TODAY FROM THAILAND:
“When weird comes knocking, gray hairs count.”
Fforde, Jasper. The Woman Who Died a Lot: A Thursday Next Novel (p. 8). Penguin Publishing Group.
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
There has been little adventure in the rain-swept Golden Hills this past week or so, and for that matter even less for Pookie unless one considers watching one’s body become foreign to oneself an adventure.
It has rained pretty steadily for a while now, forcing me indoors except for my daily trips to treatment and chauffeuring HRM to and from school. As for my body, no longer am I amused by one or another side effect of my treatment. It seems as though my whole body has rebelled from the attacks upon it. Neither food nor drink nor locomotion seems any longer of interest. Even breathing seems to take a conscious effort. I try to content myself with the knowledge that only two more weeks remain before the assault ends. But that seems a long way off — two weeks too far. I try to boost my morale by telling myself that others have gone through this and much worse with less complaining. I see them every day at the treatment centers, sitting quietly, sometimes with slight smiles on their faces — not like me slumped on my chair scowling. I guess, for a confirmed hypochondriac and wuss like me, I shouldn’t expect more of myself than scowling and complaining.
Actually, what bothers me most — other than the dark thick viscous scum that now seems to permanently coat my mouth and throat that, when I spit into the bathroom sink, sticks there like an alien being. It cannot be washed away by water but must be scrubbed off. What is something like that doing in my mouth? …… Where was I? Oh yeah, what bothers me most. What bothers me most is that it is all-consuming. It is hard to notice other things — just me and the effects of the treatment. It has become hard to see the humor in things. It doesn’t matter whether it is dark, cynical or cruel, eventually, seeing the humor in my experiences has always been important to me — maybe even more important than anything else. There certainly have been a lot of absurdities during these weeks of treatment to smile at. Perhaps, I will describe some of them further on, but not now. Now is the time for bitching. Bitching is therapeutic.
Those who live in Northern California are experiencing “The Rain” caused by a storm surge that occurs only every 10 years or so driven by something called the “Pineapple Express” which delivers warm moist air from somewhere near Hawaii and drops it on us in Northern California. It has been raining fairly steadily for about 10 days. Although I spend most days indoors, every few days I like to drive around the subdivision observing the water as it flows in the streams and along the drainage ditches that run by the roadways and are disguised to look like natural streams with rocky bottoms and clever landscape. Unlike natural streams, however, they are as straight as a ruler and conveniently disappear whenever they meet up with suitably developable properties. Near our house, they empty into the Duck Pond in several pretty little waterfalls. The pond itself is swollen, drowning the willows that line its banks. With all this rain, I expect spring to be especially flamboyant this year.
Ends and beginnings
All thing end, I guess. Good things seem to end long before I would like them to and the bad things generally hang around far too long. On Friday my treatment ended weeks after it had worn out its welcome. The doctors told me that the side effects, the pain, the blood filled pus and the general feeling that death would be a welcome option would remain for a while and they have proven to be right.
Following my last radiation treatment, the radiation technicians congratulated me for making it through as though it was some aboriginal coming of age right where most of the participants die – – I guess it was in a way. After the technicians and other nurses left the room, one nurse, a tall slender black haired woman with round black rimmed glasses, remained. She gave me a tight long hug. I could feel her breasts and hips pressed against my body. She kissed me and then hugged me again for a long time. I did not know what I was supposed to do or say. I mumbled, “You guys were great” as I untangled myself and shambled out of the room with my hospital gown flapping open at the back and ran back to the changing room.
Now I wait for a few weeks for the results of some testing and meetings with the doctors to find out if I am a dead man walking the short or the long mile. One thing I know, if it is the short mile, I refuse to do this again no matter the promises.
The sun has broken through the clouds over the golden hills for the first time in over three weeks. I felt good enough to exercise by walking around the lakes in Town Center. I have not exercised since treatment began. It was good.
I am now ending the third week since treatment has ended. The doctors told me that things would get far worse before getting better and some things may not get better at all. As for the side effects getting worse, the doctors were right. I have never felt this bad in my life. Nothing seems amusing anymore.
A light between tunnels
My brother-in-law George came by and spent three days with me. He has gotten me to eat and drink a bit and feel better about myself.
B. BOOK REPORT: The Marriage Tree by Christopher G, Moore.
While passing through those empty times during my treatment when there is little to do other that dwelling on my discomfort or sleeping, I read. Mostly, I read things that pass the time, amusing but like after taking some narcotic and trying to remember what you did while stoned, you know you did it but cannot recall what it was you did while you did it. Along the way, I read my friend Christopher G. Moore’s book, The Marriage Tree. This was different.
To Moore, Bangkok is a mirror revealing the dark soul of humanity. In Thailand, that dark soul, that we like to pretend does not exist wherever we live, drips out bloody and foeted onto the streets of Bangkok. Like gods, the rich and powerful are immune from judgment and punishment, except by other gods like them. The rest of us are condemned to seeking a rough justice for those of our peers who may have harmed us. Those who truly set into play our small difficulties and tragedies are almost never forced into any court to answer for their complicity.
How many people have died or suffered from the products and services of the corporate entities these godlings control? How many wars have been fought to protect private interests and not the public interests? Has slavery really disappeared where laws have been passed to prohibit it, or are some of the powerful still able to command indenture of the less powerful?
This is perhaps the darkest of Moore’s books. Even the soiled hero of most of his novels, Vincent Calvino, a half Jewish, half Italian disbarred attorney from New York City, who has taken up life as a private detective in Bangkok, finally accepts that true justice, the capping of the godling responsible, is hopeless except by chance, and even then there is always someone else willing to take over and step in to play the godling role. Although it is cloaked in the guise of a detective thriller, it is not. It is a scream against the gathering darkness across our world as those wealthy and powerful self-styled godlings take control and the rest of us slowly realize we all now live in Bangkok without happy endings to content us.
Moore is Canadian and like most Canadians, his moral outrage stops just short of throwing the bomb.
When I am in Bangkok, I sometimes see Moore across the street or at some artist do. I no longer see in his face that little knowing smile he seemed to effect. He now appears haunted as though he’s glimpsed the future and found only more hopelessness there … or perhaps a local godling has happened to read his book and begun to turn his hooded eyes in his direction.
Pookie says, “Check it out.”
A. The New Yorker Magazine halo as the nation’s best-edited magazine slips a bit:
“Because her subject was longitudinal change across the span of hours, days, and years, she needed to set her spatial position in order to see time move across the proscenium of her subjective imagination.”
A review by Dan Chiasson in the Books section of the New Yorker Magazine, December 5, 2016, reviewing a new book about the Poetry of Emily Dickenson.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“When we were young with our peers about us, we dreamed and hoped for that which we had not yet experienced. Now in our old age, we dream and hope for one last chance at that which we will soon no longer have.”
“Symmetry is a beautiful thing.”
Among those who have created great religions, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Paul perhaps receives the least recognition. After all, he took the tiny organization of a Hebrew cynic and miracle worker and created the largest religion of them all.
Who was he? His family had been ennobled by the Herodian reforms of the Hasmonean aristocracy. He undoubtedly had a franchise to collect the Herodian temple tax from among the diaspora Jews of the Syrian saddle and south central Anatolia. He was quite active in Second Temple politics. Whether he was also a tentmaker or that was just a metaphor is of minor importance.
So what happened? According to Big Paulie himself, about three short years after Jesus’ death, somewhere along the road to Damascus where he was to impose the Jewish form of Inquisition upon a nest of Jesus followers, Jesus himself struck him blind and suggested that instead of persecuting these unfortunates wouldn’t be better if he became one of their Apostles.
Now, whether or not one believes in gods or their wish to speak with members of our species, one must ask why would Jesus after spending a number of years carefully choosing and instructing its leaders, suddenly decide they were not doing a good job with the good word and would be better off following some random guy with mayhem in his heart walking along a road to Damascus after speaking with him for all of a minute or so?
So, what sort of a man was Big Paulie? Well, from his own words in Galatians 1:7 Paul made it clear that he did not discuss with the apostles and disciples chosen by Jesus (“Pillars of the Church”) after he had received his revelation to be an apostle,[Gal. 1:15-16] that he saw no one except Cephas (Peter) and James when he was in Jerusalem three years after the revelation[Gal 1:18-24] and implies he did not explain his gospel to them until 14 years later[Gal 2:1-2] in a subsequent trip to Jerusalem. Also, he declared himself an Apostle and passed himself off as one without informing the Apostles themselves he was doing so. I would think, at the least, he was a man on the make if not an out and out crook.
At the time Big Paulie was rapping with Jesus alongside the Damascus Road, the original Apostles, disciples, and believers in Jesus brand of reform Judaism were part of Second Temple Judaism, in other words, a Jewish sect of the time period, the Jesus sect. Gentiles that wished to fully join the movement were expected to convert to Judaism, which likely meant submission to adult male circumcision for the uncircumcised, following the dietary restrictions of kashrut, and more. During the time period, there were also “partial converts,” such as gate proselytes and Godfearers. Paul insisted that faith in Christ was sufficient for salvation and that the Torah did not bind Gentiles. That was not what the other Apostles believed, the ones who spent years with Jesus and actually heard his preaching. While they were willing to bend over backward to make it easier for gentiles to join the Jesus sect, they required not just the faith that Big Paulie based his religion on but also to those good works implied in the Law and preached by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and other Rabbi’s in the Hellenic Judaism tradition, like Hillel. At the very least they should subscribe to the Noahaid Laws.
After years of accusing the other apostles of being virtual heretics and fighting for his turf among the Jews living north of modern day Israel and the uncircumcised living there, Peter and James who was the spokesman for the remainder of the Apostles who supported the Law and Jesus interpretation of it met with Don Paulo at his home base, Antioch in Syria one of the largest cities in the empire.
Peter was probably in fact and effect the person who did more than any other to hold together the diversity of first-century Jesus movement. James the brother of Jesus and Paul, the two other most prominent leading figures in the development of first-century Christianity*, were too much identified with their respective “brands” of the movement, at least in the eyes of those Jews and Gentiles at the opposite ends of this particular spectrum. But Peter, as shown particularly by the Antioch episode in Gal 2, had both a care to hold firm to his Jewish heritage, which Paul lacked and an openness to the demands of developing Christianity, which James lacked.
Later Paulie brags in his epistles how he bested Peter and James at this meeting. This was probably not true since left Antioch, the site of the meeting and Paulie’s long time center of operations, in a huff and never returned.
But enough of Paulie, whatever one may think of Big Paulie and his character, he would probably be at best a footnote in history but for events in that occurred Jerusalem at the end of the first century and the beginning of the second.
* We must remember, at this time, Peter, Paul, James and all the believers still thought they were part of Second Temple Judaism. It was not until the end of the first century before the then bishop of Antioch first referred to the believers as Christians.
“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”
~ Jimi Hendrix
Happy Birthday to my granddaughter Athena and Happy Anniversary to my sister MaryAnn and her husband George.
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
One afternoon when it was not raining, we decided to walk to Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s central urban park. LM liked to feed the birds (mostly pigeons and a few large crows) and the fish (gaping toothy jaws large enough to swallow your arm).
