TODAY FROM THAILAND:
“Almost everyone would be rich if great wealth came to people from hard work.”
(Someone, I do not know who)
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SACILE, TAMAI, AND VENICE:
Sacile and Tamai
On Saturday, Vittorio and Teacher Brian intend to go off on a 30 hiking pilgrimage from France, through the Pyrenees Mountains, and across northern Spain to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela a journey of about 500 miles. Their friend Marco decided to hold a bon-voyage party for them at his house.
Both Vittorio and Brian are accomplished hikers. Vittorio hikes 20 kilometers several mornings a week. Brian, an American originally from South Dakota, who now teaches physics and other sciences to high school students at the nearby American military base (hence the nickname Teacher), has an interesting back story about his commitment to hiking. When he was a young man serving in the military he was diagnosed with a large growth in his lower spine. After its surgical removal, it was feared he could never walk again. But he did and now hikes regularly through the Veneto plain and the pre-alps.
Anyway, we gathered at Marco’s for the party. I was pleased to see Professor Hank and his wife there. He is a professor (hence the nickname) of economics at a college in New Jersey and used to teach the same at the military base. Like Teacher Brian, he and his wife have a home in Sacile and spend summers there.
The dinner, in good Italian style, lasted from 7:30 when we arrived and until 1 AM when we left. It began with Prosecco, moved through Thai main courses (Vitorio’s wife and several other people there are Thai) and finished off with Italian pastry, sweets, liqueurs and cherries marinated in grappa. It was a truly multi-cultural meal.
Professor Hank, a thoughtful gentle man whose company I find extremely enjoyable. As usual, when he and I get together, we talked about many things including the possibility next summer of he and I traveling together to visit his friend who lives in Marshall Tito’s old villa on the Ischia coast of Croatia. Thereafter we would take the ferry to Bari and tour Calabria, his wife’s birthplace. After that, I could go on by train to Sicily and visit Antonio and my family before setting off to Thailand. This excited me because I had hoped to take a similar trip this year but had to cancel it because I had not yet fully recovered from my treatment.
On Monday I set off to Venice. I wanted to see how the Biennale exhibits had changed since I visited there almost two years ago.
Although I visit it often, Venice is not my favorite city. Perhaps, it is because of having read Thomas Mann or seen the movie made from his book. Perhaps, I am terrorized by people who creep about at night in masks and garish costumes. Perhaps, it is the signage for the route back to the train station that always seems to lead me through a section of the city I had never visited before, usually, one that I never even knew existed, and lose me there (this visit was no different). But mostly I think, it is because I have never eaten a good meal in that city. Despite whatever it is that puts me off, I still find myself returning again and again and happy I did so.
Back in Sacile and Tamai
The rest of the week included trips to the markets, mornings and evenings in the cafe’s talking with Hank, Lucia and others. I marvel at how these few people, Vittorio and Anita, Lucia, Professor Hank and Teacher Brian have become such close and important friends of mine despite having first met them only a few years ago and having visited with them only briefly since. I consider them as close and as dear friends as any I have made in my life.
On my last full day there like my first, I accompanied Vittorio to a nearby town where he marched with his band in a religious procession. Although growing up in Tuckahoe where religious processions were common, I have rarely seen them since then. Along with the procession, the town held a soccer tournament and hosted a dinner beneath a grand tent where I watched some men play “scopa” (a popular Italian card game) well into the evening.
B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN ROME:
On Friday, Vittorio drove me to the train station for my five hour trip to Rome. The train ride was uneventful other than when somewhere in the middle, I noticed my suitcase was not where I had left it. After some frantic searching, I found it at the opposite end of the car. The car itself was full of American college students on their way from Venice to Rome so I guessed it had been moved to make room for their mountains of luggage and backpacks. I otherwise dozed, read, or watched the hill town pass by my window. Sometimes, I tried to guess their names and recall if I had ever visited them.
Having lived in Rome for three years back in the late sixties and early seventies, I consider it my home. There are four cities I think of as home; Rome (and Sabina), New York City (and Tuckahoe), San Francisco, and Bangkok. I have lived for a considerable length of time in all of these cities. Whenever I return to any of them, I find myself just as happy sitting quietly or strolling around as I would in some more energetic or social activity; so it was with this trip. I am still too weak and ill for anything more than the briefest of walks. Nevertheless, on Saturday morning I ambled to my beloved Borghese Gardens and sat on a bench near the magnificent Borghese Museum that as usual had sold out its tickets for admission about a week in advance.
I sat where I usually do, on a bench near the accordionist. I have been coming here for about 10 years now and sitting on that bench listening to him play. He bills himself as “The Ukrainian Organist,” but I suspect he is just an ordinary Slavic accordion player. He plays light classical music which I always felt had been written specifically for sunny days in a park with breezes rustling the leaves of the trees, filtering the sunlight and dappling the ground in shadow or destined to be stolen by some modern musical comedy composer caught in a momentary lack of inspiration. Today alas, he, the musician, seemed distracted. He’d play only a few bars of a piece before jumping on to another. Even his piece de resistance the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach(what the phantom of the opera plays in his grotto under the Opera House whenever he has agita) seemed forlorn and discordant — at least, more so than it usually sounds.
The “Ukrainian Organist” at the Borghese Gardens
On Sunday my delightful cousin, Federica picked me up at my accommodation in the Castro Pretoria section of Rome. She first drove us to the “Quartiere Coppede a fantastical mix of Ancient Greek, Roman Baroque, Mannerist, Medieval, and, overall, Art Nouveau mixture created by the mostly forgotten architect Coppedè in 1919.
