How To Get Drunker And Poorer Extremely Fast

I don’t write much about the world of ingestable ethanol, as found in wines, beers, and the like, because I am out of that game. My alcohol dance card was filled up way back when, and I am not likely to pick up at the unhappy place where I left off. But that doesn’t mean that occasionally I don’t come across an article on the subject that is interesting.

Such a piece was on the CNN website Monday morning, dealing with a limited edition of a Samuel Adams beer that reaches 28% alcohol, and that costs $240 for a 25 ounce bottle. Both numbers are outrageous in their own way, don’t you think? For one thing, who really needs a beer that will get you drunk 5 times faster than normal? And when you get home and you are asked what you did all evening with your buddies, your saying that you “just had a couple of beers” takes on a whole new meaning. Physically and economically.

Now, in another lifetime and before I decided to hang up my drinking shoes, there were several years when I made my own beers and ales. I thought it was a fine hobby, and unlike someone who made birdhouses, when I was done … well … I could drink the product. And they were excellent brews if I do say so myself, ranging from pale ales to near-stouts. I can say with pride that I never made anything approaching a “lite” beer, a beverage that I put in the category with “lite” coffee and insipid tea. (I was, and am, a beer snob, even if no longer a practicing one).

What I never knew, because I never ran the tests that would have given me the answer, is what the alcohol content of my beers and ales were. I know that they were nowhere close to 28%, but I suspect that they were well north of 6% by the effect that they had upon those who were courageous enough to sample them.

There was one other effect that some of my homemade beverages had on people. They were cathartic in a very real sense of the word. Calls back the next day from friends who had tried them frequently relayed the information that their problems with constipation were at least temporarily over.

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I was out on the backyard deck blaring away with my music, and hoping that if my neighbors were troubled by it that they would let me know. But until that happened, better to apologize later than to ask permission is my mantra. Anyway, I was playing songs by a group that is presently one of my favorites, one that goes by the name of Lord Huron. Suddenly grandson Dakota pops out and says that this is his favorite group, and that he has seen them live on more than one occasion.

Lord Huron

What are the odds? Two generations and a world of experiences apart, and we are presently in synch with each other musically, at least at this single point. After giving it a bit of thought, and without a shred of evidence to prove it, we concluded that our musical tastes must be genetic in origin. Happy with this unscientific answer that we provided ourselves, we went on to talk about other things.

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There are too many of us, and we do too many things to the planet that don’t give it time to recover. Which is something that it will do, when and if our numbers are reduced. We need to stop applauding when anyone admits that they have produced a family of twelve children. That is neither a good thing nor an amusing thing. It is completely selfish procreation. For being the parents of such a sad bunch is like carrying a tote bag that says to all you meet: “I care not at all that the brood I have produced is using up way more than its share of the earth’s resources. BTW, the rest of you can go jump.”

Comedian Bill Burr has a plan that features the sinking of cruise ships. According to him there are two good things that would come out of this – you reduce the population by 3500 at a time, and they are the sort of people that nobody will miss.

My own plan, which I have advanced over several decades now without picking up a single follower, is to put contraceptives in the public drinking water. If someone wants to have a child, they would have to apply to get their water from another source in order for that to happen. There is a problem with this idea, I admit, because it clearly benefits those who are good at filling out forms, and penalizes those who are not.

Thinking it through, should this plan become the modus operandi in the U.S., we might in a couple of generations become a nation consisting entirely of bureaucrats.

I retract my plan. Never mind.

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Our weather has shifted a bit, with high temperatures suddenly no more than 75 degrees or so. Nights are sometimes dropping into the thirties. It’s a welcome relief from those wok-like 90 plus days of this past summer, but could we please have something more gradual in our weather patterns, please? Would that be too much to ask? I know that I am from the generations that have caused all of the upheaval in climate and everything else bad that has ever happened since the Garden of Eden closed its doors, up to and including the development of those plastic tomatoes (had to get my annual tomato rant in somewhere) you see in the grocery stores. So I have no right to hope for better days? Is that it?

Funny, but I don’t think that way. Human history is a series of wonderful discoveries and awful blunders and there has not been a generation so far that didn’t participate in both. Maybe the present youngest group will turn out to be carbon neutral and lead so pure a life that they can tsk tsk the rest of us to death and beyond. We’ll see. In the meantime I am just happy to be cooler for a few days, and living in a place where if I touch the outside of my car I don’t have to go to the emergency room for burn treatment.

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Some Days Are Diamonds …

It’s nearly 5 AM and it has been raining lightly all night. The cats are wandering aimlessly around the rooms, occasionally stopping by my chair and looking straight into my face with a “Make it Stop” expression on their kitty countenances. They are impatient creatures about some things, accepting about others. But whatever keeps them from going outdoors when that’s where they want to go fits into the intolerable category.

Robin’s sister Jill is staying with us for a few days. She flew in on Tuesday evening and will be here until next Tuesday. That’s a nice-sized visit, I think, especially since years pass between her trips out here to the Western Slope.

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This has been an interesting summer here in Paradise, one where we are glad to not have had travel plans. I’ve mentioned before how the mountains figure heavily into when and where you can take a trip. The problem is the paucity of highways going east/west. Mountain ridges basically are north/south things, so there you have the set-up for snafus of every stripe.

Last year there was a fire along I-70 near Glenwood Springs which messed with travel somewhat at the time but eventually burned out. However, all it took was a heavy rain or two this summer to cause a gigantic mudslide in the burned area, and all of that mud landed on I-70, completely cutting Colorado’s main artery in two. The debris on the road was 8-10 feet deep in places. This all happened two weeks ago, and only just recently a single lane in each direction was tentatively opened, allowing cars and trucks to begin to flow once again.

The real nightmare behind the nightmare is that when this is finally cleared away and the highway repaired, nothing stands in the way of a repeat but the fickle finger of fate. Those steep and barren hillsides are accidents waiting to happen.

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From The New Yorker

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I missed my own deadline this morning, when I didn’t get this rag out on time. Ever have days when nothing gets started, when putting the old one foot in front of the other mantra isn’t working? This morning I couldn’t get my sense of humor started, and without it at my side I really hesitate to get out of bed. It is my shield against the thousand idiocies and stories of cruelty that greet me when I open any page on any of the online news outlets.

So this morning I had to dig into my chest of armaments for my secondary protection. And what is that, you say? Why, rock and roll, I answer.

I found two cuts from the live album Rock N’ Roll Animal, by Lou Reed. The “Introduction” goes along in a wandering way until 3:20, when the band gives us a handful of power chords to wake us up, and then Reed walks on stage to grand applause.

I swear, if I ever strayed from the true faith of R & R, this is the tune that would bring me back.

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Is Anybody Out There?

The artist Nick Cave has been around for a long time now, making music that is not for the faint of heart, but those songs of his that I have listened to carefully come out of a special kind of intelligence. He was a favorite of my son Jonnie, and was one of those musicians that Jonnie employed to make me crazy.

But this past week I came upon a letter that Cave wrote to a fan a few years ago, who was asking how he was coping following the death of his own 15 year-old son in a fall from a cliff in England. I’m going to link to the letter for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there isn’t a one of us that hasn’t grieved something by now – the loss of a family member, a lover, a friend,or perhaps of part of ourselves. We’ve been stunned but somehow made it back to where we could function once again, although forever we are changed in some way.

I’ve never read anything more honest and insightful than Cave’s open letter back to the questioner. When asked if he believed that his son still existed in some form and was available to him Cave said that he talks to the boy all the time … but “he may not be there.”

