What’s That Smell?

I caught part of an NPR broadcast a couple of weeks ago where the chef from Noma, one of the most famous restaurants in the world, discussed his new book. It was all about fermentation. In the interest of truth and all that, I admit that I never heard of him or his restaurant before listening to him on the radio. That’s not altogether surprising because it is in Copenhagen.

But he made fermentation sound so interesting, and it sounded like it had all the attributes of being a great hobby. One where at the end you can eat your output. That’s what cooking is to me, and why I find it such great fun, even though my skills are still so rudimentary. (For myself, here is where I separate cooking from meal planning. The former is what I enjoy, the latter is a chore that I have to do.)

After the broadcast I thought of the ways that I had already used fermentation without thinking about it. Baking bread, feeding sourdough starters, making kefir, brewing my own beers (which were excellent), and one stab at making my own wine (which produced a horrible beverage).

There was that time when I tried to make unyeasted bread, just like in the Old Testament. I mixed up the dough and then left it uncovered for days, as the recipe directed. Nothing seemed to be going on, with no evident rising of the bread-to-be, and eventually I baked the lump of dough to see what would happen.This produced a rounded, beautifully browned, and totally unyielding flour brick that could not be sliced or torn. I could not even drive an ice pick through it.

I finally gave up thinking of it as a food. What if I did eventually break off a piece? Obviously, I was not able to eat rocks. So I tossed it into the back yard to the two Siberian huskies that I owned at the time, and they were able to gnaw it down to nothing, but it took the two of them a week to do it.

I ordered the book today and look forward to adventures in sauerkraut, kimchi, and other more exotic delights. I will study each recipe carefully, especially the mortality rates that come from eating the foods produced. I want to keep that number on the low side, if I can.

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Nandi Bushell, a 10 year-old Englishwoman, is some sort of drum prodigy, and apparently has a considerable YouTube following, especially in the UK. She challenged a favorite of hers, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, to a drum battle. This is the result.

I’m sorry … she wins the cute part of the duel instantly. Grohl never had a chance. They even dressed alike. Can’t stand it.

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Life is not fair … we pretty much all know that this is not true by the time we’re teenagers. It can be interesting, hard, joy-filled, complicated – but not fair.

But what I read on Thursday morning went so far from fair that I am speechless. Almost. Remember just a couple of weeks ago I reported on studies that showed that alcohol shrinks our gray matter? The stuff that we think with? Researchers have found out some new stuff about coffee, and it seems that in regular drinkers, coffee shrinks the gray matter as well, although it seems to rebound if you quit drinking it. Whaaaaaat? Hello, Great Spirit … what is up with that?

At any AA club, if a fire broke out, the first thing the members would save would be the coffeepot. It is an essential part of the meeting, when we are newly out of the swamp and blinking like bats in a bright light. And now they are telling us that this life-altering beverage may have a dark side of its own? Not fair.

Chalk another one up for the Trickster, that spirit found in many forms in Native American legends and stories. Just when we are feeling we might have a handle on things, he pulls out the rug.

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You may have noticed that I talk very little about the talents and intelligence of my fellow physicians. That is because the garment that is the medical profession is cut from a very big piece of material. For example, some physicians are outright idiots. Here Sanjay Gupta and Jake Tapper are discussing a doc who is in a class of her own. As she speaks, you will find that you understand magnetism much better than the good doctor does. Probably a lot of other things, too.

Oy.

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Once in a great while something peculiar happens, and I suspect that others have had the same experience. Out of nowhere I will be struck with the most intense feeling of longing. Enough to pause me in whatever I am doing in order to give the emotion my full attention.

But it is not longing prompted by anything I can put my finger on, nor is it for anything specific. No golden day of yesteryear or place that I have been or person who has been lost to me. The feeling is not attached to anything that I am conscious of at all. It is always accompanied by a light sense of melancholy. If I were a composer I might write a song that could bring those feelings out where they could be shared, and some of the sharpness of the poignancy eased.

Wait … someone already wrote that song for me, and his name was Francisco Tarrega. The song is Memories of the Alhambra. The yearning for something intangible is right there in this excellent short piece of music.

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From The New Yorker

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For three days now, we’ve been privileged to have Aiden and Claire as house guests. Ages 16 and 11 years, respectively. All in all, I think it’s going pretty well, with the kids being very tolerant of our foibles, and Robin and I returning the favor. They brought their bicycles along, and the four of us have been cruising the neighborhood and the trail along the Uncompahgre River. Later this morning we’re headed for the reservoir at Ridgway, where one can rent paddle boards and small kayaks and such. The temps are right around 90 at the hottest part of the day, so we have definitely been pacing ourselves.

Aiden had it in mind to make a short movie during his stay here, and so we are filming that epic one scene at a time, in between doing other enjoyable things. He’s quite proficient in filmmaking and very serious about the project. Watching him at work has been a lot of fun. He is a very good kid – smart, polite, talented, and self-aware. When I think back on how surly and selfish I was at the same age, I am embarrassed for my teen self.

Claire has revealed a side of herself that I had not noticed before, that of being a wise observer. She’ll be yakking on the phone with friends, turning cartwheels in the living room, singing songs in a language she made up, and then suddenly and quietly she becomes a real-life Yoda and says just exactly what needs to be said at that moment. It’s a startling transformation when it happens, and a delightful thing to behold.

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There is good news from Lima, Peru. Daughter Maja continues to make progress toward independence in her recovery from Guillain-Barre syndrome, although slower than she would like. She has also been offered (and accepted) a job at the school in St. Paul where she worked before she took positions first in China and then in South America. Couldn’t happen to a nicer person. She definitely deserves a break or two after the past months. Maybe three breaks, come to think of it.

Speaking as the overprotective old fool that I seem to be at times, I will be glad to have her back in a country that is not in total lockdown, and where the possibility of visiting her exists. There are a lot of foxes out there in the world, and when the sun goes down I like to think that my chicks are safe for the night.

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Daughter Kari alerted me to the fact that one of the most perfect foods in the world is 100 years old this year. Cheez-its. I am talking about the original flavor here, of course. There have been many new ones brought out in the past decade, but that original … my oh my … .

Other companies have tried to imitate this paragon of cheesy crispiness, but they have all fallen way short. That’s not just my opinion, by the way, that’s the honest to god truth.

So I plan on celebrating the centennial of Cheez-its by cracking open several boxes in the coming months. I see it as my sacred duty.

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Anti-Camping

Just returned from spending a couple of days with Ally and Kyle. As much as we like our time with them, we know that this is their busiest time of the year, and they literally work all day at their farm/garden during Steamboat Springs’s short growing season. So we keep our visits short and sweet.

But what beautiful produce they turn out! Here is a photograph of a man wearing one of their spectacular bok choi plants as a hat.

Later on that hat was washed up, placed on the grill, and served to Robin and I as part of our evening meal. Edible attire, what a concept!

The 240 mile drive to Steamboat is through some pretty country, and the 90 mile lonely stretch from Rifle CO to Craig CO is my favorite. Rolling green hills and mountains, never out of sight of a river, good wildlife viewing … what’s not to love?

Our trip was on short notice, and we couldn’t find a local motel that would have us, so we camped at the only reservable space we could find, and that was at a KOA located between the town of Steamboat and the farm. It was good that we spent very little time there, because as camping goes, it was the opposite of what we usually look for. We found each tent or RV jammed up against its neighbor, constant cacophonous comings and goings of travelers like ourselves, and bathrooms where one enters a 4-digit code to get in (woe to those who forget their number in a moment of stress). Our “site” was little more than a patch of dirt alongside the road that wound through the campground. In the map below we are at site 11 (center and bottom).

The “pond” was a very small puddle of water covered with an oil slick and signs clearly warning us to neither fish nor swim there. I suspect that the oil was part of a scheme to prevent it from becoming the mosquito farm that it would otherwise have been.

The interesting thing was how democratic the commercial campground was. Site 10 was occupied by a young man on a bicycle, while site 14 contained a behemoth of an RV trailer from Nebraska that required 3 axles to support its obscene bulk. (Who are these people that need to tow such monstrosities when they leave home?)

The proprietors were very pleasant and chatty, however, and it turned out to be a quiet place to sleep, in spite of the daytime busy-ness. I doubt we’ll be returning, though, unless once again we are stuck for a place to stay.

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From The New Yorker

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The area around Craig CO contains several coal mines, all of which are destined to close one day. Coal has been a mainstay occupation for the people living there, along with ranching. It is pretty solidly red in its politics, with its share of the lunatic fringe. We ate our lunch in a city park there on Sunday, and across the street was a home surrounded by a chain-link fence. There were two signs on the fence.

The first was a professional one celebrating the existence of congresswoman and renowned public intellectual Lauren Boebert and the other was a homemade placard declaring cryptically that This Too Shall Pass. What the resident was hoping would pass … one can only guess.

Lots of fear evident in Craig’s signs and bumperstickers. And some reason to be afraid, not knowing what their future holds. This Too Shall Pass, but what comes after, when the mines have closed and the Socialists have taken all their guns?

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Oh Canada!

Robin took off for Durango on Wednesday to attend Claire’s 5th grade graduation. I took a pass on this one. I am not quite sure where all these micro-ceremonies have come from. Nursery school graduation, kindergarten graduation, fifth grade graduation, being able to drink from the corridor water fountain without dribbling all down your front certification, having the cleanest shoes in home room awards. I don’t get them and whenever possible I try not to attend them.

Call me a grouch, Scrooge, misanthrope … I don’t care. Any hour that a kid spends in these ceremonies is an hour that they could have been playing or creating some wonderful piece of ephemera that made use of their imagination. (The same is true for the adults present.)

Here is a child who decided not to go to his 5th grade graduation, and do something way more creative.

As you can see, it’s only a short step from what seems to be aimless swinging to understanding both the principles behind Foucault’s pendulum and the best way of dealing with an annoying cowlick.

As far as I can see, these rites serve mostly as a moment for the teachers to congratulate themselves and say: “Look what wonders that I have been able to achieve with the rough clay that you sent me.”

Like I said … grouch, Scrooge, misanthrope.

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Arthur Staats passed away this week. I didn’t know his name until I read the obituary in the Times of New York, but I have made frequent use of his work for many years. He was the guy who popularized what we know as the “time-out” as an aid to raising children. You know, what to do in the situation where your kid has just dumped his porridge on the floor for the fifth time and you are beginning to have thoughts that rise perilously close to the level of manslaughter.

The time-out gave us an alternative, a structured moment when we could separate ourselves and our child from the scene of confrontation and allow us all, parents and progeny, time to collect ourselves and start that part of the day anew. There is a large body of research that has supported its use and established its effectiveness in training and education. Especially when compared with what parents might have previously been employing in their discipline, some of which involved willow switches and dark closets.

Thanks to Arthur S. for handing us that gentler tool, something to use while we continue to search for the perfect way to parent.

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From The New Yorker

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At an AA meeting Thursday morning, a friend and I were musing on the irony of now being offered free beer for getting our Covid vaccinations. Where were these programs when we could have made use of them? Drat.

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Friday the temperature hit 90 degrees, with more of such days promised. Zero percent chance of precipitation. The saving grace here is the low humidity. And as my mother always said, it’s not the heat it’s the … oh, you’ve heard that too, eh? Sitting out on the backyard deck Friday afternoon was still a very pleasant thing to do, as long as you had some shade and a glass of cool water handy. In fact, it was so mellow and comfortable doing nothing in that way that the only thing missing was having someone to refresh my beverage once in a while. Had to do that myself.

Looking at the national meteorological map there aren’t many who will escape this early hot spell. In fact, for a change we’re apparently sending some of our steaming weather all the way up to Canada. There is no need for us to feel guilty about this. They have been sending us nasty cold waves for-ever. Think of it as payback for those polar vortexes of last winter.

And while we’re on the subject of Canada, they still won’t let Americans into their fine country. Bully for them. Why would they want a bunch of clodhoppers wandering about their cities and forests who are too chuckleheaded to protect themselves (and others) against the Covid-19 virus? I’m a little surprised that the Canadians aren’t openly discussing building a wall to keep the U.S. citizens out on a more permanent basis.

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And I saved the best for last. Architects with nothing better to do created a masterpiece called the sky pool, which is certainly eye-catching.

Especially when you realize that it is suspended more than 100 feet in the air, stretching between two apartment buildings. Never mind that the first question that pops into the inquiring mind is “WHY?” Here’s a short video giving you the grand tour, just in case you were moving to London and hadn’t settled on living quarters as yet.