Fede and Pookie Footloose in Rome.
After that, we drove out to Sabina where we had a great lunch with her parents and another cousin Andrea.
Lunch was the typical 3 or more hour affair. It began with kisses and hugs all around followed by the antipasto. I do not recall all the ingredients included in the antipasto but I remember fried zucchini and potatoes, tomato and peppers (or perhaps just red peppers) and olive oil on a lightly baked breaded cracker of some sort, I think. Small mozzarella balls, mixed vegetables, and cantaloupe with Parma ham. The pasta course contained cold Ziti (?) mixed with vegetables. Then we had turkey involtini and a salad. A fruit compote followed by ice cream cake (chocolate) made up the dessert —followed, of course, by coffee. This was all accompanied by interesting conversation and a very good chilled white wine that I, unfortunately, was unable to drink more than a sip.
We also spent some time looking at old family photographs and watching the finals of LeMans on television. (Andrea is service manager for Ferrari and had a professional interest)
The Cousins and me
After the lunch, Fede drove me back to Rome and the next day I set off for Thailand.
Recently my daughter, who is a scientist herself, expressed her concern about the anti-science mania rampant in our body politic. For example, there is distrust of the findings of almost every scientist who has produced a peer reviewed article regarding climate change. Not only is this response unscientific it is irrational as well. What is the down side to moving to renewables and lowering our carbon footprint? Even if all these scientists were ultimately proved wrong we still would have a better world.
The issue is financial and political, the understandable reluctance of those few individuals and institutions who believe they own the wealth of hydrocarbons yet untapped to surrender their prospective fortunes. But who owns the billions of years of accumulated sunlight trapped in the ground— certainly not those few. At best, they have a revocable contract to invest their funds in extracting those resources in exchange for a reasonable return on their investment. It is not a scientific issue.
There is a similar negative and unscientific reaction also to things like GM crops. GM is merely a more efficient and safer method of improving crops than the radiation method we have been using for the last 100 years. Yes, there is probably not a single bite of food that you eat today that has not been genetically modified. Almost anything conceivable produced by GM can be produced by other means, but probably not as efficiently at this time.
The problem is not a question science or safety, but of adequate regulation and those who would subvert that regulation. Nevertheless, there remains those who are fearful of putting their safety in the hands of others and try instead to stop or deny the science. Although, I for one having been intimately involved in difficult regulation from all vantage points, am sympathetic with their concern, nevertheless, I believe the worst of all options is to try to halt the growth of knowledge through Luddite over-reaction.
“Remember,” he said to the two beloved faces crowding the carriage window. “No drinking out of wet glasses. No betting on slow horses. No—” The jokes died in his throat. “Oh, Jesus God Christ, what am I going to do without the two of you?” He turned away, bleak with loss.
Delaney, Frank (2009-10-13). Ireland: A Novel (p. 226). HarperCollins.
The interesting thing to note about this chart is that almost all the non-stressful careers are in engineering and are relatively highly paid, while most of the highly stressful jobs are dangerous or low paying or both. So, one would think, if you are young and looking for a career you should head off to engineering school.
Alas, here in America over the last score or so of years, we have been closing our engineering schools or being forced to fill them with students from other countries. Yes, the continued health of our modern technological society depends on the despised immigrants. Apparently modern white American males shun the hard work required to earn an engineering degree. And yes again, engineering in America has been often seen as a male only profession. Perhaps, it is the time that American woman should be encouraged to flood the remaining engineering schools and begin taking over this sector of our economy. Obviously, the men find it too difficult. Maybe, that well-represented tee-shirt slogan should be amended to read: “A woman’s place is in the House, Senate and in engineering school.”
The Mormons believe Native-Americans are descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel. Anthropologists argue over whether they are descended from East-Asian immigrants to the continent, or Central-Asian or even European. Some Native-American religions believe they are descended from those who migrated through a hollow log or a long deep cave. I believe, however, that by studying the noble noses of some these dignified and proud people one can only conclude that they are Italian.
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.
“Childhood, after all, is the first precious coin that poverty steals from a child.”
Horowitz, Anthony. The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel (p. 54). Little, Brown and Company.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY’S TO MY BELOVED DAUGHTER JESSICA, MY FABULOUS BROTHER IN LAW GEORGE DREAPER, NIKKI REFFO, AND NEAL FISHMAN.
CONGRATULATIONS TO TOM AND KATHLEEN ON THEIR UPCOMING WEDDING.
On May 18, we held my mom’s funeral at St. Ann’s Home in San Francisco. Although a sad occasion, I felt uplifted and a sense of closure due primarily to my sister and George’s efforts. They made the event a celebration of her life with a display of memorabilia, photographs, my mom’s artworks and with their eulogies — especially Maryann’s (see below).
I drove to SF the day before the funeral and spent the night at Peter and Barrie’s house. Because El Dorado Hills is such a silent place, I had an excess of words bundled up inside of me which, in an unbroken monolog of stories, observations, comments, and opinions that I spread across the floors of the house until I emptied myself. Then, exhausted and slightly embarrassed I trundled off to bed.
At the funeral the next day, I was pleasantly surprised by who showed up. Of course, my sister, her family, and a few of their friends were there including one of whom traveled all the way down from Mendocino. My son Jason and his family, Annmarie and the grandchildren were there also. Peter and Barrie attended along with Kathleen Foote (outside of family members, Kathleen and Ruth Galanter are the women I have known the longest), and Bob Uram, my partner at Shepard Mullen and one of the nation’s best environmental lawyers. In a welcome surprise, Don Neuwirth who I had not seen for over 20 years also dropped by.
