Posts Tagged With: Sicilian

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 28 Shadow 0007 (July 18, 2018)

 

The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that, “My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
~~Isaac Isimov (1980)

 

 

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

 
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY — GETTING THERE IS HALF THE FUN:

 

Following a delightful breakfast of coffee, brioche and a fried egg with pepper chips, we set off to Cosenza and the train station. After a series of the usual misadventures and annoyances, I boarded the train to Sicily. It was the same cattle car I remember from years ago when I used to take the dolorous train from Sicily to Rome, a train carrying the impoverished Sicilians to jobs in the North (Sicilian Il Norte) — standing room only for the 13-hour trip. This time there were no impoverished workers going north, but many not particularly impoverished people going south for whatever reason. Passengers still were standing in the aisles and sitting on one another’s laps. My reserved seat was among a group of young women and families going somewhere in the same direction I was. They did not appreciate my expropriation of the seat one member of the group occupied. She then continued the trip sitting in the lap of an older man accompanying them or walking up and down the aisles.

I was also disturbed by the loud braying voice of one of the men traveling with that particular group. I could not make up my mind if he was a “cafone” ( loud, ignorant and oblivious) or “pazzo” (crazy). I decided it was a little bit of both. Even those traveling with him seemed to either humor or ignore him. When the women next to me left the train at Messina, I moved into her seat by the window. He sat down next to me and began to fling his arms about, pester me with questions and opinions and generally acted grievously obnoxious. I seriously considered braining him with my cane. But, long checkered experience in dealing with situations like this has taught me to act like I understand nothing about the language, am old and feeble and a little bit addled and confused (which is not too hard to do at my age). Inevitably, they either give up in frustration or some woman comes to my aid and drives them off. It happened like that here. The women in the group began to yell at him and told him to stop bothering me. The high point of the trip other than when he got off the train was the crossing of the Straits of Messina on the train ferry.

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Scylla and Charybdis. (The Straits of Messina)

 

The trains were decoupled and stacked into the hold of the ferry. We disembarked the train and climbed to the top decks where we could sit, walk around, buy snacks and enjoy the half hour or so trip across the straits.

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The train ferry.

 

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Messina.
We disembarked at Messina. They reassembled the cars into several trains depending on their destination. Ours set out for Catania. Along the way, we passed Taormina and Mt, Etna blowing out smoke from its caldera.

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Mt. Etna.

 

I changed trains at Catania, boarding one for Caltanissetta where I expected to change trains once again to take me to my final destination, Canicatti the ancestral home of my mother’s family. Unfortunately, after arriving at Caltanissetta, while attempting to read the train schedule to find out from which track my connection would leave even though there was only one other train at the station, that train, my connection, left with me running after it banging at the side of the cars until it left me standing at the end of the platform forlorn and alone as the train disappeared into the distance.

I was truly alone and forlorn when I realized I was not at the train station in downtown Caltanissetta as I had thought, but in an almost derelict and abandoned station far out in the countryside at the end of an unpaved and weed overgrown dead end road — and the night was descending. It seems that that station was used only for passengers to disembark from the express train to Palermo and catch the now departed train to Caltanissetta Central and Canicatti. So I called up Antonio and asked him to come and save me. He good-naturedly agreed and explained it would take at least 45 minutes for him to get there. So, I stood there in the gloom and watched hoards of swallow type birds flitter through the sky in search of those insects who dare to come out at dusk, while a hawk sat calmly on a phone wire contemplating tonight’s dinner. A group of young men arrived driving a truck containing a jitney type vehicle in the back, They met some other men who came from somewhere I did not notice although one drove up in an old car with cardboard covering a broken window. They took the jitney down from the truck bed and began pushing it up a hill toward an abandoned building. The jitney got away from them and began rolling down the hill sending the men running in every direction. It then tipped over and skidded to the bottom of the hill. I thought I was watching a Buster Keaton silent film. They then all stood around — wondering what to do, I guess. I never found out what happened next because Antonio arrived and drove me to his home.

During the ride, I noticed much of the highway between Caltanissetta and Canicatti that they had been building two or three years ago when I had last been here has been completed. It is exceptionally lavish. Where it is not elevated it is tunneled. To construct the tunnels they first tear down the hill. Then they build the tunnel. Then they put the hill back on top of the tunnel. I’m not kidding.

When I first arrived in Sicily, now about 50 years ago, although the modern technology of the time, telephone, automobiles, television and the like had been well established but much of the social life of the people remained medieval — Marriages were arranged, dowries negotiated, crime of honor legal and common, crime organized, autocrats vicious, noble families if not admired then respected and government remote and rapacious. It was a place for travelers, not tourists, for those that traveled with no schedules expecting discomfort, not those with schedules, sights to see and an expectation of basic comforts. Yet, despite their suspicion of strangers, the people were welcoming when that suspicion waned, the food good, the wines better and the climate benign.

Since then, most of that has changed, the young are more independent (although my female cousins, PHDs all, will not leave the island even for brief periods without their mother’s consent), suspicion lessened, crime diminished, noble families dispersed and the government still corrupt but no longer remote. The food has not yet been completely homogenized to suit the food production industry and the wines are perhaps even better and while tourism has become accepted, old historical sights cleaned up and new ones developed, it is still not as easy to get around, make schedules and enjoy pure luxury (Taormina and a few other places accepted — but it was always like that). On the other hand, there are few places that afford the wanderer such a variety of experience, even ones that are not so good but, on the other hand, rarely so bad either.

My visits to Canicatti and to Antonio’s house are neither as a tourist or a traveler, but is simply returning home. As I grew older, I found, at least for me, there is no one “home,” a principle place of residence perhaps, but many homes identified by the fact that there reside, people, I love and like to be with. In Antonio’s case, there is also the food and the wine.

 

 

B. ANTONIO’S — THE FIRST NIGHT.

 

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A view of Canicatti. Antonio’s house is behind the tree on the left.
We arrived in Canicatti my mother’s ancestral home and drove on to Antonio’s house at the edge of the town. After getting settled in my room and meeting the new houseboy, a young man from Bangladesh whose name I cannot remember (Friday, the previous houseboy from Nigeria, left to sell shoes in Venice), Antonio suggested a light snack before retiring. I agreed. Here it is:

The first course, lamb stew piccante in tomato sauce.

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The second course, arancini con panel.

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The third course, melanzane parmigiana.

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The Fourth course, Pasta Norma.

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The Dessert, local berries, and lemon granita. All accompanied by wonderful red and white local wines and finished off with Limoncello and grappa.

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C. ANTONIO’S — DAY TWO.

 

The next day, following breakfast and a brief nap, I went for a walk. By that time most Sicilians had returned to their beds for their afternoon siesta. Antonio worried about me walking around during the hottest part of the day. He insisted I carry my phone and call him if I passed out from the heat.

It was hot. Antonio’s home stands at the border of the rural area and the commercial-industrial area of the town. I chose to walk into the rural lands. I walked along a mostly white stone covered unpaved road through some olive groves. The sun’s glare reflected off the white road hurt my eyes even though I was wearing dark glasses. Reaching the end of the road I was traveling on and sweating a lot, I decided to return to the house and take a nap until dinner — and so I did.

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Through the olive groves.

There were two couples and me at dinner. One couple from Germany traveling with a two-year-old boy, an inveterate explorer, were staying the week. The other, a delightful older English couple, were only staying the night. What follows is the meal:

The first course, four different local goat cheeses with a suitable different (local) fruit preserve on each,

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The second course, ripe fig from Antonio’s garden with speck, local goat ricotta with fruit preserve and fried squash blossoms.

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The Third and fourth courses were the same melanzane parmigiana and arancini as I had the previous night except I learned the parmesan cheese had been replaced with a local cheese.

 

The Fifth course, a soup, the ingredients of which I no longer recall, perhaps seafood.

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The Sixth course, mixed fresh local seafood and a vegetable of some sort.

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The Seventh course, local fish, the name of which I missed, cooked in an olive, caper and tomato sauce.

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The Dessert, the same local berries and lemon granita as I enjoyed last night followed by a flute of different local berries and a different granite. I have eliminated the photo here out of pure exhaustion.

We also drank copious amounts of delicious red and white wines from a vineyard located closer to Agrigento (Antonio seems to feel something grown ten or so miles away as not fitting his definition of “local.”) And of course, limoncello and grappa. We all got very drunk and began telling each other our deepest darkest secrets. Ok maybe not our deepest and darkest, we never tell those even when drunk, but we certainly told those that we would otherwise be embarrassed if anyone but our dearest friends knew about them.

