, the large Monitor Lizards that inhabit the lake have taken to the land and eaten a few joggers……. No, I’m kidding. They have not eaten any joggers but have frightened a few tourists, so there is a highly publicized effort by the authorities to capture them and transport them to a more appropriate location. Some have suggested that location is probably the woks in the kitchens of some of the authority’s families.
One day at lunch, I asked the Gemologist how the cultures of those lost tribes of Burma that he spent so many years photographing are holding up. He said their cultures are mostly all gone. It happened faster than he had expected. Surprisingly, except for the Muslim Rohingya tribe, it has not been by the force of arms of the Burmese government but through the introduction of modern fashions and technologies. If the Naga people still go headhunting, they do so in Old Navy knock-off tee shirts and find their way through the jungle using google maps on their iPhones.
The next few days were spent trying to get some exercise in between the rains, struggling all one morning to get the presidential debate on my iPhone, and listening to more stories from the deep sea diver. One of the tales was a harrowing story about accompanying his flying instructor, a stunt pilot, to Columbia to pick up a small plane and fly it back to Key West. When they arrived, they found that although the plane lacked ignition, brakes and several other important mechanical parts, it carried a load of made in Columbia product and a baby ocelot (who got loose in the cockpit somewhere over Panama). The flight back to Key West included stops in Nicaragua, Mexico and one or two other places along the way. Apparently, there was also some problem with the gas since they had to fly with a fifty gallon can of gas in the cockpit along with a jury-rigged hose passing through the dashboard into the engine. Oh, and now and then there were women (there always are in stories like this) who had to sit on their laps because there were not enough seats. (What they did with the Ocelot during those times I never found out.)
And then, it was time to leave the teeming and steaming streets of Bangkok and return to the Golden Hills where the air is clean, the stories and people are few, and where the indigenous wildlife of pigeons, rats, and wandering packs of soi dogs are replaced by turkeys, coyotes, and tiny steam cleaned pedigreed canines on leashes.
B. From Bangkok to El Dorado Hills:
My return to America was long but nowhere as traumatic as the flight out. I had an entire row to myself on the flight to Beijing and so I stretched out and slept. I had a nine-hour layover in Beijing but luckily they have a by-the-hour hotel in the airport so I rented a tiny room, showered, slept — and dreamed.
I dreamt I was in a small kingdom in ancient China, appropriately. The king’s comely daughter had taken a liking to me. (In my dreams, I am usually younger and far more attractive than I am in real life.) Suddenly, a faction of the king’s retainers organized a coup and killed all the royal family except the Comely Princess who I saved. Together we organized a resistance, fought back and eventually killed all the coupsters only to find, at our moment of triumph, the Emperor with all his troops lined up outside the wall of the city wondering why there was so much turmoil in this tiny little kingdom in his empire and whether he should just burn it to the ground and kill everyone and be done with it. The Comely Princess suggested we set up two thrones on the top of the city walls in which she and I would sit and shout down at the Emperor that we were now firmly in control and were his loyal subjects. Well, he bought that little bit of theater and marched away. In celebration, the Comely Princess and I agreed to get married that evening. As I was preparing for the nuptials and drinking a glass of rice wine, the enraged princess stormed into the room and accused me of sacrificing one of our most beloved retainers to the cause. I tried to explain to the now not so Comely Princess that it was his choice but she was having none of it. So, I soon found myself seated on the horse I rode in on looking back at the city. I wondered whether the whole thing was simply a ruse by the Comely Princess to make herself a Regal Queen. It wouldn’t be the first time in my life something like this happened. For a moment I thought about gathering supporters, killing the now Regal Queen and taking back the kingdom. I decided against that. I am pretty good at fighting my way out of any imbroglio I find myself in, but starting from scratch was always too much work, so I rode off.
In case you are interested, I was dressed in Chinese boiled leather armor over my jeans with my straw fedora on my head. I may be young, handsome and competent in my dreams but I still dressed funny. By the way, my horse was gray.