The funeral brochure included a beautiful poem written by Ruth:
Teresa Petrillo departed this earth
Leaving grief and relief among those she gave birth.
To watch someone aging is hard while you do it;
In some ways as hard as yourself going through it.
So much as you’ll miss her, remember she’s free
And keep all her stories in your memory.
Teresa was tough, as her tough life required
To raise her three children. She should be admired!
And so as she passes from this life to next
Let’s think of her life in its broader context:
An immigrant child when few folks had phones,
She lived to see spying conducted by drones!
She had strong opinions, as all of you know,
And it’s likely that she chose the time she would go.
And so as she passes, remember her strength,
Tell others her story, but not at great length,
Be glad that you knew her because there’s no other
Relationship quite like a child with its mother.
Be sure as she’s watching from heaven above
That she sees you with pride and, above all, with love.
My mother as a young woman.
B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
After a brief reception at Annmarie’s, I returned to EDH. The next day, too exhausted to move much, I stayed in the house and rested.
The sun has begun its annual baking of the Golden Hills transforming them from spring green to summer gold. The skies, now and then dotted with cottony clouds, have turned deep blue.
Clouds over the health club pool.
My doctors seem to think I am doing well and continue to try to persuade me that my complaints of various pains and physical difficulties are simply signs that I am recovering. In fact, I do feel a bit better and have begun to eat and exercise more. In addition to swimming, my exercise consists primarily of seemingly endless walks around the lakes in City Center. To avoid collapsing and expiring from ennui in the middle of the path during those walks, I have taken to talking to and arguing with myself. This I suspect is a sign of terminal mental breakdown.
Along the walkways, wild grape vines have taken over the landscape like kudzu vines take over a forest. Depending on how I feel that day, I am either happy to be strolling between those lush green walls or terrified that the twisted tendrils reaching out will grab me and swallow me up. I think I am becoming delusional. Perhaps, I have been so for a while now.
Having had enough of the excitement of the golden hills, I set off to spend the Memorial Day weekend with my sister and George. I took a different route than usual. I traveled along Route 5 up the Central Valley and then along State Route 20 to Ft. Bragg. Although this route was slightly longer in miles and did not avail itself of as much freeway n my usual way, once past Sacramento I avoided the traffic slowdowns at the Yolo Causeway, Davis, Route 37, Petaluma and Santa Rosa cutting my actual driving time by two hours — even with stopping for a pleasant walk along the shores of Clear Lake.
Since arriving in Mendocino, I have gone for walks along the coast, eaten well, napped a lot, and talked at length with Mary and George. Some friends of their son Brendan arrived to scout out sites for a music video. I suggested a few likely places that I was aware of and thought might fit their needs and they trundled off to look at them. The next day they left leaving Mary, George, and I to face the weekend.
D. JERRY SMITH:
On May 7, 2017, Jerry Smith passed away. He had been my boss and a great friend. Jerry had been a California State Senator. He carried the California Coastal Act of 1976 to passage. I was his committee consultant responsible for shepherding the bill drafting and negotiating with the various interest involved. Together, we also passed a major revision of CEQA, Victims of Crime rights, and several other significant pieces of legislation.
Following eight years in the Senate, he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the Appellate Court. Upon his retirement from the court, Jerry became a consultant to countries seeking to reform their judicial systems.
Later, he became a well-known local sculptor whose work appears in many public places in Santa Clara Valley. In the photograph below, Jerry stands near his bronze sculpture of St. Cardinal Bellarmine at Santa Clara University. I think of everything, he loved being an artist best.
A. Mary Anne on Top:
1. The Entrepreneurial Mindset and Women’s Empowerment.
My sister wrote an interesting article in a local Mendocino publication about entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment the first two paragraphs of which I especially liked.
CELEBRATING THE ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET
By Mary Anne Petrillo, Executive Director West Company
The youngest daughter of the first born son of a patriarchal New York Italian family generally does not stray far from home. But somehow a crack occurred in the continuum of the universe and at the age of 16, my father gave me his blessing to travel to California to visit my oldest brother. The year was 1974. What I and my family did not know at that time, was that my brother was bushwhacking his way up and down the California coast using his legal chops to save the coast from development. Shortly after my arrival he put me on a Greyhound bus and said go to Mendocino it’s like nothing you have ever seen, it will change your life. Arriving at midnight, it was not until morning light broke when I walked outside to see the Pacific Ocean in all its glory for the first time. The experience did change my life because I knew, as only one does when they feel a physical transformation that I would one day live here. Two years later I was in California. Thirty years later Mendocino became my home.
But the journey from then to now was more than just a location swap. When I arrived in California it was the 80’s and anybody with a little bit of knowledge, some office space, and a telephone could open up shop and start a business. I jumped in and joined the fray. Business was booming. There were no PC’s no internet and no social media. Cold calling was king. Big shoulder pads, a briefcase, and a business card was all the armor you needed. I ran my own business, hired staff, and fired staff, balanced checkbooks, and embraced the technology vortex as it radically transformed the work environment and dramatically transformed how we communicated. While I was trying to build my reputation as a woman entrepreneur little did I know there was another woman with a mission laying the groundwork for women empowerment in my future home.