I guess I should write a little something about Sicilian cuisine — at least as I understand it. It is not simply indigenous recipes made from fresh local products improved over the centuries by the addition of spices, condiments, and recipes to overcome whatever deficiencies existed in the local agricultural products. It is also a cuisine that requires the reuse of food not consumed the previous day, not by simply reheating leftovers, but as foundational elements in completely new recipes. Another element of the cuisine is its adoption and development of the tremendous variety of deserts and sweets gifted to them by the Muslim community that ruled the island for so many centuries. Finally, the use of sweet liquors in Sicily, like in much of southern Italy, appears to be some sort of a religious ritual to celebrate a meal well cooked and well eaten.

Note: I will no longer post photographs of each course I enjoy since that would extend this issue of T&T beyond tolerable limits.

 

 

D. ANTONIO’S — DAY THREE:

 

This morning, I decided to go into Canicatti to walk around, search out places I remembered from when I lived here 50 years ago and also do a little shopping. Antonio drove me to the center of the town and I set off walking.

Canicatti is not a tourist city, there is nothing to see here. Monuments built by the rich and famous are usually reserved for the hilltops where they lived in their grand villas and palaces. Canicatti, set in a broad agricultural valley, has always been a commercial town for the sale and distribution of agricultural products. It looks grubby but is actually more prosperous than it appears.

I found the park where my mother had told me she played in as a child before she was sent off at seven years old to America in the early Twentieth Century version of indentured servitude. It is now a scruffy little park. It was much grander fifty years ago when I first saw it.

I sat on a bench among other old men and listened to the harsh guttural tones of Sicilian that Marlon Brando mimicked in Godfather I. I wish I could say I thought deep thoughts as I sat there, but I didn’t.

I eventually left and walked through back alleys and streets looking for the cafe where I would sit with friends fifty years ago. The cafe with the bullet holes still in the walls. Bullet holes made by American soldiers in WWII in the Canicatti Massacre when the American commander lined up random citizens and had them shot as a punishment for the town harboring the Germans. The fact was, there never were any Germans there.

My friends and I would gather at the cafe and watch the white-suited Mafiosi stride into the place with their jackets draped over their shoulders and the furtive hand gestures among the other customers ringing as loudly as shouts. The cafe where I sat those long afternoons so long ago with Gigi, Piccolo Gaetano, and others. Alas, I think it is no more, swept up by the years like unwanted refuse.

I looked for the Landowner’s Social Club building that, so long ago, I sat in front of one afternoon with the Baron La Lomia, the head of the hereditary ruling family of the town, a fat overdressed little man with a great square beard who was making his annual appearance at his demesne. As each resident of the area would approach to pay their respects to the Baron, he would say to them “And, I would like you to meet my good friend Mr. Petrillo who traveled all the way from America to be with me today.” And, I would shake the hand of each person in that long line as they passed by. I could not find that place either. Did it exist and was eventually blown away as an anachronism like the dust and litter blowing around as I walk or was it simply my imagination? Who cares? There is no difference — imagination, memory, reality — all the same.

I also looked for the tiny park with the statue of the erstwhile patron saint of the town, the Blessed La Lomia, a missionary in Brazil killed by the natives who saw through the baloney he was trying to sell them. I could not find it. So I sat down outside of a little cafe across from the Church where I was to meet Antonio and ordered a coke and a lemon granita. I chose the cafe because the outdoor tables were shaded by a large tree and an awning.

Alas, I soon realized it was probably the place where the dregs of the town congregated. Those young people who lived at home had no job and wanted none. One table was occupied by a boisterous threesome, two young men, and a tiny young woman. One of the men would shout at me and make faces. The other young man and the tiny young woman would every now and then rise from their chairs and chase each other around the table, ending in a brief wrestling match. I do not know why they did it. A very large tattooed man carrying a beer came in, sat on a bench facing me, not more than three feet away, and stared at me for a long time, then declared “Hot isn’t it?” I agreed and responded, “Yes it is.” He continued to stare and sip his beer. Various people who seemed not in complete possession of their mental faculties would enter, wander around, and sometimes stand next to my table and stare at me. I loved it. The chances of anything dangerous happening was minuscule. Yet the frisson of excitement drove away any residual melancholy remaining from my walk around the town.

Dinner was the usual many course affair, a mixture of old and new. The new included a fava bean soup, crawfish and the melanzane parmigiana with capers and other savory items replacing the cheese. Dessert included cassata as well as the berry and granita dish.

At dinner tonight was an Argentine couple, Herman and Christina who live in Florida and run a business finding investment properties in the US for foreigners. They also have started up a treasure hunting business in Columbia to raise several sunken Spanish Galleons. The twist of this effort compared to other treasure hunting schemes is that instead of distributing the treasure to the investors as it is recovered which when attempted by traditional treasure hunts runs into severe legal and political problems, they intend to keep the treasure hoard intact, but use its value base for the creation of a new crypto-currency and pay the investors with the crypto-currency. Crazy perhaps. But, Trump made a career of persuading people to invest in much less and look where he ended up — the bitch for an insecure Russian autocrat who trapped him in a wired Moscow hotel room taking a golden shower.

As coincidence would have it, about twelve years ago, I had a small practice representing treasure hunters, almost all of whom failed. The dream never dies.

 

E. ANTONIO’S DAY FOUR:

 

Following another excellent breakfast, the Argentinian couple invited me to join them on a trip to the beach. They had asked Antonio to suggest a remote and secluded beach and he did — at a very remote and far distant location. We drove at least 40 miles before we turned off the main road and on to an unpaved track that wound its way through farmland with many abandoned farmhouses and a few appearing not so abandoned. We saw three maybe four very old men working in the fields, and a very old and hunchbacked shepherd driving a small flock of undernourished sheep — no-one else. At times, we drove through weed forests with the cane like stalks twice as high as the car cutting off all view. We drove for five or six miles up steep hills and through narrow canyons before we came to a dirt parking lot containing a few cars and a small shack with a somewhat rotund gentleman standing in front. He took our money and announced in very good English that it was at least a two-minute walk to a sandy beach where it was suitable for swimming which he called “Beach One.” “Beach Two,” he said, “was a ten-minute walk up the coast and was good for taking photographs but because it was rocky was not good for swimming but suitable for snorkeling.” Beach three he explained was a twenty-five-minute walk down the coast, but I forget what it was good for. We walked the allotted two minutes and came out of the towering weeds and saw a very attractive sandy beach containing a few bathers but still many more than I thought would ever chance the treacherous drive.

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Pookie at the beach.

 
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The Beach.

 
After setting up the umbrella in the sand, instead of going swimming, I abruptly announced I was going to hike the ten minutes to the photogenic beach, and then set off. I do not know why. I found a small weed overgrown path that seemed to climb up what appeared to be more than a hill but less than a mountain. After several minutes of climbing, huffing and puffing, and sweating profusely, I realized I was all alone on this steep rocky path that I knew not where it went, without water, becoming rapidly exhausted and convinced I was about to collapse. But like Scott in the Antarctic, foolishly pushing ahead only for the irrational pleasure of beating Amundsen, I went on. Like Scott, I thought I could beat Amundsen too,

I noticed the path was strewn with the bleached shells of snails. I could tell they were not laid down here due to some ancient geological catastrophe, they were strewn around not buried in rock hardened silt. I then imagined massive escargot eating rituals by Sicilian cultists in honor of Diana the Huntress every night of the full moon. But, finally decided they were simply the carcasses of egotistical land snails who believed they could make it across the blazing hot paths in the middle of the day and were fried for their arrogance. I picked up one desiccated bone white shell, put it in my pocket and continued struggling up the slope.

I little later, I came upon a single quill lying on the path. I stopped and stared at it and wondered what sort of quilled creature survived the five thousand year commitment by Sicilians to rid their island of every mammal except those they could domesticate and rats and mice. Unable to reach a conclusion, I picked it up and put it in my pocket too. I also picked up and pocked some interesting small stones and happily contemplated carrying them back home and washing them, not to study but to remind me that it was not a figment of my imagination that I chose to climb this damned path at midday.

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The Treasure.

 

 

Eventually, I reached the top and found myself on a high bluff overlooking a beach with no way down. I then realized I could have reached that same beach by simply walking a few feet from where I began and wading in ankle deep water around some rocks. Annoyed by this discovery, I began to retrace my steps. I was further annoyed when a family with two young children carrying beach equipment and towels jauntily passed me by having clearly enjoyed their morning at the ten-minute walk rocky photogenic beach.

When I returned to the Argentineans they were just packing up to leave. So, we left, renegotiated the weed jungle and drove another twenty miles or so to Sciacca to have lunch.

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The Photogenic beach?

 
Sciacca (pronounced Sha – ca) is a fairly large town on a hill near the water with an interesting if arcane history (look it up). At its base was a large working fishing port.