As we began to climb the steps to the sky-path over the freeway and into the park, we were stopped by some police who told us to wait. After a little while, I saw a cavalcade of automobiles from the Royal Family’s fleet come speeding down the freeway. “Oh look,” I said and pointed to the cars. “It must be a member of the Royal Family.”
After the motorcade passed by, one of the policemen approached and got into a heated conversation with the Little Masseuse. “What’s going on,” I inquired? “They want to arrest you for pointing at the Royal Family entourage,” She answered. According to LM, they felt that what I did was disrespectful and they could possibly mistake my pointing for a gun.
I guess, unlike in the United States, the police in Thailand first announce their reasons for possibly killing you instead of waiting until after you are dead.
It was agreed, eventually, that I was adequately warned and could spend the rest of the day neither behind bars nor dead.
Lumpini Park, like many great city central parks, is magnificent in concept but a bit seedy and down at the heel in places. Recently, the large Monitor Lizards that inhabit the lake have taken to the land and eaten a few joggers……. No, I’m kidding. They have not eaten any joggers but have frightened a few tourists, so there is a highly publicized effort by the authorities to capture them and transport them to a more appropriate location. Some have suggested that location is probably the woks in the kitchens of some of the authority’s families.
One day at lunch, I asked the Gemologist how the cultures of those lost tribes of Burma that he spent so many years photographing are holding up. He said their cultures are mostly all gone. It happened faster than he had expected. Surprisingly, except for the Muslim Rohingya tribe, it has not been by the force of arms of the Burmese government but through the introduction of modern fashions and technologies. If the Naga people still go headhunting, they do so in Old Navy knock-off tee shirts and find their way through the jungle using google maps on their iPhones.
The next few days were spent trying to get some exercise in between the rains, struggling all one morning to get the presidential debate on my iPhone, and listening to more stories from the deep sea diver. One of the tales was a harrowing story about accompanying his flying instructor, a stunt pilot, to Columbia to pick up a small plane and fly it back to Key West. When they arrived, they found that although the plane lacked ignition, brakes and several other important mechanical parts, it carried a load of made in Columbia product and a baby ocelot (who got loose in the cockpit somewhere over Panama). The flight back to Key West included stops in Nicaragua, Mexico and one or two other places along the way. Apparently, there was also some problem with the gas since they had to fly with a fifty gallon can of gas in the cockpit along with a jury-rigged hose passing through the dashboard into the engine. Oh, and now and then there were women (there always are in stories like this) who had to sit on their laps because there were not enough seats. (What they did with the Ocelot during those times I never found out.)
And then, it was time to leave the teeming and steaming streets of Bangkok and return to the Golden Hills where the air is clean, the stories and people are few, and where the indigenous wildlife of pigeons, rats, and wandering packs of soi dogs are replaced by turkeys, coyotes, and tiny steam cleaned pedigreed canines on leashes.
B. From Bangkok to El Dorado Hills:
My return to America was long but nowhere as traumatic as the flight out. I had an entire row to myself on the flight to Beijing and so I stretched out and slept. I had a nine-hour layover in Beijing but luckily they have a by-the-hour hotel in the airport so I rented a tiny room, showered, slept — and dreamed.
I dreamt I was in a small kingdom in ancient China, appropriately. The king’s comely daughter had taken a liking to me. (In my dreams, I am usually younger and far more attractive than I am in real life.) Suddenly, a faction of the king’s retainers organized a coup and killed all the royal family except the Comely Princess who I saved. Together we organized a resistance, fought back and eventually killed all the coupsters only to find, at our moment of triumph, the Emperor with all his troops lined up outside the wall of the city wondering why there was so much turmoil in this tiny little kingdom in his empire and whether he should just burn it to the ground and kill everyone and be done with it. The Comely Princess suggested we set up two thrones on the top of the city walls in which she and I would sit and shout down at the Emperor that we were now firmly in control and were his loyal subjects. Well, he bought that little bit of theater and marched away. In celebration, the Comely Princess and I agreed to get married that evening. As I was preparing for the nuptials and drinking a glass of rice wine, the enraged princess stormed into the room and accused me of sacrificing one of our most beloved retainers to the cause. I tried to explain to the now not so Comely Princess that it was his choice but she was having none of it. So, I soon found myself seated on the horse I rode in on looking back at the city. I wondered whether the whole thing was simply a ruse by the Comely Princess to make herself a Regal Queen. It wouldn’t be the first time in my life something like this happened. For a moment I thought about gathering supporters, killing the now Regal Queen and taking back the kingdom. I decided against that. I am pretty good at fighting my way out of any imbroglio I find myself in, but starting from scratch was always too much work, so I rode off.
In case you are interested, I was dressed in Chinese boiled leather armor over my jeans with my straw fedora on my head. I may be young, handsome and competent in my dreams but I still dressed funny. By the way, my horse was gray.
During the ten hour flight from Beijing to SF, I watched two movies, The Huntsman, because I adore Charlize Theron, especially when she is tearing up the scenery, and the old Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster film Vera Cruz. Coop is an aging plantation owner and ex-Confederate Army officer who believes he fought for freedom and that the southern plantation life was built on land and big houses and not on slavery. Being freedom loving, he eventually supports the Mexican peasants against the Emperor Maximilian. Since they were peasants and only seemed able to sing and dance and throw themselves blindly at the Emperors machine guns, they obviously needed Cooper and Lancaster to save them. I will also see any movie with Lancaster in it just to see his insane smile.
Other than that, I took some valium to sleep the rest of the way. It took about 5 hours to get from SFO to El Dorado Hills where everyone seemed uncomfortable because I arrived a day sooner than expected. I also learned that my 99-year-old mom fell and broke her hip.
As I have said often, “Getting there is often far more interesting and pleasant than being there.”
This is a continuation of my somewhat irreverent retelling of some of my favorite eras of history:
It was Judea and especially Jerusalem that gave Herod agita. Most other the other parts of his kingdom seemed to accept his harsh but relatively peaceful administration with what passed for equanimity. But, in faction-riddled Judea, it seemed everyone hated everyone else and that all they seemed to agree on was that they all hated him, mostly for being Idumean and not Judean. So he did what all competent rulers do in cases like this, he threw money at them. He first lavished it on those who made up what passed for the upper class, the priests and Sadducees who he reasoned would then keep the other malcontents under some control.
When that didn’t work, he struck upon a more audacious scheme. He would rebuild their Temple and he would make it the greatest temple of the time and people from throughout the Levant and even the known world would flock to Jerusalem to see this wonder, worship there and spend their money. This he thought, reasonably so, would make everyone happy.
With his usual vigor, he set upon this task. First, he built a mountain in the city enclosed in walls so that it could be seen from everywhere and on the top of this mountain he built the most magnificent temple of his time.
While it made believers far and wide proud they had such a magnificent thing, alas, it did not stop the Judeans and especially the Jerusalemites from arguing even more about things they had been arguing about for at least a century and to his dismay they even found more things to argue about.
But while all this arguing and faction building is important, it is not important here for our story at this time but will be a little later. What is important is that Herod the businessman (like the not so successful but equally insane businessman or our time Donald Trump) did not want to use his own money to fund his largess. And what he came up with would change the world.
(to be continued)
Below is reproduced one of my favorite flights of fancy stories I wrote about six years ago. I also like it because its literary references could only be identified by people over sixty and so the piece effectively was born dead. I do, however, recommend reading O. Henry. He really was a con man, embezzler, and pharmacist until he joined the literary world and became a liar for hire.
Posted in FRACTURED FACTOIDS, VOYAGES IN MY MIND:
FROM RUBAIYAT TO RUBY OTT ON THE RUBY YACHT AND HOME AGAIN
All my life I have often taken voyages of the mind as I have pursued some research thread or another. Anyway, the internet is a marvelous vehicle for anyone who enjoys traveling without leaving one’s bed.
In my most recent voyage, I had been traveling north, escaping from the devastation of Ninth Century Southern Italy, with some Jewish merchants and settled with them in the Rhine Valley only to be forced to move eastward into the Pale, when the armies of Western Christendom had made that land too dangerous for my Hebrew brethren.
Shortly thereafter, I was at the home of the local Rabbi in a shtetl deep within the Pale somewhere in eastern Poland when that good man began to become quite emotional and upset about a radical Sephardic Rabbi named Maimonides who lived among the Muslims and was obviously corrupted by them. According to the Rabbi, this Maimonides was attempting, in his erroneous writings on sacred subjects, to humanize the faith of their fathers.
I decided to visit Maimonides at his family home in Egypt where he was working as the physician to the Sultan, Saladin. One evening shortly after I arrived, I asked the honorable doctor-rabbi to instruct me in his teachings. He responded to my request by saying“Pookie, before embarking on a voyage into Hebrew esoterica, you should first travel to Persia and stay a few evenings in a caravansary called ‘The Perfumed Garden.’”
I did so and one evening while relaxing in the hot tub after the day’s debauch, I met a fellow traveler who introduced himself to me as Mercury Ali. We got to talking about this and that and after swapping some tales of our respective voyages, he suggested that that evening we attend the salon of the well-known Hori, Scheherazade where he assured me that the finest stories in all of Persia could he heard. “Be careful,” he warned me, “the tales are so beguiling they can become addictive.” It has been rumored that some of the attendees at the salon had become so besotted that they remained there for over 1000 nights.
Assuring him that I will take his warning seriously, I accompanied him to the salon. I admit, I soon began to find myself becoming hooked on the conversation. After a few nights with Haroun al-Rashid, Delilah the Crafty, and any number of men named Sinbad (Aladdin and Ali Baba, to my regret, were off on some adventure or another), I met up with another attendee, the besotted tent-maker, mathematician and astrologer Omar Khayyam. He invited me to spend the next few days with him and a couple of Horis, and a few bottles of Napa Valley’s finest jug wine under some trees in the desert somewhere.
One morning, having finished off the jugs of wine, I found myself with Omar banging on the door of a local tavern demanding the proprietor open the premises so that we could resume our drinking.
After a downing a few cups of chardonnay in the cool common room of the tavern, I fell asleep on the table and woke up in the early part of the Twentieth Century in Greenwich Village in New York City at the house of two hippies who were dancing with each other while reciting Omar’s verses.
It seems that Bob Babbitt and his wife, Jessie, were having a party to celebrate the end of their short unhappy experiment with sobriety. Among the guests was a gentleman who went by the obvious alias of O. Henry. I was later to learn that he was a convicted embezzler, ex-con and drunken pharmacist from North Carolina who was hiding out in New York in the witness protection program under an assumed name.
He suggested that since the current party was winding down, that I join him at another get-together in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana hosted by a friend of his called Idaho. It was a reception in honor of the newest residents of the valley, Homer K. M. and, his girlfriend Ruby Ott.
The following morning, we joined Rocky and Bullwinkle on Bullwinkle’s boat the “Ruby Yacht” and traveled down the Bitterroot to Veronica Lake where we spent the day.
P.S. Omar (who was previously a member of the Taliban) and Scheherazade now are living together in an apartment in North Beach San Francisco with another illegal alien couple from Guatemala who formerly served in the Sandinista army. Omar and Sherry (the name she goes by now) are strong supporters of Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Barbara Boxer when they are not out campaigning for the “Green Party”.