2. My Sister Mary Anne’s Eulogy for our Mom:
She was the youngest daughter, born to the oldest son, of a patriarchal Sicilian family
By rights, her place in life should have been secured, as the youngest girl it should have been the life of a princess, but
By age 7, she was an orphan
By 10 she was an indentured servant living in a foreign country, gripped by hunger
By 15 she had found true love and began to believe there was a future
By 16, she lost this love to a tragic death (her next true love would not come for another 63 years)
At 19, she married a man who adored her but was plagued by his own demons and insecurities
Throughout her 20’s and 30’s, she struggled to raise her two sons while fighting off cancer, epilepsy, leukemia, anemia, colitis, ulcers and depression.
At 40, as her middle child lay in a hospital bed struggling to live after a severe car accident, she gave birth to her last child, a daughter
At 50 she learned to drive and received her first paycheck … as a waitress
At 70 she celebrated 50 years of an unhappy marriage
At 80 she found the community of St. Anne’s that brought her the peace of mind and heart she never knew
At 82 she met her second true love and at 84 she lost him
At 85 she picked up a paintbrush for the first time and astounded everyone with her capacity for creativity
At 90 as her mental state precariously rocked between a woman who was for so long was my best friend and cheerleader and a contrarian who sadly saw the glass … half empty
This was the life of Teresa Corsello known to everyone as Terry Petrillo and known to me as mom.
I was the recipient of all she learned of a life that brought endless challenges and also quiet joys. It falls upon me today to speak about my mother to many of you who knew her during only one phase of her life.
Throughout her long life, my mother was many things. She was an incredible cook who always seemed to produce endless amounts of comfort food no matter what time of day you dropped by unannounced. Once during college, I came to her house with a group of friends unexpected and within what seems like minutes there was 10 roasted chickens, 3 green vegetables and 2 yellow vegetables and spaghetti and meatballs followed by cheesecake!
She was what we today might call a fashionista. In her late 50’s she held a sales job at Niemen Marcus. They loved her and she was like a sponge absorbing the latest fashion trends. Her sense of style carried on well into her elder years as she always knew how to put together an outfit. Whether the clothes were bought at the thrift shop or Sak’s Fifth Avenue she intuitively understood color and style.
Long after her children were grown she became a creative force. Brief as this time was in her life she surprised us all with her capacity for creativity. Who knew! Learning first to be hula dancer and then picking up a paint brush at 85 to become an extraordinary painter. Had she lived I have no doubt she would have tried her hand at music and gone on tour with her grandson!
She was a grandmother of the first degree. Loving her grandchildren with abandon. There was no bowl of sugar cereal too big and no ice cream cone too large for her grandkids. As a child, I couldn’t always see the unconditional love my mother gave me but observing her with my children I witnessed a love so profound and so pure that now when I see how confidently my children walk through this world I know it is because of her unbridled love for them.
She, of course, was a mother and wore that role with pride. But she suffered from the Mother’s conundrum which is to raise your children to be fiercely independent so that they stand on their own but then keenly feel the loss of your children once they were gone. There are no recipes to be the perfect mom. And she had few role models to pull from so she relied on the belief that you can never love too much. And love her children she did.
And finally most of all she was a friend. If I close my eyes today and think back on what I witnessed most during my childhood it was the multitude of friends that walked through our tiny apartment. My mother was a confidant. She was the type of person you could tell your troubles to and she never criticized or diminished your need to tell your story. Today we live in an age where so many things vie for our attention. What made my mother unique and why she was such a good friend is because when she was with you she was with you 100% you always felt that you were the most important person there was and she was listening just to you.
She knew when, as a child, I had no friends so she became my best friend. She knew that I loved art but had no role models, so she took me to museums. She didn’t pretend to know art she just took me to the place where it existed. When I had no boyfriends like most teenage girls were supposed to have she never once stopped believing that I would one day find my true love and she knew he would be a good man. And when I made her wait an incredible 10 years before having grandchildren she never chided, guilted or pressured me. She believed in every single one of my choices and never held back in expressing that belief.
She fastened me with wings so that I never once believed there was a situation I could not rise above. The wings she gave me were made of steel, honed by the endless stories of her childhood, her fears, and her failures. Without the benefit of lofty analysis or intellectual pursuits, she took what life lessons she acquired as an immigrant with no family of her own and she spoke her stories to me in the hope that they would somehow protect and prepare me for life.
They have and they will forever more…..
B. Peter’s Comments on the Previous Issue of T&T:
I galumphed through two gigs yesterday: The first, with the old Beardos, was at the Lilienthal School’s annual Mayfair. Our respective children went there, and one year Barrie was in charge of entertainment for the Fair, which is held in the school yard (fun and fundraising). She said to me: “You’re playing at the Mayfair.” At that time I hadn’t been doing any of that for some time. I replied negatively. Then, of course, she and three other wives/mothers caballed and the four husbands/fathers became the Beardos; this after we actually played at the Fair where no one threw tomatoes and we discovered we had a good time. Followup: the Beardos stayed together and played for eight years; and, we have played at the Mayfair each year for 25 years; yesterday was the silver anniversary. We noticed that the children and most of the adults weren’t around when we first played what became our ‘greatest hits’. Time passes. My morning pain pill and the stool I now sit on to play got me through that one.
Later on, I went over to Emeryville to join the Blind Lemon Pledge folks to celebrate the release of James’s and BLP’s new album, Backwoods Glance. The event was at a place called Strings, a performance venue (an auditorium-like room, with living room feelings, created by an old hippy named Joey). Prior to a downed another pill. I’m now almost out and the doc needs to refill the prescription; he assumed one a day would do; it doesn’t. Limping toward Bethlehem…..