You might read the letter and remember the link, if only to be able to send it along to someone who can use it one day. Life can be awfully hard at times, my friends, and my simplistic counsel would be that the more shoulders that are available to be leaned on, the better.

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Found this critter when taking out the trash Monday morning. Mantises are common here in Paradise, coming in all sizes. They are fascinating little killers, aren’t they?

It’s that unlike a lot of insects they turn their head to look at you that gets me. You just know that they are trying to decide whether it’s worth the trouble to try to eat you or not.

“Let’s see … I know that thing is too big to drag around … but if I chewed it up into manageable-sized pieces … ”

(Perhaps you think that I’m being paranoid. But study the photograph. The bug was giving me some serious side-eye at the moment the shutter snapped.)

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I could almost accept the fact that so many of my fellow citizens have decided to follow blindly an immoral fool of an ex-president and have thus donated their brains to non-science. Almost. If it were only the adults that were affected, you could say “Well, I warned them,” and let it go at that. It is impossible to police our part of the universe so well that stupid can’t break out at any moment and in any place. Que sera and all that.

But right now their folly places their children and everybody else’s children at risk because these kids are not yet eligible to receive the vaccines. That’s where a line is crossed for me, and I have trouble sympathizing with those putting personal “freedom” over the common good. One of our duties as adults in a society is to protect the children in our care. In 2021, this means getting the damned shots, and doing it yesterday. Anything less is neglect.

End of story.

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From The New Yorker

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In my family of origin a garment was almost never thrown in the trash, at least not before it went through at least one transformation. For instance, my uncle Elmer was a portly man who sold insurance for a living. This made him the only person in the entire extended family who wore a white shirt to work.

When Uncle Elmer was done with them, these garments were handed down to my mom, who took those very broad shirt-tails and made clothing for my brother and I. When we outgrew them or wore them out, they spent the next phase of their lives in the rag-basket, and finally were thrown away when they became too threadbare for even this homely chore.

Occasionally these economies didn’t work out as planned. When I was about six years old, mom decided to take an old wool sweater that had belonged to some adult and make swim trunks out of it for my brother and I. What possessed her I don’t know, but make them she did and the next summer we boys put them on for the first time and dashed into the lake.When we emerged, we found to our horror that although the elastic at the waist was holding just fine, the waterlogged woolen fabric now weighed several pounds and gravity had pulled it down so far that the crotch was at the level of our knees, revealing our private parts to anyone who cared to look in our direction.

I don’t recall how we got from the beach to a sheltered spot where we could rid ourselves of the distorted garments, but once we shed them we never saw them again. However, those swimsuits lived on for years in family legends.

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You may have noticed a couple of changes in the weather listings. We closed the Washington DC offices of the Empire and opened up an outpost in Stockholm, Sweden. Granddaughter Elsa had been living in DC but felt she had to leave when the behavior of the Red Party threatened her mental health. Being that close to the seat of all power was more than a sane person could tolerate, so she chose a location about 3900 miles away and will now see if that’s far enough.

What I know is that Robin and I live 1900 miles from DC, and there are many days that I wish it were further – for instance, if that offensive political party could be relocated to a large ice floe within the Arctic Circle. We would give each member the health care availability and economic opportunities of a person living on public assistance and let them work it out. Oh, and we would give them all the handguns and assault weapons they wanted to assist in solving arguments, in marriage counseling, and in employment disagreements.

I think that I’d sleep better if that happened. Then we could devote our energies toward trying to help the Democrats become a functioning political party that consistently worked for the benefit of all of us, instead of the prima donna casserole it tends to be now.

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Simple Tools

One of the most common misconceptions about electric bicycling that I run into is that the cyclist sits there and the motor does all the work. Many people are surprised that I pedal at all. What they have missed along the way is that the point of e-biking is to assist, rather than replace, the effort you make in getting from Point A to Point B.

The best description that I’ve come up with so far is that I do the same amount of work in a given amount of time but go faster and further with the electrical assistance. Now, it is true that if I dialed the assist level up to 5 that I wouldn’t be getting much exercise at all. It’s all in what you want out of it. It’s only a simple machine, after all. One simple tool riding upon another.

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I ran across this music video recently that I found intriguing. It’s of a song by the Chemical Brothers collaborating with Beck. Once you start watching you can’t stop until the end, just to see how it all comes out.

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I had suspected for a long time that I might be underestimating the level of thick-headedness in the good old US of A, but today’s situation … what the hell! To have nearly half the country, including many people who should definitely know better, abandon their wits en masse and refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19 is a situation that a year ago I would not have thought possible. C’est incroyable!

Here are some quotes from my favorite cranky S.O.B., H.L. Mencken. He would have loved the opportunity to comment on today’s news. I think that even he might be amazed at today’s goings-on. It’s all I can do to keep my inner cynic in check, and it causes me to wonder anew about the long-term future of the species homo sapiens.

H.L. Mencken

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

No one in this world, so far as I know – and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me – has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.

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My friend Joe sent these along to me. I don’t know who to credit, but to whoever painted these … Bravo! There is a great deal of obvious skill involved in doing the painting, but what is even more impressive is the imagination that saw the possibilities present in an ordinary hand.

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Tuesday afternoon was one of those perfect times to be out on the deck with an iced tea in one hand and a word processor in the other. I listened to new music on Apple and to some old music from my library, all the while being caressed lightly by a breeze that never got too rowdy. The contrast between sitting here under a shady ash tree and doing any kind of work out there twenty feet away in the brilliant sunshine is striking. I can do the ash-tree bit for hours. I can do working in the sun for perhaps 20 minutes before I fade. Kinda pathetic, actually, this weather-wimpiness. When, exactly, did that happen?

Oh, well.

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There are some musical groups that stand out for me, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young is one of them. Maybe the premier one, actually. My appreciation of their music began when I was wearing a USAF uniform and listening to a San Francisco radio station playing “Four Way Street.” I wore out the original vinyl of that album decades ago. Their musical and social sensibilities meshed with my own in a way that has withstood multiple breakups and reunions of the group without flinching. At present it doesn’t exist as a functioning and touring unit, but no matter. Over these forty-plus years they have created a body of music that I can turn to whenever.

So when I ran across this album named CSNY 1974 (Live), what could I do? The album was put together recently, culled from many concerts played in that year, when they were young men and their future unclear.

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One Hour Over Berlin

I have had a continuing fantasy for exactly as long as I have been driving a car. It came into being the first time I confronted a truly bad driver on the road. Someone who either endangered me or just plain p****d me off. I imagined that two 50-caliber machine guns were mounted on my car at bumper level, and that I could fire them with a button near the steering wheel. These were the same sort of armaments found on the P-51 Mustang aircraft in WWII.

By pushing that button I would never hit anyone in the cabin of the offending car in front of me, but the guns would be aimed so that a burst of fire would obliterate a tire and a rear wheel, forcing the vehicle to unceremoniously screech to the side of the road as I passed it nonchalantly. Perhaps I might even wear a leather flight jacket on these missions, with a scarf streaming behind me as I flew down the road. I was pretty sure that guns capable of bringing down a Messerschmitt 109 would have no trouble at all blowing the tire on a Chevvy Camaro to smithereens.

With the passage of time, my fantasy has become more civilized and less violent until nowadays I envision paintball guns mounted in the same place, and a sophisticated video control system that allows pinpoint aiming at whatever I want to mess up. When the offending driver reaches their destination, they discover that some serious clean-up is in order, perhaps even a complete re-painting of the rear of the car. Or I coat the rear window with something in a nice fuchsia to get their attention and make my point.

