“When the Judgment Day comes, civilization will have an alibi: ‘I never took a human life, I only sold the fellow the gun to take it with.’”
Have a very happy Christmas, Saturnalia, St. Lucia’s Day, Festivus, Ding Zhi, Shab-e Yalda, Into Raymi, Shalako, Hanukkah, Boxer Day, Toji, Kwanza, Three Kings Day, Las Posadas, and whatever other winter solstice ceremony you prefer,
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:
I am sitting here this morning in my favorite chair in Peter and Barrie’s house typing this. Naida sits at the table across the room reading the newspaper, her coffee cup at the ready by her right hand. Barrie has gone out into the misty morning to walk Ramsey. Peter has disappeared upstairs to prepare for the day. Boo-Boo the Barking Dog has just finished barking at imagined threats to the safety of the household and now lies quietly, head between paws, on the black sofa to my left. It is a good beginning to the day.
Naida and I arrived last night and today I intend to spend most of the day at the hospital for my immunotherapy infusion.
We agreed that Naida would spend the day here tending to the dog while I went to the hospital. I got into the car and had driven part of the way from Noe Valley to Mission Bay when I decided to check my wallet for my identification and credit card. I could not find either of them. In panic, I returned to pick up Naida so that at least I would have someone with me with the means to pay for whatever may be needed. Later I discovered the missing cards were in my wallet exactly where they were supposed to be. And so, another senior moment passes through my life.
The only interesting thing that transpired at the hospital was the doctor informing me that my previous CT scans seemed to show cancer spreading. Adding that it was so small he could not hazard a guess at to what it may mean. So, he ordered new scans to be done before my next infusion and assured me that even if they do show some spreading of cancer he has me scheduled for participation in some clinical trials.
The next morning, after we left Peter and Barrie’s house, we stopped at Red’s Java House on the Embarcadero for breakfast with Anthony and his girlfriend. Anthony asked me to tell some stories as he has begun to take an interest in family history. I told a few of them including my midnight knife fight in the dark alley’s of Istanbul in the early ’70s. We then returned to the Enchanted Forest.
B. THE SATURDAY MORNING COFFEE.
The following morning we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House. It was our “dear leader” Gerry’s birthday and so we had a cake and sang happy birthday to her. Later Winnie and I told each other a few stories. She told me that Ducky, the woman in the group whose white hair was always perfectly coiffed had some interesting stories also. Ducky lived and traveled in many places in the world with her husband who was in charge of a US submarine squadron. One of Ducky’s stories about her being kidnapped at knifepoint in Japan, she felt was worth hearing. So, she called Ducky over and left. I asked about the kidnapping. Ducky, said “it was nothing as serious as a kidnapping. It was more like being taken hostage.”
She explained that they were living in Japan at the time and she had gone to the bank. As she approached the teller, a Japanese man rushed up behind her, grabbed her, put a knife to her throat and demanded the teller give him money or he would kill the American lady. Ducky was proud of the fact that somehow for some unknown reason she had the presence of mind to signal to the teller to call the embassy. The teller cleverly gave the thief two large bags heavily filled with coins to slow him down as he tried to get away. The thief then dragged Ducky and the bags of coins across the floor of the bank and out into the street where he threw her down and tried to make his escape. Unfortunately for him, weighted down with the coins, he was quickly subdued by two policemen armed only with batons.
What happened later was the most interesting part of the story. Everyone, the thief, Ducky, the tellers, bystanders, and the two policemen were all taken to police headquarters, placed in a large room together where they sat around a table and each gave their account of the events. Then they were all taken back to the bank where they each, in turn, had to reprise their role and movements in the drama. They then were all returned to the station to review their statements once again. After about 12 hours of this, the embassy secured Ducky’s release. But wait there is more.
A few weeks later, Ducky received a visit from the parents of the thief. Apparently, following the trial, the parents were ordered to beg her forgiveness. Much to her embarrassment, they then crawled across the floor to lie at her feet and apologize for their son’s behavior.