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The Port of Sciacca.

 
We entered a restaurant directly across the road from the port. It had a great view and served freshly caught fish. We chose our fish and from a comely waitress ordered them grilled and then ate them along with an extremely tasty salad.

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The fish.

 

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The comely waitress and the Argentinians.

 

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The cooked fish.

 

For dessert, I had cannoli made with local ricotta.
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The sacred cannoli.

 
On the way home, we came upon a traffic snarl caused by an electrical transmission wire having fallen across the road. There were no police or first responders anywhere so passengers would jump out of their cars hold the wire up over their heads while the driver drove the car through, then drop it and jump back into the car. Thinking I could be as brave and foolhardy as the women in the photograph below, I jumped out of our car, held the wire over my head until Herman drove under it and then jumped back into the car and we sped away. No, I did not die.
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The brave but foolhardy women of Sicily.

 
That night I played my first game of chess in 50 years with the German gentleman and I won. It took the sting out of Croatia’s loss in the World Cup final. There had been no meal prepared. Antonio was gone for the evening so we snitched some sausages he had cooking on the stove for tomorrows meal. I went to bed happy. It was a good day after all.

 

 

F. ANTONIO’S — DAY FIVE:

 

Today is my last full day here. Tomorrow, I fly to Milano and two days later back to the Enchanted Forest and Naida. I am both sad and eager to go. Sad because I feel so comfortable and relaxed here and eager to go because I feel too comfortable and relaxed here. Too much of a good thing can become irritating if it goes on too long.

After breakfast, I said goodbye to the Argentineans. Then Antonio, the Bangladesh houseboy and I left for Licata, a town on the coast, to buy some fresh fish for tonight’s meal. I pictured a large fish market open to the fishing boats tied up to the wharves, burly men pushing crates around slick cement floors while fishmongers in their stalls lined up their wares with military precision on beds of gleaming ice. It was not like that at all. It was more like a dope deal. First a stop on a remote road on the edge of the city for a telephone call. Then two more stops at gas stations for more calls. Then a wait in a cafe drinking espresso until a man arrived and engaged Antonio in a whispered conversation. Then we get back in the car and follow the man’s car through the back roads of the city until we both come to a stop on the side of the road and Antonio and the man get out of their cars and walk around a building and disappear for a fairly long while. Then Antonio returns with a small plastic bag that I presume contained the fish and we drove off returning the 50 or so kilometers to Canicatti.

Back in town, I asked Antonio to drop me off at the church so I could go to the bank and withdraw the money I would need to pay for my stay. The charges amounted to about $70 per day for the room, breakfast, and dinner and all the wine, grappa and limoncello one can drink. It is not so bad a deal when I consider that I probably drank $20 worth of alcoholic beverages each day.

After, withdrawing the money, I returned to strolling around the town looking for places I knew — no luck there. I then looked for the ice-cream shop I had spotted two days before that made the best ice–cream in the area — but it was closed. I then thought about walking up the hill to where my mother lived in a section of the city called the Borgo, the old center of the town before they filled in the stream from which the town got its name (Cane Brook, for the dense cane like plants that flourished along its banks. Wikipedia, on the other hand, says it comes from the Arabic word meaning “muddy ditch”). I thought it would be good to see my mom’s old house again. But, I looked up at the hill I would have to climb, felt the heat of the sun and concluded it was not going to happen on this trip, so, I chose to sit in a cafe on the main street drinking a very good chilled white wine and nibbling on the little snacky things they brought me. Around me sat a number of young men and women. The men all had beards and the women all had tattoos. In my day, the men all had beards also.

I napped the afternoon away.

That evening, my last here, Antonio made dinner for only him and me. There was a wonderful salad of vegetables picked that day from the garden including sweet onions all in a vinegar, olive oil, and pepper dressing. He also broke out his favorite local white wines from Canicatti. Since he was busy cooking I drank most of the wine.

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He indicated we were going to have a light dinner this evening. For pasta, he prepared a dish with zucchini and mushrooms.
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Then came the fish course.

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Antonio with the fish.

 

I do not know if that was the fish we pursued that morning, but it seemed like a lot of fish for two people. It was cooked with oranges, capers, and tomatoes in olive oil. After, deboning and serving the fish, Antonio brought out another bottle of white wine from Canicatti vineyards. “This,” he said, “is the best white in Sicily and perhaps is all of Italy.” While the previous bottle was made from Grillo grapes, this he said was made from a blending of four local grape varieties.

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The Great White.

 

The white wines from Sicily I have tasted so far on this trip have been very smooth and suitable for drinking with food or alone. They seem to lack that slightly astringent aftertaste of other expensive white wines.

After the fish course and having downed most of two bottles of wine, I was —well drunk or at least well on my way.

Dessert was a cassata followed by an absolute smashing mulberry granita accompanied by limoncello (a lot of it) but no grappa.

I was helped off to bed and woke up the next morning with no hangover.

 
G. DEPARTURE

 

Breakfast, some puttering around packing and then Antonio drove me into town to catch the bus to the airport. Hugs and kisses all around. Then a two hour or so ride through an ofter relatively bleak and empty Sicilian countryside I arrived at the Airport waited for several hours and flew off to Milano.

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The Sicilian Countryside on the way to Catania.

 

 

 

 

DAILY FACTOID:

 

From Harper’s index: Minimum number of scientific papers published on nomophobia, the fear of not having access to cellular service: 55
Sigh — modern life can be so stressful. Bring back public phone booths with internet connections and save us from this debilitating affliction.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 
A. Matthews’ Musings:

 

Jason Matthews, a retired CIA operative with extensive experience in Russia, in his espionage thriller “Red Sparrow” expresses what are clearly his own feelings about Putin’s Russia through the words of one of his fictional characters.

“Energy, population decline, natural resources, client states. Forget all that. Russia is still the only country that can put an ICBM into Lafayette Square across from the White House. The only one, and they have thousands of nukes.”

“Russians. They hate foreigners only a little less than they hate themselves, and they’re born conspirators. Oh, they know very well they’re superior, but your Russki is insecure, wants to be respected, to be feared like the old Soviet Union. They need recognition, and they hate their second-tier status in the superpower stakes. That’s why Putin’s putting together USSR 2.0, and no one is going to stand in his way. “The Vkid who pulls the tablecloth and smashes the crockery to get attention—that’s Moscow. They don’t want to be ignored and they’ll break the dishes to make sure it doesn’t happen. Sell chemical weapons to Syria, give fuel rods to Iran, teach Indonesia centrifuge design, build a light water reactor in Burma, oh, yeah, people, nothing’s out of bounds. “But the real danger is the instability of all this generation of world-stopping crazies. People, the second Cold War is all about the resurgent Russian Empire, and don’t kid yourselves Moscow is gonna sit back and see how the Chinese navy handles itself when—not if—the shooting starts in the Taiwan Strait.”

Matthews, Jason. Red Sparrow: A Novel (The Red Sparrow Trilogy Book 1) (p. 28). Scribner.

 
B. Giants of History: Pat Carlone:

 

Peter, after reading the previous T&T post, was reminded of his old friend, Pat Carlone.

Our friend Pat Carlone hails from Calabria via New Britain, Conn. Your travel descriptions help explain some of Pat’s endearing bizaarisms. FYI, we enjoyed his aging parents dancing on a table at Spengers around midnight at one of Pat’s birthday celebrations some years ago. Pat, who used to play trumpet, piano, and accordion, was the guy who nudged me to start playing jazz bass back on the 1970s. He lived for a short time with our friend Howard over what was then a laundromat on the corner of 24th St. and Diamond St., which we used to frequent before we acquired our mechanical improvements. Remind me to tell you a couple of vignettes about Pat’s peregrinations before his rendezvous with Lois Lane.

Now doesn’t that last line make you just salivate to learn more about Carlone’s peregrinations and rendezvous with Lois Lane? I can see many a long afternoon at the Geezer Bench listening to Peter’s stories.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTES:

 
Two from Kieran Healy (@kjhealy) on gun violence in America:

“In any case, over a few decades, the US got nudged into a terrible but stable equilibrium by gun hobbyists, at an annual cost of 10,000 homicides and 20,000 suicides. At this point, the issue is less “policy” and more whether there’ll be some tectonic shift in public opinion.”

“Most policy discussions are beside the point, too. There will be no Port Arthur or Dunblane moment in the US. The main response will be to further entrench a layer of consultants whose job is to socialize children into the expectation that they might be murdered in their classrooms.”