The theme is still the same, however. Someone has to punish these miscreants, and since one can’t always count on the highway patrol or local gendarmes to be on the scene, that someone might as well be me. It’s garden variety vigilante justice. As American as black powder and apple pie.

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My favorite musical instrument that I don’t play is the guitar.* Whether it’s Andres Segovia playing classical, Eddie Van Halen doing superhuman things in rock and roll, or Johnny Smith cruising along with his jazz quintet … the guitar is what I go there for. So when The New Yorker had an article on a jazz guitarist new to me, I whisked myself off to find recordings he had made. BTW, his name is Julian Lage.

It was well worth the trip. His playing is aimed more for the cerebrum than the hormonal system, I think. The man’s feeling for his instrument is a lovely thing to hear.

*Actually, I play no instrument at all. I have briefly owned several guitars in my lifetime, but always quit the lessons when my fingertips became sore. (What is the opposite of dedication?) I am glad, however, that Mr. Lage persisted in his studies.

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We recently bought some new panniers for our bicycles. They are the sort that are meant for carrying groceries, and I used them last evening for the first time. It went well. Driving the e-bike, I didn’t hesitate to take the four mile roundtrip in 98 degree weather to do the shopping. Hardly raised a sweat (relative humidity was in the single digits).

Each bag will carry the equivalent of what a paper grocery bag would hold, perhaps 20 pounds on each side. They are made by the Banjo Brothers, and this particular model is called the “market pannier.” The reviews were good, the price was not horrible (for bicycle equipment, that is), and they seem quite durable. I’ve put just short of 300 miles on my bike since purchasing it, about half of those were in exercise sessions, and the other half running the sort of errands where panniers come in handy.

All in all, this cycle project is working out better than I thought it might. My usual story is that I come up with an exuberantly positive rationale for a purchase like the e-bikes and associated paraphernalia, a rationale which is quickly forgotten once the item is in the garage and the rosy glow has worn off. For instance, when I discover that there is still work to do when one pedals the things.

But this one may have legs.

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Ahem. I’d like you to know that at the present moment I am playing Beethoven in the back yard. I have decided to try to elevate the musical conversation along the neighborhood’s back fences, and am sending out the strains of the “Pastorale” Symphony for all to hear and to wonder – who in blazes is playing this stuff? They might well be thinking: George, isn’t that the same guy who was playing that damned rock and roll when we were trying to take a nap yesterday? What is the matter with him? Why don’t you take this broom and go next door and smack him a couple of times?

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Magnolia, You Sweet Thing …

A small summer extra for this Sunday morning. J.J. Cale wrote an ode to someone special named Magnolia, and I have provided his excellent recording here.

But Lucinda Williams’ cover is just so perfect for listening to on a hot summer’s day that I had to send it along. Lucinda is at her mannered singing best, and sometimes even a super-fan like myself can’t understand what she’s saying. (That’s what lyric sheets are for, I guess) The backup band is outstanding, and the long musical breaks a joy to listen to. I can play it over and over, even though the recording is almost 10 minutes long and my attention span has been clocked by the U.S. Naval Observatory at 11.7 seconds.

It’s a sweet sweet version, and provides all the summer languor a person could possibly want, or handle.

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Summahtime

It isn’t summer yet, as far as the calendar is concerned, but we are completely into the phase where you can no longer go barefoot outdoors in the middle of the day. You know that old business about frying an egg on the sidewalk that keeps coming up (even though I don’t personally know anyone who has tried it)? Well, it applies to feet as well.

You go to the beach and the asphalt parking lot has already passed broil, the sand at the water’s edge is now set at scorch, and after swimming you have severe misgivings about running the twenty yards from the lake to the blanket where your sandals are parked. You are pretty sure that first degree burns on the soles of your feet are a guarantee and wonder why the hell you came out here in the first place.

These are those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Emphasis on the crazy.

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From The New Yorker

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So … sitting out back in the shade of the big ol’ ash tree for which we are eternally grateful I am listening to music that is cool … low key … nothing that encourages effort of any kind. Right this minute that means Riders on the Storm by the Doors, followed by Fade Into You (Mazzy Star), Pink Moon (Nick Drake), and … you get the picture. No tunes that make you want to get up and dance or do anything that might raise a sweat. Music that goes with iced beverages and leaning back and letting the wafting breezes do their thing. I love a good wafting as much as anyone.

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Yesterday I spent more than an hour with advisors on Apple Support. First I had to “talk” to a very junior person in a chat, where I laid out my problem as clearly as I could. After 15 minutes of showing no understanding of what was bothering me, #1 asked if I minded if they sent me along to someone more senior. Please do, I responded and there was a minute or two before #2 junior person came into the chat and asked me what they could do to help.

I said that they could start by reading what had already been covered in the chat history instead of our having to start afresh. Five minutes later they asked if I minded being transferred to a senior advisor. No problem, I repeated.

Minutes passed and I was directed to a third junior staff member who said that the “senior” was coming any day now, that in fact she might be trying to call me on the phone. I mentioned that this might be difficult since I hadn’t given them my phone number as yet, and I proceeded to share it with them.

More minutes elapsed until the phone rang. The lady who was on the line asked “How can I help you today?” Again I suggested that she first review the transcript and the images I had sent along. Ten minutes later she asked if we could bring in someone more senior. By now I am weeping audibly and trying to keep the tears from getting into my keyboard. Finally, a woman with a strong Southern accent named Ambrosia came on the line. From then on we worked together until the problem was solved.

Total time spent in chat and on phone = 80 minutes. Final piece of advice from the woman who actually helped me was that the problem would most likely recur, and if it did I should feel free to call anytime and we’d get it sorted out once again. My verbal response to her was “Yes, yes, I will do that.” My internal and silent responses were along the lines of: “When Hell freezes over ,” or “I’d rather die,” or “Just shoot me.”

It just took so long to get to Ambrosia.

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Jill Biden apparently was charming and did a creditable job of representing the mentally healthier part of America at the G7 this past week. She was able to do this because she is a real person and not the cardboard cutouts of human beings that we’ve sent out in the previous four years.

Ms. Biden has a fan here in Robin, who read at least one of her biographies during the campaign months. When it comes to such things, I trust Robin’s instincts and accept that Dr. Biden is indeed a winner. It can’t be a bad thing to have an educator as First Lady, can it? Our schools need help, our teachers need support and guidance, and to have someone who actually understands the problems in her position … how refreshing and encouraging.

Of course it was Joe who was elected and not Jill, but there is some reason to believe that he actually listens to her.

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Inch by inch we’re adding to our involvement in the local Democratic Party activities. We’ve volunteered to do voter registration at the county fair for a few hours later this summer. Someone called me today looking for a body to be precinct chairperson. She thought that I had all of the qualifications needed to do the job. Apparently this means having a pulse.

I told her that I might not be the right candidate, since my pulse is quite irregular at times. Skips beats quite often. We agreed to put off deciding about this particular task right now.

Being by nature a hermit, moving out into the public sphere in this way is working solidly against that nature. But I want to add my small voice to the multitude that says No More. And if that means being uncomfortable once in a while, doing something that I dread just a little bit, so be it.

The yahoos have had the stage for too long now, and I will be very happy to one day to have a hand on that trusty vaudeville hook as we drag them off into the wings.

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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 this real-life wise woman 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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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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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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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.

.

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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The Old Testament

My son had returned home from college for a few days, and on the second morning of his too-brief stay he came up from his basement bedroom and declared: “And to think that this was a home where rock and roll was once played.”