Still later, she was ordered to appear at the prison to view the cell in which the miscreant was imprisoned. It was a small room. Ten prisoners were kept there. There were sleeping mats on the floor and a bucket by the wall. The jailer assigned to the room, she was told, checks the prisoners very closely every night because if one escaped the punishment was for the jailor, himself, to take his place. Finally, she was informed that when the thief in question was let out of prison he would be prohibited from appearing in public without a member of his family accompanying him.
C. SMOGY THINGS.
Naida drives a white 1991 Mitsubishi sports car. It is the model that allows one to choose a touring or sports mode as they drive. In sports mode, the car can reach into the 180 mph range. Alas, while seeking to re-register the car for 2019 (yes, we are grossly late), it failed its smog test. As a result, we agreed to switch cars (she the Toyota Forerunner and I the Mitsubishi) while I set about doing whatever needs doing in order to secure the smog clearance. We first sought the opinion of something called a “smog referee.” That worthy, we were told, was supposed to assist people whose automobiles fail the smog test. “Not so,” he said. His job, he informed us, was to do the same smog inspection as had previously been done. And so he did with the same results. So, after that I enlisted the assistance of my grandson, who had worked for a few years in an auto repair shop, as well as Hayden and the Scooter Gang — they being at that age when adolescent boys obsess about all things automotive.
On Monday, I drove the Mitsubishi into the Golden Hills to confer with my automotive consultant, Hayden. He informed me that he and the gang reviewed the referee’s report and believe that the repairs to the engine needed to bring it into compliance should not be too expensive. He agreed to seek out some estimates.
While driving back to the Enchanted Forest, I realized how much I enjoyed driving a sports car and decided to try to persuade Naida to make the switch of automobiles permanent.
D. AT NIGHT WITH NAIDA AND ANNABELL LEE.
One night, perhaps it was the same night, I drove the Mitsubishi into the Golden Hills, Boo Boo the Barking Dog lay strangely quiet on the chair beside me. Naida sat at her computer happily pounding the keys in order to produce the paragraphs making up volume two of her memoir. I, in my black vest over a red sweater, sat in my favorite reclining chair, my laptop set properly upon my lap, flipping through the poems in one of my favorite poetry sites (PoemHunter) when I happened to strike with the curser a tiny arrow and a somewhat reedy voice with what sounded like a British accent emerged and filled the room with a recitation of Edgar Allen Poe’s Annabell Lee.
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
And so on.
The dog raised his head for a moment then returned to sleep. Naida suddenly stopped typing, turned from the computer and began reciting the poem word for word along with the narrator. When they both had finished, she sprang from her chair and exclaimed, “He said it all wrong. He sounded like he was selling aspirin. He is no poet or actor. To Poe, this was highly emotional. There were angels and demons and sadness and loss.” She then sat back down and returned to her typing. Shortly thereafter she got up and took the dog for a walk.
A. Naida and Pookie’s excellent adventure through the Pacific Northwest. (continued):
Drive to Miller Ranch in Alder Montana and the Headwaters of the Missouri River.
The sun shone brightly on the morning we set out for south-western Montana to visit Naida’s cousin Julie Miller to our left on the green broad flat floor of the Yellowstone River Valley, a heard of pronghorn antelope bouncing along matched the speed of the car.
We drove through Livingston a picturesque old western town. This area of Montana is dotted with towns like this and peopled today mostly with aging ranchers, successful artists, and wealthy bourgeoisie seeking a bucolic refuge from the urban conurbations they helped destroy.
Eventually, we arrived at Alder, a town with little there except “Chicks Bar.” Although there are very few roads in the town and surrounding area and we tried to follow the directions Naida had been given, we nevertheless promptly got lost. We called Julie Miller, Naida’s cousin, at the number we had received when we called Chick’s Bar before leaving Gardiner. Julie answered but she could not hear us so we hung up or so we thought, but because of the oddities of the local phone system, Julie could still hear us while we engaged in a lengthy and emotional argument about what it is we should do now.