At first I thought about the view from the pool as a swimmer looks down through the water. I’m not sure whether that would rattle an acrophobe like myself or not. But it would seem that the view from the street below would be nothing but soles of feet and bottoms. This might appeal to certain categories of fetishists, who would then make nuisances of themselves by blocking sidewalks and streets as they gaze raptly upward.

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Good Will(ow) Hunting

Willow is our hunter-cat. Poco used to be one too, but age and infirmities have slowed him to the point where everything else runs faster than he does. I know exactly how he feels.

But to get back to Willow.

She is now four years old, and catches small rodents regularly. One of the ways we have of telling is when she comes in through the pet door with something dangling from her mouth. Half the time she drops it and it stays put, the other half of the time it doesn’t, but gets up and runs for cover. When this happens it energizes all of the humans in the room and elicits many loud cries and expostulations.

Willow! Go outside! Take that with you! Get it! There it goes! Don’t let it get under the couch! Open the door! Where is it now? I see it behind the TV! Willow – there it is … aaaahhhhhh, she’s got it, now take it outside, Willow. No – don’t drop it! There it goes again

That’s one of the ways we can tell what she catches. Another derives from the fact that if she catches something during the hours that I am sleeping, she will consume it entire except for one part, which she leaves behind wherever she has dined. That leftover is the creature’s cranium. Leading to the repeating scenario where I pad barefooted to the refrigerator in the pre-dawn darkness and step on something hard. I think I need not dwell on this further.

To use a phrase borrowed from St.Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, Willow does not suffer fools gladly. And in her eyes all humans are fools. She is not a cat that one can pick up, place in one’s lap, and pet it. To do so is to invite bodily damage of various degrees as she brings those eighteen claws into play.
On the other hand, if on rare occasions that lap looks pretty good to her, she will march right over and stare at you until you clear away whatever else you are doing and make room for her. Then she curls up and goes to sleep and what does a person do?

But when she wants to be petted, she will walk back and forth beside your outstretched hand for the longest time, purring away. The look upon her small face at such times is bliss. We find it irresistible.

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Three from the New Yorker Archives

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Monday afternoon I was swept up into an immobilizing time-warp as my ears were being bathed in the music of another era. Robin says that my pupils were fully dilated and although I was breathing evenly and had a regular pulse she could not break through to me. So she did the best she could on a holiday and called some of her girlfriends to ask their advice.

One of them, a nutritional cosmetician, said that it sounded like Vitamin E deficiency to her, and Robin should do what she could to insert capsules of that substance into every orifice she could reasonably reach. Then she was to rub the oil onto my face and chest.

Friend Adele, a behavioral podiatrist, said she had no idea what was wrong with me at all, but shared that her uncle once had a certain tick which paralyzed him for hours and that Robin should turn me about and tip me over to look for ticks. If one were found, removal could effect a cure.

Yet another amie who leans toward the occult began to warble about demonic possession, but Robin hung up on her when she got going on animal sacrifice and the proper strewing of entrails.

Keep in mind that I knew nothing of any of this, although I do remember clearly every tune that was played. This continued until around dinnertime when I spontaneously returned to my senses and frightened Robin nearly half to death because I came up behind her in the kitchen and asked “What’s for supper?”

I still have the lump where she caressed my head with the skillet she had in her hand at the time.

I put some of the tunes that had transported me over on the right in the Jukebox area. Listen to them with care, or you could wake up slathered with Vitamin E oil.

(BTW, if Atlantis isn’t one of the trippiest tunes ever written, I’ll eat my vaccine passport.)

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I’ll have to re-watch it to be sure, but in my memory Body Heat is a movie that conjures up the feeling of heat and humidity like none other. Even in an air-conditioned theater you found yourself wiping non-existent sweat from your brow. And then there was this scene … a hymn to lust if ever there was one.

Every time I watch this I need to take a cold shower afterward.

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Someone Else’s Hard Work

After listening to a few Bob Dylan songs this afternoon on a perfect backyard 80 degree day with the cats swatting at the insects buzzing within range, I found myself wondering. What would be the appropriate recognition for a man whose music was the background for most of one’s life? A man whose lyrics … what did they do … they didn’t so much tell you the next right thing to do as they indicated the territory where you might profitably look for it.

It’s a legitimate question to ask myself, I think … what sort of person would I have been if Mr. Dylan hadn’t been gifted in the way he was? If I hadn’t internalized the lyrics to songs like Blowing in the Wind or A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall or Mr. Tambourine Man or Masters of War or Things Have Changed or Shelter From The Storm … the list does go on. When you put that stuff into your head it changes you. Perhaps each song molded me only a little, but many hundreds of songs and their repetition … that had to make a sizable dent, for sure.

So add Bob Dylan to the list of folks who I would happily invite in for coffee and a warm-up if they showed up late at night on my doorstep during a snowstorm.* (There is a second list, those to whom I would say Begone, Wretch!).

*I would ask Bob in even though I have heard that he can be a cranky S.O.B. at times.

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What do you know about Critical Race Theory? Before I read Andrew Sullivan’s piece I knew absolutely nothing. After reading it, I know a tiny bit. But the piece is interesting in its summary of what Western liberalism consists of and the fact that what I take for granted today could very easily be lost.

In his forth coming book, “The Constitution of Knowledge,” Jonathan Rauch lays out some core principles that liberal societies rely upon. These are not optional if liberal society is to survive. And they are not easy, which is why we have created many institutions and practices to keep them alive. Rauch lists some of them: fallibilism, the belief that anyone, especially you, can always be wrong; objectivity, a rejection of any theory that cannot be proven or disproven by reality; accountability, the openness to conceding and correcting error; and pluralism, the maintenance of intellectual diversity so we maximize our chances of finding the truth.

Andrew Sullivan, Removing the Bedrock of Liberalism

Those four principles are so basic to my own view of the world that I don’t even notice them. They are the air I breathe, the sea I swim in. They are what is and what always will be, I thought. Apparently that is not the case, according to Mr. Sullivan. A very different universe could come to exist, and the other possibilities look pretty damned ugly.

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My land, but this is a performance. Mr. Cash took this song from Nine Inch Nails and made it his, cell by cell. I play it once a year for the benefit of my soul.

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Once again Robin and I have challenged the fates and started our garden. It’s only a tiny one, a few tomato plants, some greens, a pot of basil. But it gives us something to fret about and chores to do, just as a larger one would. In this droughty country, watering is the constant duty. For the past couple of years, there has been very little rain to help us out, so the plants’ survival comes from the end of a hose.

Our garden is a small thing, but it is a strong reminder of how our survival depends on somebody out there growing the food that keeps us alive. Those people are doing their own fretting, their chores, and worrying about the rains coming. We never get to thank them in person.

There is a table prayer that I learned at a Buddhist gathering that says it for me.

We give thanks to the sun and the rain and the earth, and to someone else’s hard work.

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Report From The Empire

It’s been more than a year since we brought you up to date on the status of the Empire. I have no excuses (and as Emperor I am not required to have one) but we’ve all been busy, nest-ce pas? There have been changes, however. We’ve opened a branch in California and are soon to close one in Peru. In August granddaughter Elsa will carry the Imperial flag to Stockholm, Sweden, and plant it firmly there. The excitement is palpable.

Since the Empire is small, even though it stretches halfway across the world, we have to be very careful about what we say about our closest (and biggest) neighbor. Who might that be? Let’s just say that its national bird is the eagle, its national song is The Star Spangled Banner, and its national fool … well, that is an office that is constantly in rotation, but in modern times it nearly always is filled by a prominent Republican.

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At present that office is shared by a troika featuring Kevin McCarthy, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene. All of them trying to show as clearly as they can why people have so much trouble trusting politicians.

Here in the Empire we don’t have politicos as such. Our system of government consists of the Emperor and the House of Merry Pranksters. The position of Emperor is a hereditary one, and can be traced back to when Emperor Hackberry the First was chosen by acclamation at a meeting held in 1655 in a fairly disreputable inn named The Empty Pocket. As I recall, it was on a Tuesday afternoon in October.

Members of the House are chosen through the National Lottery when we buy those tickets at the grocery store. We are proud of the fact that we can vote and have a shot at a tidy jackpot at the same time. The function of the House is basically to whisper into the ear of the Emperor what they think about an issue. And what they think that the general public thinks about that same issue.

It is considered bad form to talk to the press about anything important, and we have no domestic television or radio stations. What holds everything together is that we have a small population. Everybody knows everybody else – their business, their foibles and errors, and where they spend their Saturday nights. We are peacefully governed, mostly because we know that if our group isn’t in the leadership position right now, we will eventually be given our turn sometime soon down the road. We also know that being in office is mostly a bother, and are proud of the fact that it is never a passageway to great wealth. (We think that’s a problem for that large neighbor of ours.)

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The Empire has largely avoided the whole Covid thing. We didn’t go anywhere, and basically no one came here. It’s not because our homeland isn’t lovely, but we don’t have that big thing, that major tourist draw. There are no mountains, we are at least 2500 miles from any large beaches, and our populace indulges itself mostly in un-showy pastimes. I wouldn’t say that it’s boring, but let’s just say that when ten 0’clock rolls around you don’t have to tell an Imperial citizen that’s it’s quiet time.

We did vaccinate everybody, though. It’s one of the virtues of having a small population where each member has his or her head screwed on properly. So we had no trouble reaching 100% of eligible citizens, and when vaccines approved for children come around, we’ll get to them, too. The controversies confounding our larger neighbor are baffling to us, to say the least. They would be comical if the consequences weren’t so dire. 591,000 dead, with more to come. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? How could they have gone so wrong?

Sometimes … we simply have to weep for them. There’s nothing else for it.

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Some sobering news from England.* In a fairly large study British researchers came to the conclusion that there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink, when it comes to long-term brain health. Those two glasses of burgundy per day that we thought were actually healthy for us may not turn out to have been such a good thing after all.

If further studies bear these findings out, it shouldn’t really come as a complete surprise. After all ethyl alcohol is a toxin. When we drink enough to feel that sense of relaxation and ease that we enjoy, it is because our cerebral neurons are faltering under its influence.

A few years ago at Springfield State Penitentiary in South Dakota, administrators had to remove all of the hand sanitizers from the premises. The reason was that some resourceful prisoners had learned how to extract the ethanol from the product so they could use it as a beverage. But why was ethanol in the hand cleaner in the first place? Because it is very good at killing things.

*Pun intended

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I will end with something to appeal to all those fond of low humor. Which pretty much describes my entire family of origin.

Lena: “There is trouble with the car, sweetheart. It has water in the carburetor.” 
Ole: “Water in the carburetor? That is ridiculous.” 
Lena: “Ole, I tell you the car has water in the carburetor.” 
Ole: “You don’t even know what a carburetor is. I’ll check it out. Where is the car?”
Lena: “In the lake.”
 

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Misguidance

Back in high school there were two attempts that Henry Sibley High School made to point us in the right direction as far as our future occupations were concerned. One was the appointing of a guidance counselor. He comported himself exactly like the character Major Major, in Catch 22 . If he was in his office his secretary would tell you that he was out. If he wasn’t in, the secretary would usher you into an empty room telling you that he’d be just a moment. After a long while had passed you realized that he was never coming and wandered off.

So I never saw him.

The other effort was to administer something called the Strong Interest Test. This turned out to be an extremely unhelpful way to spend a couple of hours, for at the end of the testing session I was informed that I would be happiest as either an accountant or a forest ranger. (I still fail to see any connection between these jobs.) I chose to go to a school of veterinary medicine instead.

After a year of doing spectacularly poorly while surrounded by a hundred other freshmen and freshwomen in blue corduroy jackets who already knew seemingly everything there was to know about large animals, I dropped out of school for a while. From there it was on to pre-med and that’s all she wrote.

I’ve never mused about what life as an accountant would have been, but there have been many times when forest ranger seems like it would have been just the right thing for me. The woods, the rivers, the fresh air … and then there were those great uniforms.

I think I would have been the very definition of dapper in one of these, especially the one on the far left. Is it time to bring jodhpurs back into fashion, do you think?

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We spent the observance of our anniversary wandering the countryside in our car. It was a windy 50 degree day, which discouraged slow walks in the park, laying out in the backyard catching rays, and picnics. When you have to hold onto your paper plate with both hands to keep your beans and hot dog safe while your potato chips go flying across county lines, it’s not that much fun, to tell the truth.

