“Remember, write to your Congressman. Even if he can’t read, write to him.”
MAY YOUR NEW YEAR BE YOUR BEST YET.
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES DURING THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS:
Christmas morning arrived dark and dank in the Enchanted Forest. Last evening, under a crystal clear sky, we attended a Christmas party at Naida’s daughter’s home in Land Park. It was fun. We sang Christmas carols, ate Chinese food, and opened presents. For a present, I got a throw blanket to remind me how old I am while keeping me warm in the evenings watching old movies on TCM and sipping egg-nog laced with brandy. I also received a book by Donald Hall entitled A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety also to remind me how old I am becoming. The book contains a series of short essays by the author, who also used to be the nation’s Poet Laureate, about how it feels to be ninety and still alive, the famous and not so famous people he has met, and his sometimes trenchant thoughts on various unconnected things. To quote the author on the nature and tenor of his opinions, “Why should the nonagenarian hold anything back?” I loved the book.
Today we drove into the golden hills to give HRM and Dick (or as we refer to him Uncle Mask) their Christmas presents. When we arrived, we learned they were both down with the flu. Hayden was nestled in bed in his teen cave. I went downstairs and gave him his Christmas presents, eight 5 by 7 wood-backed photographs of him and me over the years, also a pocket all-purpose tool, all separately wrapped. He unwrapped them one and a time and thanked me profusely after exposing each one.
Leaving him to ponder the meaning and significance of my presents and wrestle with the physical and psychological miseries of being sick on Christmas Day, I returned upstairs to find Naida and UM in the kitchen making coffee laced with Kailua. For the next 3 or 4 hours, we sat around the table and discussed ancient native-American society, the origin of bees, turkeys and grapes in California, petroleum development, coastal regulation, Willie Brown and related subjects. About halfway through our round-table discussion, H, having resolved whatever quandaries I had left with him, emerged from his sickbed and told us he was off to the skatepark. The skatepark I concluded must be a miracle remedy that can cure certain adolescents of whatever psychological, physical or existential issues they may have to wrestle with during that brief and certainly not beloved few years of raging hormones before recognition sets in as to how bad life can really get.
Eventually, Naida and I returned to the Enchanted Forest and watched a thoroughly silly movie starring William Powell and a far too young Debbie Reynolds. I wrapped myself warmly in my throw. It was warm. I was happy.
B. BOXING DAY:
(“In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect ‘Christmas boxes’ of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year… This custom is linked to an older British tradition where the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families since they would have to serve their masters on Christmas Day. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.” [WIKIPEDIA])
Boxing Day (or if you will St. Stephen Protomartyr Day or the first day of Kwanzaa) broke, as our mornings usually do, with Boo-boo the Barking Dog, our reliable alarm clock, barking. Every morning at 9AM he begins at the upstairs window then running as though his fur was on fire down the stairs, high pitched almost hysterical barking following, to the living room window for a few moments then to the sliding glass doors by the garden and finally back again to the upstairs window where he then sits quietly and, it seems to me, smugly waiting to see if one of us responds and lets him out for his morning pee and breakfast. If not, he leaps onto the bed pawing at Naida’s arm until she gets up and staggers down the stairs to do his bidding.
Thus, unless we wake up at 7:30 or 8:00 this leaves little time for shagging. For those who wonder about shagging over 80 be advised while perhaps the more athletic positions are a dim memory, we decrepits remain quite able, at times, to enjoy all the pleasures of that activity with little of the self-consciousness of youth.
This morning, for my viewing pleasure, Naida provided me with a brief fashion show of the tennis outfits she had received as Christmas presents from her daughters. After this, she presented me with a nice cup of cocoa.
Later we went shopping for pants for me — a belated Christmas present. All this excitement so exhausted us we went to bed at 8PM. St. Stephen Protomartyr would be proud.
C. SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST DAY OR FOR THOSE NOT OF A RELIGIOUS BENT YOU MAY CHOOSE TO CELEBRATE ONE DAY OF THE FEAST OF THE WINTER VEIL OR LIFE DAY (THE WOOKIE CELEBRATION OF LIFE) OR NOTHING AT ALL AND JUST CHILL OUT.
What was different this morning than all other mornings? This morning Boo-boo the barking dog did not bark. I woke up alone in bed. Naida and the dog had slipped out of the room without a sound and were enjoying an early breakfast together in the downstairs studio.
The only thing that happened today that may be of interest to Johnny the Saint or Chewbacca the Wookie is that I learned that today’s adolescents are experts in the gastronomical merits of various fast food joints.
