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.
“I see great things in baseball.”
― Walt Whitman
My condolences to Bill Yeates and his family for their great loss.
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO:
One Sunday, I traveled to San Francisco to visit my mom, my son Jason and his family, and to have coffee with Peter. While sitting outside Bernie’s coffee shop in Noe Valley, I realized that something about the Golden Hills and my life there has been lacking, Laughter. Laughter seems in short supply in El Dorado Hills. Smiles, there are plenty. Why wouldn’t there be smiles? It is as close to being an ideal place to live as one can imagine. Nevertheless, I rarely hear the sound of laughter, real deep booming out of control laughter. Without laughter is one truly alive — or even healthy? When I am with HRM, I often laugh, but otherwise nada. I need to either find someone up there in the Golden Hills like Peter who can make me laugh or perhaps, I should start rewatching my favorite comedy movies or maybe old Groucho, You Bet Your Life, reruns. Laugh more — you won’t regret it.
As for my mom, she has recovered nicely from her broken hip. She even played an enjoyable game of tossing the ball around with my granddaughter and me. She would throw the ball at me when I wasn’t looking, bounce it off my head and then break out laughing. It annoyed the hell out of me.
While sitting outside of Bernie’s drinking our coffee, Peter started a story about a trip he took many years ago. A little way into it, he stopped and said that he could not remember if what he was saying was true or if he was just making it up. I urged him to continue in any event because it seemed like a good story. So he did — and it was — something about Frank Lloyd Wright, a burning automobile, and an old lady sitting and looking out her window someplace in Nebraska.
About a week later, I returned to SF to show my cousin Frederica around the city. She had just arrived from Italy and had never seen the City before. While there, I received a call from my doctor with the most distressing news possible. Nevertheless, we continued our tour of the most impressive sights in the city and ended up for coffee with Peter at Bernie’s in Noe Valley. (Peter can be considered one of the city’s more impressive sights.) Frederica was indignant that instead of a spoon to stir the sugar into her espresso she was given one of those disposable wood stirring sticks. After a crazy time maneuvering through rush hour traffic in downtown, she took the train back to Menlo Park where she is staying with some friends and I proceeded on back to the Golden Hills.
Frederica and I
B. BOOK REPORT: THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE by Tahir Shah.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu
While conversing with Peter in front of Bernie’s coffee shop, for some reason, we got into a discussion about India where Peter and Barrie spent many years and where I have, for a long time, longed to go. I mentioned a book about India I read several years ago of which I was quite fond. I could not remember its name but promised Peter I would search for it and let him know. After three days of searching on my computer, I located the book and sent the information to Peter. I also decided to buy the book on Amazon and reread it on my Kindle to see if it was as enjoyable as I remembered.
After reading a few pages, I recalled that the book was also one of the reasons I had put off traveling to India. You see, when I travel, I prefer traveling alone and although I enjoy the “Great Sights” like anyone, I especially like searching for the odd and a little dangerous — like the night I found myself in a knife fight in a rural town in Turkey that eventually prompted the leader of the Turkish mafia to demand I persuade him why he should not have me killed. I knew India for me would never be merely a visit to the Taj Mahal or the Red Fort and the like, but a lifetime commitment.
“A journey, I reflected, is of no merit unless it has tested you. You can stay at home and read of others’ experiences, but it’s not the same as getting out of trouble yourself.”
Shah, Tahir. The Complete Collection of Travel Literature: In Search of King Solomon’s Mines, Beyond the Devil’s Teeth, House of the Tiger King, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Travels With Myself, Trail of Feathers. Secretum Mundi.
Anyway, I guess the book can be considered a travelogue. There are many great travel books, like “A Short Walk Through the Hindu Kush,” and several by Krakauer that read like great novels. Tahir Shah’s book is one also — where the travel leaves off and the novel begins, however, is difficult to discern.
The book begins with Tahir Shah as a young boy in England visited by Hafiz Jan, the hereditary Afghan guard of the tomb of his ancestor the great Muslim general Jan Fishan Kahn (a nom de Guerre that translates to, “He that Scatters Souls.”) He traveled to England because he had a vision of young Tahir, the last of his line, falling into a culvert and dying. He believed it was his duty to prevent it. Hafiz Jon is welcomed by Tahir’s father and takes up residence in Tahir’s home where he sleeps on the floor in front of his bedroom door. The Afghan guard had also spent some time before assuming his hereditary duties guarding the tomb as an apprentice to a great magician in India. The magic we are talking about here is not magic but illusion — the illusion of Houdini and the Indian god-men and sadhus for thousands of years. He began teaching the eager young Tahir the secrets of illusion. The training went well until one day, during an exhibition of Tahir’s magic educational accomplishments, a mishap occurred that almost set his parents on fire. Soon after, Hafiz Jan was sent back to India to resume his hereditary duties.
Years later, Tahir, as a young man, traveled to India found the guard, apprenticed himself to the guard’s teacher, a rather overbearing sort and after a mostly unpleasant education sets off at the request of his teacher to travel throughout India searching for “insider information.” What one learns along with Tahir are the tricks of the trade of the god-men, sadhus and the like that have enthralled millions of poor and gullible Indians and attracted hundreds of westerners to journey there to sit at the feet of holy mystics absorbing their wisdom — for a price.
“Because,” he called out, “we were on a quest . . .” “A quest for what?” “For a third eye. You see, in the seventies, India was Disneyland … it was the Disneyland of the soul.”… “[W]e had all been to India in search of the third eye, but had left with nothing but diarrhea.”
Shah, Tahir. Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Incredible Journey into the World of India’s Godmen. Arcade Publishing.
Among these Godmen, Tahir and his sidekick, a 13-year-old thief and con-artist named Balu, spent some time at a luxurious mostly pink ashram of a well known Guru and in addition to describing at length the oddness of the entire set up, recounts some of his more private weirdness:
“When it came to divine eccentricity, Sri Gobind was no exception. His followers took great pride in the tales of their teacher’s irregularities. Every so often, gripped by an insatiable desire, the guru would jump naked from his bed. Running into the heart-shaped gardens, he would relieve himself in the bushes. Or, in the middle of an address, he had been known to rip off all his clothes and anoint his flabby belly with buffalo milk butter. Each morning, his fans averred, the holy man would douse himself in a bath of potassium permanganate. The immersion gave his skin its exotic purply-brown tinge. He would dress his hair with a pomade of seasoned egg whites,-dab his earlobes with witch hazel; and spray his nether regions with his own blend of catnip cologne.”
Shah, Tahir. Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Incredible Journey into the World of India’s Godmen. Arcade Publishing.
Along the way, Tahir explores the economic and social life of India through stories about the people he meets such as the cadaver collectors and their business of providing the bones for the skeletons in most medical school classrooms of the world, and the women who rent cows after the owners milk them in the morning then stand on the street corners during the day selling the pleasure of feeding the cow to passers-by and in the evenings selling the cow patties to brick makers and so on. The reason why India with its incredibly concentrated population is not sitting on a pile of garbage and human refuse is that that very garbage and refuse is the resource that supports much of the population.
“Real travel is not about the highlights with which you dazzle your friends once you’re home. It’s about the loneliness, the solitude, the evenings spent by yourself, pining to be somewhere else. Those are the moments of true value. You feel half proud of them and half ashamed and you hold them to your heart”
Pookie says, “Check it out.”