:

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Categories: July through September 2018, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th.    32 Cold Tits 0007 (March 16, 2018)

“[I]nstinct was a word lazy people had come up with to make guessing sound like something more impressive.”
McDonnell, Caimh. Last Orders (The Dublin Trilogy Book 4) (p. 169). McFori Ink.  
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
It is Wednesday, March 7, HRM’s 13th birthday. On our drive to school this morning, he turned to me and said, “Yesterday I was a child and today I am a teenager. I liked being a child.”
The weather was mixed. I spent much of the morning trying to persuade myself not to exercise. I lost the argument and after a lot of grumbling, I managed to walk three miles around the lakes in Town Center. After that, I felt so good that I jumped into the pool for a 30-minute swim.
On my drive with HRM that morning, I sang and acted silly. I asked H whether he preferred me silly or grumpy. He answered, “It doesn’t matter. You’re silly whether you are grumpy or not.”
Before getting into the car this morning, H announced he wanted to put off his birthday party until Saturday when he was scheduled to go to the scooter camp in the Sierras. I learned then that I was to accompany H, several of his friends, and the other three fathers into the mountains to drop the new teenagers off at the camp until its was time to gather up birthday boy and his cohorts and retreat back down the mountain. Dick told me that later that evening, all four fathers were supposed to go to a western themed  Karaoke Bar. There we were expected to drink and sing.  I was told we would all dress in cowboy outfits also. I assumed they were joking.
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Hayden (in the hat) with his book if western poetry. Tall Jake holds the dancing chicken birthday card.
Days passed, things happened. When the weekend arrived, H and two of his friends had a campout in the redwood trees alongside the house. Dick was away at some earthquake preparedness conference and Nikki, Adrian and I spent time grumbling about life, but not too deeply.
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Tall long haired Jake in the top Hammock, Hayden in the middle and Graham in the bottom,
    My strategy to let things slide regarding travel plans for March and April worked. I still do not know what will happen but whatever I thought might occur will not and a few things actually resolved themselves. So, no lengthy travel plans are in the offing for the next few weeks. Hooray.
Yrrggh! —Everything from here on that I had written during the past four days suddenly disappeared from my computer for some reason. I am furious. How could that happen? I now have to recreate it from memory — something of which I am in short supply —
Let’s see — what happened next:
The weather cleared up for a day or so. Nikki and I went to the health club one morning. On Saturday or Sunday, we had dinner at Wanni’s restaurant, Thai Basil in Roseville.
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Adrian, Richard, Hayden, and Nikki in Thai Basil.
Nikki, Dick, and Wanni went on to the Western Karaoke Bar deep in the wilds of Loomis. I went home. Nikki had dressed in a leather jacket, a black cowboy shirt with elaborately embroidered designs in black thread and black buttons that sparkled like rhinestones in the light. I got it on good authority that at the Karaoke bar he performed a magnificent rendition of “That’s Amore.” Microphone in hand, he passed from the stage and into the audience. While crooning like Dean Martin, he stared into the eyes of several of the startled but appreciative aging matrons. No, he was not thrown out or beaten into sausage by the ex-hippies turned redneck husbands and boyfriends of the bemused ladies.
The next day, we went to Denio’s Auction (flea market) to play our usual game of “see who could buy the most useless object.” Often Nikki and I would compete over who would return with the most outrageous shirt. He preferred Mexican and I was more into Hawaiian. Unfortunately, I had to leave early to go to see “The Shape of Water” and thereby conceded the contests to the others.
As for Del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” although I enjoyed it, I preferred the acting and directing in “Lady Bird” more. As typical in Del Toro’s movies, there was a short period of stomach-turning violence. Tarantino movies have a lot of violence also, blood and death everywhere but it is cartoonish with little regard to actual pain and suffering.  Del Toro’s violence on the other hand although briefer makes up for it by focussing in on the agony and anguish. I was surprised at how closely the story of this movie matched that of Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” — In a world of pain and despair, a damaged but innocent young woman enters into a complex relationship with an alien creature, dies violently but is resurrected into a far better universe — all very Catholic.
By Monday, Nikki and Adrian had left to return to wherever they go after they leave here. Following my morning exercises, I called the good/bad David. He lives in South Dakota now — in a little town called Andover. We commiserated about him sitting in his house staring at the snow while I sat on the porch in the golden hills enjoying the 70-degree sunshine. Later, I got on Google and David took me on a tour of the highlights of Andover — there were not many of them — the Lutheran church, the threshing barns, a post office, the railroad tracks and lots and lots of flat grassland with a few grazing cows.
I had an interesting dream last night. I seemed to be watching a movie and did not participate in the action. I recognized the main protagonist, a minor television actor whose name I could not remember. I seem to have come in during the middle of the story. The main protagonist was a pirate of sorts but had not always been so. He was preparing his band and some poorly equipped villagers to defend themselves from the expected attack. Although they were confident they could prevail in the conflict when their enemy showed up it became clear they would be overwhelmed. They agreed to a meeting with the opposition commander who proved to be an old friend of the hero (from an earlier scene in the movie that I had missed). The two friends agreed that the hero and his motley but competent crew would undertake a difficult and somewhat questionable assignment to lead a sneak attack on the commander’s enemy. I then woke up. It was raining again and after dropping HRM off at school and eating breakfast, I put myself back to bed and slept until the afternoon when it was time to pick up HRM again. And, so it goes in the waning years of my life.
The weather turned miserable again. I feel better, however.
News on the adolescent front: HRM’s march beyond childhood accelerates. He may have just graduated from the scooter gangs to the bicycle maniacs all in one day, putting him further removed from his past and mine. Our influence over his environment diminishes with each additional mile he can now place between us. I currently drive him to the skate park the outer limit of his universe.  In two weeks he will be riding his bike far beyond that.
The weekend approaches. Yesterday morning I listened to the heart-rending memories of a dear friend. Life has been described as a vale of sorrows. It is that for most of us — even living through the greatest Golden Age in the history of humankind and consider ourselves fortunate we have not had to experience sufferings like our predecessors in the past, most of us sooner or later experience unimaginable pain. Some handle it better than others and some worse. Some are able to smile through it all and some complain bitterly (I am of the latter group). Like it or not we are all riding together it the same Looney-Tunes cable car careening through the mountains, some cringing in fear, others filling themselves with hate over who they suspect caused them to be in this place, some laughing deliriously, some crying and some just stare at the sky, fist outstretched middle finger extended — but one thing cannot be denied, for most tomorrow  will be another day — And for me, the weekend begins and I intend to make it a happy one…
B. BOOK REPORT: STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT.
If you continue to read beyond this, you will notice (if I am able to reconstruct them from wherever this evil machine hid them) an excess of items of and about Sicily. The reason for this is because I have just completed reading a mystery novel entitled “Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions” by Mario Giordano. Surprisingly, the author is not Sicilian. He is German. A descendant of a Sicilian laborer who had left the Island seeking work and a better life in the Colossus of the North. The novel itself is no classic work of literature. In fact, it barely makes it as light summer reading. I liked it, however, because of the kind-hearted way it plunges into the history, landscape, and foibles of the people and places that I have grown to love.
The main conceit of the novel lies in the author’s alter ego, a young struggling writer recording, at the behest of his Auntie Poldi, her adventures, and misadventures in Sicily. Auntie Poldi a dipsomaniac, over-sexed, bi-polar, caftan-wearing, overweight, sixty year old widow from Bavaria who, after the death of her Sicilian born husband, buys a home in a small coastal village in Sicily in the shadow of Mt Etna where she intends to “drink herself to death with a view of the sea.” Unfortunately for everyone, Auntie Poldi is also loud, pushy, nosy and her father was chief of detectives in some city in Germany. As a result, when she discovers, on the beach, the dead body of her part-time handyman, the handsome young Valentino, she drafts her dead husband’s three sisters and goes on a hunt for the murderer. Along the way, she also shags the handsome but mature local detective with the improbable name of Vito Montana.
Pookie says, “Check it out”
[T]he worst thing that can happen to any Italian male, especially a Sicilian. Economic crises, volcanic eruptions, corrupt politicians, emigration, the Mafia, uncollected rubbish and overfishing of the Mediterranean—he can endure anything with fatalism and a bella figura. The main thing is never to present a brutta figura, a figuraccia. Bella figura is the Italian credo. The basic equipment for this includes a well-groomed, unostentatiously fashionable appearance, a pair of good shoes and the right make of sunglasses. Above all, though, bella figura means always looking good, never foolish. For an Italian this is a must, not an option, and quite indispensable. It also means you don’t embarrass your fellow men. Impatience is unacceptable and direct confrontations are taboo. You share restaurant bills with your friends, don’t put your foot in it, never receive guests in a dirty or untidy home, ask no intimate questions, address anyone with a university degree as dottore, bring some dessert with you when invited to dinner and—even at the risk of rupturing your abdomen—finish everything on your plate. You put your faith in beauty and proportionality and try to make the world a better place. Sometimes you even succeed.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (An Auntie Poldi Adventure). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  
DAILY FACTOID:
The Sicilian language has no future tense.
(JP— It is scary to think about a culture that lacks the ability to express the future. It does have a special tense to express the remote past that has ended. Sicilians use it a lot in their conversations — Everything is in the present or the far past and there is no future.)
PEPE’S POTPOURRI:
A.  On Top —The Quotes of Steven Wright:
1 – I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.
2 – Borrow money from pessimists-they don’t expect it back.
3 – Half the people you know are below average.
4 – 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
5 – 82.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
6 – A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
7 – A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
8 – If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.
9 – All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand.
10 – The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
11 – I almost had a psychic girlfriend, ….. But she left me before we met.
12 – OK, so what’s the speed of dark?
13 – How do you tell when you’re out of invisible ink?
14 – If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
15 – Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
16 – When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.
17 – Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.
18 – Hard work pays off in the future; laziness pays off now.
19 – I intend to live forever … So far, so good.
20 – If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?
21 – Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.
22 – What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
23 – My mechanic told me, “I couldn’t repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.”
24 – Why do psychics have to ask you for your name
25 – If at first, you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.
26 – A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.
27 – Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
28 – The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.
29 – To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
30 – The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.
31 – The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.
32 – The colder the x-ray table, the more of your body is required to be on it.
33 – Everyone has a photographic memory; some just don’t have film.
34 – If at first, you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.
35 – If your car could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?
 
B. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week:
While doing some research on things Sicilian, I came across the blog, “The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife,” (https://siciliangodmother.com/2013/02/12/sicilian-women-are-scrubbers/) It contains some amusing stories about the life of a foreigner (in this case a British woman married to a Sicilian man) in Sicily, especially regarding her relationship with her Mother-in-law whom she refers to as “The Godmother.”
One day, The Godmother came round to my house when I had just swept and mopped all the floors. She was wearing her black skirt and black blouse, which is what Sicilian housewives put on when they really mean business. She gave me a pitying, or perhaps critical, look and said,
“Oh, you poor thing! You must be so worn out with all this unpacking and organizing that you haven’t had time to clean the floor.”
“Erm, yes,” I said.
“Don’t worry,” she said, her nose already in the cleaning products cupboard she had given me as a housewarming present. “I’ll take care of it.”
She extracted a thing which looked like a broom with no bristles and then wrapped it in a cloth which she dipped in something that smelled pungent enough to make my nose run and proceeded to rub it all over the floor with so much verve I thought she might actually erode the glaze off the tiles. “That’s just given it a quick removal of the main dirt,” she said, as she got on her knees and proceeded to pull the plinth away from the fitted cupboards under and around the kitchen sink.
She put the steel strips on the balcony and then proceeded to remove the entire underside of the island unit as well. Not satisfied with this, she then prised all the knobs off the hob, did something that looked downright painful to remove the oven door and then turned the extractor fan over the cooker into no less than eighteen separate, yet almost identical-looking, pieces of plastic grille.
Whilst I was profoundly shocked to see her calmly pull my kitchen to pieces, I was also flabbergasted that she was actually able to. For my whole life, up to that point, I had believed you needed men with exposed bum cleavages to do that type of thing.
While I was still searching for appropriate words, she filled the sink with several potent products, which foamed and gave off a greenish hallucinogenic vapour, and put all the small components of my ex-kitchen in it. While I sat down to regain some breath, she filled a bucket with whatever the Mafia use to dissolve dead bodies away to nothing except a few gold fillings, and started rubbing it into the pieces of stainless steel plinth she had yanked off the cupboards. I had chosen a matt finish but she kept working away at each piece of metal until she had made it look like a mirror.
C. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
I Heard It Through The Grapevine:
During 2016 Presidential nominating campaign there were two candidates who:
Declined to support sensible gun control regulation;
Received support from the Russians and;
Refused to release their tax returns.
D. Today’s Poem:
ISULA
Isula nascivu, isula vogghiu moriri.
Isula comu mi fici lu Signuri
cu li turmenti e li dulura
ma sempri abbrazzata a lu mari
e figghia pridiletta di lu suli.
Bedda tra li beddi sugnu
‘nghirlannata stati e mmernu di ciuri.
Curtigghiara, baggiana, ciaurusa
mi vestu di milli culura
e cu sta peddi di meli e di rosi
attiru lapuna d’ogni razza e paisi.
ISLAND
Born an island, I want to die an island.
An island, the way the Lord made me
with all its torments and pains
but always embraced by the sea
a favored daughter of the sun.
I’m a beauty among beauties
garlanded in summer and winter.
Plebeian, proud, fragrant
I dress in thousands of colors
and with this blanket of honey and roses
I attract drones from every race and place.
–by Lina La Mattina –translated by Arthur Dieli
E. Charlie Stross on Bureaucracy II:
The iron law of bureaucracy dictates that most of the people in any large organization will, after a time, be more preoccupied with preserving their own jobs than with fulfilling the mission statement of the agency.”
Stross, Charles. Empire Games: A Tale of the Merchant Princes Universe (p. 322). Tom Doherty Associates.
TODAY’S QUOTE:
Sicilian men (of which I am one) prefer to discuss the minutia of history and almost anything else rather than answer a personal question and risk making a brute figura of himself. Here is an example taken from a novel I am reading:
“Uncle Martino talked at me without a break. He pontificated on Sicilian history, the source of the best pistachio nuts, Lord Nelson and the Brontë siblings, life in the Middle Ages, Frederick II, Palermo’s Vucciria market, tuna shoals, overfishing by Japanese trawlers and the mosaics of Monreale. He commented on Radio Radicale’s live broadcasts of debates in the Italian parliament. He lectured me on the Cyclops, the Greeks, the Normans, General Patton, Lucky Luciano and yellow silk scarves. On the only acceptable way of making a granita. On angels, demons, the trinacria, the truth about Kafka and communism and the relationship between physical stature and criminality in the male population of Sicily. His rule of thumb: the shorter the man, the more threatening and the more likely to be a Mafioso. That I scarcely understood a word didn’t bother him. My Italian was appalling—in fact it was practically nonexistent apart from one or two helpful swear words and che schifo, allucinante, birra, con panna, boh, beh and mah, which constituted an adolescent’s vocabulary on the beach.”
Giordano, Mario.Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (An Auntie Poldi Adventure). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
(JP- For those interested:
Che Schifo — how disgusting.
Allucinante — hallucinating, stoned
Birra — beer
Con panna — with whipped cream
Boh — I don’t know
Beh — I don’t care
Mah — maybe yes, maybe no
Facility with these few words will allow you to communicate adequately anywhere in Southern Italy and Sicily, but only if you also know how to gesture properly with your hands [see below]).
TODAY’S CHART:
Pasted Graphic
These are only a few of the gestures used in Southern Italy and Sicily. As with any language, it takes a while and a lot of repetition to learn. Failure to learn a language properly can lead to confusion and embarrassment. For example, after examining the chart, I realized that during my sojourns in Sicily I never quite understood the difference between What, where, why and you shitted your pants eh — much to my embarrassment in the cases where I have misused them and much to my annoyance is now realizing that I had failed to recognize when someone who I thought was asking a question was, in fact, commenting on my ignorance or worse.
Categories: January through March 2018, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 29 Cold Tits 0004 (March 14, 2015)

 

“A man is never too young to kill, never too wise, never too strong, but he can damn well be too rich.”
Brown, Pierce. Golden Son (The Red Rising Trilogy, Book 2 (p. 41). Random House Publishing Group.

R.I.P. Terry Pratchett. Discworld will live forever.
Pratchett, the inverse of Spock, turned logic on its head and found truth. May they enjoy each other’s company wherever they are.

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

The weather in EDH has gone from pleasant to marvelous, the afternoons in the mid-seventies. The sky a deep blue, now and then dappled with clouds.