So we headed for Telluride, to see what they’d done with the town in the year since we’d last been there. Turned out that this shiny tourist town wasn’t quite open for business as yet, with several restaurants closed but featuring signs in their windows promising “Opening Soon!” All of the T-shirt shops were running, though, so no problems there for those wanting garments with logos screaming “TELLURIDE.” The famous free gondola wasn’t running, which was a first for us – that thing had not stopped since we moved to Paradise. With the relaxing of Covid restrictions it might soon be in use again, but there is no getting six feet away from other passengers once you are inside that capsule.

We then drove to a small county park along the San Miguel River near Placerville and took a stroll. It’s a pretty spot and we passed two kayakers practicing lazy paddling on the tiny lake in the park. Next we took off down the road toward Owl Creek Pass, a local landmark of sorts, but were turned back after 8 miles by a road barrier. We couldn’t see far enough ahead to assess whether it was snow or road damage might be the problem, but there was no arguing with that heavy steel gate.

Finally it was back to Montrose for supper at a local Italian restaurant. When we returned home we were late for the cats’ feedings, and they sat there tapping their paws and looking very cross until we served them up their evening meal. One thing that cats do very well is impatience. They’ve had millennia to practice. Look at this Egyptian statue … is that haughty and cranky or what?

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What a horror in China, where 21 out of 172 participants in an ultramarathon perished when when a storm caught them out on the 100 mile mountain race course. Light running gear was no protection against freezing rains. Sounds like some very poor planning for inclement weather was involved, but the stories are still sketchy.

Wouldn’t happen here, I think. There are high altitude races out here each summer, but also lots of water stations, volunteers with Ham radios, and the like. In any endurance contest there can be the occasional heart giving out or things like dehydration causing illness or even death. But 21 runners lost … that is the definition of not okay.

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Amazing Grace

Apple Music has a feature where they put together various themed collections that change weekly, an hour or two of tunes with a similar “feel.” One of those is named “Isolation,” and I swear … no matter what mood you were in when you started, if you listened to more than five of these songs in a row you would find yourself looking for a razor blade and a warm tub. Here’s a sampling of what Apple was offering to me this morning during my toilette.

  • Lost Cause (Beck)
  • Where is My Mind? (The Pixies)
  • Alive and Dying (Angel Olsen)
  • Sidewalk Bop After Suicide (Cass McCombs)
  • No Distance Left to Run (Blur)
  • Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying (Belle and Sebastian)
  • Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now (The Smiths)
  • How It Ends (DeVochKa)
  • et al

Fortunately for me on this occasion, Robin recognized that I had been sucked into a musical vortex and rushed the bathroom, knocked the speaker onto the floor, and then dragged me out into the hallway, covering my ears as she did. A few slaps in the face, a dash of cold water, and I was blinking myself awake, crying “Wha hoppen!”

It was a close one this time. Obviously it’s not a place I should ever go alone.

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Love these soft warm mornings a little before dawn. Just enough air movement to get the wind chimes gently moving and the prayer flags fluttering. Our small city is quiet at these times. All in all, just like a town should be the moment before it starts to come to consciousness.

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A followup on Poco the cat. Two weeks ago he developed swelling in his right eye. The vet said “Dunno” and prescribed eyedrops. Two days later it was obvious that there was an abscess above the eye, and that was cleaned up, opened up, and an antibiotic injection given.

Two days after that the eye looked dreadful, and there was a puddle of blood between the cornea and the iris. A second vet told us that there might be infection inside the globe itself, and a different antibiotic needed to be given, along with a change in eyedrops. He also said that if the problem was inside the eye, Poco could lose that organ entirely.

So for a week now we’ve dutifully given him pills twice a day that he definitely doesn’t want and eyedrops that he detests. There has been improvement, but I’m not sure that is is the meds or simply the passage of time that has effected this change. It’s not particularly rare for doctors to be given credit for recovery that happened all on its own. Why, it even happens with some pediatricians.

So the old fellow has had an uncomfortable pair of weeks and his human companions have worried about him for the same length of time. Doing uncomfortable things to a creature you love, whether it is a pet or a child, is potentially a part of the bargain you make when you take them on. But it’s always one that you hoped you could skip.

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My Oh My Department

Daughter Maja’s seven favorite non-relatives on the planet have a new album. This is a screen grab from the music video for “Butter,” which YouTube would be happy to run for you.

What’s not to like? They are young, talented, and beautiful. Maybe if North Korea could put together a group like this we might get along better with them, and be able to forget about all those nasty warheads and such. So far they haven’t shown any rhythmic tendencies at all that I am aware of.

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Twenty-nine years ago today two perfectly useful people with relatively low mileage who had each been rejected by their previous spouses decided to give it another go and were married. To one another. The lady’s counselor was not happy about the idea, and cautioned her that this was only a “transitional relationship.”

In planning for the wedding with the pianist, the couple chose Amazing Grace as one of their songs. At first the musician frowned and said “We play that so often at funerals … “ and then you could see her lips move as she went through the lyrics in her head. A smile came on her face and she nodded “Yes, that’ll do just fine.” During the service the entire assemblage sang it together, and yes, it did just fine. Beautifully, actually.

At the reception, and at the groom’s request, the first tune that was played to begin the dancing was this timeless and haunting melody.

I think that it’s pretty clear to all that this “transitional relationship” has lasted this long only because of the lady’s forbearance, tolerance, and excellent sense of humor.

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Ground Control

Wednesday Robin had to drive all the way to Grand Junction by herself, even though I was available as traveling companion. It’s an hour’s drive to get there, and her goal is to shop, but she’s given up on taking me along when we are not looking for a particular something and have a focus.

She says that I get a look on my face, in spite of myself, when shopping itself is the intent. I had her describe what I look like to a police portrait artist, and at left is what he came up with. It’s a look usually associated with traumatic wartime experiences, and is called the thousand yard stare.

It seems that watching me spoils the day for her in these instances. “It’s not personal,” she says, “we’re just different.” I do try, and I put on my best smiley face and attitude when I know she’s looking, but as soon as I relax I apparently revert to what you see in the drawing. I guess I’ll have to accept that there is one more thing in this world of which I am incapable.

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E-bike Report:

We’ve now got 150 miles on our machines, not any epic amount, but these are mostly short trips around town. These beasts work really well, and no spot in town is safe from us any longer. I do most of my grocery shopping using the bike with either a rear pannier or the Burley Nomad trailer we’ve had for a dozen years or more. It’s a seven mile trip to City Market and back, without ever having to hit serious automobile traffic.

Did I mention that they are not only practical but fun? When you press that button for pedaling assistance, it’s hard not to smile every time.

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From The New Yorker

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Colorado has a brand new law, making us the second state after Washington to allow composting of human remains. My first reaction was “Whaaaat?” But after reading a bit further I found that it is just another way of breaking down the body, to be added to the already common practices of cremation and chemical dissolution.

Actually, it mimics the process that would occur if we simply buried bodies in the ground without elaborate vaults and hermetically sealed coffins.

Composting a human body means placing the body in a closed container along with natural materials such as wood chips, alfalfa, and straw grass. The body is slowly rotated to induce microbial breakdown of the body’s tissues

Montrose Daily Press, May 19, 2021.

Since there is no corner of American life that can avoid rampant commercialization, I can see the brochures now for this new/old choice that families will have:

“Your loved one’s body will be placed upon a bed of roses, surrounded by sandalwood chips that were harvested in a sustainable manner in the highlands of Nepal. You then have your choice of Dakota buffalograss or Carolina switchgrass as the last component of the composting nest. When this gentle and natural process is finished, the resultant soil will be sent to you by UPS in a tasteful container, with a complimentary packet of flower seeds.”

I am totally down with the idea, and would carry it even further by having additives put into the soil produced that would allow special usage. Potting soils, peony mixes … the mind boggles at the possibilities.

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The Old Testament has come to Paradise in the form of a plague of flies. Small houseflies that can apparently pass through walls unimpeded, like ghosts. They showed up Wednesday evening, when they drove Robin and I back indoors from our al fresco dining on the backyard deck. Unfortunately, by the time we gave up and went back inside, there were scores of them to greet us in the dining room. They don’t bite you, but they walk all over your food with their dirty shoes.

They are smallish creatures, stupid and clumsy to boot. So swatting them is no problem, except that I have the definite feeling that for every one I swat, three more have squeezed in somewhere. I made an emergency run to Ace Hardware after supper, and now we have sticky traps in all of the windows. Clear plastic panels with some sort of tanglefoot on them. These devices are working, but they are soooo passive, and at this point I am in favor of something quicker and more murderous.

Patience, patience. All in due time, one of my better angels is whispering.

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While we are talking about such creatures, I offer you a recurring mini-grossout. You are eating outdoors when a small piece of organic stuff floats down from the tree above you onto your food. Just as you are about to pick out the offensive material and flick it away, it wriggles off under its own power. You know that if you hadn’t seen it arrive, it would have been on your next forkful.

Bon appetit.

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End of Mud Season

Spring was declared officially complete for Robin and I as of Sunday. For the first time this year we were able to take our hike on the Oak Flat Loop/Uplands/Rimrock Trail at the Black Canyon National Park, a walk that undulates along the sides of a mesa. Two weeks ago we tried this same route but had to turn back because there was still too much mud and ice on the shady side of the mesa wall. That may be okay when you’re walking on level ground, but there is precious little of that here.

But Sunday everything was cool. On our way we met three twenty-somethings, two women and a man, who had spent the night down on the Gunnison River. Which meant that they had clambered down 1800 feet to the gorge and were now clambering back up. We congratulated them on their achievement and made a big deal about it all because … well, because it is IS a big deal. Strictly for the sturdy, it is.

I believe that I might be able to make it down, but that would be as far as the adventure went. I would need to arrange ahead of time for a lumber drop so that I might build myself some sort of shelter at the bottom of the gorge, because that would be my address from that day forward.

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I will admit to having a streak of misanthropy buried in the affable and perennially charming person that I am. But even those who are more generous in their approach to our species have to admit one thing … there are too many of us. We overwhelm.

One evening in the late sixties, my former wife and I went to a meeting of a newly formed organization called Zero Population Growth. It was dedicated to informing society of the benefits that would accrue if our population numbers didn’t continue to mushroom. Unfortunately, we never attended a second meeting when we learned that the fact that we had four children at the time would put us into a sub-group of one in the organization, and we might be vulnerable to being labeled hypocrites.

I checked this morning, and ZPG is still around, although it has renamed itself Population Connection. The message is still the same. There are too many of us, and life would be better if that could be changed. The next time you read about what food might become in the future for our growing numbers, with all sorts of unappetizing sounding things like bug smoothies and earthworm pancakes, think of this: it wouldn’t be necessary if we bred less and thought more.

If Elon Musk is successful in building his ships to take a select few to colonize Mars as Earth collapses, the new pioneers would have to deal with the knotty subject of human fertility up front, way before anyone gets aboard that first rocket. Because that new world would be lacking in the flexibility that Earth afforded in the “old days.” You build a station on Mars for 1000 people, and that’s what it would have to remain.

Of course, since most of us won’t be asked to join Elon on his new/old planet, we might have to pay more attention to folks like Bill Burr, who has his own ideas about population control.

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Robin and I are watching the limited series “Underground Railroad.”

Some amazingly beautiful cinematography. Confusing at times. Strong performances. Brutal. All in all, it may be what some critics say it is – mandatory viewing for Americans.

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Lawrence of Montrose

Those who know me well know that my favorite movie of all time is “Lawrence of Arabia.” It jumped to #1 the moment I first saw it in 1962 and has yet to be displaced. I am not shy about sharing my opinion with others, and introduce this fact into the conversation at every opportunity. Sometimes on the most threadbare of pretexts.

Other Person: Man, is is hot today!
Moi: Hoo Boy, if you think this is hot, you should see them sweat in Lawrence of Arabia, it comes off in buckets.

O.P.: Sometimes I wish I didn’t own such a big dog. I swear he’s eating me out of house and home.
Moi: If you think that’s bad, what if he was a camel, like in Lawrence of Arabia? Think of that pet food bill!

O.P.: You seem thoughtful today, is anything the matter?
Moi: I was thinking about the final scene in Lawrence of Arabia, where everything has fallen apart and Lawrence’s work has come to naught.
So sad.

So when I ran across these video comments by two of the larger talents in the movie industry, I had to share them with you. Because you can exist in only three possible states:

  • You never saw the movie. WHAAAAAAAT! Just do it. What kind of mother did you have anyway?
  • You saw the movie, but it was a long time ago. What are you waiting for? It’s time for a re-viewing. Treat yourself. You know you want to.
  • You saw the movie recently. Come over for coffee and we’ll talk about it until you can’t stand it.