I blinked like a deer in the headlights, because I had no response. He was right. In my as yet unfamiliar-to-me life as a divorcée, I had drifted waaaay too far from the real stuff, and into New Age music. Without thinking, really, over a period of several months I had effectively replaced Led Zeppelin and Neil Young with the tunes from folks like David Arkenstone and Enya, and that’s what I had playing in the background since the young man’s arrival. Oh, the shame of it all!

No Mas! I cried, as I flew to the turntable with an album by the J.Geils Band in my hand, and tossed whatever dreck was already on there over the loft railing. As the opening notes of “Hard Drivin’ Man” began to fill the room, I felt renewed, cleansed, and oh-so-repentant. I thanked Jonnie for reminding me of who I was and pledged right then and there to never again fall away from the true faith.

He looked over at me and said something like “Rise, father … go and sin no more.” (I think he borrowed that line from somewhere, for it sounded very familiar but it was highly righteous and very much to the point on that special day.)

I have been the truest of disciples since then. I carry a large staff with me everywhere I go and whenever I find a New Age adherent I ply that stick about their head and shoulders until they see the light. It’s a thankless job … but someone’s got to do it. We’re saving souls here!

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I have had so many very wise and urgent things to say recently that I have sorely neglected what it probably the best part of this blog, and that is when I don’t write anything at all but only share a few cartoons from the New Yorker magazine. I do this whenever my personal thoughts are an undecipherable clutter. Today I am going to pass along a murder of cartoons. It’s a lot like a murder of crows, but more fun.

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As I read the headlines for the past two months, and think about the office of POTUS, I wonder all over again – who in hell would want the job? President Cluck left things in an unusually messy state, to be sure, but even if he hadn’t totally mucked things up the world is a certified perpetual bucket o’disorder.

Let’s see … take a sample of the problems that the U.S. faces domestically, for instance. What shall we choose … how about racism, income inequality, gun violence, immigration, and the large number of special interest groups, which at last count was equal to the population? And to accomplish anything in any of these areas POTUS must do something that is much harder than herding cats, he must herd politicians. At least with cats you can fairly easily understand their motives and behavior. They like to be fed, they don’t like to get wet, and they sleep most of the day.

Unfortunately, politicians don’t sleep nearly enough, so that when we go to bed there is always the chance that they will do something so bad during the night that it takes us years to get over it. I refer you to the quotation by Gideon J. Tucker: “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

Who wants that job? Not a normal person.

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Sunday Morning

I know that it’s Sunday morning and you have a God-given right to be left alone … but here I am anyway. Let’s face it, you clicked on something to get here, so face up to your part in all this. Ever hear of folie a deux?

Folie a deux (‘madness for two’), also known as shared psychosis or shared delusional disorder, is a psychiatric syndrome in which symptoms of a delusional belief, and sometimes hallucinations, are transmitted from one individual to another.

Wikipedia

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First of all, here’s more on Dr. Seuss and taking books away, by Ross Douthat, a generally morose but occasionally thoughtful columnist. He thinks that liberals should care more about what is going on.

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Another page in the movement toward alternate foods made of stuff we didn’t even know existed. For instance, do you know about the supremely hardy extreme fungus from Yellowstone National Park that is taking off right now? You don’t? Your ignorance could stop right this minute, should you so choose. Up to you. But know this – there might be, right this minute, a fungus burger out there with your name on it.

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From The New Yorker

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One of Billie Holiday’s signature songs was Strange Fruit. Biography has a short piece about the song and how singing it probably shortened Holiday’s life, while it certainly impacted her career. A sad story of the bad things that bad men in government can do and of the power of music to frighten them.

If you’re up for it, here is the song, sung by Ms Holiday herself.

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V-Day Hath Come ‘Round

A few tunes for anyone who has been, who is, or who will be, in love. You’re welcome.

Songs by Carly Simon, Don Shirley, Ella Fitzgerald, Anita Baker, and Rickie Lee Jones.

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And one romantic poem for fisherpersons …)

The Song of Wandering Aengus

By William Butler Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Mud Season

Yesterday Robin and I scored a sighting of a golden eagle, circling above the Ute Museum on the southern edge of town. We can’t take a lot of credit for our birding skills, however, for we only saw it because we came across a woman outside the museum who was pointing heavenward. When we asked her “What are you pointing at, my good woman? “she answered “Golden eagle.” Thus our discovery.

We’re not too proud to take the scraps that others toss us.

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I find myself marveling at the courage of Alexei Navalny. To be poisoned by agents of the Russian government, airlifted nearly dead to Germany for treatment, and then when you finally have recovered the strength to walk about you get right back on a plane and return to Russia. Where you are promptly arrested, as you knew you would be.

For generations, people arrested in Russia have had the habit of disappearing into huge and ugly prisons, anonymous graveyards, or camps in Siberia. And still he went back. I am in awe. It’s as if he is some completely different species of man … Homo intrepidus, perhaps.

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A Dick Guindon cartoon. I repeat this one every winter.

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It’s mud season here in Paradise. The remaining dirty snow and ice melt very slowly at the temperatures we are experiencing, just enough to keep the gumbo damp and treacherous. So we walk on concrete and asphalt 99% of the time. Maybe 99.9%. Word has reached us that the snow levels up on the Grand Mesa have finally reached the point where the XC-skiing is great. We’ll try to get up there this week and take advantage of that. It’s a favorite winter activity for us, even though we don’t pretend to be anything but perpetual beginners.

So far this winter has been an unusual one. The snowfalls have not been not epic anywhere, making travel more possible and predictable than ever. Of course, we’re not supposed to be traveling and who would we visit? We don’t have any friends in the dim-bulb section of the American populace … those people who walk about unmasked and show up at vaccination centers trying to prevent others from getting the care they need and want. So if we did show up at anyone’s house they would meet us with doors barred and refuse us entry. As they should.

The gods are laughing at us once again. Keep the roads open and take away the reasons to travel on them.

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In 2008 Leonard Cohen recorded a live concert in London, where his backup singers were The Webb Sisters. One of the songs performed was If It Be Your Will … a quiet prayer. Cohen reads a few lines, then turns it over to the Webbs.

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Thought you might like it. It’s kind of slow and hushed, as prayers tend to be. While it sounds as if it might have been written in Cohen’s last years of life, when he dealt often with themes of mortality, it actually showed up for the first time on an album of his that was issued in 1984, Various Positions.

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On our walks we typically encounter about thirty people and 45 dogs. And even though I complain whenever we come upon some unattendeddog droppings on the hiking path, it’s obvious that the majority of dog owners are picking up after their pets very well. Because if they weren’t we’d be ankle deep in doggy doo-doo for certain. There are that many canines out there in this state.

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that each new resident of Colorado was issued a dog when they applied for their new drivers’ licenses.

Well, Sir, here’s your new driver’s license. I think the picture turned out pretty well, don’t you?
It’s okay, I suppose, but why wouldn’t they let us smile?
And here’s your Colorado welcome gift.
Wait, that’s a dog. I have no use for a dog.
Come now, Sir, you want to fit in here, don’t you?
Well, yeah.
Then I need to tell you that anyone seen walking in Colorado without a dog on a leash is assumed to be a tourist.
Really?
Yes, really. So here … take the leash. The dog’s name is Heraklyon, and he is a new breed, called a peke-a-poo-a-lhasa-a-doberman, and they are no trouble at all.
This one has its teeth fastened in my ankle right now, is that normal?
Awwwww, he likes you already.