During the ten hour flight from Beijing to SF, I watched two movies, The Huntsman, because I adore Charlize Theron, especially when she is tearing up the scenery, and the old Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster film Vera Cruz. Coop is an aging plantation owner and ex-Confederate Army officer who believes he fought for freedom and that the southern plantation life was built on land and big houses and not on slavery. Being freedom loving, he eventually supports the Mexican peasants against the Emperor Maximilian. Since they were peasants and only seemed able to sing and dance and throw themselves blindly at the Emperors machine guns, they obviously needed Cooper and Lancaster to save them. I will also see any movie with Lancaster in it just to see his insane smile.
Other than that, I took some valium to sleep the rest of the way. It took about 5 hours to get from SFO to El Dorado Hills where everyone seemed uncomfortable because I arrived a day sooner than expected. I also learned that my 99-year-old mom fell and broke her hip.
As I have said often, “Getting there is often far more interesting and pleasant than being there.”
This is a continuation of my somewhat irreverent retelling of some of my favorite eras of history:
It was Judea and especially Jerusalem that gave Herod agita. Most other the other parts of his kingdom seemed to accept his harsh but relatively peaceful administration with what passed for equanimity. But, in faction-riddled Judea, it seemed everyone hated everyone else and that all they seemed to agree on was that they all hated him, mostly for being Idumean and not Judean. So he did what all competent rulers do in cases like this, he threw money at them. He first lavished it on those who made up what passed for the upper class, the priests and Sadducees who he reasoned would then keep the other malcontents under some control.
When that didn’t work, he struck upon a more audacious scheme. He would rebuild their Temple and he would make it the greatest temple of the time and people from throughout the Levant and even the known world would flock to Jerusalem to see this wonder, worship there and spend their money. This he thought, reasonably so, would make everyone happy.
With his usual vigor, he set upon this task. First, he built a mountain in the city enclosed in walls so that it could be seen from everywhere and on the top of this mountain he built the most magnificent temple of his time.
While it made believers far and wide proud they had such a magnificent thing, alas, it did not stop the Judeans and especially the Jerusalemites from arguing even more about things they had been arguing about for at least a century and to his dismay they even found more things to argue about.
But while all this arguing and faction building is important, it is not important here for our story at this time but will be a little later. What is important is that Herod the businessman (like the not so successful but equally insane businessman or our time Donald Trump) did not want to use his own money to fund his largess. And what he came up with would change the world.
(to be continued)
Below is reproduced one of my favorite flights of fancy stories I wrote about six years ago. I also like it because its literary references could only be identified by people over sixty and so the piece effectively was born dead. I do, however, recommend reading O. Henry. He really was a con man, embezzler, and pharmacist until he joined the literary world and became a liar for hire.
Posted in FRACTURED FACTOIDS, VOYAGES IN MY MIND:
FROM RUBAIYAT TO RUBY OTT ON THE RUBY YACHT AND HOME AGAIN
All my life I have often taken voyages of the mind as I have pursued some research thread or another. Anyway, the internet is a marvelous vehicle for anyone who enjoys traveling without leaving one’s bed.
In my most recent voyage, I had been traveling north, escaping from the devastation of Ninth Century Southern Italy, with some Jewish merchants and settled with them in the Rhine Valley only to be forced to move eastward into the Pale, when the armies of Western Christendom had made that land too dangerous for my Hebrew brethren.
Shortly thereafter, I was at the home of the local Rabbi in a shtetl deep within the Pale somewhere in eastern Poland when that good man began to become quite emotional and upset about a radical Sephardic Rabbi named Maimonides who lived among the Muslims and was obviously corrupted by them. According to the Rabbi, this Maimonides was attempting, in his erroneous writings on sacred subjects, to humanize the faith of their fathers.
I decided to visit Maimonides at his family home in Egypt where he was working as the physician to the Sultan, Saladin. One evening shortly after I arrived, I asked the honorable doctor-rabbi to instruct me in his teachings. He responded to my request by saying“Pookie, before embarking on a voyage into Hebrew esoterica, you should first travel to Persia and stay a few evenings in a caravansary called ‘The Perfumed Garden.’”
I did so and one evening while relaxing in the hot tub after the day’s debauch, I met a fellow traveler who introduced himself to me as Mercury Ali. We got to talking about this and that and after swapping some tales of our respective voyages, he suggested that that evening we attend the salon of the well-known Hori, Scheherazade where he assured me that the finest stories in all of Persia could he heard. “Be careful,” he warned me, “the tales are so beguiling they can become addictive.” It has been rumored that some of the attendees at the salon had become so besotted that they remained there for over 1000 nights.