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If you’re teetering, be aware that it is available for streaming on Amazon Prime for the measly price of $2.99. Less than three bucks for one of the best films ever! In the safety of your own home! Where the popcorn is so very reasonably priced!

This scene alone is worth the $2.99 to watch on a bigger screen. Okay, that’s all I have to say today.

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From The New Yorker

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The recent change in recommendations for mask-wearing seems to have sent a lot of people right to the crazy department. In order to put some perspective on the situation, I’ve asked Ragnar to chime in. Wearing facial covering is old hat to this gentleman, he’s been doing it for centuries.

Dear Ragnar: I know that you’ve been paying particular attention to our behavior during the pandemic, and have just finished a fact-finding tour of the U.S. Do you think we should be wearing masks these days or not?

Ragnar: Well, first of all, let me tell you when I wear one. When I go to war. Simple as that. It protects my face from contacting annoying things like swords and clubs. Back in the day we didn’t worry about the kind of stuff you’re dealing with, like viruses, because they hadn’t been discovered yet. Not that it wouldn’t have been handy to know about them. Could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble when we were sacking cities and burning monasteries and all.

Dear Ragnar: But now that you do know about viruses, what do you think?

Ragnar: It’s pretty obvious that my old mask wouldn’t be worth beans today against Covid. Although it was awfully ferocious-looking, and the sight of it would sow fear and confusion into the hardiest of English hearts, the present pesky coronavirus particle would sail right through the holes and get me every time.

Now this mask would be better for what you’re dealing with today, but forget about sowing fear and confusion. No one’s afraid of the Minnesota Vikings. Also you can forget about it guarding against anyone lurking around town with a halberd that has your name on it.

Dear Ragnar: So we should continue to wear masks as we have in the past? Is that what you’re saying?

Ragnar: You know what I think? That the good news and the bad news are the same thing here – I think you are all going to do what you want to do, no matter what anyone says.

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The cicadas are coming, the cicadas are coming! But not quite yet. Apparently it’s been chilly in the part of the country where Brood X is due to emerge, and the actors in this drama are waiting for that sunny day. I can completely empathize with them.

Think about it. You’ve been looking at nothing but dirt for seventeen years. You are on the brink of your big moment in time – when you will pop out of the ground, shed your old clothes and put on beautiful shiny new ones, sing your “I’m lonely here” song for all the world to hear, mate with the love of your life, and then … die.

Why rush into it? Why not wait for just the right day? I know I would.

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Roosters

Tuesday night we had people over for dinner. Just a simple get-together composed of comfort foods with no attempt at elegance or haute cuisine or anything other than what it was. A conversation with just enough food provided to keep you alive through the end of the evening. If there is anything that the Plague has shown us, it has been that what was most important about nights like these in the pre-viral days was always the connection with other humans, face to face and jabbering away. What a treat these social re-openings are!

The night’s menu included coney islands, cole slaw, a fruit salad, and roasted potatoes. I’ve mentioned this coney sauce before, I think. It is a highly seasoned ground beef mixture that you drape around a hot dog, add a few chopped onions and then squirt some yellow mustard on the whole mess. Unlike a chili dog, there is no tomato anything in this concoction. (Not to diminish the chili dog at all. Those are delicious in their own way, but this coney is a different thing altogether.)

So at the end of it all we counted the evening as a success, although we didn’t allow our guests to vote. We’ve found it better this way. Too many opinions and it all gets confusing.

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I have returned to Gold’s Gym in an attempt to maintain something resembling muscle tone, and there are quite a few senior citizens who appear to be there for the same highly focussed reason that I am. They come in with serious faces, go quickly through their routines, then exit the building. We are a nondescript bunch, stepping into the ring with time and losing most of the rounds.

There is another group that is much more fun to watch. These are the guys who finish an exercise and then walk slowly about the room in their sleeveless t-shirts, chests out, nodding when they meet others like themselves, before returning to the machines for more “reps.” It is not as obvious behavior as in the case of the roosters below, but if you listen very carefully … it’s nearly subliminal … the crowing is there.

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Yesterday at the gym I decided that I was glad to be a guy for yet one more reason. Spandex. Or rather, the lack of it in a gentleman’s wardrobe. Although I was supposed to be concentrating on my grunting and straining, I was also watching the others in that space. Nearly all of the people that I could identify as male were wearing floppy clothes. Big shorts down to the knee and loose-fitting t-shirts, for the most part. Nearly all of the females were wearing Spandex either from the waist down or all over.

I marveled at the body confidence that it must take to wear such a material, where passersby could count the freckles on your posterior, if they so chose. Occasionally as I make my way to the shower I inadvertently see my nude self in the mirror and … there is no way that I would trade my formless garments for something more revealing of this lifetime’s worth of acquired defects. As far my own case is concerned, what is visible in the bathroom stays in the bathroom.

There is so much to observe and to think about on a visit to Gold’s Gym. Our human frailties and peculiarities are there for anyone with a quick eye to see. First of all, would we even be there if we were content with who we were? Secondly, the mating behaviors of the younger attendees are also right out in front – usually in a reversal of what is found in other species, where the males are the ones who provide colorful displays to attract attention.

I wear my mask during my workouts for two reasons. One is that there is the tiniest chance that I am still at risk from Covid. The other reason is that I think that my mask is annoying to the yahoos in the building … those who have taken the position that things like masks and vaccines and working toward the greater good are for lesser beings. If I can annoy those folks, even for a moment, it makes me happy. (Of course that is a petty attitude … have I ever claimed to be more?)

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Fogged-Out

One of the powers of books for me has been to occasionally feel less the odd duck in this world. Periodically I will run across a piece of writing that says to me: “Hey, someone else thinks the same weird way that you do.” The sense of alienation doesn’t go away altogether, but eases up. Such a moment came in the opening paragraphs of Stephen King’s book “On Writing.”

Here’s the text that grabbed me:

I was stunned by Mary Karr’s memoir, The Liar’s Club. Not just by its ferocity, its beauty, and by her delightful grasp of the vernacular, but by its totality – she is a woman who remembers everything about her early years. … Mary Karr presents her childhood in an almost unbroken panorama. Mine is a fogged-out landscape from which occasional memories appear like isolated trees … the kind that look as if they might like to grab and eat you.

On Writing, Stephen King, paperback edition p.17.

That’s me. Right out there in that fogged-out landscape with Stephen. There are entire sections of my life that I don’t recall at all. Big sections. Parts of my childhood … young adulthood … last year! Robin will say something like “Remember when we were in Tuscaloosa and ran into the Binghams?” And I will think … have I been to Tuscaloosa? Really? When in the hell was that?

Then there are other sections that I recall in such minute detail that I suspect my brain is making it up all on its own, without any prompting from me. So if I were to honestly characterize my daily thought melange, I think that it would fall somewhere west of non-fiction. What this all comes down to is that while I really don’t trust my collection of memories as being the absolute truth, I do enjoy them as I would any tasty tale.

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Speaking of Liar’s Clubs, can you believe what the GOP has transformed itself into? It goes beyond anything I could have imagined. It is a nasty brew that they are concocting over there, and each sip they take moves them further into the territory of the unhinged. They have let so much craziness in that I wonder how they can ever find their way back to reality.

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From The New Yorker

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Our friend Poco is finally healing, but this last abscess episode has been a tough one for all of us. There is so much edema around his eye and the membranes of the eye itself that it’s hard to look at the poor guy without cringing. Fortunately for him, cats don’t seem to dither and dissolve into self-pity at such times. Examples are provided below of what I think are differences between the two species.

HUMAN: Oh dear oh dear oh dear I think that I may be going blind and the pain the pain it’s just too much to bear. Look at me, do you think it’s getting worse? Please, won’t you call the doctor again … I know that it’s only been ten minutes since you last called him, but I’m going downhill so fast … .

CAT: What in blazes … ? I can hardly see out of my sore eye. Well, I’ve still got the one. Is it time for breakfast? Is it nice outside?

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Lastly for this morning, Margaret Renkl offers her take on the amazing story of the cicadas. The whole thing is mind-blowing, really. And yesterday Robin and I went to the gym for the first time in many months. There were two people there who were masked – myself and the lady I married.

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No Way

Today is Mother’s Day. I support this holiday 100%. Mothers deserve the recognition, completely. And more.

If the situations were reversed, and I were presented with the option to navigate a pregnancy and go through labor, there wouldn’t have been any kids in my family pictures at all. No way. I simply wouldn’t have put up with the whole business. The nine months of progressive body distortion, the hours and hours of tortuous labor pains, the endless mountains of diapers and of clothing covered with spit-up. Wouldn’t do it. The species could stop right there, as far as I was concerned.

So anyone who is perusing this, it was because you had a mom. If you had depended on good old dad, chances are you would have ended up as simply a disappointed ovum with poor reading skills.

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Thought I’d add a few pictures of my own mother. My tendency has been to forget that she was a girl before her mom-ship took over. She was, of course. Eleanor Ruth Flom (nee Jacobson) was only twenty years old when I came along. How could she have been ready for that?

That’s me in the 1943 photo, the absolutely darling blond boy at Mom’s right side. I think I was a fairly good son to raise until adolescence, but at that point no one could do anything with me at all, because I became omniscient.

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From The New Yorker

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Our friend Poco has done it again. Somewhere in the past week or so, he tangled with another cat, and this week he developed an abscess above his right eye. When the vet saw him he said : “Darn, Poco, we’re going to have to get you an abscess punch card, so you get a free one once in a while.”

What this all meant was anesthesia, surgery, antibiotics, and a sad-looking cat with a bad shave. He does look pathetic. But … it doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve had the talk. Over and over.

Our cat Willow never gets into fights. Never needs surgery. She simply turns around when confronted and runs away at just the right speed. But Poco forgets that he’s 100 years old, has fewer teeth than he once did, and charges right at any and all cat intruders into our yard. I would admire his pluck if it weren’t for the veterinary visits and the periods of illness. Sheesh.

It’s like living with Feline Rambo, The Perpetual Sequel.

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Saturday night and I’m holding court on the little front patio in front of our home, Willow the cat is lying nearby as my support animal. Our part of the neighborhood is sleepy and still sunny at nearly 8 PM. Nick Drake is singing from the Great Beyond, his Pink Moon album. He is in remarkably good voice for a guy who passed away in 1974. Couldn’t tell, really, by listening.

It is 56 degrees and windless. Robin is off to Durango while I mind the feline outpatient department. The report is that all are doing well there, and that the mothers are being treated with the respect due them.

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Ahhhh, Them Last Chance Power Drives

Sleepily listening to the radio the other day I was jerked awake by the opening salvo of Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen. I listened to the words carefully, and it is a wonderful hymn to a way that I once felt. That time was at the peak of adolescence. A time when my thoughts ran to stylishly morbid (not going to live to age 25) and my hormones were the very definition of chaos. A time when cruising the summer streets with the car window rolled down and a song like this cranked up would alter my DNA to the point that when I stepped out of the car I was at least temporarily a whole new character. (One that was much more interesting)

This song was a perfect anthem. One that could have made me feel taller, stronger, indestructible … all those qualities that I was looking for at age eighteen. The only problem is that it came out when I was thirty years old. By that time I was married, had four children, and was temporarily the property of the United States Air Force. So instead of being the song that made me feel like a contender, it was now a wistful reference to an earlier time.

It’s a great song, though. Telling the story of a last chance power drive … man oh man … can you dig it?

(NB: note deliberate use of ancient cliché)

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From The New Yorker

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We probably all have our own private mythologized places. Locations we have visited once or many times and which for some reason occupy their own special space in our minds, one that is often both haloed and hallowed. One of mine such space for me is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northern Minnesota. I’ve been there on trips with my own children, a grandchild, and perhaps thirty times with Rich Kaplan, an old friend. Robin and I have paddled and camped in the BWCA several times together. I go there every year in my head, even if it’s only every several years that my body tags along. Everything I use on these trips becomes a part of the mythological whole.

One of these items is Dr. Bronner’s soap. I first purchased a bottle for a canoe trip long ago because it was such a quirky product. Piragis Outfitters of Ely MN was happy to sell me a bottle, which I used as hand soap, body wash, and shampoo for the next several days. Since then it has become a regular part of each trip’s outfitting. At some point I discovered that you could get the stuff in local grocery stores pretty much everywhere, and that was all she wrote.