I chose to have the hip surgery in late June because for May and June I have 22 gigs between the two bands. Not a matter of getting it up: rather more, one of getting up in the morning. Fortunately, the recurring necessity of what my grandmother (in a triumph of her pseudo-victorian pretensions) used to call “voiding” drives me to the loo. Down the primrose path to senility…..
Peter’s response to my statement that I am a wuss and complain too much about my infirmities:
Actually not. I noticed the other day that I’m kvetching a bit too much about my current ‘infirmity’; people notice my limp and that sets off the grumble. However, I do not blog. As to others, probably many men are caught in the stiff upper sphincter approach to maintaining their external manliness presentation and remain silent about their various imperfections. Another take on it: On TV, 5-6 pm is prime time for pharmaceutical ads during the news programs. Weird as this may seem, I recently counted 29 different drugs advertised during this one hourly period, such as Eliquis, Premarin, Repatha, Claritin, Flonase, Humira, Xeljanz, etc. Why grumble when you can scarf down an endless chain of pills and be part of Making America Great Again.
I also thank everyone who, in response to the previous issue of T&T, expressed their condolences upon learning of my mother’s passing.
“Whoever would make a name (i.e. glory) loses the name; he who increases not [his knowledge] decreases; whoever learns not [in Ab. R. N. xii.: “who does not serve the wise and learn”] is worthy of death; whoever exploits for his own use the crown (of Torah) perishes” (Avot. 1:13).
From the mid-1950’s. Me and my bud’s from Tuckahoe NY, Charles (“Charlie”) DeVito and Peter (“Sir Rince”) Cirrincione. I am the dork on the far left — Shades of “The Lords of Flatbush,”
Brigid O’Shaughnessy: I haven’t lived a good life. I’ve been bad, worse than you could know.
Sam Spade: You know, that’s good because if you actually were as innocent as you pretend to be, we’d never get anywhere.
From “The Maltese Falcon.”
A. Teresa Petrillo, June 7, 1917 — May 8, 2017
On May 8, 2017, at about 4 PM my mom died. Her passing was relatively peaceful.
My mom has led a life of great adversity from the moment she was born until the last few years or her life. She met every challenge with implacable determination and good humor never giving an inch to despair or defeat. Even the Grim Reaper was forced to sneak up on her while she slept.
Memories of her flood me with sadness now — never more new memories made — no more laughter together.
REST IN PEACE MOM, WE WILL MISS YOU A LOT.
The funeral will be held at St. Ann’s, 300 Lake St. San Francisco on May 18, beginning at 9:30 AM.
B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
A week or so ago, I got the news from one of my doctors that according to my recent PET-scan, my throat cancer is in full remission. When one parses the fog of physician speak and happy talk what this means is that they can’t find the little buggers right now so we will wait five years to see if I am still alive. Nevertheless, I guess I should feel good about this, but then why do I still feel like road kill?
Any delight I may feel from this news has been tempered by sadness after learning about my mother’s passing and the sufferings of some of my dearest friends. Peter is gradually having joint after joint in his body replaced due to the ravages of arthritis (but he still weekly performs music with his several bands) and Naida is due for open heart surgery next week. It The suddenness with which our bodies descend from the satisfaction with being older (and if not wiser, at least a little smug) to the devastation of being aged is incomprehensible to me —
Peter (2nd from left) and the Blind Lemon Pledge Blues Band.
(This photograph makes me happy. Just look at these old guys, even if they can no longer get it up, they still can lay down a few bars of the Blues.)
The winter rains seem to be over and the California sunshine now rules the days. In preparation for my travels this summer, I am trying to exercise more — walking and swimming for the most part. I dislike being indoors when I exercise which is why I enjoy the pool at my health club. It is outdoors and heated. My walks take me around the lakes in Town Center. I do this, mind you, not for the health benefits or to keep in shape but in order to prepare for my planned summer travels. I would rather not find myself nodding off in some god-forsaken sidewalk cafe in Bangkok or falling down the stairs that pass for streets in the Italian hill towns I plan to visit.
A Lake at Town Center in El Dorado Hills
C. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
Outside Dick’s Home across the driveway from the front door there is a tall hedge growing. I assume, it was planted to shield the occasional pedestrians on the street from a view of our garbage cans. On one side of the hedge, barely visible from either the front door or the street is a large dark gap or hole in the foliage. From this gap, for as long as I have lived here, there issues several rivulets of water that tumble down the slope for about 30 feet or so before disappearing into a drain at the side of the garage. During the rainy season these rivulets grow quite large and at times flood the driveway.
Not too long ago, while leaving the house, I noticed some kid standing by the garbage cans behind the hedge peeking out at the street. Curious, I shouted, “ Hey, what the fuck are you doing here?”
At the sound of my voice, he spun around and stared at me, a surprised look on his face. That’s when I realized he was not some kid, but a very short old man with a scraggly grey beard. Old, about my age with wrinkles on his face that stood out like scars. He was short, well under five feet I guessed and dressed oddly too. On his head he had on what looked like a black or dark blue felt fedora with its brim cut off. His coat, dark brown in color, had shiny buttons, yellow piping, and hung almost to he knees. Below the coat were wrinkled tan pants tucked into dirty white socks. On his feet, he had what looked like old hiking boots.
He hesitated a moment then turned, ran through the mud, up the slope and dove head first into the gap in the hedge. I noted that he was far more spry than I.