PS: Amazon had a special on where one could buy all of Tahir Shah’s travel books for the price of one, so I bought them all. I am now enjoying his story about finding a fake map of the mythical King Solomon’s mines in a curio shop in Jerusalem and setting off to Ethiopia where he believes the mines described in the fake map might have been located — if they were real. There he hires a taxi driver as an interpreter, travels by some of the most uncomfortable and dangerous modes of transportation imaginable, explores an illegal gold mine where children are sent into the narrow tunnels and many of them die, spends several nights in an Ethiopian jail, just misses a dinner with Idi Amin, is befriended by the manager of a government gold mine who wants to emigrate to America, travels to a land where the men, instead of head hunting for a hobby, cut off the testicles of their enemies and carry them in sacks around their necks and so on and on. Alas, despite the danger and discomfort he finds nothing but adventure.
“Most journeys have a clear beginning, but on some, the ending is less well-defined. The question is, at what point do you bite your lip and head for home?”
(It sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it?)
1. For every human on Earth, there are 1.6 million ants. The total weight of all those ants, however, is about the same as all the humans.
(Hmm, this would mean a single human would weigh the same as 1.6 million ants. Those must be very small ants.)
2. Ten percent of all the photos ever taken were taken in the last 12 months.
(I bet more than half of them are of cats or dogs and posted on Facebook.)
3. Shakespeare made up the name “Jessica” for his play Merchant of Venice.
4. Your chances of being killed by a vending machine are actually twice as large as your chance of being bitten by a shark.
(How does a vending machine kill?)
5. Nowhere in the Humpty Dumpty Nursery Rhyme does it say that Humpty Dumpty is an egg.
(Another of life’s verities shattered.)
A. DeLong on Top:
“The authors say the US went off the rails in the 1980s, when government suddenly became the problem, and hundreds of years of institutions were torn down and simply not replaced. The result is a flabby, bloated economy that is bland and non-productive. Moves in the 80s have resulted in a “negative sum healthcare system” that is entirely about processing claims, with providers hiring armies of clerks to do battle with clerks of the insurers and government over codes and reimbursement. Totally nonproductive, consuming hundreds of billions of dollars every year. There is also the financial sector, producing literally nothing, except massive amounts of new money out of thin air, or rather from computer entries in accounts. Cash issued by governments now accounts for just 6% of the money supply, as central banks have been bypassed completely. The nonproductive financial sector siphons the brightest minds and has more than doubled its share of the economy, without producing, improving or exporting anything. Quite the opposite, as wealth is concentrating to the detriment of the vast majority, including to the detriment of governments that enabled it all. Healthcare and finance account for a quarter of the American economy.”
Review by David Wineberg of, Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy by Stephen S. Cohen, and J. Bradford DeLong.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“Life is one-half lies — lies you tell yourself or tell others, and one-half truth — truth that batters your beliefs or demands your acceptance. Without both, there are no stories. Without stories, what is there to life?”
C. Today’s Poem:
This poem is ascribed to Amergin, a Milesian prince or druid who settled in Ireland hundreds of years before Christ. It is taken from the Leabhar Gabhala, or Book of Invasions and translated by Douglas Hyde (see note below).
I am the wind which breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave of the ocean,
I am the murmur of the billows,
I am the ox of the seven combats,
I am the vulture upon the rocks,
I am the beam of the sun,
I am the fairest of plants,
I am the wild boar in valour,
I am a salmon in the water,
I am a lake in the plain,
I am a word of science,
I am the point of the lance of battle,
I am the God who created in the head the fire.
Who is it who throws light into the meeting on the mountain?
Who announces the ages of the moon?
Who teaches the place where couches the sun?
(If not I)
Note: ”The three short pieces of verse ascribed to Amergin are certainly very ancient and very strange. But as the whole story of the Milesian Invasion is wrapped in mystery and is quite possibly a rationalized account of early Irish mythology no faith can be placed in the alleged date or genuineness of Amergin’s verses. They are of interest, because as Irish tradition has them as being the first verses made in Ireland, so it may very well be they actually do present the oldest surviving lines of any vernacular tongue in Europe except Greece.”
Douglas Hyde, The Story of Early Gaelic Literature.
C. What’s wrong with professional football today?
Professional football viewership has begun to decrease sharply. There have been many theories proposed to account for this. I believe the real reason is evident by simply looking at the sidelines during a game. It used to be that the coaches who prowled along the sidelines had that lean and hungry look, like Bill Walsh and Tom Landry. Now when one looks at those same sidelines it seems as though the coaches are auditioning for the role of Santa Claus in a Christmas pageant. If in an activity where the participants are expected to maintain a regime of rigorous self-improvement, how can one expect from them high performance when their mentors are advertisements for self-indulgence?
D. Comments on my prior post:
Thanks for Ruth’s ballot advice— enlightening and entertaining. I hope she keeps sending that summation in election years. Every time I’m in the voting booth looking at the propositions I feel angry. People are elected and paid to decide those issues, yet I must do that work! — an old lady out here with many other things to do, putting off those pesky propositions until it’s too late and then hoping I know enough, usually skipping most of them and fearing that hoards of people more ignorant than I, are randomly stabbing at yes or no and collectively making wrong decisions. Hiram Johnson meant well, and the Initiative was good for a several decades, but no longer. IMO
In their brown-feathered, genetically-unaltered state turkeys are good travelers, following the waterways and making good time. They coast for long distances between wing flaps. The rivers are not barriers (Suisun Strait would be). But they can’t travel during hatching time. The moms form babysitting co-ops, 3-4 per group, about 12 pullets per mom. Those flightless fuzzy balls on long legs observe their aunties and moms pecking and scratching for seeds, bugs and more. The moms relieve each other as sentries, hopping to a high boulder. Round and round she turns, slowly. Intently watching for potential enemies. If she sees anything suspect, she emits a loud piew-piew-pieu, and they all vanish into the brush.
Someday I should publish my article on the dispersal of turkeys in CA, escapees from missions Carmel and San Jose. The State Dept of F & W tells everyone that turkeys were first introduced to CA in 1906. Actually they were re-introduced after being exterminated along with 100s of other bird species during the gold rush. Brown turkeys are smart. I’ve seen them dive-bomb our horse in coordinated attacks, circling and taking turns. They like to see him buck and kick out. They sleep in oak trees. In the early morning the leader floats down and stands there long enough to know the place is safe. Then, on signal, they all go down to breakfast.
My family lived in the Seabrook house in Rhinebeck in 1953, the summer my dad was an actor at the Hyde Park Playhouse. There was a death mask of Wm Seabrook at the top of the stairs. He committed suicide. It was a wonderful summer and we went to tea at Valkill, Elinor Roosevelt’s home. My mother had introduced herself when Mrs. Roosevelt came to see Pygmalion in which my dad was Col Pickering.
“A good traveler has no fixed plan and is not intent on arriving.”
Happy Birthday, Richard McCarthy (Uncle Mask), and Ann Vita (Who my calendar says is nine years old).
“Uber is ubiquitous.”
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
Today a rat ran between my legs and tripped me as I walked along Soi Nana back to my apartment.
Outside of that little event, the days here have been mostly rainy and devoid of drama. In the mornings the sun comes out long enough for me to get in my swim at the health club — then off to my massage and back to the apartment and lunch before the rains begin. One weekend, we went to Jomtien Beach and stayed at the guest house of the sad-faced woman with the child whose maladies condemn her only to lie on a cot and be fed. During the mornings and the evenings, we walked along the beach and enjoyed stirring sunrises and magnificent sunsets.