Now every time I shower using Dr. Bronner’s soap, I am gifted with some random recollections of the BW, and they are all good, even those involving drenching rainstorms and a wall of mosquitoes that you have to hack through to get to the water. Above is the label from a bottle – as you can see, it contains homilies and exhortations as well as a list of ingredients.

Like I said, quirky … but quirky good.

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Here’s a little gallery of pics the BWCA, taken over a fifty year period.

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Two years ago I followed the advice of online home repair enthusiasts, and attacked the two outdoor faucets of our home, which were leaking. All of the gurus I encountered told me that the repair was so simple that any fool could do it. So I purchased kits, watched the videos, and although it didn’t go quite as smoothly as the in the pictures, when I was finished the faucets did not leak and seemed to work just fine.

Until this Spring, when the backyard faucet failed me. Little more than a dribble comes through when I crank it up, and I have the uncomfortable suspicion that my work was not as successful as I thought it had been. Apparently there is a special variety of fools who cannot do this repair properly and I am one of them.

The plumber comes later today.

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Life

Sad story taken from the past week’s news, about a 39 year-old woman who went walking with her dogs off Highway 550, which is the Million Dollar Frightway that connects Montrose with Durango. Later that day the dogs came home and she didn’t. A searcher found her body, which had apparently been mauled by a bear.

Authorities mounted up and took yet more dogs to look for the offending animal, and when they came across a suspicious-looking adult with two cubs they killed them all. A tragic ending for all concerned. I found myself wondering why they felt that the bears had to be put down. This seemed quite different from the usual encounters that we read about where an animal comes into a human-occupied area and attacks someone. There could be honest concern that history would repeat itself. But here … ?

This time a human went into the bear’s domain, with dogs, and the animal defended its territory … protected its family. What the authorities did seems more like knee-jerk vengeance to me than a thoughtful response to the situation. I suspect that the formula of human dies = bear dies is the only one that operates in these instances. But perhaps I’m missing something here. Enlighten me.

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Our electric bicycles are proving to be even more fun than we thought. First of all, for those of you who think that we are simply cheating by using the assistance of a few electrons, I will answer that the active word here is assistance. We still have to pedal, just not quite as hard.

Take an example. You can cycle all the way from one end of Black Canyon National Park to the other. The road from the visitor center to the turnaround point is 5.7 miles long. The trip out and back is composed of very little level ground, but lots of long drawn-out uphills and downhills. Going out, that last uphill at the end is 2.2 miles long, at the end of which I usually am begging Robin to release me from the cares of Earth. With these bikes, I simply press a button to the smallest level of “assist” and sacre bleu, I am up the hill with some energy still left in me.

Now all I have to worry about on this spectacular route are the people in automobiles on the narrow two-lane blacktop who are trying to kill me by forcing me off the road and into free-fall, where electricity is of no help at all.

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From The New Yorker

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Mitt Romney was booed this week when he spoke at a Republican convention and dared to speak some truth about former President Cluck. Mitt still doesn’t get it. The GOP has made itself into a party consisting of way too many sociopaths in suits. They respect nothing – not you, not I, nor even themselves.

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On Monday I began to volunteer at the local Democratic Party HQ. It is a small office, perfectly befitting the small party that the Democrats are out here on the Western Slope. But it has a very nice grass-roots feel to it. My job yesterday was to simply keep the doors open for two hours, responding to questions from anyone who entered. I was the entire staff for those hours.

Of course, since it was my first day, I knew nothing, and was not able to be very helpful to the four people who did come by. My hope is that in the days to come I will either learn something or that fewer people will stop in.

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Our governor suggested a few weeks back that we have a meatless day once in a while. Save the planet and be healthier and all that. For some of our local columnists and letter writers, you would think he had suggested fire-bombing all of the nursing homes in Colorado. They are still incensed that someone, anyone, would hint that beef was anything but the food of the gods. And that beef production was anything but a positive boon to the environment.

We are living in beef country, so this comes as no surprise, but these same correspondents indulged themselves in many bits of misinformation in making their case. Misinformation as in … fibs.

I see a parallel here, with coal. Coal mining has been a big deal out west, and its adherents still haven’t given up on the idea that suddenly it will become possible to burn it without harm to the atmosphere. But even when the facts we have are altogether damning, these folks will not believe what they don’t want to accept, and that is that. But it is a dead industry, with a few zombie-oid relics still standing here and there.

The situation with beef is similar. It is expensive to produce, relatively unhealthy to eat, the industry is riddled with systemic animal cruelty, and the effects on the environment are basically seriously negative ones. It is an unsustainable practice however you care to look at it. We will hear a lot of fibs in the years to come, but it is a doomed industry, just as coal was. Change can be very painful, if either mining or beef production are what you do and what your family has done for generations. But telling lies won’t stop it.

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A Little Less Fresh Air, If You Please.

This post is for one of my kids, whose name I will withhold to protect her anonymity. But hey, I only have the three children, so that precaution doesn’t mean a lot.

Very early in life, she decided that the outdoor world might be a lovely place, but it held way more minuses than pluses. And one of the biggest minuses was … insects. They were everywhere creeping, crawling, stinging, and going so far as to suck the very blood from one’s body. Imagine, your blood being withdrawn against your will … it was all just too macabre.

As one of life’s little jokes, this person was born into a family whose paterfamilias loved to camp, and she was made to accompany the rest of the family on outings like this one, where she announced that she was not leaving the tent, thank you very much, and we could all just go on our little hike without her.

When she was an adult, she learned, as did we all, about those Africanized honeybees who are very aggressive toward humans, and have been nicknamed “killer bees” as a result. This only confirmed her belief that people should largely remain in their houses, because Nature was not to be trusted with one’s welfare.

So yesterday when I read about the 70 year old gentleman from Breckinridge TX who was innocently mowing his lawn when he was set upon by a cloud of these winged messengers of death, I thought instantly of my daughter’s old concerns. Sad to say, the gentleman succumbed to his injuries, and this is a lesson to us all. To my daughter, bless her heart, it probably confirms her long-held mistrust of bugs in general.

To me it meant that lawn-mowing was an inherently dangerous occupation, and I resolved to do as little of it as possible in the future. Mowing not only exposes a person to insect depredations, but other hazards as well. These include heat stroke, objects thrown at you by the mower blade, and losing one’s toes in the machinery. If that weren’t enough, it can also make you tired, cranky, and smelly.

But back to the bees. The place they were first reported in the U.S. was in a border community named Hidalgo TX. Instead of trying to play down the story, this town declared itself the killer bee capital of the United States, and this large statue was created as part of that promotion. Clever folks, these Hidalgoans.

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From The New Yorker

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Reading an article on modern obstetrics recently, and the ongoing controversies that simmer along in that discipline reminded me of something I will call Flom’s First Axiom: Everyone who is born vaginally has brain damage. Now before you jump all over me and ask for facts, I fully admit that I haven’t any. But what I do have is thousands of observations of babies at birth, and there is no way that your skull can be deformed like that and you not suffer repercussions. No way.

You take an organ that is starts out basically the shape of a bicycle helmet and quickly form it into something that resembles a Campbell Soup can with eyes. How in the world can that be a good thing? Since it happens to all of us, though, we don’t notice, except in extreme cases.

You take an organ that is starts out basically the shape of a bicycle helmet and quickly form it into something that resembles a Campbell Soup can with eyes. How in the world can that not be damaging? But since it happens to all of us we don’t notice, except in extreme cases.

For instance, here is a baby whose head was more than normally bent out of shape, and as you might expect he grew up to join the Tea Party. It is a truism that the newborn photos of Tea Party members all look like this.

Personally I think it’s a very good idea that several years must pass after we are born before we are asked to do complicated things, like writing checks. If we still had our soup-can brains we might give away the farm for certain.

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Humming Inaudibly In The Rain

Yesterday was supposed to be a rainy one here in dry and dusty Paradise, but what materialized was little more than a spatter. I think that probably the loneliest job in this part of the world would be that of an umbrella salesperson. You would do a good business ten days out of the year and then nobody needs you or wants to talk to you for the remaining 355.

Robin and I carry two umbrellas in our car, which I don’t believe we’ve unfurled even once in the nearly seven years we’ve lived in Colorado. They are the sort of devices which open just large enough to protect one person. Not the Singing in the Rain sort of parapluie at all, where two people who enjoy each other’s company could easily find shelter together.

But use them or not, we carry the umbrellas wherever we go, just in case … . You never know, do you? Which reminds me of a story.

I was a medical student spending a rotation at the old Hennepin County hospital, a relic of the 19th century which is long gone, but which was a wonderful place for a med student to be. It was a sweltering July afternoon when a very old man wandered into the Emergency Department dressed for January.

He was wearing long underwear, a wool shirt, wool pants, long wool overcoat, a large muffler wrapped around his neck, a “bomber” sort of hat, warm gloves, and overshoes. He was looking, he said, for the King of Poland. Why he thought the King would be hanging around the “General” we never found out, and we didn’t want to break the poor guy’s heart by telling him that Poland hadn’t had a King since 1795. So we changed the subject.

What we did ask was why he was wearing so much clothing on such a hot day. His answer was that he was indeed a bit warm, but “when you leave the house in the morning, you never know what’ll happen before you get back there.” We all agreed that his logic was unassailable, and we directed him toward the welcoming arms of our social services department.

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Mr. Biden seems to be pleasing about half the people, and displeasing the other half. Which means he’s probably right where he should be. Conversations on television often talk about our nation’s leaders, but in actuality they rarely do. Lead, that is. Most of the time they are running about trying to find out what it is we want, and then attempting to get in front of that movement.

The hard part, for them, is discerning what our wishes really are and where we’re going. Because finding consensus in a flock of more than 300 million critters is not an easy thing to do.

What has happened is that the character of the herd has changed. We used to resemble sheep, but now we’re definitely more like cats. Nearly un-herdable, we are.

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This past week Robin and I watched a two-part series about Mark Twain’s life, on PBS. It was excellent, and (against all odds) I learned quite a bit about his life and his work. It wasn’t hard to teach me, more like writing on a blank slate, but that’s another matter entirely.

Mr. Twain was the kind of guy I wanted to grow up to be, but instead I became me, and now I am stuck with myself. He was a brilliant writer, humorist, family man, stage performer, and sharp observer of the American scene. I think my eyes were first opened to the depth of the man when I ran across the short piece of writing entitled The War Prayer. Up until then for me he was represented in my head by the indelible characters of Tom and Huck and their friends. Which is already pretty awesome, when you come to think of it.

But The War Prayer, which came into my field of view during the era of the Viet Nam conflict, was a surprise. A passionate antiwar piece if there ever was one.

You know, PBS is like those places in the U.S. where you can pay to wander around and sometimes stumble across a diamond. Not everything archived at PBS is such a treasure, but I’m going to spend more time in there, because there are those occasional gems … .

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Size Matters

I am very much a fan of folly … human, that is. A really good piece of silliness can make my whole day. This morning I was picking out a couple of eggs to cook for breakfast from a carton labeled “Large Eggs.” I noticed that they were at least 1/3 smaller than those in the last carton I purchased, which were also called “large.”Obviously the eye of the beholder comes into play here, but there is just too much spread … there is way more egg on the one hand than the other.

It doesn’t make so much difference if you’re scrambling up a breakfast, you can simply make an an adjustment based on how hungry you are and how much egg you’ve tossed into the pan. But how about when you have purchased two cartons of eggs from different suppliers to make deviled eggs for a picnic and one set looks like the tiny bastard children of the other?

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And how about olives? Here is one chart dealing with a naming system commonly used in the U.S. It is composed entirely of superlatives! There are no medium or small olives at all, instead we have “fine,” or “bullets,” or “brilliant.”

On the other end, outside of the wacky world of olives, how would you ordinarily rank Jumbo, or Colossal, or Mammoth? Which would you say is biggest?

Size apparently matters greatly in the olive business. So much they created extravagant nomenclature for it.

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Recently an educated and otherwise sensible-seeming woman here in Paradise was overheard to say that she had done her research and had decided not to receive the Covid vaccine. I had to wonder … where could she possibly have done that research? Fox and Friends? Gilligan’s Island reruns? The National Enquirer? This is folly of the most dangerous, unfunny sort. People like her are the reason that we will still be wearing our masks at this time next year. Perhaps in 2023 as well.

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The Oscars have come and gone and this year we didn’t watch the ceremony at all. But one of our favorite films of the year, Nomadland, did well, which gladdens us. There were no car chases, no shots fired, nor any of the blood-spattered excesses of the Tarantinoid variety in this quiet movie about nearly invisible people.