Assuring him that I will take his warning seriously, I accompanied him to the salon. I admit, I soon began to find myself becoming hooked on the conversation. After a few nights with Haroun al-Rashid, Delilah the Crafty, and any number of men named Sinbad (Aladdin and Ali Baba, to my regret, were off on some adventure or another), I met up with another attendee, the besotted tent-maker, mathematician and astrologer Omar Khayyam. He invited me to spend the next few days with him and a couple of Horis, and a few bottles of Napa Valley’s finest jug wine under some trees in the desert somewhere.
One morning, having finished off the jugs of wine, I found myself with Omar banging on the door of a local tavern demanding the proprietor open the premises so that we could resume our drinking.
After a downing a few cups of chardonnay in the cool common room of the tavern, I fell asleep on the table and woke up in the early part of the Twentieth Century in Greenwich Village in New York City at the house of two hippies who were dancing with each other while reciting Omar’s verses.
It seems that Bob Babbitt and his wife, Jessie, were having a party to celebrate the end of their short unhappy experiment with sobriety. Among the guests was a gentleman who went by the obvious alias of O. Henry. I was later to learn that he was a convicted embezzler, ex-con and drunken pharmacist from North Carolina who was hiding out in New York in the witness protection program under an assumed name.
He suggested that since the current party was winding down, that I join him at another get-together in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana hosted by a friend of his called Idaho. It was a reception in honor of the newest residents of the valley, Homer K. M. and, his girlfriend Ruby Ott.
The following morning, we joined Rocky and Bullwinkle on Bullwinkle’s boat the “Ruby Yacht” and traveled down the Bitterroot to Veronica Lake where we spent the day.
P.S. Omar (who was previously a member of the Taliban) and Scheherazade now are living together in an apartment in North Beach San Francisco with another illegal alien couple from Guatemala who formerly served in the Sandinista army. Omar and Sherry (the name she goes by now) are strong supporters of Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Barbara Boxer when they are not out campaigning for the “Green Party”.
NOTE: If you read this far, here is the connection to the complete collection of O. Henry’s tales: (http://www.gutenberg.org/author/O._Henry), You can read his short stories, “The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball” and “The Handbook of Hymen” should you want to take my voyage in reverse.
Forty percent of all women who are married to police officers are abused.
A. 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.
B. Today’s Poems:
I am Wo — Man
I break stallions to harness
They ride me for my pleasure
They tend my flocks
And in the end
I paste their memories
in my scrapbook.
2. Seize the Day.
“So seize the day! hold holiday!
Be unwearied, unceasing, alive
you and your own true love;
Let not the heart be troubled during your
sojourn on Earth,
but seize the day as it passes!
Ancient Egyptian poem 1160 BC
“Metaphysical naiveté always ends in murder. It fragments the world. Little acts of kindness and charity mask the monstrous evil they abet. And the system rolls forward. The polar ice caps melt. The droughts rage over cropland. The drones deliver death from the sky. The state moves inexorably forward to place us in chains. The sick die. The poor starve. The prisons fill. And the careerist, plodding forward, does his or her job.”
Chris Hedges, Truthdig
“Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo”
(“I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care”)
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/
“Destiny doesn’t do home visits.”
Zafon, Carlos Ruiz. The Prisoner of Heaven (Cemetery of Forgotten Books) (p. 204). Harper.
TODAY FROM THAILAND:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
A Soi Cowboy story: Memories of Sergeant Alvin York.
A few mornings ago, I had coffee with Gary, he of the bald head, beloved of God and protected by the deity’s own she-bears (See below (*) 5. Kings 2:23).
We met up at a pub at the corner of Soi Cowboy. It was early morning. I walked through the Soi to get there. At night the street is lit up with an unholy glare and flooded with noise imparting a frisson of excitement that causes your heart to beat as though someone suddenly set off roman candles in your living room. In the tenuous morning light, however, the excitement had long siSoi Cowboynce dribbled away and the street now was seedy looking, quiet and deserted except for those cleaning up the refuse from the night before.