Other than that, I have mostly spent time talking with a few friends and acquaintances and swapping stories.
The Deep Sea Diver.
Several times during my stay, I visited with the deep sea diver who, after seeing the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, left the potential of life as a mob enforcer in Pennsylvania to become a commercial deep sea diver in Florida and the Caribbean. After a career of underwater construction, treasure hunting, salvage, commercial sailing and various less savory occupations, he washed up in Bangkok where he lives in a small hotel room near my apartment.
The Deep Sea Diver posing before a massive anchor he salvaged using only truck tire inner-tubes that he transported to salvage sites in the van in the background.
In his locker at the health club, he keeps a couple cigar boxes filled with the ashes of two friends who had asked him to spread them around their favorite Bangkok Bars and Night Clubs after they died.
The walls of his room are covered with pictures of his adventures and mementos of friends who have passed away. Each time a friend dies, he pins a remembrance onto his wall, drinks a pint of cheap Thai whiskey and morns.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
The most recent death was of Manfred Dietrich, 83. Hung on the wall is a piece of sail-cloth Dietrich had made for the deep sea diver and pinned to it, Manfred’s obituary.
Manfred left Germany at an early age and when he was seventeen he sailed as a crew on the three-masted ship to Si.Thomas in the Caribbean. He found an abandoned house 0n an Island in the middle of St. Thomas Bay where he settled and became a well-known sailmaker. He never learned to swim and rarely left the island except for short trips into St. Thomas in a small sail boat. The deep-sea diver and his gang also lived on the island for a while. They became friends with the sailmaker. The sail-maker was found next to his sailboat. He apparently planned to take it out to go to St. Thomas, fell out of the boat, and drowned.
One day, while I was visiting, the old sailor he told me about the time he lived on Easter Island for several months with his then girlfriend. It was all quite spooky, the large statues everywhere and the Chilean Government who administers the island had been sending criminals to the island to replace natives who expressed any interest in independence. One afternoon, he and his girlfriend attended the annual Rodeo at which they round up the wild horses on the island, herd them into a large stone circle and under the solemn eyes of those somber effigies, slaughter them in the most horrendous and bloody way possible well into the night — like something out of a Lovecraft novel.
Although he is a bit laconic and not given to lengthy stories, during our visits, I toured the world through him, from the South Pacific to the gigantic WWII statues in Moscow, to crossing Australia from Perth to Sidney and back again and living for a month or two in the shadow of Ayres Rock — from the Florida Keyes during the days of the cigarette-boat runs to Lisbon where some of the dealers invested their money.
As he told me, “I loved diving and sailing, but I lived my life to travel and see the world.”
There are those lucky few of whom it can be said, “They lived a life of adventure.” Richard, with whom I had a few boozy story filled afternoons during my current stay in Bangkok, is one of them. Described as an American adventurer, gemologist, artist, ethnographer, trader in gemstones, art and ethnic arts dealer, and restauranteur, I was introduced to him about a decade ago, by the Canadian author and Bangkok resident Christopher G. Moore. In several of his novels, Richard appeared as a soldier of fortune whose derring-do assisted Vinny Calvino, Moore’s fictional ex-pat detective, to a successful resolution of his case.
He grew up in the Bay Area, graduated from the California institute of Art, owned a restaurant in San Francisco’s Japan Town and attended the Gemological Institute of America before his love affair with the area and his business interests led him to South-East Asia. I first met him in the Lone Star, an ex-pat dive in Bangkok’s Washington Square Area. The area was a haunt of the US military, especially Air-America personnel and others during the Viet Nam War and after. It also attracted ex-pat writers and other artists. Unfortunately, the Washington Square area has recently been demolished and replaced with a large condominium development. Here is a cite to the mystery writer Dean Burdett’s elegy to the passing of Washington Square http://www.wowasis.com/travelblog/?p=5166 . It contains Richard’s (Burma Richard as he has been called at times) painting of the last day of the Lone Star.
It was about 1980 when Richard began crossing the border from Thailand into Burma and into the dangerous mountains of Burma where he found not only rubies and sapphires but long lost and little-known tribes. These tribes were in danger of disappearing due to their decades-long battles with the Burmese government. Richard began photographing them and eventually produced an ethnographical masterpiece, The Lost Tribes of Burma. Here are two of those photographs.
(The male in the photographs is from the Naga tribe that is reputed to still practice head hunting.)
Rubies on Gold, from Richard Durian’s ‘Burma Collection” http://www.diranart.com/web/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1
As a gemologist in South-East Asia, his business brought him into contact with interesting people and involved in fascinating situations, such as meetings with agents of South American drug dealers looking to buy gems or dealing with hard-nosed Chinese gem dealers. Here is part of a story that appears in his blog about a gem deal gone bad:
“In strand fashion, the room boy in a starched white suit arrived with the tall glass of Cointreau on a silver tray and brought it to my table. Giving him a few hundred kyats, I waited until the door shut behind him and picked up my diamond with the tweezers, the one I had brought with me, and suspended it underneath the thick clear liquor to break the surface tension, and dropped it in a liquid free fall. I mentally noted the known diamond’s rate of falling as I brought it nearly to the surface and released again.
Then I took the Chinese seller’s diamonds and one by one, holding them under the surface of the Cointreau, released them and watched the rate of sinkage. Invariably, his diamonds fell at a rate almost twice that of my diamond. I compared my diamond to the rate of sinkage with my ruby. The ruby, possessing a greater density than my diamond, sank noticeably quicker. I then submerged his diamond with my ruby and released them into the Cointreau at the same time. Holding my face closely to the glass of Cointreau, I saw his diamond sink more quickly than my ruby. Something was definitely wrong. Estimating a ratio of sinkage between the two materials, I determined his diamond must be substantially softer than natural diamond owing to the distinct polishing marks on the girdle of every one of his stones. I crossed the room and had the Chinese seller and the European buyer observe the test with their own eyes. Several times I performed the hydrostatic test in the Cointreau as they looked on incredulously.
I told them that in my opinion as a gemologist that these stones were not diamond, in fact could not be diamond, but were a Russian stimulant, cubic zirconium, which has a specific gravity of 5.70 nearly double that of real diamond, and that is why they fell twice as fast while submerged in the Cointreau.
The buyer hastily gathered up his money and stuffed it into a bag. The Chinese seller became the red color of a thermometer bulb, spitting in Cantonese staccato, and in English how thirty years in the business made him an expert and how his people in Hong Kong were beyond reproach, but he knew that the test could not lie. If he wasn’t trying to swindle, then he had been swindled. Either way, the deal was off.” http://www.diranart.com/
For those interested in learning more about him here is a cite to an article in Asia Week: http://edition.cnn.com/ASIANOW/asiaweek/98/0227/feat2.html and here is his own version of his travels among the Lost Tribes of Burma in a speech he gave in Rangoon where he was introduced by the Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on the occasion of his donation of the photographs to the National Museum on Yangon. http://www.burma-richard.org/2013/11/the-vanishing-tribes-of-burma.html
The Musician and the Newspaperman.
My long time friend Cordt, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute who now lives in Chiang Mai, came to Bangkok one weekend. Cordt is a musician who plays in a classical rock/rockabilly group in Chiang Mai. Although the government discourages foreign musicians from performing in local clubs, by last minute announcements and the internet, his group has been able to build up a considerable a local following.
Cordt is also an artist, specializing in collages and has begun showing his work at local galleries.