NOTE: If you read this far, here is the connection to the complete collection of O. Henry’s tales: (http://www.gutenberg.org/author/O._Henry), You can read his short stories, “The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball” and “The Handbook of Hymen” should you want to take my voyage in reverse.
Forty percent of all women who are married to police officers are abused.
A. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
In the United States, we have often elected to public office the stupid and at times The crazy. It has only recently, however, that most of those we elect happen to be both stupid and crazy.
B. Today’s Poems:
I am Wo — Man
I break stallions to harness
They ride me for my pleasure
They tend my flocks
And in the end
I paste their memories
in my scrapbook.
2. Seize the Day.
“So seize the day! hold holiday!
Be unwearied, unceasing, alive
you and your own true love;
Let not the heart be troubled during your
sojourn on Earth,
but seize the day as it passes!
Ancient Egyptian poem 1160 BC
“Metaphysical naiveté always ends in murder. It fragments the world. Little acts of kindness and charity mask the monstrous evil they abet. And the system rolls forward. The polar ice caps melt. The droughts rage over cropland. The drones deliver death from the sky. The state moves inexorably forward to place us in chains. The sick die. The poor starve. The prisons fill. And the careerist, plodding forward, does his or her job.”
Chris Hedges, Truthdig
“Human society is not a deterministic system but a collective learning process”.
I HOPE YOU HAD A HAPPY WORLD GIRAFFE DAY ON JUNE 21.
REMEMBER JULY 15 IS NATIONAL BE A DORK DAY.
A. ANDERSON VALLEY:
My route of choice from Highway 101 to Mendocino, Route 128, passes through Anderson Valley. I have seen many wonderful landscapes during my travels around the world. Anderson Valley is one of my favorites. It is more restful than exciting, more welcoming than beautiful. Years ago, when I had much more money than I have now, I considered buying a place here for my retirement. Instead, I found many other ways to throw away my money.
Do I regret it? No, that would change my experiences and memories. Without them, I would not be who I am but someone else. The loss of one’s past is a form of death.
Passing over the oak-forested hills west of Cloverdale, Route 128, enters a long valley with a few tiny towns, golden hills, orchards and vineyards speckled along it for about forty miles before burrowing through dark redwood groves and finally opening on to the coast at the mouth of the Navarro River.
In the center of the valley sits the town of Booneville, noted primarily for its residents having created a made-up language, like Esperanto, called Boont. Alas, like many indigenous languages under pressure from wealthier immigrants, (the wine revolution brought in a hoard of English speakers who refused to learn Boont) only a few old-timers are left who still remember the language.
This weekend Booneville hosted the Sierra-Nevada Music Festival, featuring an odd amalgam of folk music and reggae bands. The tickets, at almost $100 each, were too expensive for me so I spent a few minutes observing the crowd of concert goers. It was interesting how certain fashion styles persevere a long after their era has passed. Tie dye clothing and granny dresses predominated even among the young. There was even a glassy-eyed young man, stoned beyond redemption and covered head to toe in tie-dyed garments, walking down the middle of the street with a goat on a rope trudging along behind him.
Golden Fields and Hills
The Redwood Forest.
The Ocean and the Navarro River.
B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:
My first morning in Mendocino, I had coffee with Maryann and George on their new deck.
Later that day, we attended the Comptche Voluntary Fire Department’s Father’s Day Chicken BBQ. To call Comptche a small one-store town in the woods would risk prompting visions of grandeur among the residents.
Here are Maryann and George enjoying their barbecue chicken and local beer.
Barbecuing the chickens.
There are places in the world where it appears time has stopped. In coastal Mendocino ,it seems to have gotten stuck in about In 1969. In the photograph below, the same ladies who I am sure danced on the local beaches during the height of the counter-culture dance to the music of the local ragtime jazz and be-bop rock bands that performed at the event. A strong whiff of smoldering cannabis mingled with the pungent fumes from the barbecue.
Then I returned home to the Golden Hills where I spent my days in bed bemoaning my inability to think of any other appropriate way but swimming (which you recall was especially difficult and embarrassing trailing my catheter and urine bag behind) during the recent blistering heat wave. The temperature reached 104 to 106 degrees ( 40-41 degrees Celsius for those that figure these things that way) or more here in the Golden Hills beside the Great Valley. So I spent my time thinking great thoughts, like why 0 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale is where it is, sort of hanging out there on nothing except that you are pretty damn cold, unlike the Celsius or Kelvin scale where 0 is set at the freezing point of water or absolute zero. Well, for your information, 0 degrees on the temperature scale was based upon Mr. Fahrenheit’s (for whom the scale was named) measurement of when a solution of one-half water and one-half salt freezes. I have no idea why he thought that was so important.
So, now you know why and I’ll bet a thimble full of my bellybutton lint you’ve pondered that way more often than you’ve pondered why do fools fall in love. The reason one would not think about Why Do Fools Fall In Love is that it was a song sung by that great 13-year-old rock sensation Frankie Lymon in 1956 and is probably remembered only by people my age.
Anyway, I remember attending a concert at the Apollo Theater in Brooklyn headlined by Frankie and his group The Teenagers. After the show, while Frankie was leaving the theater, he was met by a group of toughs who asked him the age old question, “ You think you’re so great, don’t you?” To which Frankie unwisely responded, ‘Yes I do,” and for which he was soundly trashed while his home boys the Teenagers ran away. Frankie’s career never recovered.
If you have never heard the tune, I recommend you do so. I promise it will never again leave your mind. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sAHiR0rkJg) Here are the lyrics;
Ooooo wah, oooooo wah, ooooo wah, oooooo wah,
ooooo wah, oooooo wah, Why do fools fall in love
Why do birds sing so gay
And lovers await the break of day?
Why do they fall in love?
Why does the rain fall from up above?
Why do fools fall in love?
Why do they fall in love?
Love is a losing game,
Love can be a shame I
know of a fool, you see,
For that fool is me!
Tell me why, tell me why?
Why do birds sing so gay
And lovers await the break of day?
Why do they fall in love?
Why does the rain fall from up above?
Why do fools fall in love?
Why do they fall in love?
Why does my heart skip a crazy beat?
For I know it will reach defeat!
Tell me why, tell me why?
Why do fools fall in love?
FREE SPEECH: if money is free speech, what is it saying?
The United States Supreme Court declared money spent to influence opinion protected under the Constitution’s First Amendments right of free speech. This released a lot of financial free speech into the political process. Much of that financial free speech has been expressed in secret. Many of those using financial free speech have demanded this secrecy. My question is, how can secret communications be considered free speech? What right is being protected here? One’s free speech right is the right of individuals to express themselves in the marketplace of ideas. Certainly, it is not to shield someone from the free speech right of others to disagree?
During my return from Mendocino, I stopped at Booneville’s bakery and coffee shop for a breakfast. I ordered a coffee and a scone. As I sat down at a table by the window, I noticed a copy of the local newspaper that someone had left behind. I picked it up started reading as I ate my breakfast.
The newspaper’s masthead identified it as the Anderson Valley Advertiser. Its motto Fanning the Flames of Discontent sounded to me more like a call to scratch an itch than to a revolution. The paper also claimed that it is the Last Newspaper in California. I had no idea what that means.
On the front page, there appeared a lengthy article entitled, The Courtroom As Porn Parlor. I surmised it would prove diverting and began to read. It reported on a trial recently concluded in Ukiah, the Mendocino County seat.
It seems that a 15-year-old girl from the coastal hamlet of Point Arena was, as has been common with teenagers forever, unhappy with the behavioral restrictions imposed on her by her mother, a single mother, who worked nights and whose husband, the girl’s father, lived in another state. The mom, in the running for mother of the year, responded to her daughter’s complaints by threatening her wayward daughter with being sent to live with her father, “And all his rules.”
The daughter, as teenagers will, sought solace elsewhere. In this case, on the internet, and in social media, especially rap sites and chat rooms. Eventually, and as expected, her pleas and complaints elicited a sympathetic response from a seeming sympathetic 25-year-old young man, Thessalonian Love. Rap Star Love as he came to be known in the article, resided at the time in the less than picturesque city of San Bernardino. One of Rap Stars earliest and perhaps most effective messages intended, I assume, to soothe emotional turmoil experienced by the troubled young lady from Point Arena declared:
“Yeah, I’m a guy, so show me them titties, bitch, and send me a ass shot!”
Responding eagerly to such endearments our ingenue and Thessalonian eventually agreed that he would travel to Mendocino, take her away from her drab existence in Point Arena and introduce her to the excitement of life in downtown San Bernardino.
Somehow, Mom got wind of this and when Love the Lothario presented himself at the girl’s school he was met not by the object of his affections but by the Sheriff who promptly arrested him on various charges of attempting to corrupt a minor and human trafficking.
The trial of Thessalonian Love aka Rap Star Love commenced with his lawyer’s opening statement to the jury that began:
“I don’t think 15-year-old girls still call it a pee-pee anymore,”
“As for oral copulation, we’ve had President Clinton discussing it on TV long before this little girl was even born. And if any of you have listened to rap music, like most 15-year-olds have, you know it’s not unusual, or foreign and, frankly, these girls not only call their vagina a pussy, they refer to themselves — their gender collectively, despite the progressive achievements of the feminist movement — by the same terminology.”
And further on;
“We don’t know what this girl and her friends had to say about this ‘rap star’ coming to see her, but we can imagine they were pretty excited.”
The trial lasted ten days mostly made up of reading into the record or listening to the communications between the young lovers. I would like to imagine the jurors hearing the rap exchanges saw the young lovers as modern versions of Romeo and Juliet’s, but I doubt it.
However, as fascinating and entertaining as this may have been, it was not the most interesting thing that happened during the trial. No, not by a long shot.
The defendant took the stand. Unusual though it may have been, it, in itself, was not particularly interesting. What was, was that after a day on the stand attempting to explain himself, Thessalonian, began to lose hope, so after court was closed for the day, as he was being returned to the jail by the bailiff, Rap Star Love escaped.
The entire police force of Ukiah, including its four-person SWAT team and its K-9 Corps, was called out to search for him. They searched for him all night to no avail. This was odd because as cities go Ukiah is distinctly modest. In fact, even as towns go, Ukiah would still not shed its modesty.
The next morning a bailiff on the way to the court spotted our Thessalonian standing motionless in front of the town’s Walgreen’s, took him into custody and after feeding him breakfast promptly returned him to the courtroom to resume his testimony — which the Rap Star did. Except that, not having slept all night, he would periodically nod off during questioning.
Later during the trial, after Love complained to his attorney bitterly and loudly (out of the hearing of the Jury of course) that he was not receiving the quality of defense for which he was not paying, his attorney was overheard responding:
“You haven’t listened to a single thing I’ve said, and now you are in so deep there’s hardly anything I can do to save you from even the weakest charges they have against you. So, please be quiet for a minute, and let me think how best to salvage this mess.”
Thessalonian Love was quickly convicted by the jury on all counts and now awaits trial for escaping while in custody before sentencing.
All I could think of as I finished reading the article was, “Who knew things like this happened among Mendocino’s rolling hill and vineyards.”
‘Fishing villages might have appeared on the coasts of Indonesian Islands as early as 45,000 years ago.’
Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (p. 48). HarperCollins.
NOTE: This is 35,000 years before settled agricultural villages first appeared in the Middle-east.