It is a movie that turned the lights and camera toward a part of America that I knew very little about. In a way, it reminded me of an old story that I have told here before, I think. No matter, repeating myself is an everyday thing.

There was a beloved and wise old man who lived in a small village. He was so poor that he had only a single possession, an earthen jar in which he carried water each morning from the village well to his little hut. The townspeople recognized him as a spiritual being, and loved and respected him very much.

One morning, as he was on his way to get water, he tripped on a pebble and fell. The jar flew from his hands and fell to the street, where it shattered. The other villagers were horrified and rushed to console him, but were amazed to see the most radiant smile upon his face.

“At last, I am free,” he said.

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Holy Fools In Short Supply

Once in a while I meet extraordinary people who might be classified as holy fools. They don’t come along every day, and definitely not often enough. Such a man was Herb (not his real name), who I met in AA meetings in Yankton SD. When it came time for him to share, even the littlest things like his name, you never knew what would come out of his mouth. Where I might say in a meeting “My name is Jon, and I’m an alcoholic,” he might say “My earthly name is Herb but who really knows who and what I am.”

As a result, there were some who groaned when his turn came to speak, and waited impatiently for it to pass. I admit that at first I did not appreciate what he had to say. But for whatever reason, Herb would sometimes seek me out at meeting breaks, and much of his conversation was scrambled and hard to follow. But then there would be an amazing flash of clarity. A sentence that would stop you right where you were and show you something that had been there in front of you for the longest time but you never saw it.

So when Herb rushed up to me one day and pushed a recording into my hands and said “You’ve gotta listen to this, it will change your life,” I paid attention. I listened to it, and while I’m not sure that my life turned at that moment, I am still grateful for his gift.

Such was my introduction to the work of Jennifer Berezan. The recording Herb recommended was Returning, a 50 minute-long chanted meditation of layered beauty. You won’t find it on iTunes, but on her website, along with a lot of other beautiful things. Stuff that can be the antidote to some of the poison we take in every day through our eyes and ears without meaning to.

Since it is Sunday after all, I will share a short clip I took this morning from another long work of hers, entitled In These Arms – A Song For All Beings. The full work is more than an hour long. The last three lines of this clip are basically a short metta, or lovingkindness meditation. It is my gift today to you. You don’t have to take it, my part was to make the offer.

May everyone you love and everyone you never met be happy, safe, and free.

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I cannot turn my eyes, I cannot count the cost
Of all that has been broken, all that has been lost
I cannot understand, the suffering that life brings
War and hate and hunger
And a million other things

 
When I’ve done all that I can
And I try to do my part
Let sorrow be a doorway
Into an open heart

 
And the light on the hills is full of mercy
The wind in the trees it comes to save me
This silence it will never desert me
I long to hold the whole world in these arms

 
May all beings be happy
May all beings be safe
May all beings everywhere be free

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From The New Yorker

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We’re watching a series from Iceland called “Trapped.” It’s a murder mystery set in a small port town, and it definitely has a flavor all its own. I won’t say anything about the plot here, so don’t worry about spoilers. Suffice it so say that it is said to be of the Nordic Noir genre.

What we love about it are the characters, exemplified by the chief of police. He is a quiet man, looks like he dressed in the dark in someone else’s clothes, and has two deputies who are very nice and very ordinary people. There is no Omigod you’re right moment, as officers dash to their cars for a wild ride to save lives. There is no tactical assault on an apartment building as a SWAT team piles out of a personnel carrier with guns drawn.

The first few episodes occur during a blizzard, which cuts the town off from the outside world, and is a great plot device. Freezing Icelandic citizens running around town in their little Isuzu SUVs, getting stuck, shoveling out, going into ditches, lost children, trying to solve a murder against significant odds … there was so much cold and blowing snow that I had to get out the afghan to stay warm for the hour each episode requires.

It’s on Prime. Season One was watched by 86% of the people of Iceland. That could either mean that it is pretty good, or that those people have way too much time on their hands.

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Right In Front Of Me

It isn’t every day that I feel completely stupid. Oh, 45% stupid is pretty common, that would fit a whole lot of days, but 100%? And it all started a week ago, when I was trying to dig out the last bit of peanut butter from a jar that I had taken from the refrigerator. The PB was the consistency of sun-dried adobe, and I was having my difficulties.

I would say that 99% of the PB that I ingest is done at breakfast, on toast. A time of day when I am only partially conscious and really not ready for serious confrontations. But that last spoonful would not come out of the jar. So I put the container in the microwave and hit “Start”and within a fraction of a second the teeny-tiny bit of metal that must have been on the teeny-tiny bit of the seal which remained atop the jar’s rim began acting like the Fourth of July and throwing off quite a fireworks display.

It was all too much for me, so at that point I changed my mind and dished up some cereal. As I crunched away, my mind would not let the incident go. Finally I retrieved the PB jar from the trash and studied it for several minutes. The answer that has changed my life was right there. Nowhere on the label, not once, did it say that it “Must be refrigerated when opened.”

All those years … all that torn and disfigured toast … all that completely unnecessary cursing on mornings like this one. Robin found me with my head face down on the table, blubbering away. Worried that I might drown in my own tears, she gently turned my head to the side. At first she couldn’t make out what I was saying, but finally it came through clearly as:

(Melodrama and I are old buddies. Old and very fond of one another.)

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Robin and I have been wearing these lapel/hat pins for a while now, and several people have asked where they could get one for themselves. The answer is at wokeface.com. They cost ten bucks each, and “100% of proceeds are donated to the national Black Lives Matter and local social justice and Black-led organizations.”

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Bicycles are blossoming all over Paradise as the weather warms. The hardiest cyclists never put their bikes away at all, but continued to pedal their often fat-tired machines around town throughout the winter. What holds me back from seriously considering cold-weather cycling are those freezing breezes wafting past my unprotected nether regions and up under my jacket.

My unscientific impression is that there are more people mounted on bikes this Spring than ever before. All the way from kids who pedal down to the river to fish, to seniors on bikes of every description, including electric trikes (very useful if you dislike tipping over onto the pavement). Of course there is the Spandex Army that believes the walking/biking path along the river belongs to them alone and who cruise along at 20+ mph without much regard for others. Usually they don’t even signal their approach, but we strollers must depend on the eyes in the back of our heads to avoid having bike-tire tracks all over the back of our nice clean jackets.

As they pass by I frequently indulge a fantasy where I pull out a blowgun and hit them with a dart or two. Not to kill, mind you, but my missiles are coated with a compound that causes temporary loss of bowel control, and which becomes active within thirty seconds of exposure.

There is a newer type of vehicle that is found on the path this year in large numbers, and that is the electric skateboard. They look like they would be a gas to ride if they had come along when I still had a sense of balance. I am not tempted to ask if I could try one out at the present moment, since I have clear visions of being pitched screaming into the shrubbery should I make the attempt.

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I am becoming this guy. Yesterday I had to toss out a pair of sneakers that were only two years old and had many miles left on them but … my feet had grown too big for them in those two years and my toes were being treated harshly.

Oh, I could go on about the sense of humor that Mother Nature has, where she shrinks the body while the feet grow apace, but I will not waste your time here. Except to say that when I was a stripling (ahhh, those lovely stripling years) I wore size 10 shoes. Yesterday the new ones that I purchased were size 12.

WHAT IN THE EVERLOVIN’ WORLD IS FAIR ABOUT THIS, I ASK YOU! SHEEESH … ENOUGH ALREADY!

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Since Robin was to be engaged in not one, but two Zoomed book club meetings on Wednesday evening, I had made tentative plans to haul myself down to the river and attempt fish-catching. But as we nibbled on our supper, I glanced out the window and saw the Buddhist prayer flags standing straight out and fluttering madly toward the West.

Now when this occurs, and mind you I am still relatively new to the sport of fishing with flies, I have found that casting my lure becomes more than awkward. Perhaps it is my technique but the fly simply does not obey me when the wind blows at more than 20 mph. I can manage my wrist and forearm movements perfectly but instead of settling on the river the fly suddenly appears in the skin between my nose and eye with the point of the hook looking to embed itself in my brain. So I abandoned that plan and took up watching television for the evening, an activity which is wind-independent.

When viewing on my own, I typically will choose something without any redeeming qualities at all. The television equivalent of those mindless books you buy in an airport to take your mind off the fact that airplanes are simply not meant to fly and that the rivets on the one you are scheduled to board are very likely falling off even as you relax in the waiting area.

So I watched a pair of episodes of The Serpent. Apparently back in the seventies I missed the news stories about a French-speaking couple who were making a career out of murdering backpacking hippies in Thailand and pocketing their valuables. Because I never heard of these people. In this series they were very attractive looking psychopaths, though, and you could understand that if the real pair resembled the actors in this program that their victims might have willingly gone astray.

The series turns on the fact that a dweeby fellow at the Dutch Embassy catches onto the fact that a few citizens of the Netherlands have come to untimely and horrible ends while visiting Bangkok, and decides to investigate. Of course he receives little support – his superiors think he’s barmy, the local police think he’s a pain in the posterior, and even his girlfriend wants to push him into the lily pond now and again. But the man is obsessed.

So the deal is – how many more young and trusting travelers will perish at the hands of The Serpent, and will the Dutchman ever catch up with them?

I’ll never know.

Because even I have standards as to how I will squander the handful of remaining hours I have on earth, although they are very low standards indeed. Is it enough to say that The Serpent does not meet them.

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Justice Found

What we all saw happen yesterday in Minneapolis was an example of how our justice system is supposed to work. A man broke the law, was brought to trial, and was convicted of his crime. A verdict came down that we can all understand. When I heard the news I felt no elation, as some seemed to feel. After all, one man was dead and another was going to prison. But there was a sense of something going right, being done the way it should be done. This was a day when one good step forward was made, and what I felt was relief.

Van Jones says it very well here … we were afraid to hope.

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Indecent Exposure

As I gasp and wheeze around the trails in the mountains, I am often informed by three books written by these folks, Anne and Mike Poe. They are the best trail guides I’ve found so far, and together they cover the territory around Paradise very well.

These books appeal to me because they contain tons of photos, comprehensive details on the walks and how to get to them, and all of the hikes discussed are above treeline.

Not that Colorado doesn’t have lovely forests to wander in, but I’ve done woods-walking all my life. What this state offers is a richness of opportunities to get that feeling of freedom that being above it all provides. (I know, I know, this from a guy who gets the willies climbing a stool to get something on the top shelf in the kitchen.)

If this weren’t enough to inspire me, Anne has alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, an inherited illness which resulted in her developing COPD. So what I tell myself whenever my spirits are flagging and my butt is dragging and I really really want to turn back is this – Hey, Bozo, Anne C. did this as an older woman, with emphysema!

Most of the books on walking in the mountains that I’ve personally scanned include a word that I watch for very carefully. That word is exposure. The photo at right shows people hiking a part of a trail that has quite a bit of exposure, which, loosely translated, means places that I will never intentionally be.

All of the books on walking in the mountains that I’ve personally scanned include a word that I watch for very carefully. That word is exposure. The photo at right shows people hiking a part of a trail that has quite a bit of exposure, which, loosely translated, means places that I will never intentionally be.

If a portion of a trail is mentioned as being exposed, I immediately cross it off the list and stop reading about it. This is because I know myself well enough that if I did somehow go up this particular path all the way to the top, I would not be able to force my body to go back down. I would simply set up camp on top and live there for as long as I could on the Clif bars in my pack, then make my peace with the Universe and quietly expire.

Using the Poes’ books allows me to make sure that this last scenario never happens.

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One unfortunate side effect of Covid-19 is that it has driven more and more couch potatoes out into the fresh air since so many indoor activities and gathering spots have been closed. There they compete with more deserving types, like me, for available camping site reservations. Before this deuced virus came along, you might have found that it was hard to get a good spot if you called on the 3rd of July, but at any other times there were way more spaces to choose from than there were choosers.

Not any longer. We’re expecting guests at the end of June, guests who we are taking camping, and have basically found that most of the spots we wanted were already taken. We did finally reserve the time we needed, and at a very good location, but it was literally the last one available through mid-July in the area where we wanted to go. Last available reserve-able space, that is. There are always the first come-first served sort of campsites, but if you’ve ever driven several hours to a distant campground and found there was no room at that particular inn and were now scrambling for somewhere to lay your head, you know that this arrangement is definitely second-best.

So we will take our friends to the West Dolores River Campground and we will have a fine time. They may never know how close we were to using the WalMart parking lot in Cortez.