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Interpreter

Once upon a time there were people who wrote songs, and other people sang them. The singers were called interpreters. Think Frank Sinatra, for instance.

That was pretty much how it was in popular music until the sixties, when the genre of singer/songwriter came along. Now I know this will be a hopeless generality, but we tended to forgive the singer/songwriters their often unlovely voices as the tradeoff we made to get to hear their music. Think Bob Dylan, for instance.

Eva Cassidy was a singer. There were only two reasons to listen to her. One was her beautiful voice … and the other to find out what she heard in a song that you might have missed.

The selections over there on the right have been long-time favorites of mine. For the longest time I wasn’t happy with anything but the originals. But Cassidy changed my mind about that. When Sandy Denny recorded the wonderful song “Who Knows Where The Time Goes,” I didn’t think I would ever hear as fine a rendition as hers. But what do you know, now I have. Eva Cassidy’s interpretation melts the heart in the same way.

Gone too soon, at age thirty-three.

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Tripping Badly

Robin and I watched the movie Phantom Stitch the other night, a film in which mushrooms play an important role. Now, one of the basic hazards of life (for listeners) is that when a person attains a certain age, nearly everything reminds him or her of something in his or her past. So here’s a personal mushroom story.

I was living and working in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and had been there for a couple of years. There was a substantial “counterculture” contingent living up there, who enjoyed the natural gorgeousness and lack of close supervision by authorities.

One summer afternoon I was taking my turn covering the Emergency Room, when I was called to see a young man with a beard and shoulder-length hair, attired in well-worn jeans and a faded flannel shirt, and who had ingested some mushrooms that had made him quite ill. He had been vomiting for hours and was moderately dehydrated as a result. I examined him quickly and then turned to the nurse, who happened to be a person who had quite a lot of knowledge of local fungi.

“Did he bring in any of what he ate?” I asked.

“No, but I’ve been saving what he threw up in case we need to send it away for study,”the nurse replied.

“How to find out what it was … ?”

At that point, the patient, who had been lying there motionless but for the rise and fall of his chest with his breathing, eyes closed and looking as completely miserable as you care to imagine, said two words in a low and groaning voice:

Amanita muscaria.”

Amanita Muscaria is not “poisonous” per se, rather it is a hallucinogen/narcotic. When you eat it dried, freshly cooked, or drink water it has been cooked in, you will become intoxicated, or possibly just get sick and vomit all over the place.

Forager Chef.com

Et voila! It turned out that the man had been seeking hallucinations by ingesting that fungus but instead ran headlong into a common effect which was to become extremely nauseous. He was provided with intravenous hydration, moved into a quiet space, and discharged a few hours later in good condition.

Amanita muscaria

So the first and last case of mushroom poisoning I ever saw was diagnosed by the patient himself, and that diagnosis communicated to me in Latin. You might not believe this, but that didn’t happen every day.

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A Dick Guindon cartoon

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Love this song, from 1986. The video is by a group called ‘Til Tuesday, which was fronted by Aimee Mann, a very talented woman who has gone on to do some beautiful things in music.

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One For My Baby

A couple of weeks ago, when gas for my car cost me $0.25 a gallon, and I was earning the princely amount of $0.75 an hour at a part-time job, I heard a song on the radio sung by a man I’d never heard of. It was a smooth and soulful rendition of One For My Baby, and the man turned out to be Josh White.

I set out to find and purchase that recording for my very own, and eventually succeeded. You have to remember that once upon a time, there was no internet, no Google, no iTunes, and no Spotify, and this kind of research was a slow process. What took the place of all these things was locating a record store with a knowledgeable owner. A person with a headful of what you needed to know, and who could point you in the right direction.

But let’s get on with it. Josh White became a favorite, and I have quite a few of his songs in my library. Where I can listen to them whenever I need to, even if the internet goes down and I am far from everything but electricity. There are days when his music bears me up, brother. It bears me up.

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A Dick Guindon cartoon

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On Saturday we rendezvoused with Allyson and Kyle at Rifle Falls State Park. Perfect weather for it. Winter picnic included hot soup and cheese. Life is good.

Sacrifice For The Good …

There are a lot of frustrating moments involved in reading the Times of New York on a regular basis. It’s worth it, of course, because then you are able to say “I saw in the NYTimes this morning,” a phrase that immediately stamps one as a person of culture, discernment, and general superiorness (at least to one’s own way of thinking).

But you have to wade through quite a lot of dross to sort out what you came there for. You have to read about hundreds of plays that you will never see, poetry readings that you will never attend, restaurants where you will never be seated, and excellent-looking movies that will never make it across the Rockies.

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You end up reading all-too-frequent love letters to NYCity written by residents of NYCity who really can’t imagine why the rest of the country has to exist at all and what kind of dullards would ever live anywhere but NYCity? There are the stories about weddings that you missed where the couple was too charming for words, real estate that only the 1% could aspire to owning, and a food column that is at least one-third about the intricacies of which wine you should be buying at which shop (wine may be a lot of things, but it isn’t food).

So when I say “I saw in the NYTimes this morning,” I hope you all realize the sacrifices that I make in reading this newspaper just to be able to name-drop an article or two each week.

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There is a song by the group Talking Heads that deals with those of us who don’t live in NYCity. It’s called “The Big Country,” and the chorus goes like this:

I wouldn’t live there if you paid me.
I wouldn’t live like that, no siree!
I wouldn’t do the things the way those people do.
I wouldn’t live there if you paid me to.

The Big Country, by Talking Heads

I have liked the song since first I heard it, snobbish little ditty that it is. It is almost perfect in its attitude, and helps keep my sense of humor honed.

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I saw in the NYTimes this morning that there are people lining up to be upset about Joe Biden’s cabinet picks. Of course they are. They should be. We really aren’t simply divided into red and blue factions, but to all shades of those two colors, each with its advocates for a point of view.

So when Biden picks a retired four-star general for Secretary of Defense, he stirs up any shade of blue that thinks the man is not as civilian as he should be to hold this post. After all, we have a long-established principle involved here, the control of the military by civilian authority. I think personally that this principle is a good thing, and find it helpful to be reminded of it through the present controversy.

Whoever Biden picks for whatever cabinet post will not please all of us. It’s possible that when they have all been selected that each will be a disappointment to you, or to me, in some way. From then on, we will watch to see what they do, won’t we? I wasn’t happy when Robert Kennedy was chosen by his brother as Attorney General, even though I liked JFK. I thought – NEPOTISM – in all caps. But in his abbreviated career his actions pleased me in too many ways to count.

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It’s not common knowledge but my navel is off slightly more than one centimeter to the right. And I lay it all off onto the medical/industrial complex.

When I was retiring from practice, I had excellent health insurance, so I decided that before I left for parts unknown that I would have as many of my defects repaired as time would allow and my insurance would cover. It turned out that I had a hernia in many of the places that a person can have one, and they totaled three. So I visited a surgeon of good repute and we made the required arrangements. One of those defects was at my umbilicus, where during the repair the physician would tunnel in and patch the problem area with … I don’t know … some burlap or pieces of recycled radial tire belts.

The surgeries were all small ones, and I went home a happy man. Until I took a shower later on, and noticed that I was no longer symmetric. Either my navel had shifted to the right or my entire body had shifted to the left, but something unplanned had happened. At my first post-op followup visit, I brought this up to the surgeon.

I don’t know if you noticed, doctor, but my umbilicus is askew.

Why, so it is. Has it always been that way?

No, not until my surgery.

Have you proof of this?

Yes, many photos in my family albums show an admirable centering.