A few days ago I read that some scientists suspect the perception of the color blue is a recent innovation for humanity. They were put on to this theory by the fact that Homer never mentioned the color blue in his works (nor did most ancient texts such as the Bible). Homer’s description of the Aegean as the “wine dark sea,” a sea that to us today is decidedly blue, led them to conclude, either the sea was a different color then (wine is not blue even at its darkest) or something was different in the color perceptions of the ancients. They then discovered that people in societies today that have no word for blue, when asked the color of the sky, most often respond that it was colorless. A modern tribe that has no word for blue but several for green can see differences in green not perceived by the rest of us. So given that colors are merely reflections of certain frequencies of light, what is going on? This freaks me out. When I look at the deep blue skies over the golden foothills what, if anything, am I seeing?
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Alas, still no rain. Paradise before the fall?
_____________________________________________________

So, I have now completed a PET and a CT (CAT) scan. I guess my next one will be a RAT, BAT or perhaps even a VET scan.
________________________________________________
Nikki arrived. He plans to stay for about a week. This means that a lot more noise and a bit more laughter it the house. H has been fitted with braces and is unhappily suffering through the irritation of getting used to them.
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With Nikki attending to H, I spend even more of my time in my room trying to find something interesting to read other than Facebook and trashy novels. Recently I even have begun to look forward to my medical appointments.
_____________________________________________

While having coffee with Reed a few days ago, he mentioned that the Coastal Conservancy staff said that they did not know what a coastal restoration project is, despite the fact that their implementing legislation specifically directs the agency to do them.
______________________________________________

During breakfast with Nikki, he asked what would I do if I was no longer living in EDH. I said that I would probably still do much of what I do now. I would divide my time between; California, probably as much as possible with my sister and brother in law in Mendocino; Italy, at Nikki’s home at Saliceto in the Alpine foothills or Sabina or Sicily; and Thailand, although I would prefer moving out of BKK and back to the beach. Winters at the beach in Thailand, Spring and Fall somewhere along the California coast and Summers in the Alps it seems would not be such a bad life.

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Mendocino, California

3-frazione-molino-di-cravagliana

Saliceto, Italy
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Roccantica in Sabina

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Sicily

DSCN1871
Jomtien Beach, Thailand
_______________________________________

My visit to the orthodontist with H was a revelation. The waiting area was more playroom than office with its jungle motif, separate play areas and massage chairs for parents. The staff of about 20 or so seemed to have overdosed on ebullience as though they had hit the nitrous-oxide on the way to work. The staff was all women except for the man himself, the orthodontist, the chief giggler himself — the lord of the manor — the Caliph. I used to wonder who lived in those super large homes that line the ridges of EDH. I now imagine they are all inhabited by happy-talking orthodontists.
________________________________________

El Dorado Hills is an almost place, almost a forest, almost a mountain, almost a city, almost a community and living here is almost a life.
_________________________________

Well, I can put my hypochondria back in its box for a while. The PET scan came back negative for any evidence of migration by big C into other parts of my body. Now, if the biopsy shows signs of it in the nodule itself, the doctor believes it can be safely removed without resort to either radiation or chemo.
__________________________________

My very dear friend from Sicily, Luigi (Gigi) Gallo, who suffers from Parkinson’s, recently slipped, fell and broke his leg. He appears to be recovering. I hope all goes well with him. Last year, after an over 40-year hiatus, I visited Sicily and had a wonderful time with him, catching each other up on our lives over the last 40 years and reminiscing about our time together in Sicily and Rome.
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B. BOOK REPORT:

I read “The Girl on the Train,” by Paula Hawkins. It is an interesting book in spite of it being a best seller. All ten or so characters in the novel are reprehensible. It is difficult to care about which ones deserve to die (they all deserve to do so). Yet, their very insensitivity to their own irresponsibility despite their intense and constant preoccupation with it that gives the story whatever appeal it has.

Pookie says, “Check it out.”

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quigley on Top:

As for one of the primary organizational elements of Western society, capitalism, in its constantly changing form over its 1000 year existence, Quigley has the following to say about its role:

“…capitalism, because it seeks profits as its primary goal, is never primarily seeking to achieve prosperity, high production, high consumption, political power, patriotic improvement, or moral uplift. Any of these may be achieved under capitalism, and any (or all) of them may be sacrificed and lost under capitalism, depending on this relationship to the primary goal of capitalist activity— the pursuit of profits. During the nine-hundred-year history of capitalism, it has, at various times, contributed both to the achievement and to the destruction of these other social goals.”
Quigley, Carroll. Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time. GSG & Associates Publishers.

Although Quigley refers to it in this other works of his, the above quote does not mention the impact on society of Debt and the Merchants of Debt, Creditors, even though they are many thousands of years older than Capitalism and Capitalists. If one were to rewrite Quigley’s quote with debt in mind, it might go something like this:

“Debt and Creditors, the Merchants of Debt, because they seek repayment of the loan and the interest due thereon as their primary goal, never seek prosperity, high production, high consumption, direct political power, patriotic improvement, or moral uplift. Instead they seek to assure that the value of the principle and interest remain constant or increase by encouraging depression of the economy to eliminate the potential for that prosperity, high production and high consumption to encourage inflation and reduce the value of their future returns. Interest in political power is limited to issues of so called “sound money” politics. Over their 4000 year history, the Merchants of Debt have rarely, if ever, contributed anything to a society’s patriotic improvement or moral uplift other than to assist in their destruction now and then.”

It is important to understand that banking and capitalism, although they more often than not work together, they are not the same thing nor do they have the same institutional goals or the same impacts on society. Capitalism is as subject to the demands of the Merchants of Debt as is the rest of society. Because of the overwhelming impact of debt on society, the Old Testament of the Bible and most civilizations until the 10th Century AD in Europe encouraged periodic forgiveness of debts. It could be argued that the Lord’s Prayer New Testament plea to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” refers to the Old Testament practice as well as, if not more than, it does to other moral transgressions.

There exists and inherent conflict between Capitalists and the Merchants of Debt. The former risk their wealth on investments in enterprise, the latter abhor risk of any sort.
B. Molly’s Poem:

A New Years Poem
I have a desperate attraction to new beginnings
Sometimes the numbers on the calendar look so beautiful
I think
Today’s the day I drink less and run more
No smoking, all veggies
Honesty, integrity, self-reliance, perseverance, creativity,
No fear, live large,
Dream big, be bright, believe in love and believe in yourself!
And I do
Today is an auspicious day
Today is my new beginning
Sometimes I just feel it, on a Tuesday
Today’s the day I keep doing yoga
I don’t back down when I’m right
I go to bed at a reasonable hour, pay my bills on time
Clean out the toe jam, learn all those languages
All the little steps start here and I’m climbing
I can feel it now, right now, and I won’t look back
This is it!
Today is an auspicious day
Today is my new beginning
Then I find myself making the same mistakes
Who manufactured the grooves in my record?
How would it feel if the DJ scratched me across the turntable?
The dissonant rip, like a zipper coming undone
A cut away from the 4/4 time that I was trying so hard to hold
But this is why the crowd came to the club
To hear the sound of the universe tearing into a new song
The maligned has become music
We throw our hands up and we dance
I am scratched across the turntable and the crowd is screaming
We are scratched and screaming
And the dj takes it back, and the song plays
All of it is beautiful
Every moment new
Every moment auspicious
Every moment beginning
Molly Trad

C. Zander’s Perceptions

“Lentil Soup and Lent

Yesterday I made a pot of lentil soup as well as a loaf of bread, since the weather demands it. I realized that while my back was screwing with me last week, I missed out on Mardi Gras on Tuesday. I have not been a practicing Catholic for . . . yikes. That would be over a half a century. I do dig McDonald’s having cheap Filet o Fish sandwiches (YEEE-Hah!!) during Lent, so naturally I will take advantage of that for the next 5 weeks.

But here’s the thing. Stay with me on this: When the kids were still in elementary school and their mom was on the dating scene, which I called the “Boyfriend of the Month Club,” I decided not to date. One parent dating like a rat in heat and dragging impressionable young kids to these men’s homes was bad enough; it didn’t need to be repeated by me.

I knew that the dating cycle was about 5 weeks is because that is how often I’d be asked for my recipe for scaloppine alla Marsala, the dinner she’d prepared for those guys. And I wouldn’t date.

It got to the point, though, that those years were adding up. Because I did the celibate parent thing voluntarily, I believe I should be allowed to give it up for Lent. Got it now?

So in Rome, we’ve got Il Papa, Pope Francis, who reflects virtually political and social position I have. I’m going to throw myself at his mercy and see if there is a special dispensation in his heart to allow me to give up celibacy for Lent. I’m guessing that he’d go for it. Hell — he can even live vicariously through me, if he wants. So I am confident.

Do I have any volunteers?
Pete Xander

D. Granddaughter’s Painting:
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Athena Petrillo

E. Today’s Paraprosdokian:

Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
Epicurean Paradox

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:
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Sometimes I wonder if the American South is really another country or whether most Southerners are actually illegal aliens residing in the US. Surely a people who are so poorly educated, in such ill health, so superstitious and immoral and so unambitious cannot be real American citizens. Should we require them to go back to where they came from? Who would have them?

These people seem to insist on remaining poor, illiterate, diseased, religion obsessed and immoral. Shouldn’t we allow them to endure that state? Perhaps laws like, unemployment, social security, Obama care and the like should not apply to the South?