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Mental Lint

Somehow I seem to have sprained my wrist. It occurred when we were shoving furniture around the other day, waiting for the flooring guy to come and do his flooring thing. This exemplifies one of the more annoying things about being this age and that is that one bruises quicker and heals slower. Being aware of this tends to make one cautious, often more than is necessary. There are days when I must exert some little effort to avoid regarding myself as a fragile flower suited to only the quietest and safest of activities.

Not that I was ever really the daredevil type. I would look at friends who had skied very fast down places where there were signs that said Danger and wonder if I should feel sorry for them, sitting there in the wheelchair with their long-leg casts. Usually I would decide that I would feel sorry that it itched inside the cast, but the broken femur was their problem. For that part they would have to make do with self-pity since I was offering so little of it.

But, you say, you drove motorcycles for all those years. Wasn’t that a risky business? My answer is that it was, but that I wasn’t worried because I never assumed that I would survive a highway crash on those things. When you are piloting a motorcycle, the world is filled with automobile drivers who seem dead set on wiping you from the face of the planet. Either they don’t see you at all, or they do and resent that you are having so much more fun than they are.

Anyway, my wrist hurts today, and probably will for a while. Goes with the territory.

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From The New Yorker

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I have read everything there is to read about Covid-19 that has been published up until last evening, and have come to these conclusions as the result of my extensive research.

  • I should either go out more or stay at home.
  • I should wear a mask when I am at home or indoors elsewhere, but not when I am outdoors at the park, unless that makes me feel uneasy in which case I should never take my mask off.
  • My immunizations will protect me against infection, but not completely, so I shouldn’t count on them. Or I should, but not too much.
  • Schools should be opened up but students should not be allowed to attend.
  • Tucker Carlson is an idiot and should banished to Elba, where he must wear an ankle bracelet and be barred from using electricity.
  • Instead of reading all this stuff, I would have been better off spending the time binge-watching all of the episodes of Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. This would produce a gelatinous mental state comparable to having had five big-time concussions in rapid succession and I wouldn’t care one solitary fig about Covid at all. Or much else, for that matter.

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From the Web

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There was an article in Saturday’s NYTimes about hanging your clothing to dry rather than jamming them into the dryer, that cube-shaped energy hog that we have in our laundry room. Once again, Robin is ahead of the curve. She hang-dries most of our clothing, and has been doing so for decades.

Most of the time it was on one of those steel folding racks, and the racks were placed indoors wherever they were least inconvenient, to cut down on painful toe-stubbings and awkward bumps in the night. In pleasant weather they would migrate to the outside of our home, and our wardrobe would be out there in the sunshine for airing and public comment. A recurring problem was that it didn’t take much of a breeze to blow these racks over, they being tall and slim and all.

So finally, after years and years of dragging my feet and nodding “Yes, yes, I’ll get to it any day now” I finally put up a hard-copy clothesline. One that couldn’t be folded up and stored behind a bedroom door. It looks like this, and has been working out quite well, mostly because Robin believes in it.

Not only does it save enormous amounts of energy, but when I occasionally help her hang our things out on a glorious spring day, she will share memories of her own mother doing this year after year and season after season. The process isn’t perfect, of course, because even though you would never ever hang your clothes out in a rain shower, occasionally they do come along before the garments are dry and there you are frantically snatching them off the line and going back to the folder-uppers.

I have my own memories of my mom’s love-hate relationship with clotheslines. Not having a dryer as backup, as we do today, mom would put the clothes out on cold winter days, only to harvest them as frozen oddities a few hours later. And there were times when a harsh wind would rip the lines from their moorings, and down would go everything onto the lawn … everything most often requiring repeat washing.

Of course, Mom was a pre-boomer. Energy supplies were seemingly inexhaustible, Al Gore and global warming hadn’t been born yet, and most importantly of all, she couldn’t afford the alternatives. So fixed clotheslines were it for my family of origin.

It’s not been a bad tradition to revive, actually. Our carbon toe-print is slightly smaller as a result and it allows me to feel sooo self-righteous and superior … you wouldn’t believe how much hubris you can get for so little in this way.

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Johannes Was Such A Caution

That little Google illustration yesterday was entitled “celebrating Johannes Gutenberg.” He was the guy who invented the printing press, right? First books and all, right?

Well, wrong. He was the first European to do this. You all probably already knew this stuff, but I didn’t until recently. The Chinese were at printing for quite a while before Johannes got into the act.

No one knows when the first printing press was invented or who invented it, but the oldest known printed text originated in China during the first millennium A.D. The Diamond Sutra, a Buddhist book from Dunhuang, China from around 868 A.D. during the Tang Dynasty, is said to be the oldest known printed book.

History Channel

That famous Gutenberg Bible didn’t roll off the press until 1452. What Johannes did that was special was to make type out of metal, and to develop inks that would cling to it. Previous types were made of wood or fired clay. So the Chinese beat the pants off everybody else way back then, much like today in that regard. Superficially it seems like so many instances in history where nothing really existed until a white person did it. The truth may be more complicated than this, but … seems like.

Johannes had some problems along the way to making that Bible. One of them was that the Church was basically opposed to it. Putting the Bible in the hands of lay persons didn’t seem to religious officialdom to be a good plan. Such proceedings would allow ordinary persons to make up their own minds about the Bible’s contents, and this was considered to be a very poor idea indeed. The Church was much happier telling people what to think. Kind of like today.

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We’re still involved in doing some limited remodeling here at BaseCamp, while a gentleman rips out the old carpeting from the living room and replaces it with planks that look like wood, but are clever imitations that require almost no maintenance. All of the L.R. furniture is piled up in other rooms, and life is mildly disrupted as a result. For me, it is a pleasure watching a skilled artisan at work. Total concentration, deft hand movements, years of experience being brought to bear at each step. All of those things that are so different when compared with my own haphazard approach to such projects. And completely absent is the application of colorful language that I would bring.

Our cats, who are quite unhappy creatures when their lives are being changed in any way, are letting us know that they are opposed to the project completely. Lots of complaining-style meowing being voiced right now, and threats of “we might just forget where the litterbox is located.” That last one is met with “well, we might just forget where the kibbles are kept,” or “what if that pet door got nailed shut with you on the outside … how would you like that?”

Such bickering, of course, gets nobody anywhere. When both parties are using their nuclear options, thoughtful discussion is the victim. It will look lovely when the installer is done, and once the furniture is replaced, I think serenity and good manners will eventually return to our humble dwelling.

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The George Floyd murder trial goes on. Yesterday the defense lawyers tried to assert that standing on people’s necks was appropriate police procedure. Perhaps if someone knelt on the necks of the defense team for, let’s say, twenty seconds, it might change their perspective.

No one has to compress any of my body parts to let me know that doing this is wrong from the get-go. Turns out that I have a pretty good imagination where suffocation is concerned.

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Human beings have the power of the gods, a fact of which I am periodically being reminded. The only problem is that we don’t always know what words to use to achieve our goals.

For instance, if it hasn’t rained for months, and the vegetation has all turned brown and crispy, you would think that all a god would have to say was something like, well, “RAIN!” But that’s not how it works. What you do have to say is “Okay, we’re going to have an outdoor wedding even though we have no backup plan in case of inclemency.”

Rain is almost 100% assured in instances like this. It’s finding the effective phrase that makes all the difference. Now in a more immediate case, yesterday mid-day it was so beautiful that Robin and I wheeled our bikes out onto the driveway to go for a couple of enjoyable miles. A light breeze played about our faces as we selected our itinerary. “Let’s go all the way to the Black Canyon National Park turn-off!”

We’d gone only two miles when a gale hit, nearly unhorsing us. The 30 mph plus wind that now smote us hip and thigh caused us to turn around immediately and head for home, half-blinded by the dirt and dust being blown into our unprotected faces. Mother Nature was only waiting for our cry to go “all the way” to unleash a bit of her forces.

It’s all in the words. The unfortunate part is that you only learn it by making one mis-decision at a time. To really acquire facility with the language of the immortals takes a lifetime, and this knowledge leaves the planet when you do.

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BTW. The electric bikes that we recently acquired are a gas. It’s like having a tailwind whenever you want one. Robin and I have very different styles when out riding. She tries to use the power as little as possible, getting the maximum aerobic work out of every cycling opportunity. I, on the other hand, punch the power up to legal limits just to see what the machine will do. My thinking on the matter is perfectly simple: why would I have it and not use it?

A hazy sort of plan is forming up that may or may not come to fruition in the Fall. More than a decade ago, Robin and I cycled the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota, a beautiful 109 mile trail that runs through the Black Hills from Deadwood to Edgemont. We took it slow and stopped to smell every rose along the way.

The idea of doing it once again, but this time on E-bikes, is a very appealing one. Lots of things to think about, but September can be a terrific time to be in the “Hills” no matter what the excuse.

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True Grit

Our trip this past weekend to Great Sand Dunes National Park did not get off to a great start. Somewhere between Gunnison and Poncha Springs the back “door” of our camping trailer opened up and allowed two boxes of gear to fall out and be lost forever. We are still not sure exactly what was lost in those big boxes, but for certain our stove, tent heater, knives, kitchen implements, and several pots and pans were in them.

This necessitated a quick trip to Wal-Mart to replace a few of the lost items, like the stove and heater, which were most obvious and most needed. Over time we will replace the rest, as we notice their absence. If we can ignore that initial mini-disaster, the rest of the trip went swimmingly.

Our weather was exactly as promised. Daytime temps in the 50s, and at night it got down into the 20s. The brand new tent heater performed flawlessly, and the new Coleman stove … what can I say … it is clean, which is almost never true of an old stove.

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From The New Yorker

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The dunes were sandy. The campsite was sandy. The hiking trails were sandy. Several times a day one had to take off one’s shoes and dump the sand out, to make room for acquiring more sand. And yes, there was the occasional grain or two in your food. But what a remarkable place! Even though the season was early, the campground was full, and the parking lots were full as well. Once you hit the dunes themselves, however, there was no crowding. The hikers spread out across the face of these sand mountains, and had no problem avoiding one another. Walking up steepish hills in sand is not for the faint of fitness, and not well-suited to compromised knees, so Robin and I went about 1/3 of the way up to the crest before turning back, while the Hurley family went all the way.

There is a creek that starts in the mountains and trickles across the floor of the park, eventually simply stopping. It doesn’t go underground or anything like that, it simply runs out of the will to continue as it reaches a point where the soaking in and the evaporation are equal to the amount of water reaching that point and the creek ceases to exist.

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From The New Yorker

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There was a small campground drama that ended well, at least for us. Friday night the campsite across the road from us, which was occupied by a large gaggle of twenty-somethings, was an intensely irritating hubbub of too-loud talking, too-colorful language, and general pain-in-the-butt behavior which went on to at least three in the morning. Perhaps we should have confronted them but I have made it a habit never to have an argument with large groups of stoned or intoxicated strangers at night when I’m far away from being able to make a 911 call.

So Saturday we looked up the camp host to tattle on the miscreants, and the host promised that if there were a repeat performance that we should come knock on the door of her trailer, and she would notify park authorities. What we really wanted, of course, was for park authorities to round up the offenders, tar and feather them and ship them home, but we settled for her plan. We never had to knock on that door.

At around ten PM a park police cruiser visited the offending campsite and reminded that group that it was now quiet hours. They were given the option of behaving themselves and being better neighbors, or the park police would escort them to the border of the park and wave au revoir to them as they sought other places to stay. They were quiet as mice the rest of the night. Quieter, actually.

So a pre-emptive strike worked out quite well, and next day when park police stopped by to ask us if things had gone okay the rest of the night we said “Yes” and thanked them profusely. We would have hugged and kissed the officers, but of course this is still Covid-19 season so we demurred.

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All in all it was a grand trip, with just enough small hardships (lost items, nearly constant wind, coldish nights) to make it possible to endlessly bore our listeners for weeks, perhaps months, to come. There are times, of course, when those listeners might start to head for the doors, but it is then when the true raconteur stands with his back firmly against those doors to prevent them from leaving, and drones on. It’s what we do.

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Say What? … She What? … But I Just Talked To Her …

On Monday a friend of Robin’s, a lady of 87 years, was perky and going through her regular routines and looking forward to Zoom Bible Study on Tuesday, but that evening she passed away. Quietly, no fuss, no drawn-out or painful rite of passage. Two eyes closed in the evening and the last chapter in her personal story on Earth was written.