Cordt Holland, Rockabilly. http://www.cordtholland.com/
We agreed to meet at a bar on Soi 11 where Chris Moore was previewing a documentary he produced about the controversial painter Peter Klashorst.
By Peter Klashorst
As usual with documentaries of this sort the subject is allowed to go on incessantly about himself as though the director fears to cut out any of his immortal words. There are no immortal words. There is only confirmation of our current biases.
Anyway, after the show, Cordt, Scott (the newsman of the heading, recently retired for the Bangkok Post), LM and I went to a Mexican restaurant further along the Soi where we drank pitchers of Margaritas made with bad tequila, ate some Mexican food and laughed a lot until we were quite drunk.
Cordt, Scott, and LM
This is a continuation of my ramble through my favorite eras of history that I began in a previous post.
The First Centuries:
The Romans were a different breed of conqueror. They did not conquer simply because it was there, or for the glory of the kingdom, or to expand the marvels of their culture or even to rape and steal the land and wealth of those they conquered. No, the Roman conquests were a business and only a business, and in the Levant when the Romans arrived along with them came Herod who the Romans installed as king of most of their holdings in the area — sort of like a branch manager or CEO of a subsidiary.
Now Herod is one of those people called The Great, and great he was. He was undoubtedly the greatest architect and city builder of his time. He was one of the greatest business minds of his generation capturing the date trade and arranging business deals with other world leaders like Cleopatra and Marc Anthony. He kept his kingdom relatively peaceful and prosperous and made his pastiche of a kingdom more than just an intersection for the armies of the great empires to pass through on their way to slaughter each other. For the first time, Judea meant something among the nations of the world, maybe not as much as Rome but certainly as much as anyone else in the area.
Herod was also insane. He liked killing his wives (of which he had a good number) and his children (also a good number). He thought they all were out to kill him and take away his kingdom (probably a good guess). When later in his reign he retreated to Masada, he built a massive palace on one end of the mesa and carved out a 24-hour orgy pit in the face of the bluff about 100 feet from the top where he could look out from his aerie and see a good portion of his kingdom. At the far opposite end of the mesa, he built a few McMansions for his wives and children so that he could keep an eye on them and they could not sneak up on him at night or scramble down the sheer cliffs and escape to cause trouble.
He also was good at taking care of the Judeans who were suspicious of him. You see, he wasn’t a Judean, he wasn’t even a Galilean he was an Idumean. When the Maccabees went on their little conquering spree they took over the adjacent kingdom to the southwest, Idumea. The Idumeans did not belong to the same club as the Judeans and Galileans and others who lived in Egypt, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia. So, after their defeat, the more ambitious of the Idumeans, among which were Herod’s parents, surrendered a body part and joined the club. As a result, the Judeans were wary of him and he knew it and so he took action mollify them. None of which, by the way, included living his own life according to Judean Law.
(to be continued)
Code of Hammurabi —value of a fetus and of a woman:
209. If a superior man strikes a woman of superior class and thereby causes her to miscarry her fetus, he shaHerodll weigh and deliver ten shekels of silver for her fetus.
210. If that woman should die, they shall kill his daughter.
211. If he should cause a woman of commoner class to miscarry her fetus by the beating, he shall weigh and deliver five shekels of silver.
212. If that woman should die, he shall weigh and deliver thirty shekels of silver.
213. If he strikes a slave-woman of a superior man and thereby causes her to miscarry her fetus, he shall weigh and deliver two shekels of silver.
214. If that slave-woman should die, he shall weigh and deliver twenty shekels of silver.
‘If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife’ (Deuteronomy 22: 28-9).
(By the way, when I first traveled to Sicily in the late 1960s that was still the law in certain parts of the island. If you wanted to marry the girl of your dreams and she refused you, you and some of your best buds broke into her house, abducted the object of your affections and raped her. Now, despoiled of her dowry value she was required to marry you. You did not even have to pay the 50 shekels.)
A.Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
Muriel Rukeyser opined; “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
While I agree about the stories, I disagree about atoms.
The universe, as we have known for about 100 years now, is made of quanta and not atoms. And, as science tells us, quanta do not exist until observed. (You know Heisenberg’s cats and all that.) And, when we observe quanta, then we can know things like their location, state, history and even gain a glimpse of their possible future. In other words, things exist only when we know their story.
The question remains, however, do stories exist before they are told to another?
B. Today’s Poems:
I saw Mickey Mouse
As Steamboat Wille
On the telly
We both have skinny arms
But I can’t whistle.
On worried wings.
he softly sings
of dreams of fire
and ghostly things
with deep desire.
C. Comments on my previous post:
Joe, I love your dreams. Who cares what they mean — if they make you laugh, keep dreaming! I am retiring on 11-30-16 so please change my email to ——————so I do not miss any of your further adventures, be they in Mendocino, Thailand or your dreams.
Thank you. I do not know how the office will manage without you. Hopefully, you’ll get to travel more and take more of those wonderful photographs.
So you made it to BKK, Joe-good! Of course, your travel tale reminds me why Travel can be fascinating except for the Systems and Functionaries that Get In The Way and make it complicated and dreary. Being a hypochondriac doesn’t help, but that’s your cross to bear.
Little Masseuse is perceptive.
Thinking of which (bearing crosses), your First Centuries musings remind me that I just finished reading Christopher Moore’s (not “G” Moore) book “Lamb”. If you haven’t, you must read this. It’s told by Biff, best childhood friend of Jesus. ‘nuff said.
Incidentally, I couldn’t remember what I just read and had to get up and check the bookshelf to find out that it was “Lamb”. The potential bright side to this is that if it starts occurring for/to/by you, you’ll forget about the stuff you get hypochondriac about. Further, you could photo the rich red ketchup pee, wait a bit and eat some beets, and photo the deep purple pee from that (wear your Prince outfit). Do this with a few more colorful foodstuffs, create an exhibit with picture captions from suitable bits from your dreams, and display it at one of the galleries in the newly rediscovered and now-hip Dogwatch neighborhood, get noticed, become really rich and notorious (famous is fleeting), and travel in your own plane named in big letters the mysterious “REDPEE”.
The Moonstone Circle glamor car riff is brilliant. You must acquire, rent, or otherwise obtain a beat up, mauve, anonymous Pinto or Henry J and slip into the “drive around” and see what happens. Have HRM video the reactions. Put That on Youtube.
I assume Maryann is recovered, and Mendocino too.
Meanwhile, muse news: Half of the band recorded an album of Americana-like originals in a proper studio (Grammy winner) in Oakland Jack London Square area. Others will record when schedules permit. The thing is aimed to surface next March. Technology uber alles. (Uber is ubiquitous.) Tomorrow we play at a spot along the annual Alzheimers fundraising walk (Ft. Mason-Marina-and back) – if I remember to get picked up. Our recent gig on the Sacramento Wine Train was fun in its own fluid fashion. The train got burglarized the night before our event; some train gear got ripped off. Nothing is sacred except the right to get as fabulously wealthy as you can at everyone else’s expense – and the Wailing Wall.
Non sequitur: The Coastal Conservancy will move from 1330 Bway into the Oakland State office building at the end of the year.
Hypochondria is not a very good companion when you travel. But then it doesn’t do much for you at home either. On the other hand, I guess it is a comfort lying in your own bed when you’re having an imaginary illness.
LM is usually right, unfortunately.
As for the First Centuries, I still have to go through Herod the Insane, The Good Gay Jesus and Paulie the Apostate Mafioso.