D. HOLY INNOCENTS DAY:
(“On this day it is custom to give the youngest child in the household the power to rule the day. From what to eat, where to go and what to do, the youngest is in charge. In Mexico, it is a day for children to play practical jokes and pranks on their elders.” National Day Calendar.)
Today also happens to be National Download Day. I do not know what that means. It is also Saturday, the day of the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House here in the Enchanted Forest. Alas, we missed it. Naida was having a long, long conversation on the phone with someone, so I decided to make my breakfast and write this.
I did nothing the rest of the day — not anything notable, nothing, not even a nap. Nothing is hard to do. Try it sometime. We did walk the dog this evening, however.
E. TODAY, DECEMBER 29, I HAVE LEARNED IS: BARBIE DOLL BIRTHDAY, SECRETS DAY, SENDING SHORT MESSAGES TO UNKNOWN NUMBERS DAY, INTERNATIONAL NUTCASE DAY, AND, SPARKLER DAY.
(Note: I can find no reference on the internet for any of these days. I did find a site that indicated that this was, Still Need To Do Day. [I thought that was every day.] If one were really interested, one could check the Catholic Saints Calendar and find about 50 saints whose celebrations are listed for this day including Albert of Gambron, Trophimus of Arles and Ebrulf of Ouche [Ouch?] Ouche is a river in the Cote-d’Or in France.)
At about 11 AM today I set off for Peter and Barrie’s home in The Big Endive By The Bay to spend the night before my appointment at UCSF for my treatment. Naida stayed home to work on Volume II of her memoir and attend to the needs of the dog.
That evening Jason, Hiromi, and Amanda joined Peter, Barrie and I for dinner. Barrie prepared a delicious shrimp and Polenta dish for dinner. Unfortunately, she added jalapeño peppers making it too hot and spicy for me to eat, so I contented myself with a banana, a pear, a Japanese yam and a slice of coconut pie. I was happy and sept well.
F. DECEMBER 30, NATIONAL BACON DAY:
(It is also National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, Falling Needles Family Fest Day and the last day of Hanukkah. Or, if you would prefer you can celebrate the feast day of Saint Raynerius of Aquila Bishop of Forconium (modern Aquila), Abruzzi region, Italy who was noted for his excellent administrative skills, but little else. Does this make him the patron saint of bureaucrats?)
In the morning, I drove to Mission Bay for some CT scans, meetings with the doctor and my infusion. As I walked through the newly built areas of Mission Bay, I could not help feeling like I was participating in a movie about a dystopian world of the future. I strolled through long narrow public spaces with monolithic facades rising on each side. The view of the new development along the shoreline with their bulges and sharp edges looked like cartoon renderings of the city of the future. Unlike most cities, there were fewer people drifting along with you as you walk down the streets and sidewalks. Instead, they seemed to pop in and out of various doors of the buildings as you walk by. There was a small market at the edge of the bay where shaggy Dead Heads sold their wares, mostly dope paraphernalia. Strange tents filled a few spaces that appeared to have been intended to be parks. One seemed to require playing a round of miniature golf before shopping in the tents for something to eat. Odd I see.
My meeting with the doctor went well — no evidence of the cancer spreading.
After my infusion, I met my grandson Anthony. We walked to The Ramp one of the two old hippy hang-outs that still cling to the edge of the Bay. Today they are filled with somewhat less colorful patrons. We sat outdoors and enjoyed the view of the bay, boats and the old shipyard that included a large tanker under repair.
I then set off for the Enchanted Forest and ran into a traffic jam as soon as I crossed the Bay Bridge in Emeryville. I heard on the car radio the entire freeway had been closed in Vallejo for a “police action” and drivers were advised to find alternative routes. I took 680 and eventually arrived home three hours later. There were no news reports that evening about what the “police action” was all about.
G. HOGMANAY AND NEW YEAR’S EVE.
On New Year’s Eve, we attended a party at the Nepenthe Club House. It was scheduled to end at nine PM when the ball was dropped on Times Square in New York. It was planned like this so that we decrepits could get home at a decent hour. Even so, most of the people had left long before the Times Square ball did its thing. We stayed to the bitter end, however.
H. NEW YEAR’S DAY, AND ST. ZYGMUNT GORAZDOWSKI DAY.
I did nothing at all today. I took a long nap in the afternoon. Watched a bit of television. Perhaps I was resting up from 2019 and getting ready to tackle 2010 — then again perhaps not.
I. NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY, NATIONAL PERSONAL TRAINER AWARENESS DAY, ST. BASIL THE GREAT DAY, ST. BLIDULF DAY AND ST. CASPAR DEL BUFALO DAY.
This morning broke sunny and relatively warm for this time of year. The arrival of the garbage trucks and the leaf blowers drove Boo-boo the Barking Dog into paroxysms of hysterical barking and sent him running like crazy throughout the house.
Determined to approach the new year with greater vigor and determination than I evidenced yesterday, and to escape the unholy racket both inside the house as well as my realization that we were out of my beloved English Muffins, I left the house and strode vigorously and purposefully through the Enchanted Forest to where I had parked the car. I drove to the nearest shopping center where I stopped at Starbucks for breakfast after which I went to Safeway to buy the English Muffins, a few other necessities (e.g., frozen ravioli and several bars of dark chocolate with sea salt) and a bouquet of flowers for Naida. I then returned home with a sense of accomplishment that I was convinced equipped me to successfully face whatever the current year throws my way.
I put the groceries away and went upstairs for a nap. I had enough vigor and determination for the day.
J. TODAY JANUARY 3 IS 10TH OF THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. IT IS ALSO THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS AS WELL AS OF KURIAKOSE ELIAS CHAVARA IN THE SYRO-MALABAR CATHOLIC CHURCH.
On the 10th day of Christmas, I picked up Hayden, Kaleb, and their snowboards and drove them to Northstar near Lake Tahoe for a day of caroming down the snow-covered slopes. It was a sunny and surprisingly warm day, about 50 degrees. After we arrived, the boys set off for the slopes and I set about seeking amusement in the pseudo-alpine village at their base.
Ready to hit the slopes.
first ate a breakfast of pancakes that cost as though they were made of gold and tasted like it also. I then wandered about and ran into Jake and his family. They were leaving because Jake’s friend from Arizona, Kaden, had fractured his arm snowboarding yesterday. Jake’s mom said the emergency room when she visited yesterday looked more like the results of a terrorist strike than a room full of holiday vacationers. Skiing seems to be hazardous duty for recreation seekers.
I then found a Starbucks where I was surprisingly given a free cup of coffee. I took my free coffee over to a seat by a window where I watched the crowds strolling by while I slowly sipped my drink. I had drunk enough coffee that morning that I amused myself by contemplating the possibility of dying here of caffeine poisoning.
After a while, I left and strolled through the faux village and inspected the wares in a few shops. Tiring of this, I sat on an upholstered bench by a fire pit near the skating rink. I watched the skaters, some gliding by and others whose by was something less than gliding. I also listened to a female twosome singing western tunes on the stage next to the rink.
Just as I was about to drift off into a mindless reverie, HRM called to say that they had finished snowboarding and were waiting for me nearby. I found them and we were soon heading off for home.
K. TODAY WE CELEBRATE THE DAY OF THE FALLEN AGAINST THE COLONIAL REPRESSION (ANGOLA), DAY OF THE MARTYRS (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO), HWINUKAN MUKEE (OKINAWA ISLANDS, JAPAN), OGONI DAY (MOVEMENT FOR THE SURVIVAL OF THE OGONI PEOPLE), AND WORLD BRAILLE DAY.
It is Saturday today and Naida and I attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Clubhouse. It went as usual and I paid little attention, drifting off into a semi-dream state while the others talked. Winnie sat down beside me. We talked about the state or our health. She observed that I needed a haircut and recommended the stylist she uses. She then invited me to join her and a few of the girls for a drink after the meeting I declined. Naida and I returned home and vegetated for the rest of the day. We did not celebrate those who had fallen opposing colonial oppression in Angola. But I did think about them. I, however, did not think very much about the martyrs or the Ogoni I am afraid.
L. TODAY IS THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS AND THE TWELFTH NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS, NATIONAL BIRD DAY, AND HARBIN INTERNATIONAL ICE AND SNOW SCULPTURE FESTIVAL (HARBIN, CHINA).
The Twelfth Day of Christmas arrived in the Enchanted Forest as bright as springtime. After breakfast, I felt the need — an itch — to do something, anything, even to just take a walk. And so I did. I hooked up Boo-boo to his leash and set off. It wasn’t much of a walk but it will do for me.
It is now a day after writing the preceding paragraph. I tried to recall what else I did yesterday. Failing, I turned again to Naida and asked, “Do you recall what we did yesterday?”
“Not much” she replied, “and I enjoyed it.” After a moment of reflection, she added, “We did see a marvelous movie with wonderful music.”