As always the finality of death was shocking, even when it comes to someone at that stage of her life. You can’t shuffle off this mortal coil at 87 without disturbing everybody you know, not even then. Her friends weren’t yet ready to say goodbye. For me it has always been that irreversibility, that complete resistance to petitioning, that refusal to listen to reason that has sometimes greatly pissed me off about death. The absolute lack of recourse.

Along came this piece by Margaret Renkl in Wednesday’s NYTimes, describing the role of poetry in helping people deal with hard places in life. This help comes at those times when we have run out of words to describe what is happening to us or how we feel. It comes when our own store of language fails us. Knowing that the poet could not have written what they did if they hadn’t seen what we are seeing. And if they survived, why, so might we.

I recall as a very young child overhearing my parents having a serious disagreement. Voices were raised and harsh words were exchanged. There were two things that were my takeaway that night. One was the terminally scary thought that mom and dad might separate and then where would I be? The other was that even while I was feeling so small and terrified, the people I could see through my window out there on the street were going about their own busy-ness, without a care for my troubles. How unfeeling they were! How unfair it all was.

If I’d had someone else’s words to lean on, I might not have felt so alone and powerless on that turbulent night. But hey, I was just a kid. Who writes tragic or even thoughtful poetry for six year-olds? Here is the huge advantage in being an adult. There are places to which we can turn for support, if we will. Poetry is one of those.

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From The New Yorker

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The Peace of Wild Things

by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

***

Musée des Beaux Arts

by W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.


In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

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Icarus

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We are off later this morning for a four-hour drive to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Camping there with the Hurley family. I’ve dusted off the camper, put the proper amount of air in its tires, and checked the supply boxes. The daytime weather is predicted to be good, but the nights are all scheduled to be below freezing so we’ll be wearing our socks to bed and bringing out Mr. Heater for those nights. I look forward to rolling up like a hedgehog in the bottom of my sleeping bag and wearing all of the clothes I brought. It’s one of those recurring situations in life that go like this –

“Why do you keep hitting yourself?”

“Because it feels so good when I stop.”

We’ve been to this park a couple of times, and if you’ve never been, it is pretty amazing. You drive along the highway and it is nothing but mountains and the lovely San Luis Valley and then all of a sudden – what the hey? – gigantic sand dunes, hundreds of feet high, piled up against those Sangre de Cristo mountains.

Be prepared … we may take photos.

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The Year Of Ernest Hemingway

Last night Robin and I began the three-part Ken Burns series on PBS about Ernest Hemingway. As we watched the first nearly two-hour segment, it triggered an avalanche of memories involving those books and stories.

The year that I turned nine was the year that my parents bought an encyclopedia. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I suspect that a traveling salesman came to the house and caught them at a weak moment. That was a periodic occurrence in our household, where vacuum cleaners, Watkins products, and other ingredients of life were brought to their doorstep by men with good smiles and better sales pitches.

At any rate, one day boxes and boxes of books showed up at La Casa Flom, and it was like Christmas. We gathered round as a family and first unloaded the National Encyclopedia, which I’m pretty sure you never heard of. It was a less expensive alternative to the Encyclopedia Britannica, and published by Colliers. Next to be unpacked was the Book of Knowledge, a series of books much like the “National,” but printed on better paper, and organized to be more interesting to younger readers.

As an inducement to buy these two excellent collections, my parents also received a ten volume set of novels by an author named Kathleen ?????? (can’t recall her last name), a large set of westerns by Zane Grey, and a similar extensive collection of the writings of Ernest Hemingway. It was a literary bonanza, and since I was at an age where I devoured anything in print that I could get my hands on, I started in that very evening.

I quickly tired of Kathleen ??????, and never finished the first novel, which seemed to me to have been written for girls. At nine I was a horrible sexist, and so I set these aside. But Zane Grey was amazing. The characters were brave men and women, the settings all in the Wild West, and the tales involved things like wagon trains, indomitable settlers, and landscapes described in ways to make a boy want to go there immediately – to walk those canyons, climb those mountains, and yes, take the land from those who were already there.

So not only was I a sexist at nine years old, but I had no problems with the Europeans invading and settling lands belonging to the Native Americans. That made me a racist colonialist as well. Quite the little beast, I was.

But it was when I reached the Hemingway books that I became a man. As reader, that is. Now I was in a literary world containing some of the most adult themes I had ever been exposed to, and I swallowed those books entire. Of course I didn’t really understand everything I read, but there was still a story in each that could hold my interest. The real kicker was the short stories, though.

There was a guy named Nick Adams, who lived in a country up north where there was nothing but forests and lakes. Where doctors paddled across lakes to attend deliveries of babies and where trout fishing could begin to heal a lad with PTSD. And there was one story called Up In Michigan. A story which I later learned that no less a personage than Gertrude Stein had pronounced unpublishable.

I read it one day, and at first I didn’t get it, but I knew that there was something about it that was illicit and therefore awfully attractive there. Then I read it again, and this time I got it. It was about s.e.x. What we would today call date-rape, actually. I remember being chilled and frightened by what I had learned about human beings through reading that story. Of course I couldn’t talk about it with anyone, especially my parents. They would have been appalled at where my reading had taken me. My peer group had little interest in discussing Hemingway, so I could expect no help there, either.

No, it was my first exposure to knowledge that I wasn’t ready to process, and had stumbled upon way too soon. The only thing that I could see to do was to get older, and that was what I did.

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From The New Yorker

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This is something called a radio-photograph, and is of a black hole which is out there 55 million light years away. I was interested in black holes until one day when I was listening to PBS that I learned some facts which turned me off completely.

It was when I became aware that if I were ever to approach one of these things, that my body would begin to accelerate to enormous speeds. The problem was that the acceleration would be uneven.

For example, if I were entering the black hole feet first, at some point my feet would be going so much faster than my head that my molecules would come totally apart.

The astronomer who was discussing these awful things right there in broad daylight said not to worry, our vaporization would all be over so quickly we wouldn’t even feel what was going on. I didn’t buy it. I’m pretty sure that if my feet started going faster than the rest of me that I’d notice. And I’d be extremely unhappy about the whole process, to boot.

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Something of Value

In 1955 I was sixteen and OMG was I impressionable. There were many things that made dents in my psyche that year, dents which still show if the light is right and if I turn my head just so … . One of them was the book Something of Value, by Robert Ruark.

It was a novel about the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, which was very much in the headlines in the middle 50s. Lots of killing. More atrocities than you could shake a lion’s tail at. Colonials versus natives and all that. A very juicy set of horrors better viewed safely from several thousand miles away, which is exactly where I was.

Mr. Ruark was a White Hunter. Which means he was a member of a highly privileged group who traveled regularly to Africa to kill large animals for the fun of it. They would then take the heads, bring them back to the U.S. and build rooms in their homes to display them in, as evidence of their prowess. Ruark would write about his exploits, and publish these stories in magazines like Sports Afield and such. He was quite a good writer, actually.

When he decided to write about the Mau Mau, his informants were most often white people like himself. In spite of this handicap, he wrote a compelling novel that was very popular and which was my first little peek into the joys of colonialism. I learned that those brave and stiff upper-lipped British settlers could be quite awful at times in the way they treated indigenous populations. I learned that cruelty begets more cruelty, and that there seems to be no end to the creativity that can be brought to beat when doing harm to others.

It was a grim book, but had to be so if it were to accurately report the time and the events. The title comes from an African proverb which translates into something like: When we take away from a man his traditional way of life, his customs, his religion, we had better make certain to replace it with
something of value
.”

It was that thought that stuck with me from then on. I remembered it when I began to be more aware, as a young man, of the true history in my own country of European settlers and Native Americans. (I say true as opposed to the heavily laundered version found in movies, which were my first source of information on the subject.) More cruelty, more horrors, more taking away without replacing.

They made a so-so movie out of the book which starred Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier as the friends turned antagonists. If you think it might be hard to imagine the dignified and righteous Poitier doing very bad things, you are right. It was.

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Which brings me to Easter Sunday. I can almost hear you saying “Huh? What fool sort of segue was that?”

My personal spiritual journeys have taken me on a zig-zag sort of route, and some of those directions have disappointed people I loved. So far I have caromed from Lutheran to Catholic to Lutheran to agnostic to Lutheran to Buddhist. If I live long enough, I might add yet another category to the list. Two things stand out for me. One is that you never know where your studies and thinking might be going until you find yourself there, and then what do you do?

The second is that I have never felt so rock-steady at any of these stages that I was tempted to proselytize. When I would leave one tradition behind for another, I have always been cognizant of the fact that … well … I could be wrong. That what I was leaving behind could be closer to the truth than where I was going. To debate with friends about religions has been something that I have avoided for these reasons. And to a large degree, it went back to that phrase from the book long ago:

When we take away from a man his traditional way of life, his customs, his religion, we had better make certain to replace it with something of value.

Something of Value, by Robert Ruark

So … if I were to argue religion with another person, and if I were successful in converting that person to my belief system, and if it turned out that my beliefs were wrong, what would that make me? What sort of friend would I have been?

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From The New Yorker

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All of the predictions are in place, the stars are aligned, and this Easter Sunday promises to be one of purely gorgeous Spring weather. It will be in the 70s here in Paradise, and there will be sunshine all over the place. Nor any drop of rain to fall. What will we do with this fine day?

We will have friends for brunch later this morning, for one thing. It will be our first indoor socializing since the onset of The Plague. Hopefully this is a true turning point in this disease’s dreary history, and a good first step back toward whatever normalcy will be.

I see myself lying back in the grass by a riverbank somewhere later on today, listening to the water and letting the unquiet air pass me by as I do the water in the river. I can almost feel the warmth of the sun on the aching places that I seem to have accumulated over time. And all of this in the company of my good and tolerant friend, Robin.

What a lucky man am I.

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Autotomy Is Where It’s At

Okay, I have become pretty accustomed to being amazed by the things found in the natural world, but this one is in a class of its own. There is a sea slug that takes its own head off, leaving its old body behind, and then regenerates a completely new one. The article showed up in the NYTimes Science section Tuesday.

The idea of being able to leave your physical problems behind you and start anew is certainly an attractive one. Speaking only for myself, if humans were capable of autotomy I would do what I could to grow a taller body the next time. I might even go for a six-pack while I was at it.

The problem that I see is that this new buff corpus would still have my old face on it.

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Montrose County is presently at blue as far as Covid 19 cases are concerned, and is on the brink of going green. I would say more, but I’m not sure what this means to any of us as far as what behaviors we can safely change. There have been a few bad blips along the way during this past year, so perhaps this is just a good blip, one to be looked at and enjoyed while it’s here, but from the safety of being behind our masks and in our fortress houses.

For our part, we are having friends over for brunch on Easter Sunday. Friends in our age group who are vaccinated, that is. And unless the day is absolutely gloriously warm, we will be eating our meal indoors, rather than shivering on the deck while bravely smiling as we chew our rapidly cooling food. It will seem strange participating in this simple form of social engagement, just sharing a meal with others in one’s own home.

Perhaps to ease the transition we should all bring our computers to the table where we could Zoom-conference with each other during the meal instead of being fully en face.

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From The New Yorker

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Frankenmuth MI is apparently a nice place to live, and offers the visitor lots of Bavarian-style architecture, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, and a tiny possibility of bumping into members of the hometown band Greta Van Fleet.

Bronner’s looks like the sort of place that would send me screaming into the forest within minutes. I am a fan of Christmas, but the idea of extending its commercialization into a 365 day operation seems … well … more than the world really needs.

But Greta Van Fleet? I would skip the perma-Santa and walk across the street to hear these guys. They are three brothers and a buddy. The band doesn’t play quietly, but they do play well. Talented, theatric, flamboyant … who was it said rock was dead? These boys didn’t get the message. Here they are, playing a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater, one of Colorado’s premier venues and an amazing place to listen to music.

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Really glad to see the country’s infrastructure finally on a front burner. As an example, the most recent estimate of bridges I was able to find that need work or replacement was 231,000, spread all across the U.S. It was already 13 years ago that a chunk of Interstate 35W fell on Minneapolis, taking quite a few citizens with it. Speaking personally, I would really hate to be on one of those bridges that are failing at the moment when it decides to give up the ghost altogether. The only thing worse, to a claustrophobic like myself, would be the collapse of a tunnel with me inside.

So this will be a jobs program like none other in recent memory. And Amazon (along with other large corporations and one-percenters) is going to pay for it. I watch for my Prime membership cost to climb significantly, since I suspect Mr. Bezos would rather bill that bridge repair to me than cut back on household expenses. And there is that divorce settlement of his, in which he pays each month to his ex-wife an amount equal to the entire budget of the state of Rhode Island.

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