Well … ?

I didn’t want to talk bout legal action, but I remember reading about a woman who had a similar problem after plastic surgery, and she received a handsome settlement.

I know of the case. Of course, she was an attractive woman in her forties, while you are a rather plain man in your sixties.

Your meaning, sir?

There’s not a jury in the country that will think that the proposition that you are less attractive than you were holds any water. In fact, the case could be made that you are now more interesting than ever.

So I should be grateful?

Indeed you should, especially since there will be no additional professional fees involved.

Thank you so much, doctor, you are exceptionally kind and considerate.

Don’t mention it. On your way out, could you send in the next post-op patient? He’ll be the one whose right ear flops about something terrible.

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Telling Good News & That Ain’t Bad

On Tuesday I went to the neurology clinic in Grand Junction for my last followup visit. The good doctor had just finished a session with a patient where there was only terrible news to share, and for me to be able to tell him only good things was at least some small relief in a trying day.

You remember that I wore a heart monitor for a month after my time in hospital? My neurologist had the results and they were normal but for one interesting feature. When I sleep, my heart rate dips into the low 30s. He asked me if I had noticed this on my own, and I told him that since I was sleeping at the times these low rates occurred … no, I didn’t.

So when I got back to the car and talked with Robin, I mentioned the low heart rate. I suggested that if she ever woke at night and wanted to see if I was still among the living by taking my pulse that she give it a while before calling 911. And we agreed that she would always wake me and ask if I wanted help before starting CPR.

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Covid is ramping up here on the Western Slope. Grand Junction is in the red zone, while Montrose is still on orange status. If the number of bare faces we encounter on our uncommon trips away from home means anything, we’ll be red here soon as well. Merchants in town all have a sign on the door indicating that a mask must be worn before entering, but not one of them enforces it once the person is inside their establishment. The instances of violence around the country when people were admonished to put a mask on appear to have given them pause.

I think that I have a solution for this. If a shopper or store employee sees anyone above the age of consent wandering in the aisles without a mask, they should be allowed to walk up and tase those persons and then call to have their limp forms hauled out the front door. You would hear on the overhead sound system:

Attention WalMart security – please bring a freight cart to the candy aisle for removal of another bozo.

Seeing a stack of stunned persons on the sidewalk outside the store would at least give other potential no-mask miscreants something to think about.

(I’m kidding. I’M KIDDING!)

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From The New Yorker

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There was a piece in the Times of New York on Wednesday about the musical group The Kinks and their most famous and enduring song “Lola.” It might be the first rock and roll tune about a transgender person, and is still in regular play around the world. Ray Davies thinks that it grabbed straight listeners by the ear and they grew to like it before they actually puzzled out the lyrics and realized what it was about.

No matter. Great tune. Ahead of its time.

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Lastly, this is the kind of article that I am inordinately fond of. About a huge collection of rock art discovered in the Amazon and the fascinating story that it tells. For whatever reason the article was in the “Style” section on the CNN website. Go figure.

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The Wishy-washy Need Not Apply

Monday morning I was peacefully reading the Times of New York when I came across an article that mentioned the Democratic Socialists of America. I don’t really know much about those folks and therefore I spent a couple of hours wandering through the website of the organization , and it was interesting.

They are serious people, passionate people, and … well, I’ll let you read a paragraph from their Constitution to get the flavor of what they are about.

Article II. Purpose.

We are socialists because we reject an economic order based on private profit, alienated labor, gross inequalities of wealth and power, discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, disability status, age, religion, and national origin, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo. We are socialists because we share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships. We are socialists because we are developing a concrete strategy for achieving that vision, for building a majority movement that will make democratic socialism a reality in America. We believe that such a strategy must acknowledge the class structure of American society and that this class structure means that there is a basic conflict of interest between those sectors with enormous economic power and the vast majority of the population.

Constitution, dsusa.org

I won’t claim to have read everything on the site, but what I did go through left me feeling that perhaps I wouldn’t join up, that a group of 70,000 such firebrands weren’t out looking to recruit wishy-washy octogenarians like myself as members (I could be wrong in this). While I agreed with a great many of the points they made, there was a doctrinaire flavor about their prose that reminded me of … Strelnikov.

You remember Strelnikov, don’t you? He was a character in the film Dr. Zhivago who was a true believer. Now, he was also a Communist, not a Socialist, and I do recognize that they are very different entities, so using him as my illustrative example is unfair from the get-go. But that flavor …

But hey, let me introduce (or re-introduce) you to Commander Strelnikov, who I found to be one of the most fascinating characters in a movie filled with them. Here he is in his office in a train car, interviewing Zhivago, a person who his soldiers have just arrested.

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I know that I have talked previously about the book, The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements, by Eric Hoffer. Hoffer was a longshoreman who had an amazingly fertile brain and a keen eye for the quaint habits and delusions of human beings. It was published in 1951 and was one of those you have to read this sort of books in that decade, especially for college types who were practicing their intellectual pretensions, as was I.

It’s a book that may help explain Cluck’s populism to those who are still puzzled as to the why? of the past several years. True Believers are not troubled by inconvenient opposing facts, they just run right over them as fables of the other side.

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For a piece of good old-fashioned far-left-wing music, I offer you The Internationale for your listening pleasure. It is played here by ani di franco. Don’t worry about being corrupted by it, it is an instrumental. As to the words, well, it depends on which translation you are following. There is a long article on the song, in Wikipedia, that makes for very interesting reading.

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Monday morning I went back for my last checkup following cataract surgery. You could tell how pleased the clinic staff and the surgeon were that I got such a superb operative result, so I’m glad that I kept the appointment, if only for their sake. I will still need glasses, and still do not have Superman’s X-ray vision, so at this point in life I think that I’ll finally give up on that particular fantasy. It was a much more intriguing concept to a young man … these days I really don’t care to see my friends without their clothes, nor do they, I suspect, have any hankering to see me au naturel.

I may have mentioned that the eye surgeon, whose name is Bennett Oberg, looks to be about twenty years old. He is tall, good-looking, slender, youthful … let me just say that you would have no trouble telling the two of us apart. In fact, he appears to be so young that as I was leaving I leaned over toward him and said in a conspiratorial voice: “Just between the two of us, Oberg, you’re not really a doctor at all, are you?

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You may have noticed in the weather box in the sidebar that some of the outposts of the Empire are becoming quite chilly. This morning, for instance, the Evelethians will be getting dressed while huddled around the woodstove, in their six degree air.

Of course, such an experience can be oddly pleasant, except for the person who has to get out of bed first, to stoke the fire in the stove. To all such stokers in the world, we offer a hearty thank you.

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Encore, Mr. Cohen?

After writing and publishing a paragraph or two on Saturday about Leonard Cohen’s last album, I ran across this video which is a short movie. It’s of a little more than nine minutes duration, and is about how the music came to be recorded. It is a lovely little thing in its own right.

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We are coming to the end of four years of a political administration that has been a disaster. It will still gasp and wheeze for another couple of months, and wreak the kind of harm that a gushing firehose can do if you drop it, whipping its head back and forth willy-nilly and threatening everything in its vicinity.

But on January 20 we move into some other gear. We don’t know what it will be, not exactly, but the first set of appointments that Mr. Biden has proposed have been both reassuring and worrisome at the same time. They are capable and tested people who will probably not make some of the blunders of the Cluck years. They are smarter than that.