“Hey!” I shouted and ran across the driveway after him. Well, I actually didn’t run, that’s beyond me at this age — shuffled more likely. Also, I was wearing my imitation Crocs that I bought in Thailand for two dollars. There’s no running in them — waddling perhaps.
I crossed the driveway, then slipped and slid through the silt and the mud and turned toward the dark gap. “I’ve got you now you rat bastard,” I thought.
As I approached the hole and tried to reach in to grab the little jerk, I slipped and slid feet first into the gap. I fell thinking I was going to land hard on my ass. Instead, I kept falling down and down and down. As I slid down, one of my faux Crocs slipped off my foot. For some reason, I believed it essential I save the thing and so I did by grabbing it and clutching it to my breast. It felt like I was dropping down the chute at a water park. I tried to turn my body so I could apply some friction to slow or stop my fall. I got part way around when I popped out of the tube, flew about five feet through the air and with a loud “oomf,” landed face down onto what felt like soft moss. I was sopping wet and in pain all over. I was still grasping the phony Croc like it had saved my life. Eventually, I moved my head a bit and glimpsed a small pond a few feet away from where I lay. I could hear the plopping sound of water dribbling into the pond. I appeared to be lying in a small clearing a forest. I spied the little guy standing at the edge of the clearing. When he saw me looking at him, he ran off into the woods and disappeared. “You rat bastard,” I croaked after him.
Slowly and agonizingly, I worked my way onto my back, looked up into the clear blue sky, and shouted “I am not Alice.”
Four days later, I returned home. Neither Hayden nor Dick seemed aware that I had been gone. What was even more strange was that they also seemed not to notice my appearance. I was almost naked wearing only a few rags and of course the phony Crocs. My beard was long and braided. On my chest I sported a tattoo of a naked mole rat standing fully erect and above it in large red bank gothic the words “Fuck Trump.” A stud, shaped like a human thigh bone, pierced my left earlobe.
Disappointed at their lack of reaction, I stomped off the bathroom, showered, shaved, removed the thigh bone stud and put myself to bed. The next morning Dick woke me up to drive Hayden to school.
IRWIN’S TALE – I
Sometimes poetry can bubble up from the depths of despair. This tale was sent to me seven years ago by Irwin. I include it here in memory of a fine man and a good friend who passed away shortly thereafter:
“Friday I came out of the bank. There was a man who came into the lobby and then went outside. I don’t know how to describe him except to say he looked scruffily dressed and reminded me of a former city councilperson who was one of the last white faces in Santa Ana government; outside of the long-time city manager who lives in Coto de Caza as does the former mayor who now is the right hand man at the Irvine Company. I got the distinct feeling this fellow was either going to rob Citibank or was waiting for me so when I got into the oyonemobile I locked the doors started the car and drove away.
Yesterday morning, I went to the market and was waiting at the fish counter (Dover sole $9.99 a pound) when the guy came in and peered into the red meat display. When he left, I breathed a sigh of relief. When I checked out of the market and got to my car I could see him at the end of the parking lot next to the small free-standing building which houses “drs. r us.” Who is this guy and am I really seeing him again and again? I quickly drove away.
Today I thought about it a lot. I was thinking that maybe it was “death” following me around and checking me out. What I had to keep death away I don’t know but I suspect it was those adolescent tendencies of mine that when confronted I have just a few choices, to whine, freeze and/or make it to the closest door. What kept death at arms reach? Surely death could appreciate and have a real taste for a coward. Did he just decide that it wasn’t my time or that I was the wrong person?
At 2:30 am, I couldn’t sleep so I checked my email. I received an email from a former county CEO. In it he explained that he didn’t know what day or time it was; that his three-year old romance ended when the woman died in their bed at the age of 37. I guess Mr. Death found somebody; hopefully it wasn’t in place of me by mistake. I have enough bad karma on my conscience.”
The True Story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The fairy tale is based on the tragic life of Margarete von Waldeck, a 16th century Bavarian noblewoman. Margarete grew up in Bad Wildungen, where her brother used small children to work his copper mine. Severely deformed because of the physical labor mining required, they were despairingly referred to as dwarfs. The poison apple is also rooted in fact; an old man would offer tainted fruits to the workers, and other children he believed stole from him.
Margarete’s stepmother, despising her, sent the beauty, to the Brussels court to get rid of her. There Prince Philip II of Spain became her steamy lover. His father, the king of Spain, opposing the romance, dispatched Spanish agents to murder Margarete. They surreptitiously poisoned her.
I would like to see Disney make a movie out of this version of the tale.
Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“When we were young with our peers about us, we dreamed and hoped for that which we had not yet experienced. Now in our old age we dream and hope for one last chance at that which we will soon no longer have.
Symmetry is a beautiful thing.”
“What’s true? What’s false? In case you haven’t noticed, the world has pretty much given up on the old Enlightenment idea of piecing together the truth based on observed data. Reality is too complicated and scary for that. Instead, it’s way easier to ignore all data that doesn’t fit your preconceptions and believe all data that does. I believe what I believe, and you believe what you believe, and we’ll agree to disagree. It’s liberal tolerance meets dark ages denialism. It’s very hip right now.”
Hill, Nathan. The Nix: A novel (p. 601). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
While the time line on this chart is too brief to demonstrate a trend, is does show something that has been occurring in the American economy for over a decade. Manufacturing continues to decline while the highly unproductive finance and insurance sector massively increases.