We do not have a poverty problem or a racial problem or a health problem or a moral problem or an immigration problem in the United States. We have a Southern problem. We have always had a Southern problem.

 

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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Point Cabrillo Light House, Mendocino

 

Categories: January through March 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. October 14, 2010

Today’s factoid:

1982, Sicilian mafioso Filippo Marchese is killed. He was in charge of what became known as the Room Of Death, a small apartment along the Piazza Sant Erasmo Road. Victims who stood in the way of the Corleonesi of Totò Riina during the Second Mafia War were lured there to be murdered, usually by being garroted. Their bodies were either dissolved in acid or chopped up and dumped out at sea. Marchese was also garroted and dissolved in acid like so many of his own victims. He was so elusive that the authorities did not learn of his death until the late 1980s through an informant.

Today’s Petrillo comment:

Please review the attached important announcement.

Regarding my last post, some of you have commented that they prefer reading the travelogues. Others of you like my Historical riffs and observation on local customs best. Most of you who have commented say that they like the “Today’s factoid” while they could do without “Today’s Quote” (this surprises me since I rather enjoy the discovery of the “bon mot”).

A number of you have found my recitations of political or social opinion or observations about my body and those of others and the like, an acquired taste. Ruth has called them my “epistles”. Others of you have called them “weird” (a comment I alas have received quite often). Irwin, in his satirical survey a few weeks back that I shared with you requested, “keep me off the list that contains gross descriptions of politicians, Thai food, the man on the street, and fat german female tourists, fully clothed or (worse) semi-nude.”

I fell a little like the media mogul juggling his lineup of shows so that he can make even more money than he needs in order to use it to corrupt the political process. I on the other hand do this for fun although, I must admit, I would love to be able to corrupt the political process too.

And so, until oh maybe the next post, I shall move my travelogue back to the front page. But, I intend to keep the titles and chapter headings which I have grown to like.

“Today’s quote”, will drop to the end just before “Ciao” and any attachments.

My epistles will now be relegated to attachments, however they will hereafter be entitled, Pookie’s Epistle to the “Thai email list” number X + __. This now being the first will be numbered X + 1.

Pookie’s continuing adventures in Thailand:

NOWHERE AND BACK AGAIN

CHAPTER V: BEWILDERED IN AYUTTHAYA

The next morning I left my room and went down to the lobby to have coffee and to wait for the others. I assumed I would be waiting for a while since they had gone night-clubbing last night and did not return until about four in the morning.

It had rained last night and the busy street in front of the motel was flooded with water deep enough to entirely cover the tires of an ordinary car.

As I drank my coffee, I watched as the different vehicles drove or at times were pushed through the water. The motor bikes were especially interesting. Some of the riders would ride or walk their bikes through the water drenching their trousers or dresses. Others however would motor through the water happily perched on their seat, the soles of their feet gaily resting on the handlebars. Every now and then a motor bike would be swamped by the wake thrown off by the by the large buses rushing to wherever, as though there were no flood.

Eventually my companions awakened, we bid good-by to Lek and started off bleary eyed to cross the central.lowlands once again.

We reached Ayutthaya a little after midday and drove into the city.

Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand or Siam as it was then called from the Fourteenth to the Eighteenth centuries when it was overthrown and destroyed by the invading Burmese. It was more or less governed as an absolute monarchy where much of the population lived in a form of serfhood or slavery. The kings in addition to their political status were also the religious leaders of the country, a lot like the Renaissance Popes in the Papal States. A number of the kings saw their monkish life to be at least as, if not more important than the affairs of state. Coupled with the fact that there lacked clear rules for succession when the old king died, the kingdom was often in a state of turmoil as one general or another or one royal prince or another rebelled and as often as not usurped the throne.

Nevertheless, the kingdom lasted for over 400 years as the dominant force in all or South East Asia (more than twice as long as the United States) until it was overthrown. During its heyday, it controlled in one way or another, in addition to the territory of modern Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and much of Burma.

At one time during the Seventeenth Century the city of Ayutthaya was reputed to be the largest city in the world with about one million inhabitants. Now all that is left are the red brick ruins of the royal precincts standing like Ozymandias (See today’s attachment) as a reminder of the ephemeral nature of fame and power.

We drove around for a while looking for something, up and down the same back roads, past the same corners, calls were made, maps consulted, pedestrians interrogated. When I inquired as to what was going on, I was told that a friend of ours, Jo-Jo, who used to work at AVA now lived in this city with her husband and child.

Eventually it seemed we found what we were looking for in the center of the ruins of the old Siamese capital. We pulled to the curb and waited, then drove off and returned to the same spot by a different route. We waited again for about a minute than drove off again, taking a third route and returning again to the same spot for the same minute or so and then drove off again, this time not returning but proceeding back onto the highway and continuing our transect of the lowlands.

I did not ask what all the driving and stopping was about deciding that sometimes it is more interesting not knowing something than knowing it.

Today’s quote:

Buttercup: “We’ll never survive!”
Westley: “Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.”
– The Princess Bride

Today’s attachment:

OZYMANDIAS

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Bysshe Shelly (1818)

If one wants to compare good poetry with the not so good compare Shelly’s poem above with the one below both published a month apart and covering the exact same subject.

In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.” The City’s gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

—Horace Smith.

Of course, with a name like Percy Bysshe Shelly one would have to grow up to be a poet,… or a serial killer. Someone named Horace Smith on the other hand probably became an accountant.

Ciao…

Today’s bonus attachment:

As a proud father, I send this along to you. It is the best birthday present I could imagine.

Tauscher Letter

_________________________________________________

Comments regarding the Post:

From Ruth Galanter:

Very cool about Jessica!
Remind me what ISN stands for.

My response:

International Security and Nonproliferation Bureau.

What makes me especially proud is not only the quality of the report, but that it sets the standard to be followed for all countries that are signatories to the Biological Weapons Non-proliferation Treaty. As far as I can tell, it is only through the amassing of these CBM reports can the provisions of the Treaty be implemented.

As a collateral benefit of the report, the institutions, resources and mechanisms mentioned in it are also applicable to the response to natural occurring plagues and epidemics.

One of the important although unmentioned impacts of the report is that it represents one of the few times that the multiple agencies in the national security (including international agencies) field have worked cooperatively with one another and with ,private and academic laboratories and scientists to produce something like this. I would guess that as long as the people involved remain in their positions with their current institutions, the promise of continued cooperation in times of crises may become a reality.

Categories: October through December 2010 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

This and that from re thai r ment, by 3Th. October 10, 2010

Today’s Factoid:

1239 AD. King Edward I of England is born (1239-1307, ruled 1272-1307). At his coronation in 1272, 278 bacon hogs, 450 pigs, 440 oxen, 430 sheep and 22,600 hens and capons are consumed by the guests.

(After this, having killed off all the animals in the kingdom, the english ate only cabbage for the next 100 years)

Today’s Quote:

“Humble with the humble. Great with the great. He showed with words and deeds that his Mafia was not criminal. It stood for respect for the law, defense of all rights, greatness of character: it was love.”

Elegy for Calogero Vizzini brutal Sicilian Mafia boss on his death in 1954. Among his many acts of love in defense of the law was his ordering the massacres of peaceful labor protestors at an election rally in the Sicilian village of Villalba. Vizzini was the mayor of the town at the time having been installed by the American expeditionary forces in Sicily as a reward for assisting Lucky Luciano in obtaining Mafia support for the allied invasion of Sicily during World War II.

Pookie’s continuing adventures in Thailand:

Three or so hours later we had crossed the entire central plains of the country and arrived at the beginning of the mountains. The trip across the lowlands being notable mostly for the melancholy press of Thai traffic and the huge blue sea of a sky sporting an archipelago of white clouds. On each side of the highway spread the shocking green of the still flooded rice paddies that define central Thailand with their rapidly maturing plants . These were not your cute little paddies tended by picturesque farmers in conical hats, but paddies of many acres each in size, much like those one sees in California’s Central Valley near Sacramento. It is from these paddies that Thailand feeds much of southern Asia.

The paddies were thronged with hoards of the Southeast Asian version of egrets and herons (Storks? Spoonbills?). Not one or two here and there or the hundred or so one sees while traveling along the Coast Highway in Bolinas Lagoon by the rookery there, but hundreds and hundreds maybe even thousands all told, standing one-legged, head cocked with sharp beak and dark baleful eye searching to devour whatever wiggles within their reach. Above them swarmed flocks of the Asian equivalent of starlings and swallows swooping up any insect rising from the water.