The worry comes from the fact that so far they are all members of the club. Comedian George Carlin used to say in his act that America was not a free country at all, but fully owned and controlled by those who wielded corporate wealth and power. He would admonish his audiences with the phrase: “It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it!” Perhaps I wouldn’t mind being controlled by these folks (I might not even notice … I’m not the most perceptive person on the planet) if the world were going along really swell. But it’s not.

So we should all pay close attention to Mr. Biden, to his appointees, and to how they conduct themselves in the months to come. We should not just hope for better things from his administration, we should demand them.

Take nothing for granted.

Question everything.

Mottoes for a troubled time.

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Sunday Morning

A new recording just came out that some of you might be interested in, entitled Crossroads Guitar Festival 2019. These events are held irregularly, but often feature some outstanding music.

The Crossroads Guitar Festival is a series of music festivals and benefit concerts  founded by Eric Clapton.  The festivals benefit the Crossroads Centre founded by Eric Clapton, a drug treatment center in Antigua. The concerts showcase a variety of guitarists, selected by Eric Clapton personally.

Wikipedia

Today I picked out two classics, Layla and Purple Rain. I could easily have picked a dozen others. Enjoy.

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From The New Yorker

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Willie and the Boys

On Sunday afternoon, having a few moments that were free of responsibility for the world’s turning, the sun rising and setting, the perfection of mankind and the like, I created a Willie Nelson radio station on Pandora. And then I sat back in a recliner and listened for an hour. Migod, what an hour that was. One great song after another, including duets with other legends of country music, spanning decades of songs that I had heard over basically my entire adult life. Mr. Nelson is 87 now, still putting out new music, and would undoubtedly be still touring if it weren’t for Covid-19.

Now, from time to time I describe myself as a “class act,” and I do so knowing that you folks know better and won’t be led astray by such a tremendous fib. But as a performer, Willie … he is the very definition of a class act.

Robin and I caught a concert of his down in Grand Island, Nebraska a year or two before we moved out here to Paradise. It was Nelson and one other musician playing steady on for 90 minutes. The time flew by and our lives were at least two notches richer for having been there and seeing him in person. I really started being a solid fan of his when the album Red Headed Stranger came out, around 1975. And the song from the album that hooked me (and never let go) was Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.

Being 87 means that he is a Grand Senior Citizen of country music, but to read the interview in the New Yorker you wouldn’t know it. If humility means you know very clearly that the planet and stars don’t come and go for you alone but for everyone, Willie Nelson is a humble man indeed.

Here he is in a video of Eddie Vedder’s beautiful song, Just Breathe, with his son. That boy Lukas, if he don’t sound like his daddy I don’t know what.

Now, seriously, how many country artists do you know who describe being heavily influenced by Django Reinhardt, the great Belgian jazz guitarist from the 30s and 40s? I can’t think of one other. Mr. Nelson is a man of many parts.

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A light snow on the backyard deck this morning, just enough for Poco to make tracks in when he stepped out to check the weather. Our predicted winter storm never materialized here in Montrose, we only had a sniff of it when the wind kicked up on Saturday for a couple of hours. But it soon settled down and the sun came back and that was that. It seems to be a common pattern, where weather systems head for us and then split just before they reach our little town, with the rains or the snows falling both north and south of the city.

I’m actually okay with that, especially in the winter months. If I have to get in the car and drive for half an hour to find snow deep enough to XC ski, why, that’s just about perfect. It’s called the “having one’s cake and eating it, too” type of winter.

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There have been rumors that P.Cluck might fire Dr. Fauci, who persists in his apostasy by telling the truth about our pandemic. If that should happen, and I were Joe Biden, I might step right up to a nearby mike and say: “Don’t worry ’bout it, Tony, you get your job back on January 20.”

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I read the article on companies incorporating insect proteins into dry pet food to Poco, who was initially incensed. I tried to explain that it had already been going on for years, but only very small manufacturers had been involved. The news now was that it was Purina who was trying it out. And Purina is a big guy on the street when it comes to pet food.

I also asked him if he could claim that in his entire life he hadn’t already chewed down a bug or two. At that he looked a bit sheepish and muttered “Well … .” Once past that hump I could take time to present the rationale, which included a better use of the planet’s resources and that there was much less impact on the climate as well.

He conceded all of these points, then countered with “Alright, I get it. I am willing to do my part. And when it comes available at the market I will happily eat my black-fly-larva kibble if you do the same. Because I happen to know that there are insect-based food products out there on shelves for humans as well.”

I just hate it that the cats have learned to read. They’ve been nothing but trouble ever since they started.

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And finally, this photo has nothing to do with anything I have said before. But it is an amazing picture. Everyone in it is reacting in some way to that ball that’s on its way. Reminds me of those old Norman Rockwell magazine covers.

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Listen Up

There was a wonderful article about Gillian Welch and David Rawlings in the Times of New York on Wednesday. It’s a longish piece so I won’t go into it much here, but these are two people devoted to their music and the human stories they have to tell.

These are not shiny, bling-y people. To me what they do transcends genres, and actually forces me to sit up straight in my chair and pay attention. No background sonic pap is to be found in their discography.

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Back when movie theaters were a recreational choice, if I was unlucky enough to see one of those mile-high plates of yellow goo and corn chips that were called “nachos” being purchased at the refreshment counter, my gorge would instantly rise.

Because I have tasted that golden mess and declared it “not food” in my mind. But at the same time I have repeatedly wondered if there was something called nachos out there that were actually worth eating, perhaps the food that they were before the waves of queso started flowing.

So when I ran across this story of the origins of nachos I found it very interesting and personally reassuring. These present-day piles of corn chips n’glue started out life as something made of honest-to-god ingredients. Even better, the article goes into the origins of the snack’s name.

Even more better, there is a recipe so that we can make our own honest version, just like Ignacio did back in the day.

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There are times when I sense that I am a terrible disappointment to my cats. This morning, for instance. Poco was following me around, meowing periodically. I had fed him, the litterbox was clean, the pet door was open to a beautiful November day, and we had already spent some early-morning quality time together. And yet at one point he stopped still in his tracks and his expression said so clearly: You have failed me. I give up.

Moments later, as I was sitting by the dining room table, Willow leapt onto the table (which she never does and knows that she is forbidden to do) and walked straight at me. With her face now only inches away from mine, I could see that she had the same querulous and disappointed look about her. “Can I ever trust you again?”, it said.

So I turned to the pair and declared: “You know, there are times when you two are no bargain, either.” We left it at that.

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The Chicks have a new album out, their first in 14 years. I’ve like them for a long time, smart and skilled musicians that they are. This time there is a cut that I find very moving, and it’s called March March. I present here the official video for the song, and also a version they did on Stephen Colbert’s late night program. I find that both are affecting, but in slightly different ways.

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As I write this, on an early Thursday morning, the national election is still undecided, although Mr. Biden leads in those anachronistic electoral votes. Best we be done with them and at long last use a system that requires no explanation. Obviously I have hopes that P.Cluck is eventually fired as president, and that he finally has the time to get the mental health counseling that he so evidently needs. Maybe there is a family plan where the entire unsavory family gaggle could be therapped grouply.

But I will stop here, because it isn’t over yet … and there is many a slip …

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So far our November here in Paradise has been outstanding. Sunshine in great abundance, with chilly nights and warm days. Much of the color has been drained from the landscape, leaving behind a palette of grays and browns. Robin and I have resumed our regular walks and roamings, and we are not alone out on those pathways.

Even after being out here for several years, I am still struck by the number of dogs that Coloradans own. I like dogs, really I do, but it is necessary for there to be 3.7 canines per person? And could we get a doggy diaper law, please? Because the honor system of picking up after one’s pup is definitely not working.