Purple Pee would be a good name for a Hip Hop movie.
I have been meaning to read “Lamb.” Maybe this is a good time to get to it. Has anyone ever had a friend named “Biff,” or for that matter even known anyone named “Biff?” Maybe only God can have a friend called “Biff?” Maybe Biff pees purple. I bet Jesus would have liked that. Biff is a dogs name. Maybe Biff is a dog. Have I gone on long enough on this Biff riff? I’ll stop now.
MaryAnn is getting better — Mendocino, not so much.
Glad to hear that now that you are entering your late 70’s, your music career is taking off. Next, they will book your group at Carnegie Hall and the building will be stolen — by Biff. I can’t get Biff out of my mind. I’m Biff addled.
I agree it’s a Non-Sequitur. Perhaps Biff……..
Thank you for sharing the amusing story of hypochondria on your flight. It made me giggle out loud. I hope you are feeling better, and most of all, I’m glad you didn’t die. 😉
Thank you, I am glad I didn’t die too.
“Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo” (“I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care”)
Happy Birthday, Giannantonio.
A. POOKIE’S CONTINUING ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:
The Pygmy Forest.
One day I decided to hike through Mendocino’s Pygmy Forest Reserve. Saving the Pygmy Forest was what got me into coastal resource preservation many years ago. A chance meeting with John Olmstead beneath the shadow of San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid caused me to spend the next fifteen years of my life trying to protect the coast of California. John, the grandson of Fredrick Law Olmstead of Central Park fame, is one of the unsung heroes of the conservation movement.
To be perfectly honest, when he showed me the scrawny little trees that made up the forest, I was less than impressed. But, after passionately explaining to me how they came to be and the importance of preserving the Mendocino Ecological Staircase, as he so poetically described it, on which they grew, I threw my hat into the ring so to speak.
John was my idol. There was little he would not do, no amount of money he would borrow with little hope of paying it back, no lie, no level of begging he would stoop to, no machinations of government and individuals he would not engage in, all in order to preserve these forlorn little twisted trees from disappearing beneath the bulldozers blade — all with no benefit to himself, no wealth, no fame, and few real friends.
The Lost Coast of Cape Mendocino.
On another day, I decided to drive up to Westport and into Cape Mendocino and the Lost Coast.
Westport is a tiny town on a bluff above the Pacific supposedly riddled with ghosts. It is the last town before Highway 1 turns inland in order to avoid the dark mountainous terrain of the Lost Coast. I always liked this stretch of the highway. It is one of those places in the world where calling it somewhere that time forgot is justified.
Passing beyond the town and turning inland, I found one of the dirt roads that lead into the heart of Lost Coast.
Over forty years ago Joe the Hippie and his flower child girlfriend driving a beat up Plymouth 1957 sedan would also turn off here and brave the ruts and washouts to hike, camp, smoke and then drive on through to Ferndale and beyond. We would sometimes pass through Whitethorn and Honeydew, two of the tiny towns hidden in the Cape Mendocino forests, where the cultivators of the major cash crop in the area, big fierce bearded men and long-faced and long dressed women, would stand in front of their clapboard home and silently stare at us as we drove by.
The road I chose traversed two ridges and passed high above the surf. I traveled through dark redwood groves festooned with signs that warned “No Trespassing. Area Patrolled.” I chose this to mean “shoot on sight,” not because I believed I would be shot if I wandered about but to persuade myself not to park the car and go hiking into the forest just for spite — and get lost.
I drove by a moss encrusted redwood that I called the “Old Man in the Tree” for obvious reasons.
Finally, descending from the ridge, I entered a relatively broad valley with a creek (Usal Creek) running through it. A bridge crossed the creek into a sprawling primitive campground containing a few tents and some vans fitted out for camping.
After parking my car at the edge of the black sand beach, I went for a hike through the woods that bordered the creek. As I sauntered along I ran into this:
There were at least six bucks in the herd and two does. Not wanting to disturb them, I made my way back to the beach and walked along it until I feared the rising tide would cut off my return.
After wandering around a bit and sitting on a log staring at the surf, I returned to my car and began the drive back to Mendocino. Along the way, I stopped at the store in Westport to buy a cream soda and a bag of potato chips.
A Stroll along South Noyo Headlands Park.
On Saturday, we visited South Noyo Headlands Park. If anything, it is even more spectacular than the North Park. When they are connected in the next year or two, the park system will extend almost 12 miles along the coast passing through several magnificent landscapes. I have no doubt this park is destined to become one of the great urban/rural oceanfront parks of the world.
The Druid Sisters’ Tea Party.
That evening, we attended the Druid Sisters Afro, Celtic, Belly Dance Tea Party at the Hill House in Mendocino. The group Soul Elixir, with Pilar Duran (daughter of the great jazz guitarist Eddie Duran) and Claudia Paige (who played drums for the Grateful Dead and other groups) was the first to perform. They were magnificent. The Second group the Druid Sisters (vocals, drums, and fiddle) followed with a marvelous fiddle player (Kathy Buys) and a strong-voiced singer with red hair that the princess in “Brave” would envy (Cyoakha O’Manion). Claudia Paige played the drums here also. Both groups also performed together while the belly dancers wound their way through the audience.
Many of those attending the festivities were of a more advanced age and dressed like they thought Druids would dress — lots of beads and crystals, flowing clothing and even sandals on some. They also danced to the music with the undulating abandon I had last seen at the hippie encampment on the beach below the Mendocino bluffs over 40 years ago. It was great.
One woman, perhaps even older than I, done up in a long flowing dress with a hunting knife hanging from her belt, danced the entire night or at least swayed about waving her hands like she was casting a spell on us all. My sister thought that with her long slender hands and knobby knuckles she was a Witch and not a Druid. I expressed no opinion on the matter.
The Druid Sisters and Soul Elixir Together on Stage.
The B. Bryan Wildlife Preserve.
Our veneration of nature having been reinforced by the Druids, we set off the following morning for Point Area and a 200-acre estate dedicated to endangered African hoofed animals. We toured the reserve in a safari vehicle, saw the grazing gazelle, antelope, zebra and giraffe herds, fed the giraffes carrots held in our mouths and learned a lot — that certain types of Zebra, are not only obnoxious, but they plan their births during the rainy season so that they could hide their foals from predators in the newly grown brush; all the things one can tell about the health of wild animals by examining their poop; and, that there are only 760 Rothschild Giraffes, the tallest on earth, left in the wild.
Pookie and the Rothschild Giraffe.
As we left the preserve I thought California with its large open grasslands, the demise of its logging industry, and relatively strong environmental and land use laws could be a wonderful place for establishing large preserves in order to save many of the world’s endangered ruminants and perhaps some of the large predators.
SAVE THE ROTHSCHILD GIRAFFES.
I spent my last few days here trying to figure out how I would occupy myself during the four days between when I had to leave here and when I was scheduled to return to El Dorado Hills. Camping for a night or two seemed attractive. I always liked short turns of camping. Many years ago I did a lot of it. I was never a “gear” person. Usually just throwing down a sleeping bag under a tree sufficed.