A. Makers and Takers:
“What happens when you give a bunch of financiers easy money and zero interest rates is that they go out and try to make more money. That’s what they are wired to do,” says Ruchir Sharma, head of emerging markets for Morgan Stanley Investment Management and chief of macroeconomics for the bank. (He is just one of many experts who worry about the market-distorting effects of the Fed’s unprecedented program of asset buying and low-interest rates, which reached an apex in the wake of the 2008 crisis.) “Easy money monetary policy is the best reward in the world for Wall Street. After all, it’s mainly the rich who benefit from a rising stock market.”
Foroohar, Rana. Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business. The Crown Publishing Group.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
The Tragedy of Progressivism
“The tragic truth, however, is that the young as they age become conservatives, ethnic groups as they move into the middle class do so also. The gay community is now free to vote Republican without shame while the black community is prevented from voting even if they are Republican. And worse of all, the seven and eight-year-olds of our nation seem to have been indoctrinated in many of our schools to hate others as well as to despise science.”
“We progressives can slap ourselves on the back all we want, but as usual we have failed to grasp the grim realities of politics which is that it is an eternal war of attrition and the opposition is better equipped and trained while all too often all we have is our optimism to sustain us as the barricades are overrun while we wait for popular support that never comes.”
C. Today’s Poem:
From Childhood’s Hour
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then – in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life — was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view
“I confess to an uneasy Physiocratic suspicion… that we are throwing more and more of our resources, including the cream of our youth, into financial activities remote from the production of goods and services, into activities that generate high private rewards disproportionate to their social productivity,”
“I suspect that the immense power of the computer is being harnessed to this ‘paper economy,’ not to do the same transactions more economically but to balloon the quantity and variety of financial exchanges. For this reason, perhaps, high technology has so far yielded disappointing results in economy-wide productivity”.
James Tobin, a former member of Kennedy’s Council of Economic advisors 1984
Captain Nicola Reffo of the newly reestablished Serbian Airlines.
“Wealth is power, and power is the only thing about which culture cares.”
Koontz, Dean. Brother Odd: An Odd ThomKoontz, Dean.as Novel (pp. 46-47). Random House Publishing Group.
HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY JASON.
CONGRATULATIONS BILL YEATES ON YOUR SUCCESS AT THE PHILADELPHIA MARATHON.
My granddaughter Amanda dressed for Halloween and posing with my 98-year-old mom.
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
On November 11, I left the Golden Hills on the first leg of my return to Thailand. The light rail clawed its way into Sacramento where, after too long a wait, I boarded the train and scrabbled across the Great Valley toward San Francisco.
I spent the evening at Peter and Barrie’s. At a local restaurant, we had an excellent dinner accompanied by a good Sicilian Nero d’Avola wine. The next morning, Peter dropped me off at the airport and after about a day of varying levels of discomfort, I arrived in Bangkok at about 2AM. I do not recall having traveled through the City at this time in the morning before. Not that I haven’t. I may have. It’s just that I do not remember. The bars were mostly closed but the “street vender” bars were in full riot. Nana Plaza was eerily lightless, but the ladies and ladyboys of the night mingled with their patrons in a black seething mass that slopped out into the street.
I slept most of the next day. The few times I was awake the Little Masseuse would tell me stories. One was about an older man who lives in the country.
The old man’s story:
Every day the old man spends the daylight hours rummaging through garbage cans for food and other necessities. He especially searches for bits of electrical wire. In the evenings, through well past midnight, he melts down the bits of wire and burning off any coating. Every month, he produces a one-kilogram lump of copper that he sells for about $20, on which he augments his dumpster diving.
I try to swim every day at pool in the health club located in the Ambassador Hotel on Soi 11. The health club now includes a Muay Thai training facility to go with the pool, gym, racquetball courts, yoga rooms, Karate lessons and Chinese fan dancing instruction.
Some parrots in the Ambassador Hotel’s extensive aviaries.
After swimming, I usually have a massage at my friend Gary’s spa (The Silk Spa) on Sukhumvit Soi 13. If you are in Bangkok give it a try. Especially experience the new two-person sauna that Gary built himself. Gary is Canadian, plays in an Ice Hockey League in Thailand and is often followed around by a precocious four-year-old named GJ.
On Wednesdays, the Little Masseuse and I go to Terminal 21 to see a movie (Wednesday tickets are only $3 each.) Each floor of Terminal 21 is dedicated to a different city. The photograph below is part of the San Francisco display.
After a week, we took a van to Jomtien Beach to spend a few days by the seashore. The ride was longer than usual. We seemed to go a different way than we usually do. We passed an attractive small lake and through the town of Sri Racha, neither of which I had seen before.
The small hotel we usually stay at was full so we found an even less expensive one for $17 per night.
In the evenings, we walked along the beach.
We also ambled along the seashore in the early mornings.
On our walks along the beach, we were often accompanied by a small pack of beach dwelling Soi Dogs.
Soi Dogs are the indigenous feral dogs of Thailand. They rarely bark or growl and skitter away if you come too close to them. The King of Thailand claims they are the country’s native dog and seeks AKC recognition for them.
One morning we came across a group of ladyboys overacting on the beach and frolicking topless in the water.
The Good/Bad David joined us for lunch one day at a pretty good Mexican restaurant in the gay quarter of Jomtien Beach.
The gay quarter is located in a lovely complex just off the main road to the beach. While the gay community still lived in shadow and in Thailand was the object of ridicule, the complex deteriorated. But now, acceptance of their life-style has rejuvenated the area. At night, it is quite joyful, if a bit startling when the rent boys call out and comment on your physical endowments as you walk by.
For about three hours over margaritas, we exchanged stories. David kept us enthralled with tales about his life as a safety expert in the Jungles of Borneo and Nigeria and on the sands of Arabia in the employ of the plunderers of world’s billion-year solar energy reserve of hydrocarbons — stories about armed men and boats equipped with 50 cal machine guns — of sudden deadly explosions — of giant crocodiles and poisonous snakes — of days and nights living, under a sentence of death, in a fortified encampment. When not engaged in derring-do, he lives in Thailand where he relaxes in his own special way. If there were a Nobel Prize for hedonism, David would be a repeat winner.
Along with his other stories, David related the recent travails of Tina, a friend of us both and of whom we are fond.
Tina is a sex worker struggling to raise two children alone. Her daughter is now nine-years-old and her son twelve. In the past, she usually worked during the day and rushed home to greet them when they returned from school and to spend the evenings with them whenever she could. She now has reached that age where her appeal as a sex worker has diminished. At first, she toiled as a manager of a cocktail lounge called Heaven, when that did not work out, she opened a small bar of her own that failed. Now she walks the streets of Pattaya, her son watching over his sister in their small apartment until she comes home.
Tina at Heaven.
After leaving David we passed an interesting place that contained an artists studio and gallery, bar, night club, restaurant and foot massage facility.
We decided to enjoy a foot massage. The Masseur told us his story
The Masseur’s Story:
It seems that a few years ago he found his dream job working as a Massage Therapist and rent boy at the Happy Massage parlor across the street. He enjoyed working there and was popular with the customers. Alas, over the years he put on weight and soon the customers no longer sought his services. So, he now has been relegated to working the sidewalk foot massage station across the street. He is very distressed by his current situation. Nevertheless, he gives a great foot massage.
One evening, we went for dinner at an Italian Restaurant we like in the gay quarter. Da Nicola is owned by a father and son from a town (Licata) in Sicily quite near that of my mother’s town (Canicatti). The father considers the wines from Canicatti the best in Sicily. He should know, the house wine in the restaurant, although from Australia, is excellent even though served a little too chilled. The food there is as good Italian food and pizza as you will find in the Pattaya area.
David laughing at something while the Little Masseuse ignores him.
The Owner of the Restaurant, LM with the pizza oven in the background.
A few days after returning from Jomtien Beach, my favorite Thai holiday, Loi Krathong, the festival of the lights with which the Thais welcome in the new year, was celebrated. Tiny boats made of flowers and festooned with lit candles are set afloat on the nearby waterways.
We went to a lake near my apartment where thousands had gathered, bought our Krathongs and found a place by the lake to launch them.
As we tried to light the candles, a strong wind suddenly struck making them impossible to light. The wind was quickly followed by a torrential downpour causing a panic among the thousands since most had not brought umbrellas. Everyone fled to try to squeeze into the various inadequate public transportation options (No one in their right mind would try to drive in Bangkok to something like this). All in all, the Festival of the Lights came to a dismal end.
On Thanksgiving, I dined on a plate of pork fried rice garnished with cucumbers and onion shoots.
B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
Only Sicilians Sit at the Table:
“Through the other window could be seen an empty table, apparently reserved for the sit-down. At the back, there was an espresso machine in the middle of the room, where the players occasionally refilled their little cups. Shortly before 9 p.m., Gross’s team arrived. Bayonne Joe Zicarelli left his companions to chat quietly with Nicky and Hicky. Gross nodded stiffly to the innkeepers. While they all were waiting, Hicky, the more serious hood, kept staring at Gross, who interpreted the glare as attempted intimidation. Then, the evening’s judge came walking slowly down the sidewalk, dignified looking, but overdressed for such warm weather in a heavy dark suit. His fedora looked much like Bayonne Joe’s, but the brim was snapped up, not down like Joe’s in gangster-movie style. The judge was Peter Crocciata, then in his 70s, known to police as a consiglieri or elder statesman in the Bonano crime family. As Crocciata approached, Nicky, Hicky, and Bayonne Joe moved quickly toward him. Each embraced him and kissed him on the cheek. Their haste made it seem as if more points would go to the hood who hugged him first. Judge and greeters went into the club, leaving the others outside. Marino and Vogedes stood by themselves, away from Gross and his allies, DiGilio, and Sinatra. They all could see the sit-down through the window, but they couldn’t hear what was being said. Gross quietly asked Sinatra why the principals weren’t inside–didn’t the judge want to get the story from the horse’s mouth? “Only Sicilians sit at the table,” Sinatra replied. “That’s how it’s done.””
Gangsters inc. http://z14.invisionfree.com/GangstersInc/index.php?showtopic=1097
One of my favorite people, the legendary stripper Carol Doda, has died. Before there were Kardashians there was Carol Doda — except Carol had talent. She could sing and dance. She had brains and heart and she was the first to open carry her forty-fours. She was the first topless stripper in San Francisco’s North Beach, a notorious scandal at the time. I got to know her long after her stripping career ended. She never stopped performing, singing now and then at clubs around town. I met her one evening when she was having dinner at one of her favorite restaurants, The Columbus Restaurant in North Beach. We had dinner there that night and many times thereafter. She was bluff, outspoken and canny, a joyful and entertaining dinner companion.
In her later years she opened up a tiny lingerie shop down a small alley off Union Street. I stopped by the lingerie shop every time I happened to be in the Union Street area in order to spend a few minutes chatting with her that inevitably turned into an hour or so. My daughter-in-law Annmarie indicated that she would send customers from her bridal store to Carol’s shop because she sold a special type of bra there. Everything about Ms. Doda was special. I hope she did not die alone. Rest in peace Carol.