Soi Cowboy is one of Bangkok’s three main “red light” districts originally set up to cater to allied soldiers on RR during the Vietnam War. It now serves the erotic needs of mostly Western and Japanese tourists. The other two are Patpong and Soi Nana. Patpong, built on land owned by the Royal Family, had long ago gone into the sexual voyeurism business; ping-pong balls, darts and balloons, razor blades, frogs, simulated sex acts and the like. Soi Cowboy, a block long alleyway with bars and go-go establishments on each side had more recently graduated from a run of the mill carnal emporium to a required stop on packaged Asian sex tours. Nana for the time being, has remained what it has always been since the soldiers left, a low-class hang-out for the typical ex-pat reprobate.
A girl working on Soi Cowboy, because of its up-scale status, can earn as much as $10,000 or more a month. In the villages they come from the average income is something less than $100 a month. I sometimes wonder what most people would be willing to do to make over 100 times more than they make now. Alas with the upscaling, gone are the independent entrepreneurs working the bars. They have been replaced by employees. And, with that comes the real exploitation.
But this post is not about the Soi, Bangkok’s seamy undersides or the Girls and their clients, but about what Gary told me as we sat there at the tables outside the pub drinking coffee and watching the Green Bay-Detroit Lions football game on television.
During our exchange of stories, recent medical histories and comments on the game, for some reason Gary mentioned that his great-uncle was Sergent Alvin York. This news intrigued me, so I asked him to tell me more.a
For those for whom his name is unfamiliar, Sargent York was the US most famous hero of WWI. He received the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking 32 machine guns, killing 28 German soldiers and capturing 132 others.
Sergeant Alvin York
From York’s diary:
“The Germans got us, and they got us right smart. They just stopped us dead in our tracks. Their machine guns were up there on the heights overlooking us and well hidden, and we couldn’t tell for certain where the terrible heavy fire was coming from… And I’m telling you they were shooting straight. Our boys just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home. Our attack just faded out… And there we were, lying down, about halfway across [the valley] and those German machine guns and big shells getting us hard.”
“And those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me something awful. And the Germans were yelling orders. You never heard such a racket in all of your life. I didn’t have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush… As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. There were over thirty of them in continuous action, and all I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharp shooting… All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn’t want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had.”
Before the war York was a violent alcoholic and prone to bar brawls. Nevertheless, after his best friend died in a bar fight, he eventually joined a pacifist church opposed to all forms of violence and reformed his ways. At the time he was drafted he claimed contentious objector status stating:
“I was worried clean through. I didn’t want to go and kill. I believed in my Bible.”
The story of his life was was made into a movie starring Gary Cooper. It was nominated for 11 Academy awards and won two, one of which was by Cooper for best actor. Gary said, that he was named after the movie star. I guess because Alvin was already taken.
The Yorks lived in the Town of Pall Mall deep in the hollows of Tennessee, Smokey and the Bandit country were moonshine was king and law non-existent. In fact, the only law that existed in that county was provided by the York’s kin since out of respect to York, they were usually not run out of the county like all other representatives of law-enforcement.
As Gary explained:
“The lawless county would not tolerate any law officers whatsoever, although York thought he could (uphold the law and maintain order), he was wrong . Moonshine whiskey and marijuana came along in the late sixties there in the poverty stricken mountainous area.”
“My grandmother, Vicey ( Frogg) Williams mothered her first when she was fourteen and all of them had first names beginning with L and middle names of Presidents . One was actually shot and killed in a feud. All of their middle names were names of presidents..”
York married Gracie Williams (played by Joan Leslie in the movie), Gary’s grandfather’s sister.
“I recall Aunt Gracie had three boys . Andrew Jackson York, Woodrow Wilson York , and Thomas Jefferson York… I heard , but never verified as I never went down again after 1970, that Thomas Jefferson may of been killed by moonshiners. They were serious about that stuff..
...it would be interesting to know if the Jamestown , Pall Mall area still is lawless. It certainly was in 1970… My mom told me that Thomas thought he could bring law and order to the hill country…”
My grand father, Wesley was a teasing fun skinny guy who had been a share cropper. Many of those folks down there were… they would have many children hoping to use the children to ease their labors…Pensions are not big in lawless counties in America.”