Clouds over Pattaya, Thailand
“When weird comes knocking, gray hairs count.”
Fforde, Jasper. The Woman Who Died a Lot: A Thursday Next Novel (p. 8). Penguin Publishing Group.
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
There has been little adventure in the rain-swept Golden Hills this past week or so, and for that matter even less for Pookie unless one considers watching one’s body become foreign to oneself an adventure.
It has rained pretty steadily for a while now, forcing me indoors except for my daily trips to treatment and chauffeuring HRM to and from school. As for my body, no longer am I amused by one or another side effect of my treatment. It seems as though my whole body has rebelled from the attacks upon it. Neither food nor drink nor locomotion seems any longer of interest. Even breathing seems to take a conscious effort. I try to content myself with the knowledge that only two more weeks remain before the assault ends. But that seems a long way off — two weeks too far. I try to boost my morale by telling myself that others have gone through this and much worse with less complaining. I see them every day at the treatment centers, sitting quietly, sometimes with slight smiles on their faces — not like me slumped on my chair scowling. I guess, for a confirmed hypochondriac and wuss like me, I shouldn’t expect more of myself than scowling and complaining.
Actually, what bothers me most — other than the dark thick viscous scum that now seems to permanently coat my mouth and throat that, when I spit into the bathroom sink, sticks there like an alien being. It cannot be washed away by water but must be scrubbed off. What is something like that doing in my mouth? …… Where was I? Oh yeah, what bothers me most. What bothers me most is that it is all-consuming. It is hard to notice other things — just me and the effects of the treatment. It has become hard to see the humor in things. It doesn’t matter whether it is dark, cynical or cruel, eventually, seeing the humor in my experiences has always been important to me — maybe even more important than anything else. There certainly have been a lot of absurdities during these weeks of treatment to smile at. Perhaps, I will describe some of them further on, but not now. Now is the time for bitching. Bitching is therapeutic.
Those who live in Northern California are experiencing “The Rain” caused by a storm surge that occurs only every 10 years or so driven by something called the “Pineapple Express” which delivers warm moist air from somewhere near Hawaii and drops it on us in Northern California. It has been raining fairly steadily for about 10 days. Although I spend most days indoors, every few days I like to drive around the subdivision observing the water as it flows in the streams and along the drainage ditches that run by the roadways and are disguised to look like natural streams with rocky bottoms and clever landscape. Unlike natural streams, however, they are as straight as a ruler and conveniently disappear whenever they meet up with suitably developable properties. Near our house, they empty into the Duck Pond in several pretty little waterfalls. The pond itself is swollen, drowning the willows that line its banks. With all this rain, I expect spring to be especially flamboyant this year.
Ends and beginnings
All thing end, I guess. Good things seem to end long before I would like them to and the bad things generally hang around far too long. On Friday my treatment ended weeks after it had worn out its welcome. The doctors told me that the side effects, the pain, the blood filled pus and the general feeling that death would be a welcome option would remain for a while and they have proven to be right.
Following my last radiation treatment, the radiation technicians congratulated me for making it through as though it was some aboriginal coming of age right where most of the participants die – – I guess it was in a way. After the technicians and other nurses left the room, one nurse, a tall slender black haired woman with round black rimmed glasses, remained. She gave me a tight long hug. I could feel her breasts and hips pressed against my body. She kissed me and then hugged me again for a long time. I did not know what I was supposed to do or say. I mumbled, “You guys were great” as I untangled myself and shambled out of the room with my hospital gown flapping open at the back and ran back to the changing room.
Now I wait for a few weeks for the results of some testing and meetings with the doctors to find out if I am a dead man walking the short or the long mile. One thing I know, if it is the short mile, I refuse to do this again no matter the promises.
The sun has broken through the clouds over the golden hills for the first time in over three weeks. I felt good enough to exercise by walking around the lakes in Town Center. I have not exercised since treatment began. It was good.
I am now ending the third week since treatment has ended. The doctors told me that things would get far worse before getting better and some things may not get better at all. As for the side effects getting worse, the doctors were right. I have never felt this bad in my life. Nothing seems amusing anymore.
A light between tunnels
My brother-in-law George came by and spent three days with me. He has gotten me to eat and drink a bit and feel better about myself.
B. BOOK REPORT: The Marriage Tree by Christopher G, Moore.
While passing through those empty times during my treatment when there is little to do other that dwelling on my discomfort or sleeping, I read. Mostly, I read things that pass the time, amusing but like after taking some narcotic and trying to remember what you did while stoned, you know you did it but cannot recall what it was you did while you did it. Along the way, I read my friend Christopher G. Moore’s book, The Marriage Tree. This was different.
To Moore, Bangkok is a mirror revealing the dark soul of humanity. In Thailand, that dark soul, that we like to pretend does not exist wherever we live, drips out bloody and foeted onto the streets of Bangkok. Like gods, the rich and powerful are immune from judgment and punishment, except by other gods like them. The rest of us are condemned to seeking a rough justice for those of our peers who may have harmed us. Those who truly set into play our small difficulties and tragedies are almost never forced into any court to answer for their complicity.
How many people have died or suffered from the products and services of the corporate entities these godlings control? How many wars have been fought to protect private interests and not the public interests? Has slavery really disappeared where laws have been passed to prohibit it, or are some of the powerful still able to command indenture of the less powerful?