B. BOOK REPORT: SWAN’S WAY.
Actually, this is not a report about a book I have read, but it is a report about a book. While rummaging through the marvelous little bookstore on Main Street in Mendocino, I happened upon a graphic novel pro-porting to tell the story, Swan’s Way, that makes up the first part of Marcel Proust’s seemingly endless magnum opus about memory. According to the book jacket, the graphic novel was created so that those who found wading through Proust’s rumination’s on social minutia tedious would find this format more interesting and thereby be able to enjoy the marvel that was Proust. As I leafed through the book, however, I found it to contain mostly panels of people sitting or standing in various Edwardian rooms along with the visibly unhappy little Swanie sulking somewhere. I could not understand how that was supposed to alleviate the tedium.
Fiction is the art of the storyteller. Should you read something written by a storyteller and find in it anything transcendental, it is likely that the transcendence you find lives in you and not in the words of the storyteller — unless, you are responding to a reviewer who insists that if you do not see in the work what he or she sees you are clearly defective.
That is why we read fiction, not for what the storyteller or even the erudite reviewer brings to it but what we take away from it. It is ours alone.
A. Quigley on Top:
Communities and cooperation:
“In the most general terms ,we might say that men live in communities in order to seek to satisfy their needs by cooperation. These needs are so varied, from the wide range of human needs based on man’s long evolutionary heritage, that human communities are bound to be complex. Such a community exists in a matrix of five dimensions, of which three dimensions are in space, the fourth is the dimension of time, and the fifth, which I shall call the dimension of abstraction, covers the range of human needs as developed over the long experience of past evolution. This dimension of abstraction for purposes of discussion will be divided into six or more aspects or levels of human experience and needs. These six are military, political, economic, social, religious, and intellectual. If we want a more concise view of the patterns of any community, we might reduce these six to only three, which I shall call: the patterns of power; the patterns of wealth; and the patterns of outlook. On the other hand, it may sometimes be helpful to examine some part of human activities in more detail by subdividing any one of these levels into sub-levels of narrower aspects to whatever degree of specific detail is most helpful.
In such a matrix, it is evident that the patterns of power may be made up of activities on any level or any combination of sub-levels. Today, in our Western culture we can deal with power adequately in terms of force, wealth, and ideology, but in earlier history or in other societies, it will be necessary to think of power in quite different terms, especially social and religious, which are no longer very significant in our own culture. The great divide, which shunted our culture off in directions so different from those which dominate the cultures of much of Asia and Africa down to the present, occurred about the sixth century BC, so if we go back into our own historical background before that, we shall have to deal with patterns closer to modern Asia or Africa than to our own contemporary culture.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“One of the most important things in deciding which candidates to vote for in an election is whether you believe you can persuade them to your position after the election not whether or not they agree with you before it.”
C. Today’s Poem:
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
‘I live with my brat in a high-rise flat,
So how in the world would I know.’
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me; if I am only for myself, what am I, and if not now when?”
“If I didn’t believe in the miraculous nature of talent and in the sacred duty of the recipient, by now I would have gone so insane that I’d qualify for numerous high government positions.”
Koontz, Dean. Odd Apocalypse: An Odd Thomas Novel (p. 4). Random House Publishing Group.
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SABINA:
The area of Sabina lies about 40 miles northeast of Rome. It was named for the Sabine tribe that lived around here about 2500 years ago*.
The hills, sky and countryside of Sabina
Jason and I stayed at the home of his long time friend Gianantonio Rando, a farmhouse a short way from Casperia, the Sabina town Jason lived in for a few years when he was young. The farm house and assorted buildings were originally a monastery built in the 1600s. The area is crisscrossed by many tiny dirt and gravel roads. Here and there, fresh water springs still pour water into the tubs where the residents of the area met to do laundry and collect water needed for domestic purposes. Jason having drunk at these same springs every day he lived here as a youth considers the water the purest aqua minerale on earth. I’m not so sure.
The two windows on the corner of the upper story open into my room.
Gianantonio rents, sets up and operates sound and recording equipment for performances and festivals and also produces music videos — one I particularly like, his own group playing “I can’t give you anything but love baby,” including cuts of film from the 1920s and 30s can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Zd3RquVvWo (Listen to the follow-up video also. The singer in both is from the Naples Conservatory. The guitarist is a teacher and master of classical and jazz guitar at Santa Cecelia.) Gianantonio lives in Rome and uses the house in Casperia as a video, sound and recording studio, to store some of his equipment and as a weekend retreat.
Gianantonio is also an accomplished musician, a graduate of Santa Cecilia in Rome with a Master on the double Bass. His musical group and company, Mad Cap Official Ensemble can be reviewed at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mad-Cap-Studio-Musicale-Sale-
The first day we searched for a restaurant for lunch and found most of them closed. (The first phrase in Italian both Jason and Hayden learned was “tutti chiuso,” [It is all closed] reflecting the general status of museums or anything in Italy one would want to visit at that moment.) We did find a fairly good place eventually. Jason ordered a marvelous linguini with local mushrooms and truffles.
That evening Gianantonio and his friend Marcella prepared us a light dinner at the farm house. It included sausage made on the farm, local cheese, and wine, Parma ham, an excellent frittata and finished off with some grappa and organic ice cream that Marcella produces and sells throughout Europe.
The next day at lunch we drank beer from a micro-brewery owned their friends. The beer was named Club 27 in honor of the many musical artists (e.g., Morrison) who died at 27.
Another day, another food fest, this time with family at a Neapolitan restaurant near the Tevere. Most of us had pizza but Jason had tuna cacciatore. The high point of the meal was the antipasti, a collection of Neapolitan delicacies including various forms of zeppole, supli, and fried zucchini.
The next day was barbecue day.
Sitting beside Gianantonio is Claudio, Marcella’s son, who is trying to break into the events business. He and his family are longtime cacciatori (hunters) and so the talk got around to hunting and fishing. What was most interesting to me was that he also hunts mushrooms and truffles on a few properties nearby. He showed us a photograph of mounds of black and the rare white truffles he found recently. When we questioned him about his ability to find truffles without the assistance of specially trained dogs or pigs, he took us out into the nearby countryside and filled a bowl with truffles in about a half an hour. “It’s all a matter of knowing where to look,” he said, “and I do.”
It seems, since arriving in Sabina, all I do is eat and sleep. After lunch and an adequate time for conversation over coffee, I took a long nap.
Eventually, I did manage to get sick — stomach pain and constipation requiring a trip to the emergency room, purchase of various medications and confinement to my room. Nothing has worked yet.
One night Gianantonio’s recording business brought an Italian Ska group in for a recording session and a promotional video. The video required the studio to appear like a nightclub with flashing lights and a smoke machine. About 50 people showed up effectively turning the small house into a nightclub. They sold Club 27 beer, wine, and grappa to the attendees. I was not feeling well enough to get out of bed, but I loved listening to the music nevertheless.
Gianantonio’s music group (Mad Cap Official Ensemble) is headlining a concert on American Jazz (Maratona Jazz a Roma) next week, so the musicians came by the studio today to practice. I felt I had time-travelled back to tin-pan-alley and the Jazz of the 20s and 30s which they treated with the same reverence and respect as the New York Philharmonia treats Beethoven or Mozart. For some reason, I started to cry. They played many of the old standards. Their amazing singer was able to change her voice and phrasing to sound like Josephine Baker, Lady Day or Ella Fitzgerald as the song required.
I spent the day listening and taking a few videos which I cannot send with T&T because of technical space limitations, but here is a photograph.
In spite of my illness, this was one of my life’s more transcendent experiences.
Tomorrow we leave for Sicily. I am still in pain, have not eaten or shit for three days. Perhaps the overnight boat ride from Naples to Sicily and the sea air will cure me of whatever sickness I’ve got.