A. Quigley on Top:
“To get back to sovereignty and the structure of the state, another cause of today’s instability is that we now have a society in America, in Europe and in much of the world which is totally dominated by the two elements of sovereignty that are not included in the state structure: control of credit and banking and the corporation. These are free of political controls and social responsibility and they have largely monopolized power in Western Civilization and in American society. They are ruthlessly going forward to eliminate land, labor, entrepreneurial- managerial skills, and everything else the economists once told us were the chief elements of production. The only element of production they are concerned with is the one they can control: capital.”
“Public Authority and the State in the Western Tradition: A Thousand Years of Growth, A.D. 976 – 1976” by Carroll Quigley Ph.D.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“The quickest way to lose power is to use it and not succeed.”
C. Today’s Poem:
We know this much
Death is an evil;
we have the gods’
word for it; they too
would die if death
were a good thing
“My own decision to deal with man’s civilized history as a sequence of separate civilizations was based, in part, on a conviction that organizational and intellectual factors were at least as important as technological and economic forces in determining the history of any civilization, and that the ability of such a civilization to utilize the technical knowledge available to it, either from its own invention or from diffusion from other cultures, depends, to a great extent, on non-materialist factors, especially those associated with accepted outlook and organizational patterns.”
Ribeiro,The Civilizational Process.
“You will never be the world. Other people will do as they will do and you will have to determine what you will do about that. That is your business.”
Cherryh, C. J. Tracker: A Foreigner Novel (Foreigner series) (p. 206). DAW.
A. A NIGHT IN AMMAN JORDAN:
I decided to fly to Bangkok on Royal Jordanian Airlines with a long stop-over in Amman because of the frisson of excitement in flying near a war zone, the price and the long layover that I thought would allow me to spend a few hours in the city, having dinner and viewing some of the sights. When I arrived the complications of finding my way through the airport, customs and transportation forced me to give up that plan. However, behind transfer desk a man informed told me that the airline allowed me to spend the layover at the local Marriott for free including a meal. “No tips,” he added. I surmised that that was an invitation for baksheesh discussions.
The hotel was about three or four miles from the airport and stood alone in the desert. The sun was still shining and I could see what I thought was the outskirts of Amman on the horizon. Everything else was low sand dunes traversed by a couple of roads. The desert had a slight floral scent that differed from the woody scent of the deserts in the American southwest. I had a first class room, a good meal a shower and a welcome sleep. I even enjoyed the baksheesh negotiations.
I took no photographs, alas. However knowing that some of you prefer the pictures to the writing, I have included a photo of Dubai from the air. Dubai was my alternative layover to Amman. I’m happy with my choice.
Perhaps on my next trip, I will spend an extra day or two in Amman and visit Petra — another bucket list item.
B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
My last few posts were more or less a travelogue in two to three sentence bites. No matter how I tried to alter the chronology or slip in irrelevant stories, the travel through a place or between places remained foremost.
Bangkok, however, is my home (at least one of them for the time being), and no matter how exotic it may or may not be, the place becomes mere background to my daily experiences. I eat, sleep, exercise and so on. Every now and then as I go about my day something I see or experience interests me, but rarely temples, art or ceremonies.
For example, I took HRM to the Aquarium in the basement of the Paragon Shopping Center.
Another day we went to a snow park.
A few days ago I met at Donut World with the old sailor and his friend an economist for coffee, donuts, and talk. The economist had just had his prostate removed. We, despite the camaraderie, looked at each other through the frightened hollow eyes of those who finally realize the last roundup is near to hand.
The old sailor has been a professional deep sea diver, a sailor, a treasure hunter and perhaps a pirate. He keeps two dead bodies in his locker at the health club (at least their ashes which he, at the deceased’s request, spreads in their favorite bars and houses of ill repute around the world). HRM spent a pleasant morning looking at photographs of the old sailors career.
I have two new shirts now. One primarily white I consider my day and formal summer outfit. The other, a Tommy Bahama design given to me by Nikki who bought it in China, is my night and formal winter attire.
I live by one of Bangkok’s major tourist attractions, Nana Plaza. At lot of things go on there that the government denies
This is a photograph of Soi Nana. I live at the other end of the street. Nana Plaza is on the left.
Looking in the opposite direction across Sukhumvit Road is Arab Town.
It looks a lot like Soi Nana until you get close. A lot of Bangkok is like that.
Sometimes I vary my walk to the Health Club by going down an alley.
The health club has a new manager. He comes from Australia. He promises to make the place one of the premier health clubs in the city. In the meantime for the past three weeks, he cannot make up his mind as to whether members are to be allotted one or two towels per day.
On most days, I have breakfast at my favorite breakfast place, Foodland and then walk through the dark little alley to the health club. The alley now has a bar catering to Africans. It is loud and cramped. Not to be outdone the Burmese bar next door has turned up the volume of the music. Everyone is dancing as I try to squeeze through the gyrating bodies and grasping hands.
When one is living in a place and retired like me, almost anything that breaks the routine I can find interesting. Today we spent five hours at a local university dental school mostly observing the wonderfully bizarre procedures that needed to be completed before I could have my teeth cleaned. After that, we had a foot massage. I then went back to the apartment and took a nap.
At the university pointing at something.
Tomorrow I go to Paradise by the Sea one mile from the Outskirts of Hell for a reunion of the Geriatric Knights of the Oval Table at a place called Heaven or maybe not since Heaven was busted by the Thai cops a few weeks ago.
We stayed where we usually stay at a small hotel called “Bamboo” because of the bamboo plants in front of the place that have overgrown their planter pots. It was started a few years ago by a German Gay couple and seems to be the best-maintained hotel on the block. The Little Masseuse (now retired) managed to negotiate the price down from $30 a night to 20 by pleading that I was not a rich old American, but a poor sick old man. As proof, she argued that I must be poor for hanging out with an unattractive sixty plus year old lady like her instead of a beautiful 30-year-old. She still thought it was too much to pay for a room and urged my to stay at a place $8 cheaper where you had to sleep on the floor. I told her my current penury is not such that I must descend to that level of discomfort. She believes paying more than $1.50 for dinner is irresponsible.
That night the Good/Bad David, Bill G., a young attorney from Bill’s firm who had never visited Thailand before, Dennis and I strolled along the Walking Street in the Outskirts of Hell where we ran into HRM, his mom, her latest financier, and their driver. I took HRM to the Muay Thai fights a little way along the street where one of his favorite fighters was performing.
HRM scores a punch and a kick on the champion.
After seeing off HRM and his entourage, Bill and his crew and I visited one of his GoGo bars on Soi Six. I left early leaving the others enjoying themselves. I felt too depressed at my age and circumstances to get into the swing of things and was embarrassed. I need to up my dosage of happy pills.
During the mornings at daybreak, we walk along the beach for exercise and to observe all the dead things and sodden plastic flotsam that littered the beach before the beach chair concessionaires swept the detritus back into the gulf. Many young Thais frolicked along the shore taking pictures of one another or jumping fully clothed into the waves. Thais prefer the beach before or after the sun makes it only suitable for western tourists to be out.
Later we toured some of the competitors to Dennis and Bill’s clubs — not very exciting. If you are in the Pattaya-Jomtien Beach area, however, I urge you to visit “Heaven” at Soi 11 Kasetsin, Cosy Beach Pratamnak. Tell Tina who will greet you, that I sent you. The other place you may want to visit is Winchester. It is owned by Bill and Dennis.
One evening David, LM (now retired) and I had a pretty good pizza and cannelloni at an Italian restaurant in the Jomtien Complex that is also the gay area of Jomtien Beach. It is called “Da Nicola.” The owners were from the area of Sicily my family comes from. When they learned my family comes from Canicatti, they promptly declared that the best wine in Sicily comes from there.
Upon returning to Bangkok and resuming my life there, I saw that the dark alley containing the bars that I walk through after breakfast on my way to the Health Club has been mostly torn down. It was explained to me that it was done to make it better. I could not help but notice the section removed was the portion containing the bars catering to Africans and Burmese.
One day the Thais celebrated the Prince’s birthday. Over the years, the much married royal seemed to be universally loathed. Rumors of the murder of his many mistresses and overall behavior abounded among the population of the country. But with the impending death of the much beloved King, the Prince’s birthday was a useful moment to rehabilitate him with a televised ceremony fit for a god which he did not attend but instead was represented by a 10 story photograph before which the great and near-great of the country sung his praises and lit an immense number of candles. In my apartment LM (now retired) lit a cantle and stood in front of the television reverently holding it in her hands for the entire hour-long ceremony.
Dick arrived and HRM and I accompanied him to visit the aviary in the hotel that also encompasses the health club.
And so my trip slowly cam to an end. A movie with HRM and LM (now retired), a delightful lunch with Gary, swimming almost every day, lots of naps and finally the struggle to pack and get to the airport.
C. WHAT I THINK ABOUT WHEN I AM BORED:
I am a great supporter of gay marriage or marriage between members of the same sex even if they are not gay. I believe it is superior to so-called traditional marriage. Think about it. A woman and a man get married often because after a few days of passion they believe their affection will last forever and that this qualifies them to have and raise the next generation. What usually happens in short order, however, is they begin arguing over just about everything including how to raise the kids, while the kids usually have no idea why they are squabbling since most kids find their ordinary days just fine. In about 50% of the cases the loving parents divorce (or even worse not) and the kid grows fucked up anyway.
In my case, my parents argued all the time. I never could figure out why most of the time. After they argued, my father would get drunk for a while and my mom would find a reason to hit me with a wooden spoon (I was Italian-American after all). I think that is the cause of my problems with women. I always looked for a woman who could cook like my mother, wash and clean and now and then beat me with a wooden spoon. I could manage to connect with women quite willing to beat me with a symbolic wooden spoon, but they usually balked at the cooking and cleaning.
But I digress. Gay marriages need not run into this problem as much as traditional marriages do. After all, what’s marriage but a contract that sets out the economic rights and duties of the parties. This is important especially for those rich enough to afford a prenup but too stupid to get one.
Some believe marriage is necessary to procreate and raise children. In this age of rent a womb and the purchase of the hot semen of the body type and mental acuity of choice, procreation seems more a question of cost than who one procreates with.
I’ve always been wary of designer progeny. For example, imagine a bright guy with a lot of money but lacking in physical prowess and comely features. In the hopes that his children will be beautiful, athletic and bright, he searches for a zaftig beautiful woman athlete empty headed enough to marry him. But, it is probably just as likely the kids will be a scrawny idiot as anything else. It would be the same with the brilliant woman captain of industry who beds the ripped pool boy only to find that his mind was also ripped with muscle instead of neurons.
But I digress again. You see, men and women living together can never understand each other. They are like a separate species who in the long run irritate each other to the detriment of their children. That’s probably why so many of us are fucked-up.
Assume two guys, they do not even have to be gay but they are best buds, like the Thunder Buddies, Ted and John. They like to hang out together on the sofa watching football drinking beer, farting, and scratching their crotch. One day they decide to get married to each other in order to take advantage of retirement or death benefits and also raise some kids produced through some rent a womb internet site. They probably happily live together farting and scratching, rarely fighting while teaching their kids to joyfully fart, scratch and watch football. Or, on the gay queen end of the spectrum, the couple could raise their kids gleefully painting their toenails and applying perfect mascara or whatever else it is they are into.