Chick’s Bar, Alder Montana
Eventually, we managed to get through to Julie on the phone. She suggested we go first to Sheridan, a town about 10 miles away, to visit Julie’s mom who was living in a senior home there. Julie’s mom, Patty Miller, had often taken care of Naida during her childhood while she and her brother were passed around from relative to relative. Naida loved Patty ver much and wanted to visit her one last time before either of them died. After a bit of difficulty, we found the center and Naida and Patty had an emotional and tender reunion. Naida left patty with a copy of her Memoir.
Naida and Patty (Three months after this photograph was taken Patty Miller Died)
We then drove back to Alder. Getting lost again we called Julie and she agreed to meet us and lead us back to the ranch. She arrived in an odd vehicle that looked much like a military golf cart. At the ranch, we met her husband who had had a hip replacement operation and had been laid up for a couple of months.
The golf cart Humvee.
We then strolled around the property, visited the horses and met one of the largest dogs I had ever seen, a breed she told us called a Turkish Boz shepherd dog. (Later after we returned home I read up on them. They are used to accompany the sheep and drive off predators and are also used by the Turkish military as attack dogs)
Julie and Naida
Naida and the Turkish Boz
Then we piled into the military golf cart for a tour of the ranch. Julie and her husband used to raise horses here but they are retired now and spend half of the year at their home in Mexico. The ranch mostly grows hay which is bailed up and sold to other ranches in the area as fodder for their herds in winter. Julie pointed out to us the small stream that crossed the ranch. It is called the Ruby River, I believe. She said it is the headwaters of the Missouri River.
The Headwaters of the Mighty Missouri River.
Then, after a brief break, we piled into the military golf cart again and drove through the backroads to Julie’s brother Johnny Miller’s home, a house he mostly built by himself.
Johnny, Naida, and Julie.
While the cousin’s caught up on family news, I went for a brief walk around the property at the center of the ranch, examined the old sod and timber shacks their parents or grandparents built when they first came to homestead the land and leaned on the ancient wooden fence and stared across the ranch to the mountains in the distance.
The Miller ranch near Alder Montana.
Then we left drove through Wisdom and other old western Montana towns and into the Big Hole Valley on our way to Salmon Idaho.
(to be continued)
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
Mist gives in bulk what it removes in substance.
C. Today’s Poem:
Yes, we’ll gather by the river,
the beautiful, the beautiful river.
They say it runs by the throne of God.
This is where God invented fish.
Wherever, but then God’s throne is as wide
as the universe. If you’re attentive you’ll
see the throne’s borders in the stars. We’re on this side
and when you get to the other side we don’t know
what will happen if anything. If nothing happens
we won’t know it, I said once. Is that cynical?
No, nothing is nothing, not upsetting just
nothing. Then again maybe we’ll be cast
at the speed of light through the universe
to God’s throne. His hair is bounteous.
All the 5,000 birds on earth were created there.
The firstborn cranes, herons, hawks, at the back
so as not to frighten the little ones.
Even now they remember this divine habitat.
Shall we gather at the river, this beautiful river?
We’ll sing with the warblers perched on his eyelashes.
This is a copy of a painting I did about 20 years ago when I had dreams of becoming a commercial schlock artist like Thomas Kinkade. On the left is a portrait of Miguel (last name I have forgotten) a friend I met in Costa Rica. He was reputed to be the George Washington of Costa-Rican independence — a big game hunter turned prominent conservationist and creator of the Costa-Rican system of nature preserves. He was also a noted Lothario, claiming that at 86 years of age he still had nine girlfriends. He admitted to me that because of his age he only slept with four of them. One day he introduced me to two books of the penis enhancement and health exercises that he does religiously every day. Miguel was also a noted Costa-Rican artist. The two women of the right are copies that I made of Miguel’s portraits of two of his girlfriends.