Because of an airline strike, Nikki will not be able to join us for a night in Naples so I put off leaving here for one more day. The pains have lessened.
Today I had a mild success, some symptoms of whatever I have passed so, Jason and I went to a friends restaurant in Cantalupo and I enjoyed hand-made spaghetti unique to the area in a heavenly mushroom sauce.
Jason with pasta
The next day the sun was shining brightly while we left the farm. After breakfast, we drove to the Autostrada to Naples.
Another photograph of Sabina.
About one o’clock, we had a mediocre lunch and drove up the many switchbacks to the famous Monastery of Montecassino. While there I gave Jason one of my bullshit lectures on the history of the monastery until his eyes glazed and he mumbled “Nice building.”
The Grand Staircase at Montecassino
Returning to the Autostrada, we drove to Naples.
The stress on a 75-year-old father traveling together with his 50-year-old on a long trip like this, is roughly equivalent to the stress on a 50-year-old son traveling on a long trip with his 75-year-old father. I remember taking this trip almost 50 years ago with my 50-year-old father. My brother and I were insufferable, but my father took it all with surprising grace (for him) and reasonable good humor — certainly better than I am now. But, hell, he was only 50 at the time about my son’s age now and I was 25. So it goes, same old, same old. Or, what goes around comes around. Or, about 1000 more tired old cliches.
Arriving a little early in Naples for embarkation onto the boat, I suggested that we drive on to Sorrento and have dinner at a hotel where at least five generations of Petrillo’s have stayed including Jason when he was only a lad. I always stopped there for a night or two whenever I happened to be in Sorrento. It sits right on the edge of the bluffs with Vesuvius to our right and Capri to the left. The last time I had been there was with Margret Azevedo, Denise, and the very young Jessica.
I was shocked when we got there. The place was closed and in ruins.
So sad, so sad.
So, after dinner at a local restaurant that was not to bad, we returned to Naples and boarded the car ferry for the overnight trip to Palermo.
Another picture of me eating.
Although I felt better, I still was not over whatever illness I had contracted and felt exhausted so, I collapsed on to my bed in our cabin and fell right asleep while Jason explored the nightlife of car ferries. There is none.
*Pookie’s fractured history: It was the conflict between an outlying village of Sabines encamped on the Quirinale Hill across the pestilent swamp that became the forum and the Roman tribe camped upon the rocky, smaller, less fecund Capitoline hill that the famous story was written about. One night, the Romans, annoyed that the wealthier Sabines considered themselves superior in intelligence and ability and also believed that the Roman penury was due to their lack of intelligence and general laziness and not the crappy soil of the rocky promontory they lived on, or the sharp dealings of the bastards inhabiting the Quirinale Hill, snuck across the marsh and, in biblical fashion, killed the men and took the women for wives and slaves. (There was little difference between being a wife or a slave at that time, except that a wife could lord it over the slaves now and then.) The Romans realizing how simple it was to get rich and how much less work was needed to kill people and take their land than work the land themselves, attacked other tribes in the area, took their land and made them slaves. Eventually, the Romans began to think they were superior to those others and began to consider them ignorant, lazy and menial — and the rest is history.
A. Quigley on Top:
“For years, I have told my students that I have been trying to train executives rather than clerks. The distinction between the two is parallel to the distinction previously made between understanding and knowledge. It is a mighty low executive who cannot hire several people with command of more knowledge than he has himself. And he can always buy reference works or electronic devices with better memories for facts than any subordinate. The chief quality of an executive is that he has understanding. He should be able to make decisions that make it possible to utilize the knowledge of other persons. Such executive capacity can be taught, but it cannot be taught by an educational program that emphasizes knowledge and only knowledge. Knowledge must be assumed as given, and if it is not sufficient the candidate must be eliminated. But the vital thing is understanding. This requires possession of techniques that, fortunately, can be taught.”
Carroll Quigley. The Evolution of Civilizations. 2nd ed. 1979. p. 420
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“Western Europe during the Middle Ages was the only society in history to prohibit their brightest minds from reproducing by forcing them into celibate religious orders if they evidence the slightest curiosity or passion for knowledge while at the same time encouraging the most sociopathic and violent to rule and breed at will.”
C. Today’s Paraprosdokian*:
Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.
*A collection of paraprosdokians is called a paradox.
D. Today’s Poem:
I saw Mickey Mouse
As Steamboat Wille
On the telly
We both have skinny arms
But I can’t whistle.
(Eat your heart out Emily)
E. Apologies, Regrets, and Humiliations:
Popes: Last issue I indicated the Barberini Pope was Urban VII. That is a mistake. It was Urban VIII. Urban VII was Pope for only 13 days before he died. I should be burned at the stake. Mea culpa.
“The offices of officials were stormed, and the records destroyed. Serfs became lords. The land was revolving like a potter’s wheel. The high-born were starving, and the fat lords had to work in place of the serfs. Their children were hurled against the walls. High honors went to female serfs, who wore precious ornaments, while former great ladies went around in rags begging for food. Weeds were eaten and water was drunk; food had to be taken from the pigs. The learned man had only one wish: ‘May the people perish and no more be born.’ Those who had been poor suddenly became rich. Upstarts now rule, and the former officials are now their servants.”
Papyrus from the Middle Kingdom Egypt 1991-1786 B.C.
(Same old, same old)
1964, November 4: Terry Reilly’s minimalist masterpiece “In C” premiered in San Francisco. Alfred Frankenstein, the San Francisco Chronicle said about listening to it, “At times you feel you have never done anything all your life long but listen to this music and as if that is or ever will be.”
Steve Reich another prominent American composer played the electric piano that night.
Several years later, through my then friends Mel Moss and Rasa Gustitus, I got to know Reilly, the marvelous sitar virtuoso Krishna Bott and many other musicians (Hamza el-Din, Ali Akbar Kahn, and even Peter Grenell) in the vibrant Bay Area music scene that existed during the 1970s and continued until it began to fade at the end of the 80’s. Reich had left the Bay Area and returned to New York before I had arrived in 1970. Reputedly he couldn’t stand California’s descent into hippiedom and mysticism. Besides the job prospects for composers were better on the East Coast.
Many of those same musicians would show up at the cottage in the rear of Mel and Rasa’s home on Jersey Street to jam on the amazing collection of home-made and folk musical instruments Mel had collected and stored there. Sometimes I would join them. The music at times would go on from early afternoon until two or three in the morning. Although, I understand that Reilly attended some of these sessions, I do not recall if I was there at the time he did. Everyone was usually too stoned and into the music making to know, care or remember.
TODAY’S NEWS FROM THAILAND:
The government of Bangkok was among the sponsors of what was reputed to be the world’s biggest water gun fight. Guinness is now checking if Bangkok mêlée has surpassed the size achieved by the current title holder for a similar event previously held in Spain.
Insurgents in the southernmost provinces of Thailand have begun setting up their own businesses to help finance the increasing cost of the rebellion. Among their new business ventures are firms that charge other companies doing business it those provinces 3000 baht per month to assure the covered companies that their assets will be immune to damage due to insurgency attacks.
.”THAKSIN THINKS, PUEA THAI ACTS”
Puea Thai election slogan.