As for two women marrying, even Thelma and Louise when they drove off that cliff could have benefited by a marriage license should one of them have survived the fall. Two women who marry could rent a stud and raise their children to paint their toenails and apply perfect mascara or whatever. Or on the bull dike end of the spectrum teach them to fart, scratch their crotch and watch football on television. They all probably will be content and so will the kids.
Of course, then we will be raising two types of people, those who like to paint their toenails and apply perfect mascara and those who like to fart and scratch their crotch. Unfortunately, I fear soon someone will start a new religion, or go on Fox News and argue it is bad for the nation that one group of happy tykes likes mascara and painted toenails and another farting and scratching and that marriage should be limited to one parent who likes one and another who likes the other so that the children can receive the full experience of being human.
D. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
The recent drought in Thailand has wrought havoc with the nations rice crop prompting the country’s Prime Minister to suggest the distressed farmers rely less on water-dependent crops like rice and plant more profitable crops that use less water, like a herb that he heard promotes male virility.
I few weeks later, this same worthy announced farmers were to be cut off from government controlled water supplies in favor of urban uses. He also announced the drought will end next month and the farmers who are not growing male virility herbs can again begin growing food for the nation. He later recommended that those who have water voluntarily share it with those who do not. He almost sounds like he is running for the US Republican Presidential nomination. I should be more careful, statements like the last one could get me arrested here.
Recently Wikileaks reported that Thailand was among the countries who purchased eavesdropping equipment allowing it to spy on its citizens. This same unelected but self-described democratically popular leader denied the report but added, that the nation’s citizens and others have nothing to fear if they are not doing something illegal. Something illegal includes criticism of the nations leaders or their actions.
The proposed new Thai Constitution would make it illegal and unconstitutional for legislators and the public to object to any project included in any five-year development plan established and adopted by a commission of non-elected political appointees.
Frank Capra, the famous Italian-American movie director, during WWII, directed a number of propaganda films for the United States Military under the general title of “Why we Fight.” Shortly after the war, he directed, on behalf of the US Signal Corps a short movie entitled, “Your Job in Germany,” in which he cautions American Servicemen about fraternization with the German populace in violation of international agreements among the victorious allies.
Now, I am not here to apologize for Capra’s rampant misguided conservatism or the “bitter and angry” anti-German tenor of the film, but given the recent events regarding the German government’s aggressive and implacable attitude on behalf of the German banking establishment against the ordinary people of Greece, even to the point of violating the fundamental doctrine of neo-liberal economics that both sides of a commercial agreement should bear the risks without governmental interference, perhaps another look at the film is warranted.
Capra, in the film, reminds us of Germany’s repeated aggressions — first in 1870 under “Otto von Bismarck,” then in 1914 under “Kaiser Wilhelm II,” and finally in 1939 under “Adolf Hitler.” Each time before the aggression commenced he points out through extensive flashbacks and newsreels the German people were portrayed as industrious, fun-loving, dancing and singing and full of good cheer. Well, once again the German people are happy and perhaps are singing and dancing also.
Capra was clearly wrong in attributing to the people as a whole responsibility for repeatedly following the siren call of their ruling classes, whether Junker, Nazi or modern Banker. Clearly those ruling classes appear to have learned by now that the road to lebensraum may not lie through the barrel of a gun but perhaps more effectively through one-sided agreements, enforced by non-elected international bureaucrats where the non-German, the non-Banker and the poor bear all the risks flowing from the failure of a commercial contract.
Arguments have been made that in the previous cases had the other great powers (or even one other) resisted the slide into a shooting war much pain and suffering could have been avoided. Alas, once again the shortsightedness of big power politics (for example, the US worry about Russia requires it to weigh allowing Germany free rein in Europe against the risk of losing their support for US policies confronting supposed Russia aggression) may only make things worse — until it is too late.
A. Quigley on Top:
“I define democracy as majority rule and minority rights. Of these the second is more important than the first. There are many despotisms which have majority rule. Hitler held plebiscites in which he obtained over 92 percent of the vote, and most of the people who were qualified to vote did vote. I think that in China today a majority of the people support the government, but China is certainly not a democracy.”
THE MYTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY
Carroll Quigley presentation to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces on August 17, 1972.
B. Xander’s Perceptions:
“It sickens and infuriates me to see the cynical hypocrisy of conservatives. And yesterday I heard that Social Security Disability payments could be cut 19% by the GOP-controlled Congress. The funding will run out next year, and there is an impasse between Democrats and the GOP. Obama has been all too willing to cave in on such negotiations, but if the 10.9 million people who will lose on average $190 a month — this, for people like me who HAVE no other income, no means of other support, and no ability to do so — if this happens right before the 2016 elections, the GOP could end up like the Whig Party . . . in the political graveyard with other assholes, like the Know Nothings (which the GOP should be called!).”
C. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
1. Government protection of investors.
“Government shielding of investors wealth from full liability for the actions of a corporation violates a fundamental tenet of neo-liberal economic theory and makes almost everything it rationalizes invalid. Until investors in commercial enterprises are forced to protect their wealth through the purchase of insurance as they did before the government created the state enterprises we call corporations, neo-liberal economic analysis is substantially flawed.”
2. Political Correctness.
“I think political correctness has gone too far. After all. what could be offensive about calling Jesus Christ a gay fish monger?”
D. Today’s Poem:
Endless daze, sweaty nights
Long night until morning,
Dream breasted, shadow stalked.
Arid lips salt sweated.
Laughter dreams and horror
Dawn faded long ago.
Dreamless sleep’s dark nightmare
Now haunts our withered days.
Happy Holidays to all.
“Every saint has a past,and every sinner has a future.”
—Oscar Wilde. A Woman of No Importance.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
Well, for the last three years almost unbroken sunshine has fallen on The Golden Hills with bringing with it a terrible drought. For the past three weeks there has been very little sunshine at all. The rain dribbles from the grey skies and flowing along the gutters sweeping the streets clean of leaves.
I am back on antibiotics and feeling better but implacable advancing age grapples with my spirit and is now winning two out of three falls.
HRM is inexorably moving from dependence and fear to independence and self-awareness. My role lessens — from guide to observer.
A mud soaked holiday season approaches, its color certainly will not be white except high in the mountains.
The leafless trees scratch the grey skies, winter is here. Some may see it as an ending but I prefer to look at it as merely a preparation for spring — another rebirth, a promise. It is only we, in the winter of our lives, who know there are no more promises, no more springs. Nevertheless, we endure — for a while.
There is a nine-year old in town who has won the national cross-country championships. Hayden has raced against him in local races. It is fun to watch the young champion run, finishing the 2.5 mile course often 300 yards ahead of the second place runner, sometimes even passing the high-school runners pacing the race.
At one race Hayden went up to him at the starting line and said to him “You will probably win an athletic scholarship to a good school. I am happy for you.”
By the way December 20th in the Gregorian Calendar is a free day in Pookies calendar. The day you can do whatever you want. So, enjoy — but try to avoid hurting yourself or others.
We ought to give that day a catchy name. Any suggestions?
Maurice Trad has died. Maurice’s friendship saved me at a time I thought I could not be saved. He was always a better friend to me than I ever was to him.
I will miss you Maurice. Rest in Peace.
B. BOOK REPORTS:
Sara King: Legend of Zero
It is always a sign of the deterioration of my mental health whenever I bury myself in obsessive reading to the exclusion of almost everything else. Usually it means I am teetering on the edge of depression too deep even for my happy pills to remedy. At Ruth’s suggestion, I am ripping through the Martin Beck mystery series. Interspersed with these I have begun reading Sara King’s Legend of Zero series. It is not her books that fascinate me. They are post contact warrior stories where humans and other alien species find themselves in foxholes together fighting an intergalactic war. Sort of like Starship Trooper except the insects are on our side and fighting among themselves because the entire universe is controlled by a galactic state that finds itself every few years putting down a rebellion by one or another of the bazillion species that make up the state. The rebels are usually the most horrible species one can imagine but not nearly as horrible as members of the state’s ruling caste. Everyone talks like post adolescent soldier grunts from WWII. For those that like this stuff it is pretty good and better than most.
However, what really interest me is the author. She lives somewhere in the wilds of Alaska. Her publicity picture shows a middle-aged child of the counter-culture from the 70’s — floppy hat, loose cotton clothing — standing before what looks like an organic garden. She says that she intends to “change the world” with her character writing. I do not know what that is or whether it is a good thing, but maybe she, like Zero the main character in her books, may well do so. She says:
“My name is Sara King and I’m going to change the world.
My goal is simple. I want to champion, define, and spread character writing throughout the galaxy. (Okay, maybe we can just start with Planet Earth.)”
King, Sara . Zero Recall (The Legend of ZERO, Book 2). Parasite Publications.
Pookie says check it out….
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
The Little Car that Could
Jason and I stood on the ferry’s deck as it approached the Port of Palermo, the three thousand-year old harbor originally built by the Phoenicians. The morning sun was shining brightly —the water a deep blue-green and the low-lying city a dusty brown with red arabic cupolas here and there and the cathedral a mix or gothic and moorish architecture rising up in the center.
At that time, 1968, the city had not yet sprawled beyond its medieval walls. Along the shore those walls still bore the scars WWII bullets. Mount Pellegrino loomed over the city like a frozen storm.
Palermo Harbor with Mt Pellegrino in the background
As the ferry docked Jason and I ran down into the hold, squeezed into the Trojan 200 and waited for the doors to open. They opened slowly. Light penetrated the gloom. The noise was almost painful as the engines in the vehicles revved up together, and then we moved down the ramp and into the city.
We drove into and through the city looking for the road that would take us across the Island to its southern shore and Canicatti our destination.
At that time there were no highways in Sicily, mostly two lane roads often rural and at times unpaved crossed the Island. Each road connected a town with the nearest one to it, pass through the center of the town and meander on to the next village.
After leaving Palermo, the first village we came to was perched on top of a mountain. The road swooped in long switchbacks until it entered the village. We started up the hill but soon the 9 hp engine could go no further. So I got out of the car and pushed it up the mountain to the edge of the town. It was getting very hot and I began to sweat a lot. I got back into the car and drove it through the village. As we wound our way through the narrow streets,The people came out to watch us pass by. Unlike towns in other parts of Italy where the people would shout, smile and gesture, the villagers here lined the road in silence — the women mostly dressed in black and the men with their caps slouched low over their foreheads. Only a child now and then would smile. When we came to the end of the settlement, I saw that the road swooped down from the mountain top, crossed a small valley and then careened up another mountain upon which sat the next village. And so it went. I would leave a village, drive the car as fast as it would go on the down slope so that I could get as high a possible up the next slope, then get out of the car and push.
The Road up to Mussomeli
(The above photograph was taken in 1970. It shows the single narrow road up to the village. It also shows the land as treeless, barren and rocky. It no longer is that today. After 2000 years trees are again returning to Sicily.)
Finally about eight hours later, I had travelled a total of 80 miles, my clothing drenched with sweat and every muscle aching. I decided I could go no further than the next village but as we emerged, I saw below not another mountain top village at the end of the road but a rather large town in the valley, Canicatti.