The first city we encountered was Kanchanburi, where almost 20 years ago Richard “Uncle Mask” McCarthy, Bill Gates and I ventured to view the Bridge over the River Kawai (or fully translated, Buffalo River Bridge). It was on that trip, if I remember correctly, that the three of us came up with the idea of opening a bar in Bangkok. Originally we thought of naming it, “California Dick’s,” but Richard was still sensitive about his youthful nickname. Then in a fit of originality, we came up with the alternative name “California Joe’s” (I having no objection to embarrassment and humiliation). When we suggested it to our Thai partners, they objected because Thais could not pronounce long western names. So, despite the fact that our target cliental would be westerners and not Thai, we acceded to the name AVA. The first of what would be many mistakes in our business, social and personal dealings with our Thai partners.

The Bridge over the River Kawai was an Oscar-winning movie that glorified the heroic deaths of the 16,000 allied prisoners who were forced by the Japanese during World War II to labor on the construction of the bridge and the railroad line between Kanchanburi and Burma that came to be known as the “Death Railway,” but failed to acknowledge the 10 times as many Southeast Asian slave laborers who also died in its construction.

Alec Guinness played the British military officer in charge of building the bridge on behalf of the Japanese who goes bat shit over the attempt by the allies to take down the bridge by sabotage. In real life the bridge was destroyed in an allied bomber attack.

The city has grown considerably since we were there. The allied prisoners who died working on the bridge are buried in a cemetery that at the time we were there was located in a rural area surrounded by fields and meadows. It appeared then to be large and stately. Now the city has grown up all around it and the cemetery mostly looks surprisingly small and forlorn.

We met up with a woman friend of Gun Girl’s named Lek and stopped for dinner. No sooner had we sat down, when a police car drove up disgorging a handsome young Thai policeman who proceeded to walk off hand in hand with Teddy Bear Boy. They did not return until we were finished with dinner and were ready to leave, about an hour or so later. After talking a few photos of the cop and TBB with their arms entwined, I was instructed to get into Lek’s automobile for the remainder of the drive to where we were to spend the night. Her son, accompanied by his girlfriend, was driving. Lek and I got into the back seat.

Apparently, Lek wanted to practice her english. So I listened to her story of growing up poor but through the sacrifices of her honest farmer parents and her hard work she became a nurse and labored 10 years in the emergency room of the local hospital. She now is retired and works as a part-time tour guide in the area. That is why she has to keep improving her english skills.

It was night now, the road rose gently into the mountains much like the roads into the Sierra when one climbs up from the Central Valley.

About an hour or so later, we arrived at a resort that straddles a river containing a stepped falls. Lights illuminated the falls until the river itself vanished into the shadows. The river was not very wide about 30 feet or so, but what it lacked in breadth in made up in exuberance. I counted at least 23 major steps to the falls each about 3 to 4 feet high until they disappeared above and below me into the gloom of the jungle. Innumerable smaller falls were interspersed among the larger ones as well as on the many lesser streams that discharged into the main water course. Some of these tributaries passed under and around the resort buildings.

The name of the place was “Bamboo Hut Resort” and indeed it included a large bamboo structure that housed an open walled restaurant and reception area. About eight similarly constructed (but enclosed) small cabins made up the remainder of the resort.

We rented two nice cabins with double king sized beds perched directly over the falls. Being exhausted by the events of the day, I needed to sleep so I took one of the cabins while everyone else partied in the other. Teddy Bear Boy was assigned as my cabin mate. Despite that, the surprisingly mesmerizing roar and rumble of the falls and my fatigue put me right to sleep and I slept undisturbed until morning .

Today’s Attachment:

Appropriately blurry tourist photos of the above mentioned falls at night and during the day. I still have not gotten to my other potential attachments.

Categories: October through December 2010 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

This and that from re Thai r ment. August 19, 2010

Today’s Factoid:
1521 Martin Luther appears at the Roman Catholic Assembly, the Diet of Worms. (This tidbit appears in a list entitled “A Timeline of Culinary History.”)

Today’s Quote:
“I don’t know if I should Buenos Aires or Bonjour, or… this is such a melting pot. This is beautiful. I love the diversity. Yeah. There were a whole bunch of guys named Tony in the photo line, I know that.”
–Sarah Palin, Addressing a Charity of Hope gathering, Hamilton, Ontario, April 15, 2010. (Huh?).

Today’s Thailand news:
In the Bangkok Post today there appeared in the Letters to the Editor the following comment about the Thai Justice system: “A few utters in the Aug 17 edition say it all. On a day when the red shirt leaders were brought to court in leg irons and chains, [and] a lady aged 28 was jailed for 3-1/2 years for forging a document, a PAD (one of the Parties in the current ruling coalition) leader got a suspended sentence after being found guilty of the attempted murder of 5 policeman. ”

Today’s email from Thailand departs from my usual reports about my doings in this Paradise with mosquitos:

As most of you know for some time now I have exchanged emails with my cousin in spirit, Irwin. (In fact I seem to recall a forwarded prior email exchange that Irwin feared that he would be considered a misogynist. I assured him at the time that he needn’t worry women already know that most men are misogynists. If we weren’t we would be…well we would be women.) The correspondence between Irwin and I, usually covers serious topics such as “Prostate care for the elderly Male,” “Menstruation in Jewish Theology,” “The Role of Orange County as a Center of Art and Culture in the United States,” and my favorite, “Stilettos I have known and loved.” Our correspondence is being collected and will be published as “The Ashkenazi-Sicilian Correspondence.”

It may interest you to know that the Ashkenazi Jews and the Sicilians share a common ancestor, one of the fabled “Nine Daughters of Eve” named “Katrine.” Our common ancestor lived about 15,000 to 25,000 years ago in an area just north of modern Venice and south of the eastern alpine passes. It can be surmised from the fact that Katrine lived along one of the major travel routes of the time and from the robustness and intelligence of he progeny, that she plied the trade of entertaining male travelers after their frigid crossings of the mountains and that business was very good for her. It has been said by some that the famous “Ice man of the Alps” was on his way to spend the evening with that fabled beauty before he met his untimely end. I doubt that, since our suitor was born about 10,000 years too late. On the other hand the quality of the services of our fabled ancestor were legendary and legends like that die hard, especially among men.

Anyway, Irwin’s full name is Irwin Schatzman (My spell check always tries to rewrite it as “Statesman.” Some people have all the luck, it tries to rewrite my name as “petroleum.”) Irwin always wanted to become an opera singer but could never gain the weight. He also wanted to become a comedy writer but unfortunately he is Jewish and that position is already taken.

Like me, Irwin was in the land use racket, first as a planner then as a developer and a lobbyist. He is my age more or less but has less hair on his head then I do. He recently admitted to me he has fewer teeth as well. I on the other hand am far further along on the road to senility than he is.

Irwin suffers from anxiety because he is Jewish and fears that someone will mistake him for Norwegian. As a result he has sought professional help and has been prescribed medications. That prompted the following is a recent communication between him and his doctor that cc’d to me and my response thereto.

“Sent: 8/13/2010 2:14 PM
To: Office of D_____ R_______ C_______ MD
Subject: buspirone busted

doc drc:

i think i’ve presided over a fair trial for mr. buspirone. Now, i am convicting him for fraudulent promise. Evidence suggests that even with two tabs two times a day, panic attacks, including one today on the 405, are still occurring. Without tabs Tuesday morning’s cataract surgery was accomplished sans blood pressure, panic nor even the breaking of a tiny sweat.

Unless i receive other counsel from you, I am sentencing mr. buspirone (is he italian?) to immediate execution by trash receptacle – I have elected to use confinement in the brown “other trash” receptacle thus not providing a sense of hope which might be implied by placement in the “blue” recyclables container.

Unless there is an anxiety drug that actually works well on a hyper-vigilant old jew, i shall stick with one-half of occasional xanax before embarking on California’s gift to the justice system (except at rush hour) aka the 405.

best,

Irwin”

His Doctor D____R____C____ MD responded:

“Executioner’s song understood.
AKA – okay to can the buspirone if not helpful.”

After receiving copies of the correspondence, I wrote Irwin the following:

“Your doctor uses three names. You, of course, know that most serial killers use three names.”

(Note to all: If he says his name is Bobby Dork, then you know he is what he says he is. If, however, he introduces himself as Bobby Stanley Dork, run.)

and:

“When I lived in Sicily, the Buspirone’s lived next door to me. Mr. Buspirone was always giving Mrs. Buspirone anxiety attacks. So, when Mr Buspirone would leave for work in the morning she would take two large doses of petrillo to help her through the day.”

Enjoy.

It is important that you send this on to your five best friends or five worst enemies within the next three days and 43 minutes. If you do not and you are a male you will be immediately and suddenly circumcised and if you already are circumcised, your foreskin will grow back. If you are a women and do not forward this within the allotted time, you will be added to the mailing list for Irwin’s blog “OY1.”

Categories: July 2010 through September 2010 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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