After York’s death, Gracie, his widow, kept a shotgun in every room in the house because of the practice in that county of raiding any large home soon after the dominant male departs those good green hills.
York himself as Gary remembered him was a quiet soft-spoken man who looked nothing at all like Gary Cooper.
In Gary’s own words:
“…he (York) was a classic Mountain Democrat and that was a bone of contention in those days with the Froggs ( my grandmother’s family )…
York refused to benefit from the honors awarded to him including the funds received from the movie and book about his life, choosing instead to donate the money to charities he favored. Most of the money and York’s efforts went into educating the children of his home county. Despite, donating the money from the movie to charity, the IRS rejected his claim and hounded York for several years, until shortly before both their deaths then President John F. Kennedy cancelled the debt calling the IRS actions in the matter a “national disgrace.”
I was there that summer (the summer that York died) at fourteen..we lived in Springfield, Illinois and had (many) seemingly endless drives down to north central Tennessee ..”
“In Springfield I was a page-boy in the State Senate and developed my disdain for Illinois politicians… In 1965 , I was 19 and got my draft notice then left those assholes in August . I delivered their hookers, drove their wives around shopping, fixed little logistic issues for them and realized they never did their homework, only what the lobbyist paid them to say and do. I still remember a slick haired guy walking up to me back then and saying, “Hi, I’m Al Green with the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association.” He put a five dollar bill in my hand. I vividly remember his features. A few months later I was earning $78 per month in the USAF…
In 1970, I returned from the military and worked there again as a bill clerk. Across the hall from my parent’s apartment lived Paul Simon who I often walked to work with, a very nice man who always wore a bow tie and had terrific dandruff…he had risen in politics after being a newspaper editor down south in Troy, Illinois … I was 25, (when) I did the bill clerk thing and walked with Paul to work at 9 AM. I considered him among the kindest of those characters…”
Most of York’s male descendants as well as Gary’s uncles served in WWII with the 82th Airborne, the successor to York’s old outfit. None of them, even York himself, would talk to Gary about their experiences during the war, even when Gary specifically asked them to. Finally shortly before he died one of his uncles opened up to him.
“My father’s twin brother served in the 82nd when it was known as Airborne . It was only the 82nd division in WWI ..Uncle Lloyd is still alive living across the river from St. Louis . He still has hair and blue eyes .. My father was bald and had brown eyes.. In college they told me not to worry about baldness as it is a gene that comes from mothers. My mom had thick dense hair, so I figured I would never face the dreaded cue ball look. When it came I didn’t care as I could not see it anyway…”
Gary told me some of what Uncle Lloyd told him. Two images stood out in my mind:
One day Gary and his Uncle Lloyd went together to see the movie Saving Private Ryan. A cow roaming in a pasture appeared in one battle scene. His uncle laughed. After the movie Gary asked him why he laughed at that particular scene. He said because, “in the war there were no cows, there were no birds they were all dead. After the armies came through there was nothing left alive for people to eat and so they starved.”
On another occasion he told Gary that there was nothing good in war. At the end, he said, he saw children and old men dressed in German uniforms because all the young men had been killed and they were all that was left of the German Army. What choice did he have? Kill them or be killed.
(*) – 5. Kings 2:23 – “Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, “Go up, you bald head! Go up, you bald head!” So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the Lord. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.”
B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
Peter’s variations on the theme of ladies only parking floors in Bangkok.
“Kolkata has ladies only trolley cars; one car for ladies only, other for anybody. San Francisco now has buses only for GLBT non-smoking artificially inseminated anti-death penalty anti-charter school non-union-but-love-Harry-Bridges, recall the Sheriff, who shot the sheriff, naked in public (bring your own towel) people. These buses hardly ever stop.”
Along time ago:
G. Blaki, the original boogy-man, roamed what eventually became China when the Homo Saps came upon him. He left them plagued with nightmares ever since.
What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
OK, but are they worth 10 times more than the Japanese and German execs who regularly out compete them? Shouldn’t the market correct the discrepancy? Could it be the CEO’s do not believe in the “invisible hand” of the market either?
Why is that man smiling?