It was late in the afternoon when we arrived in the town. It was larger than I thought. That was a problem. I knew the last name of my relatives, Corsello, and the town in which they lived, Canicatti but that was all, no address and no first names. I had thought Canicatti would be a small village where everyone knew everyone else, but it was a rather large town instead. I drove into the town past a small park where I learned later my mother used to play as a child and stopped by a coffee-house with chairs and tables sprawled haphazardly about. The wall by the café was pock-marked with bullet holes. I was later to find out that is was the site of the Canicatti massacre where American soldiers slaughtered a number of townspeople for no reason.
So, I started asking if anyone knew where a family named Corsello lived. Someone mentioned some people by that name lived just around the corner. We drove there. It was a new building one of the few in the town at that time. I found the name on a card and pressed the button. “Qui e” someone responded. After a somewhat difficult conversation since I did not speak Italian and they did not speak English we managed to discover that they were in fact the right family and they came down from their apartment to greet us. They invited us in. But before entering Vincenzo the patriarch asked, “What are we going to do about the car. We cannot leave it here where it will be stolen.” (to be continued)
2012: In Thailand a worker killed another worker with a machete after being taunted for having a small penis.
(I think is was Darwin who pointed out that a man’s chances of surviving to breed are greatly diminished by disparaging the size of someone junk when that other person is carrying a machete.)
This may be one of the most disheartening charts I have posted so far. What this means is that many of those graduating from college today are so deeply in debt that the normal process of exploring options and settling into a career are denied to them.
It also encourages students, rather than educate themselves to be able to handle social and economic changes, to prepare themselves for only jobs available upon graduation despite recent experience demonstrating that those jobs may disappear long before their working lives end. We are no longer educating students but merely engaging in vocational training.
“The state is a good state if it is sovereign and if it is responsible. It is more or less incidental whether a state is, for example, democratic. If democracy reflects the structure of power in the society, then the state should be democratic. But if the pattern of power in a society is not democratic, then you cannot have a democratic state. This is what happens in Latin America, Africa and places like that, when you have an election and the army doesn’t like the man who is elected, so they move in and throw him out. The outcome of the election does not reflect the power situation, in which the dominant thing is organized force. When I say governments have to be responsible, I’m saying the same thing as when I said they have to be legitimate: they have to reflect the power structure of the society. Politics is the area for establishing responsibility by legitimizing power, that is, somehow demonstrating the power structure to people, and it may take a revolution, such as the French Revolution, or it may take a war, like the American Civil War. In the American Civil War, for example, the structure of power in the United States was such — perhaps unfortunately, I don’t know — that the South could not leave unless the North was willing. It was that simple. But it took a war to prove it. “
Carroll Quigley, Weapons Systems and Political Stability.
“It takes two people to make a deal: a desperate man and a winner.”
Wight, Will. City of Light (The Traveler’s Gate Trilogy: Book #3). Hidden Gnome Publishing.
TODAY FROM THAILAND:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
1. One day like many others
The curfew remains in effect (10 PM to 6 AM I think). Still no sign in my neighborhood of military or effects of the coup. In the morning I walk past Nana Plaza and through the Arab neighborhood to Foodland my favorite breakfast place (two eggs, 1 strip of bacon, coffee, toast and juice for $2) and then to the health club for my morning swim. I have a new exercise regime. Instead of doing just one more like the personal trainers used to urge that I hated and eventually caused me to quit exercising, I now do one less. I feel much better and happier.
Himself at lunch
After exercise and my massage, I sometimes eat lunch and then go home and lie on the rock hard bed until dinner which I usually eat in my room. Then, about when the curfew starts, I go to sleep.
2. Someplace for old men
I have resumed my morning meetings with the old men (farang’s) at the health club. We sit around on flea infested chairs, read the two local english language newspapers and lie about our past lives.
Today one of the “alters” who lived in Oakland and used to have a tax preparation business in the Bay Area mentioned that he did not think that climate change was caused by humans. “After all,” he added, “think about all the money those scientists are making from government grants to find that humans caused global warming when in fact for the last decade the temperature has remained stable.” When I suggested that one would think that the hydrocarbon industry would have a larger economic interest than these scientists, he responded, “Not true, they are happy to supply natural gas if Obama would only allow the Keystone pipeline to go through.” He was surprised when I told him I thought Keystone was an oil shale pipeline and not a gas line. We agreed not to talk about climate change any more and turned our conversation to other significant political issues of interest to him like why Nancy Pelosi has had so many face lifts and why Joe Biden is so dumb.
3. The most dangerous thing in Bangkok
Bangkok, also known as the City of Angeles, can be a dangerous place, with the occasional military coup, rampant STD, suffocating air pollution, sporadic food poisoning, rats and cobras, corrupt cops and things like that. But by far the greatest danger is its sidewalks and what lies beneath them. Cracked and broken sidewalks that can fracture an ankle of the unwary cover the ancient canals which now serve as the City’s sewers. Often the sidewalk gives way and someone falls into foetid sludge below.
About a month before I arrived an elderly farang (western man) who lived in my apartment block went for a walk. Just outside the apartment the sidewalk collapsed beneath him and he fell through into the muck below. He was taken to the hospital and has not been seen since.
A few days ago a squad of Cambodian and Burmese migrants showed up to clean out those same sewers. They had to jump in to the rat and snake infested water, drag out the mud and mire with their bare hands and deposit it in plastic containers. Since then those containers have been standing lined up at the side or the road waiting for someone to do something with them.
New cover over hole through which the old man fell
4. I hate growing old (version #1273)
For the first time that I can remember, I had a panic attack that lasted throughout the night, robbed me of sleep and, as I lay there alone in by bed, convinced me that my numbered days had ben reduced to single digits. The next day I felt so awful that I could barely make it to breakfast and decided to skip my exercise and return home. I intended to write here how I detested my steadily eroding capabilities due to age.
Alas, when I arrived back at my apartment, I realized that for the last three days or so I had forgotten to take the dozens of pills my doctors require me to take every day and actually was going through various forms of withdrawal the most serious of which was withdrawal from my happy pills.
I don’t always sleep alone. (The monkey is named Douglas. I call the Gorilla, Gorilla)
B. POOKIE’S DREAMS:
Malibu in my mind (continued)
Some background is needed in order to understand the initial story line of the dream. As most of you know there is a sort of a space race by private enterprise to design a reusable space vehicle that would allow very rich people to fly off into the edge of space and return just like those not yet rich people called astronauts. The astronauts are trained and paid by the government (you and I) and perform scientific experiments that may benefit humankind. The rich people of course are unqualified to do anything of the sort except pay for the experience. So they will hire these currently highly trained governmental employees to become space taxi drivers and to forget about benefits for humanity so they, the rich, can have the same experience as the experts with none of the burden of actually doing anything.
Nevertheless, the market being what it is, some entrepreneurs will seek, in the spirit of competition, to offer a somewhat lower cost alternative even if it is something of marginal public benefit. That is where the dream begins. One of these low-cost operations, lets call it Rocket Blue or SouthWest Space Flights decided on an unusual publicity stunt to launch their service. They managed to find 10 people from the Midwest who had never been out of the Midwest or to the coast of California where the launch was to take place. These 10 people were given a free flight on the maiden voyage of the vehicle. They would be accompanied by two real Californians who also knew something about the coast, presumably so they could point out points of interest as the rocket roared off into space.
That is where I come in, I was one of these two even though I am not a real Californian. The other one was none other than Joe Edmiston. I assume that our employers believed Joe and I added a certain cachet to the venture. This is a dream after all.
Anyway the vehicle itself was clearly low-cost, looking less like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise than the inside of a leaky wooden boat.
We discovered, as we were settling into our seats, that these 10 accidental tourists were an obnoxious and argumentative lot. Considering that Joe and I are masters of the art of being querulous and unpleasant, the trip began with less than happy camaraderie.
Anyway, off we went into the edge of space. To me the final frontier was somewhat of a disappointment, basic black with stars that did not twinkle but stared malevolently at you like the unthinkingly eyes of a million wolves reflected in the light of the campfire just before they attack. The disk of the earth below all blue, white brown and green has been seen so often in photographs, logos, SF movies and the like that it was hard to work up some element of surprise or awe at the sight.
In any event, we thankfully soon began our descent.
Now as I have repeatedly pointed out, this is a low-cost spaceship operation. As such, instead of designing the vehicle to land on an airport runway upon its return from space as the high price enterprises do, in our case the vehicle deployed a large parachute to hopefully gently deposit us on the ground where several cars and trucks could meet us and return us to where we took off.
This approach is much like that used in those hot air balloon rides. You know, where you get up god-awfully early in the morning while it is still too chilly to be out and about. You are then stuffed into a basket with too many people you do not know while the fire device that inflates the balloon shatters the silence (as well as your eardrums). You take off and float a few hundred feet over supposedly beautiful scenery that you pay little attention to because you are dealing with one or more of: agoraphobia, claustrophobia or vertigo and praying that you do not vomit or fart. You fly for an hour or so and eventually land with a bounce or two in someones back yard or if you’re lucky a park where your transportation is waiting to take you back to where you parked your car, and to warmth.
In our case, we had taken off from Vandenberg and were supposed to land somewhere near the Pismo-Nippomo Dunes. Unfortunately, a strong gust of wind blew us in the opposite direction and we landed in the ocean off Point Dume. Kerplunk! (To be continued)
C. POOKIE’S BOOK REPORT:
For those who are fans of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden adventure series, his latest Skin Game, the 15th book in the series, is out. In this adventure, Harry, Chicago’s only professional wizard and now the Winter Knight is sent by Queen Mab to steal the Holy Grail from Hades, Lord of the Underworld.
Some of my favorite quotes:
“I can’t tell you how many jobs I’ve done without a hitch since the last time I saw you, Dresden. You walk through the door and everything goes to hell.”
“That’s embroidered on my towels, actually,” I said.
“What you are telling me,” she said, “is that you have never shared your life with another over the long term. The closest you have come to it is providing a home and affection for a being which is entirely your subject and in your control.”
“Well, not at bath time…”
“I know you’ve been aching to have your hands on my staff,” I said to Ascher, as Nicodemus examined the altar for himself. I held out my hand. “But I’d rather be the one fondling my tool. Wizards are weird like that.”
Pookie says, “check it out.”
D. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
1. Don’t mess with Facebook
A day following the announcement by the coup leaders that a commission has been formed to look into Facebook and other social media, the Facebook internet page went down for an hour throughout the nation. The public outcry was so great that the military had to publicly declare that they had nothing to do with it. Who did is still unclear at this time.
2. In general it is the General
A little noted aspect of the current military coup is that the coup several years ago that toppled Thaksin the Terrible, the exiled fugitive prime minister (and pater familias of the recently ousted government) was precipitated by his attempt to replace the military leadership with members of his own class at the nations élite military school from which the army general staff is chosen.
In Thailand the military is effectively independent of any other governing institution in the country. Its general staff is chosen in lock step from the élite military academy. When one class retires the next one takes over.
In previous issues of T&T I warned that until the current military commander retires in September of this year a coup remains a high probability.
In fact, according to reports, the coup was well and secretly planned by the Chief of Staff and a small group of plotters including an outside attorney to occur before September when Thaksin the Terrible’s class was scheduled to take over.
It is important to note that although the coup leaders carefully detained the political leaders of both warring factions more or less equally, within the national police and the military the removals and transfers almost exclusively have been of officers sympathetic to the ousted prime minister.
As it is so often in politics, nothing is precisely as it seems.