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
I plan to return from Paradise by the Sea at SWAC’s urgent request that someone (me) needs to attend to Hayden as she and the maid are too busy with their responsibilities at AVA Wine Bar to do so. I expect grief, anguish and conflict when I tell her that I have to return to PbS on Tuesday evening to finish packing in preparation for my trip to the US. She has volunteered to book my flight to SF for me so that I can accompany Hayden and her on their voyage to wherever. I suspect that she will attempt to pry some money out of me as commission for arranging the flight, claiming EVA has raised their prices.
Here in PbS, I continue my morning walks and afternoon swims. This evening, I went down to the pool for my swim and sat on one of the pool side lounges to finish up reading today’s newspaper. Upon finishing, I leaned back and suddenly felt awash with anxiety that I had something to do and I was wasting my time. I realized that I often feel that way, that I must be doing something and not be idle. Luckily for me, doing something included reading and watching television. While contemplating this, I also realized that I was sitting up in the lounge chair and that when I was lying prone, say on a bed, I had no such feelings of anxiety. So I decided, not to take my swim but return to my apartment and lie down. I did so and my anxiety disappeared.
JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:
Chapter 18 (cont.)
The First wrinkled his aquiline nose slightly as though he detected a whiff of something that smelled bad. He then spoke. “That is an interesting question and request.” “Hmm… are you sure you want to get in to that,” he asked buying some time?
“Well, then, ah, I will have to look into whether my representation of the partnerships as a whole under those changed circumstances, may affect my obligations to the individual partners, and of course whether or not there is anything in the partnership agreement that may limit that course of action.”
Vince knew that normally such hesitation by any attorney is a prelude to opening negotiations regarding fees, but here he got the distinct feeling that the First appeared ill-disposed to the request. “Well,” he said, “please look into it and let me know what you think by the end of the day, if that is at all possible.” And with that Vince without further ceremony excused himself and left the First’s office.
Convinced that the First was unwilling to antagonize potential future clients represented by his tainted clients, Vince decided to seek other advice. He first called Mike Daly of the firm of Daly and Perez. Although crime of the white-collar variety was not Mikes specialty, he knew Mike and his partner and ex-wife Rosie and followed their careers for a while now. He liked and admired them and trusted their advice.
Mike answered his cell phone on the first ring. After an exchange of greeting and inquiries as to the welfare of their respective families, Vince explained his quandary.
“Vince, since you have been away, Rosie and I closed up our practice and returned to the Public Defender’s office. We were always happiest there. Anyway, as you know that federal corporate stuff is not my field or interest. However, I can recommend that you confer with someone who I think is one of the most brilliant practitioners in the area. But I have to warn you he is quite unusual, and may be too unconventional for a white shoe firm like yours.”
Seamus, Arroyo, Cohen agreed to meet Vince at the Starbucks at the corner of Market Street and Drum Street in downtown San Francisco. It seems that attorney Cohen practiced out of the basement of his home in a large restored Italianate stick Victorian house on Liberty Street in the Mission District.
a. Projected Patterns of Precipitation Changes:
These maps, prepared by the IPCC in 2007, display the anticipated changes in precipitation (in percent) for the period 2090–2099, relative to 1980–1999. The values indicated are multi-model averages (that is, assembled out of many different computer models) for December to February (left) and June to August (right). White areas are where less than 66% of the models agree and stippled areas are where more than 90% of the models agree.
(I assume the white areas indicate a disagreement among the models over gradations and not of trends. If that is so, the maps are even more disturbing. For example in the June to August map the United States is entirely white between two large areas where the models agree to a substantial drop in precipitation from normal. Does this mean the US as a whole is in for increased wetness or increased dryness and the only disagreement is how much? The answers, would, for example, indicate whether the central portion of the US would or would not experience substantial migration.*)
If they accurately predict the future weather patterns pictured, what these maps show is that (as I mentioned in a previous post), precipitation in Northeast North America and Northeast Asia may increase up to 20%, while Southwest North America (from Southern California through Texas and south to Panama) and the Mediterranean basin (Southern Europe and North Africa) and the Near and Middle East will substantially dry up.
These projections signify on a social level , among other things, the probability of significant human migration from the drying regions and increased weather caused catastrophe costs in the areas receiving greater rainfall.
Two things should be noted. The first is the potential expanded cloud cover due to greater precipitation over much of the northern hemisphere may slow and even reverse shrinkage of the Arctic and Greenland ice sheet melt, thus slowing sea water rise. Secondly the highly populated portions of northeastern US and Asia (China, Korea and Japan) may for a while experience the feeling of a cooling trend.
* While a single weather event cannot be generalized into a trend, the recent unprecedented rash of tornadoes throughout the middle of the US, would be consistent with the type of weather events that could be expected within that particular white area on the maps.
b. Trenz Pruca’s Aphorisms, Apothegms, Epigrams and Maxims ( http://trenzpruca.wordpress.com/) :
“There is no such things as supply and demand because they are both infinitely manipulatable.”
“A wasteland, dominated by these maniacs, these creeps, who were trying to make everyone write this crazy creepy music”
American composer Steve Glass describing the European musical avant-garde he encountered in Paris during his studies there during the 1960s.
Thought for the day:
“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”
Daily factoid: 1976 The US Department of Labor upgraded the definition of ‘Chef’ from ‘domestic’ to ‘professional.’
I have spent the last week in Chiang Mai, staying with Choti, Gerry and their son Leo. I could never repay them for the kindness they have shown to me and especially to Hayden during his troubles. I leave this evening to return to the shore by overnight train.
Hayden is quite anxious, especially after returning from an outing with Nikki and me and finding all his toys packed away by his mother in preparation for the possible renting of the house and return to the US.
One day Nikki, Hayden and I ate lunch at one of our favorite restaurants located under a pair of domes each of which is over 100 Ft. in diameter and surrounded by lagoons and jungle vegetation. Hayden struck up a friendship with three children about his own age who each coincidentally spoke the same three languages he does (Thai, English and Italian). They were the children of three families of men from Italy with Thai wives. One of the men named Nicola is from Bari and was a wedding singer and guitar player in Italy and had his own band. Another named Marco was from Como and owned an italian restaurant in Chiang Mai. The third was from Palermo and I did not get his name or occupation. I introduced Nicola to my friend Cordt who plays the guitar in a band here in Chiang Mai at a restaurant called “The Guitar Man” and we agreed to meet the following evening at the Restaurant so that Cordt and Nicola would jam.
That evening Hayden’s mom did not want him to go and so both he the other children were disappointed. Nikki and I went anyway. Nicola had brought some wonderful antipasti from Italy and we ate dinner. Following dinner, while Nikki and I drank significant quantities of black sambucca, the two guitarists played music.
I guess the music, sambucca and company made me nostalgic and my mind drifted back to the early seventies in SF when the City seemed to be one of the centers of the universe for rock, international and experimental music and I remembered attending many all night jam sessions. One of the jam sessions I attended a lot with my daughter Jessica who was about 11 years old at the time, was held in a shed behind the house where my friends Rasa (a writer) and Mel (an artist and musician) lived. Mel had either made or collected an astonishing assortment of instruments hand-made of wood and metal from the local junk yards and fashioned into flutes, whistles, drums, gongs and a host of other things that could be banged upon and blown into to make a huge variety of sounds. Many professional musicians (such as Krishna Bhatt the famous sitar player) would assemble along with a few amateurs like me and after the adults had prepared ourselves with various substances, we would begin to blow into the flutes and bang on the drums and other instruments for several hours at a time.
A few years later my daughter who had gone off to school in conservative Houston told me that although she tried, she was unable to describe to her friends these sessions in any way that they believed her.