“Do you remember its name” I inquired.
More reflection. “Fiddler on the Roof,” she eventually declared.
There you have it. Pookie’s Twelve Days of Christmas, such as it was.
You have fun too and remember to always keep on trucking.
In 1924 Calvin Coolidge signed into law a draconian piece of legislation severely restricting Italian, Greek, Jewish and Eastern European immigration to America on the grounds the people from these areas were inferior to those white Americans who emigrated from Europe’s northwest. They, these descendants of immigrants from Northwestern Europe, also believed these newcomers were more susceptible to crimInal and violent behavior, abuse of drugs and alcohol and prone to shirking work in favor of abusing public welfare.
As an descendant of Italian-American immigrants myself, I am ashamed that so many of my generation of descendants of Italian-American immigrants have bought into the slander by the Trump Administration and the white nationalists of the far right that the immigrants of today, the Mexicans, Caribbean Islanders, and Africans, are guilty of the same malicious conduct that our ancestors were.
A. Salmon Idaho, Sacagawea’s home town and a shattered family.
Leaving the big hole we crossed the Bitterroot Valley entered the Lemhi pass through which Lewis and Clark passed on their way to the Pacific. We dropped down into Idaho and the town of Salmon. Salmon Idaho is a smallish western town, near the place where Sacagawea was born and the home of some family members of the Smith branch of Naida’s family. The patriarch of this branch Don Ian Smith was the town’s Methodist minister and the principal author of two books published and substantially revised by Naida, Simon’s Daughter, and Murder on the Middle Fork. Two of his children Heather and Rockwell still live there.
Heather, a tiny woman, who in her mind seventies still rides out into the fields herding cattle. We arrived at the ranch just as Heather and her daughter rode in from herding some stray cattle into the corral.
Heather is also an accomplished author writing many books on the care and training of horses. She is also one of the most amazing pack rats I have ever met. I doubt whether she had thrown anything away in her entire life. Even the detritus lying around outside the ranch seemed to include farm implements going back to the nineteenth century.
Heather’s daughter Andrea, a woman who lives her life as she wants to — untamed and tempestuous suffers a devastating injury almost 20 years ago. I wildfire, one of the largest and most disastrous in Idaho’s history began on a hill near the ranch. She and a friend quickly jumped on a tractor and sped off toward the fire intending to dig a firebreak in an effort to halt its advance. Alas, the wind changed driving the fire towards them. She jumped off the tractor and attempted to outrun it. She did not succeed. The fire swiped over her leaving third-degree burns over much of her body. She was eventually transported to the burn center in Salt Lake where she remained for a few years. She then spent the next eight years or so receiving skin grafts. It has been only a year or two since the worst of that process was finished. Now, unless one gets close to her and looks closely her scars are barely visible.
Lynn Thomas, Naida, Heather, Andrea, and Andrea’s most recent boyfriend whose name we forgot.
We also visited Rockwell Smith and his wife who live further up the canyon. Rockwell was a noted radio personality at the major Boise radio station who now, in his retirement, still conducts a popular talk show on the local Salmon radio station.
Naida, Rockwell, and Beverly.
Rockwell is also a sought-after Santa Clause during the Christmas season in Salmon.
One eventing, Naida and I had dinner at the Junkyard Bistro, Salmon’s premier restaurant. It actually is a bar with a few tables in the back. The food, however, is very good (a great gnocchi dish) and the good California wine goes for only $9 a bottle.
THE JUNKYARD BISTRO.
Finally, it was time to leave and return home.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
As citizens of the United States of America, our allegiance is to the Constitution. The Constitution of the United States creates neither flags nor banners, nor pledges, nor anthems to worship.
C. Today’s Poem:
To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.
“Some miles to the south, close to the picturesque little village of Cothersley, dawn gave the mist still shrouding Cothersley Hall the kind of fuzzy golden glow with which unoriginal historical documentary makers signal their next inaccurate reconstruction. For a moment, an observer viewing the western elevation of the building might almost believe he was back in the late seventeenth century just long enough after the construction of the handsome manor house for the ivy to have got established. But a short stroll around to the southern front of the house, bringing into view the long and mainly glass-sided eastern extension, would give him pause. And when further progress allowed him to look through the glass and see a table bearing a glowing computer screen standing alongside an indoor swimming pool, unless possessed of a politician’s capacity to ignore contradictory evidence, he must then admit the sad truth that he was still in the twenty-first century.”
Hill, Reginald. Good Morning, Midnight (Dalziel and Pascoe) (p. 101). Harper Paperbacks.