This is perhaps the darkest of Moore’s books. Even the soiled hero of most of his novels, Vincent Calvino, a half Jewish, half Italian disbarred attorney from New York City, who has taken up life as a private detective in Bangkok, finally accepts that true justice, the capping of the godling responsible, is hopeless except by chance, and even then there is always someone else willing to take over and step in to play the godling role. Although it is cloaked in the guise of a detective thriller, it is not. It is a scream against the gathering darkness across our world as those wealthy and powerful self-styled godlings take control and the rest of us slowly realize we all now live in Bangkok without happy endings to content us.
Moore is Canadian and like most Canadians, his moral outrage stops just short of throwing the bomb.
When I am in Bangkok, I sometimes see Moore across the street or at some artist do. I no longer see in his face that little knowing smile he seemed to effect. He now appears haunted as though he’s glimpsed the future and found only more hopelessness there … or perhaps a local godling has happened to read his book and begun to turn his hooded eyes in his direction.
Pookie says, “Check it out.”
A. The New Yorker Magazine halo as the nation’s best-edited magazine slips a bit:
“Because her subject was longitudinal change across the span of hours, days, and years, she needed to set her spatial position in order to see time move across the proscenium of her subjective imagination.”
A review by Dan Chiasson in the Books section of the New Yorker Magazine, December 5, 2016, reviewing a new book about the Poetry of Emily Dickenson.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“When we were young with our peers about us, we dreamed and hoped for that which we had not yet experienced. Now in our old age, we dream and hope for one last chance at that which we will soon no longer have.”
“Symmetry is a beautiful thing.”
Among those who have created great religions, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Paul perhaps receives the least recognition. After all, he took the tiny organization of a Hebrew cynic and miracle worker and created the largest religion of them all.
Who was he? His family had been ennobled by the Herodian reforms of the Hasmonean aristocracy. He undoubtedly had a franchise to collect the Herodian temple tax from among the diaspora Jews of the Syrian saddle and south central Anatolia. He was quite active in Second Temple politics. Whether he was also a tentmaker or that was just a metaphor is of minor importance.
So what happened? According to Big Paulie himself, about three short years after Jesus’ death, somewhere along the road to Damascus where he was to impose the Jewish form of Inquisition upon a nest of Jesus followers, Jesus himself struck him blind and suggested that instead of persecuting these unfortunates wouldn’t be better if he became one of their Apostles.
Now, whether or not one believes in gods or their wish to speak with members of our species, one must ask why would Jesus after spending a number of years carefully choosing and instructing its leaders, suddenly decide they were not doing a good job with the good word and would be better off following some random guy with mayhem in his heart walking along a road to Damascus after speaking with him for all of a minute or so?
So, what sort of a man was Big Paulie? Well, from his own words in Galatians 1:7 Paul made it clear that he did not discuss with the apostles and disciples chosen by Jesus (“Pillars of the Church”) after he had received his revelation to be an apostle,[Gal. 1:15-16] that he saw no one except Cephas (Peter) and James when he was in Jerusalem three years after the revelation[Gal 1:18-24] and implies he did not explain his gospel to them until 14 years later[Gal 2:1-2] in a subsequent trip to Jerusalem. Also, he declared himself an Apostle and passed himself off as one without informing the Apostles themselves he was doing so. I would think, at the least, he was a man on the make if not an out and out crook.
At the time Big Paulie was rapping with Jesus alongside the Damascus Road, the original Apostles, disciples, and believers in Jesus brand of reform Judaism were part of Second Temple Judaism, in other words, a Jewish sect of the time period, the Jesus sect. Gentiles that wished to fully join the movement were expected to convert to Judaism, which likely meant submission to adult male circumcision for the uncircumcised, following the dietary restrictions of kashrut, and more. During the time period, there were also “partial converts,” such as gate proselytes and Godfearers. Paul insisted that faith in Christ was sufficient for salvation and that the Torah did not bind Gentiles. That was not what the other Apostles believed, the ones who spent years with Jesus and actually heard his preaching. While they were willing to bend over backward to make it easier for gentiles to join the Jesus sect, they required not just the faith that Big Paulie based his religion on but also to those good works implied in the Law and preached by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and other Rabbi’s in the Hellenic Judaism tradition, like Hillel. At the very least they should subscribe to the Noahaid Laws.
After years of accusing the other apostles of being virtual heretics and fighting for his turf among the Jews living north of modern day Israel and the uncircumcised living there, Peter and James who was the spokesman for the remainder of the Apostles who supported the Law and Jesus interpretation of it met with Don Paulo at his home base, Antioch in Syria one of the largest cities in the empire.
Peter was probably in fact and effect the person who did more than any other to hold together the diversity of first-century Jesus movement. James the brother of Jesus and Paul, the two other most prominent leading figures in the development of first-century Christianity*, were too much identified with their respective “brands” of the movement, at least in the eyes of those Jews and Gentiles at the opposite ends of this particular spectrum. But Peter, as shown particularly by the Antioch episode in Gal 2, had both a care to hold firm to his Jewish heritage, which Paul lacked and an openness to the demands of developing Christianity, which James lacked.
Later Paulie brags in his epistles how he bested Peter and James at this meeting. This was probably not true since left Antioch, the site of the meeting and Paulie’s long time center of operations, in a huff and never returned.
But enough of Paulie, whatever one may think of Big Paulie and his character, he would probably be at best a footnote in history but for events in that occurred Jerusalem at the end of the first century and the beginning of the second.
* We must remember, at this time, Peter, Paul, James and all the believers still thought they were part of Second Temple Judaism. It was not until the end of the first century before the then bishop of Antioch first referred to the believers as Christians.