Sometime in the 1960’s: How Hillary met Bill at Yale: She got up from her desk, walked over to him, extended her hand, and said, “If you keep looking at me, and I’m going to keep looking back, we might as well be introduced. I’m Hillary Rodham.”
What “Occupy” was all about and what it really wanted:
It wanted those who make the laws to approach them the way that Adam Smith, the Father of Capitalism suggested:
“To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers…The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”
“Politics is the fight over which elites rule, not whether.”
Gooserock (Daily Kos)
“There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.”
William Jennings Bryan at the 1896 Democratic Convention.
I simply do not understand where they get only 475,000 people killed by humans in a year. I would think 475,000 could be done in an ordinary afternoon if we really put our minds to it.
This in a photo of a 1860 drawing of a member of the Camorra a Neapolitan criminal gang. In the 1970’s the fashion style sported by the gangster returned to threaten us all.
“Most wealthy individuals are scoundrels. Only very few admit it and they usually are already in jail.”
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
While I nursed the remnants of my bronchitis, Nikki took over entertaining HRM. He left on Tuesday morning. Happily I am feeling better since my cough has, for the most part, disappeared.
The last days of autumn have come to the Golden Foothills. The leaves on the trees are beginning to turn from deep red to brown. A carpet of fallen leaves covers everything not yet cleared by leaf blowers.
While on my daily walk, I observed the large Blue Heron that usually stays on the far side of the Duck Pond standing on the near side beside the path on which I was walking. As I got close it unlimbered its huge wings, took flight and slowly flapped back across the pond to its usual post. It was quite beautiful.
B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN ITALY
1. A brief stay in Rome
I returned to Rome for two days before continuing on the Milan where I would catch the plane back to the US. I checked back in to the pensione on Via San Basilio, the place where they played Gregorian Chant at breakfast.
Via San Basilio just off the Via Veneto
During my time here with my sister a week ago, she indicated her wish to visit St Maria Maggiore Cathedral one of the four major Basilicas of Rome. Unfortunately, we were unable to get to it during our short stay, so I decided to visit it and take some photographs for her.
Despite its history and artistic significance, it is not my favorite of the basilicas. I prefer the Lateran Basilica for its dark and gloomy appearance and equally dark and gloomy history.
2. Milano for a day
After a three-hour train ride I arrived in Milan and took a bus to Busto where Nikki lives. The next day we had lunch in Milan with Marco Gigi’s son at Gambero Rosso (The Red Shrimp) where we enjoyed a splendid risotto. After that, we went to see the restored “Last Supper,” that Nikki had never seen.
The next morning after breakfast we flew off to the US.
Traveling by plane with Nikki has its benefits. We get assistance through customs and passport control, help in making connections and better seats. The most unpleasant part of the trip was the huge delays on the Bay Bridge in SF at midnight.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
The Little Car that did.
In 1959 Britain’s Trojan Cars Ltd under license from Germany’s Heinkel Flugzuegwerke began selling the Heinkel’s bubble car as the Trojan 200. The car had three wheels and weighed a little over 1000 pounds. It had a one-cylinder four-stroke air-cooled engine that produced a grand total of 9 horse power that could push the vehicle to a top speed of a little more than 50 miles per hour over level ground. Portions of the automobile were constructed from surplus WWII airplane parts.
In 1968 I was living in London with my two and a half-year old son Jason and decided it was time to visit my relatives in Sicily. No one from my side of the family had visited there since 1928 when three of the four siblings of my maternal grandparents emigrated to America. So, one rainy and foggy London morning I, with my son and my luggage, walked to a nearby used car dealer and bought a Trojan 200. I bought it not because I thought about whether it was suitable for the trip, but because I liked the way it looked and it was cheap.
The Trojan 200
I immediately piled my son, the one suitcase that held my worldly goods and a huge supply of disposable diapers into the vehicle and took off in what I had hoped would prove be the general direction of Sicily.
The first problem we faced was that the British drive on the right side of the road and I exited the used car lot directly into a busy one-way street in the opposite direction of traffic. There was not enough time to panic (as I am sure I would have preferred) so, I maneuvered my way through screeching tires and blaring horns until I reached a place where I could move on to the proper lane.
The second was escaping from the maze that is London in the general direction of Dover where I was reasonably confident I could find a ferry that would transport us to the continent. By keeping the River Thames on the right side of me, I was able to make my way to the edge of the city where I located signs pointing the way to the coast.
We soon found ourselves driving along a pleasant rural road heading toward our goal when suddenly the car stopped cold. I tried to suppress my worry by attending first to changing my son’s diaper and carefully depositing the used one behind a nearby bush. (In 1968 I had not yet become environmentally conscious or for that matter socially responsible.) We then went for a short walk to observe the visual pleasures of the English countryside. Upon our return, I placed my son back in the car, went to the rear of the vehicle and opened the cover to the engine. There I saw staring back at me a grimy little thing that seemed too small to propel a toy wagon much less an automobile.
My working thesis was that by staring at it long enough I would either be able to figure out what was wrong or frighten it sufficiently to scare it into operating again. After a few long minutes, it was clear the first option was not going to work, so I closed the cover, returned to the cab and turned the key to start the engine. I do not recall whether or not I was surprised but the engine started right up and we soon found ourselves back on the road to our destination.
Throughout the rest of the trip this mysterious stoppage would occur now and then. Rather than worrying, it gave my son and I the opportunity to commune together on beauties of whatever countryside we were passing through at the time.
Not too long after, we arrived at Dover or Folkestone or wherever the ferries docked. I originally wanted to take one of the hovercraft that had been newly introduced but the fare was too expensive. So, we parked in the cavernous hold of one of the regular ferries and immediately went up to the top floor and sat ourselves in front by the big glass window.
The sun had just parted the clouds leaving us in glorious sunshine. We chattered happily to each other and bounced up and down on our seats as the boat sped across the silver water towards the dark line of the continent on the horizon before us. (To be continued)
Arrogance and Futility in Action:
Recently I sent a series of four letters to the editor that were published in The Bangkok Post, Thailand’s premier English language newspaper. They pro-ported to advise the government on how they should draft their new Constitution. The following was the first:
“To the editor of the Bangkok Post:
Regarding the current struggle in Thailand to draft a new constitution, and having drafted and administered many laws, rules and regulations myself, I respectfully suggest the drafters consider the following policies formulated several years ago by professor Carroll Quigley of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. Bill Clinton in his acceptance of the Presidential nomination said this of Professor Quigley:
‘As a teenager, I heard John Kennedy’s summons to citizenship. And then, as a student at Georgetown I heard that call clarified by a professor named Carroll Quigley, who said to us that America was the greatest nation in history because our people had always believed in two things: that tomorrow can be better than today and that every one of us has a personal moral responsibility to make it so.’
Among Professor Quigley’s fundamental requirements for any constitutional democracy are the preservation of a right to dissent and the protection of minority rights. Dissent I will take up in a later letter but as for minority rights Quigley states:
‘I define democracy as majority rule and minority rights. Of these the second is more important than the first. There are many despotisms which have majority rule. Hitler held plebiscites in which he obtained over 92 percent of the vote, and most of the people who were qualified to vote did vote. I think that in China today a majority of the people support the government, but China is certainly not a democracy.
The essential half of this definition then, is the second half, minority rights. What that means is that a minority has those rights which enable it to work within the system and to build itself up to be a majority and replace the governing majority. Moderate deviations from majority rule do not usually undermine democracy. In fact, absolute democracy does not really exist at the nation-state level. For example, a modest poll tax as a qualification for voting would be an infringement on the principle of majority rule but restrictions on the suffrage would have to go pretty far before they really abrogated democracy. On the other hand relatively slight restrictions on minority rights — the freedoms of speech, assembly, and other rights — would rapidly erode democracy.’
Thus any constitution whatever democratic variations it may take toward franchise, must provide a strong list of those rights reserved to the individual, such as freedom of expression, and assembly as well as security of their person and in their home. These and all similar individual rights should be clearly spelled out in the document.”
“I used to tell my students that the important thing in any election is the nomination. And when you come to the election itself, it doesn’t matter who votes, what’s important is who didn’t vote. Elections in the United States are increasingly decided by people who didn’t vote because they’re turned off for various reasons.”
“By now it is clear to most thinking people that every decision we make on major public problems simply makes matters worse.”
Carroll Quigley in his review of Ferkiss’ “In Search for a Solution to the World Crisis.” 1974.
TODAY FROM ITALY:
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY:
1. A brief tour into the Borgalino
Canicatti, except for the fact that my mother was born here, is a rather uninteresting city at least in so far as art, architecture and history are concerned. Essentially established by the Saracens for commercial purposes along side a small stream (Canicatti means clay ditch in arabic), it has remained more focused on commerce than art ever since.
Nonetheless, they really do it up for Carnevale.
I have no idea what this float is all about.
Canicatti was the site, however, of the massacre of unarmed civilians by US troops during WWII.
The “old town,” across the river from the fortress, where originally most of the people lived is called Borgalino. It is there that in 1917 my mother was born. Since then the city has metastasized and covers much of the valley and surrounding hills.
Santa Spirito today
100 years ago
Maryanne and I pose in front of the church and convent where my mother was baptized. The adjacent picture shows the church as it looked at about the time my mother was born.
My mother was only seven years old when my grandfather died of his war wounds. As my mother tells it, as he lay dying, she prayed that he would live so that she would not have to wear black for the rest of her life. She was saved that fate by being shipped off to America not too long after the funeral.
Following our visit to the Borgalino and my mother’s birthplace, in pursuit of symmetry we naturally then visited the cemetery where my grandfather and many of the relatives, including Vincenzo, are buried
It was here we learned one of the family legends we had never heard before. It seems that during WWI at the battle of Caporetto or perhaps it was the Veneto, I was unclear on which, my grandfather Giacinto Corsello and his brother Salvatore were serving as officers in the front lines when the Austrians attacked their machine gun position. The brothers held them off for a day until Giacinto was wounded in a poison gas attack. He was removed from the front for treatment (he would die from the effects of the gas about seven years later) leaving Salvatore alone at the machine gun to face the Austrian hordes. Which he did heroically for another 24 hours before he was killed in a second poison gas attack. This much was probably true since the brave and heroic brothers had the medals, if not their lives, to show for it.
The legend or myth however is the family’s belief Hemingway wrote about their heroism in either The Sun also Rises or For whom the Bells Toll and Salvatore was played by Gary Cooper in the movie. I doubt this because, in For Whom the Bells Toll, although Cooper dies valiantly holding off the Fascists, the event takes place in Spain about 20 years after the brother’s actions. In The Sun also Rises, Cooper, plays an American ambulance driver. Nevertheless, I am greatly pleased that my grandfather has a legend associated with him no matter how false it may be.
3. Giovanni’s country place
We later visited Giovanni’s country home where we watched a storm come in over the mountains. The house is quite rustic. He invited me to stay there whenever I return to Sicily. Giovanni likes to slip off to the place as often as he can to sit and sip wine.
4. A last supper
On our last evening in Canicatti we visited with Guillermo’s family for dinner (of course) in a restaurant that served Sicilian food ”hunter’s style” (a La Cacciatore).
“Those who use the past to oppose the present must be ex-terminated.”