On the walking trail out in back of our home, we get to watch the passing parade every day, and it is obvious that the older a citizen gets, the smaller the pooch they own. There are no seniors with mastiffs, Great Danes, or pit bulls. Instead they parade around with a bewildering number of mutant and diminutive breeds I never heard of. What on earth is going on with all of these cocka-whatevers? Dogs that closely resemble the ends of dustmops, where the only way you can tell which end is which is to look for the eyes?

Yesterday on our river-walk we encountered a dog, at least that’s what I think it was, which was clearly assembled out of the spare-dog-parts bin. It was the size of a beagle, with legs like a bulldog, a face like a boxer, and ears like a jackass. I honestly have no idea what it was or what you would call it. Or why you would call it.

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All Hallows Eve

Today is Halloween and I’m not ready for it. Not in any way. Some cherubs will show up this afternoon with their bags open looking for us to drop safe treats into. In our part of town all of the costumed kiddos are quite young, so their raids occur in the afternoon and once the sun goes down everything is quiet.

When they do show up I will take my masked self to the door and hand them something with either a gloved hand or a thoroughly sanitized one. It’s like the trick-or-treating is happening on an infectious disease ward, where we are the patient in isolation and the staff parade through our sickroom looking for sterile handouts.

One of the enjoyable aspects of Halloween could be setting something up frightening outside the door. A disembodied voice moaning and chains rattling from a hidden speaker, perhaps. Or a scarecrow that comes to life and reaches out a bony finger to tap the child on the shoulder. But, it’s daylight! Nothing is scary in daylight! And even if I could pull it off, these are really young kids and who wants to send them screaming into their parents’ arms and then have to face those same parents’ anger at their darling ones being scarred for life by my insensitivity?

So it’s bite the bullet and pass out the packages of Skittles for me. Later, when we are safe from further visits, Robin and I will watch our carefully selected Frightening Film of the Year. We haven’t chosen one yet, but there are so many classics to pick from, aren’t there? Let’s see … Halloween … The Exorcist … Poltergeist … The Shining … Haunting of Hill House … Dracula … etc. etc. It’s one of the great things about the streaming movie era we are presently living in. Most of these will be available somewhere, even if there’s a small fee to pay. And we can watch them whenever we want, pause them whenever nature makes demands on bladders, and replay passages where we find the dialog hard to understand.

Life is techno-good.

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BTW, I should mention that I am a sort of Halloween version of Scrooge. Dressing up and masking has always seemed a silly business to me. By careful planning and artful refusals throughout my life I have avoided all but one of the costume parties that I was invited to attend. And that one only confirmed me in my apostasy.

It could be because on the other 364 days of the year I am already continuously playing roles, and don’t feel further need to play-act at a new one just because demons are up and about. What roles, you ask? Well, how about conscientious citizen, son, father, student, physician, etc. Perhaps is is enough to say that however I may appear to others (and to myself?), I suspect that there is a full-fledged Dr. Hyde running around in my internal community and looking for a way out. I have no wish to encourage him, not in the slightest.

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Here is a sampling of how movies and television have seen Mr. Hyde throughout the years.

For most people, when their Mr. Hyde comes out, he looks a good deal more ordinary than this. In fact, it’s often hard to tell by appearances when he’s in the room.

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Yesterday P.Cluck took on the medical professions as eager to profit from the suffering brought on by Covid-19. It was only a matter of time before he got to them/us. Now, not every doctor in the U.S. has had to sacrifice because of this disease. My ophthalmologist, for instance, does everything he can to avoid being exposed to the infected. As does my neurologist. Even my family doctor makes me wait in the hallway until I answer a few questions and then have my temperature taken. Only then can I enter the waiting room. If I don’t pass her quiz, it’s go home and we’ll call you.

But if I were one of those, like ER physicians, who cannot avoid working with the afflicted, I would be so pissed off reading today’s headlines. Because they are taken from a speech delivered by a man who cannot understand people who would take such risks because it that is what they do. Because that is what they signed up for. And the unworthy things that he is saying are not only undeserved but will make their job harder.

Whatta guy. His spot in Hell is prepped and ready.

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Now here is something that for me is as Halloween-y as it gets. Gave me nightmares when I was a child … doesn’t get any better than that.

Mental Goulash

We finished up the limited series The Queen’s Gambit last night. Thoroughly enjoyed every one of the seven episodes. The writers gave the main character some choice lines. Like these two:

Do you always drink this much?
No … sometimes I drink more.

It’s one of those moments where you come to the last minutes of the series and want there to be more episodes but at the same time realize that the creators of the series did it just right, that this is where it should end.

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A long time ago I decided that I should learn to play chess. At the time I didn’t personally know anyone who played, so I turned to books with titles like Chess for Beginners. (Chess for Dummies hadn’t been invented yet, so I made do with what I had). Basically I learned how the pieces move, but when it came to strategy it all seemed hopeless. The authors of the book would describe in detail how if I did this move and then that then checkmate would happen six moves ahead.

The problem was that I couldn’t see it. I never reached a stage where such far-looking (and beyond) was possible. One move ahead was it for me. If the woman in the TV series Queen’s Gambit was the Einstein of the game, I was at whatever the opposite pole would be called. (The Dimwit of Chess?).

I eventually tried to play a few games against actual human beings but all of them ended the same way, my trouncing in less than twenty moves. So I gave it up, having diagnosed myself as having a Chess Learning Deficiency and going on to other things less painful than those repeated drubbings. It wasn’t being beaten so much as it was the not being able to learn from the defeats that finally got to me.

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Speaking of not learning anything from experience, P.Cluck is the poster boy when it comes to this particular malady. As we close in on a quarter of a million dead in America due to Covid-19, he complains that if we didn’t do so many of those darn tests we wouldn’t have so darn many cases.

Of course if we followed his instruction, the published Covid numbers would be better but the corpses would still be piling up at exactly the same rate. Such is our leadership. Lord help us.

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Ahhhhh, the internet has come under attack because we have discovered that it is just as easy to spread mooseberries as it is knowledge using this medium. Why this is a surprise? Didn’t we already know this from written literature going back hundreds of years? With a good printing press you could put out a cookbook or you could print Mein Kampf. The press itself was neutral, it didn’t care how it was used.

Mr. Zuckerberg tries to sell us the idea that Facebook is completely neutral, that posting is neither bad nor good, and that the right stuff will always rise to the top, like cream in a bottle of milk. Maybe if he were dealing with rational creatures, instead of our awkward species, that would be the case. Maybe.

So Congress, that bastion of rationality, is now investigating Facebook, Google, and Apple. Looking to see how much influence this tech triad really has and how much we can mess with the First Amendment before it cracks under the strain. Right now, Facebook is jam-packed with people shouting FIRE in the proverbial crowded theater. So what do you and I do while we wait for Congress to save us?

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Always good to finish on a high note. The Times of New York mentioned this guy and this video, and I am passing it along. I just love pretending to be cultured and au courant, don’t you?

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Potpourri

Robin and I have a guest here at BaseCamp, daughter Maja has rejoined us for a few days. We are employing the package,* as always. Yesterday the weather permitted us to spend the late morning and all of the afternoon outdoors chatting away like blackbirds settling in for the night.

We even completed a project. Coming back from a walk in the park, we stopped at a roadside stand and purchased three pumpkins which were later decorated by carving or painting. The day flew by, and before you know it we were saying goodnight, as Maja returned to her motel to rest up.

BTW, that warty pumpkin that Robin is working with was something new to us all. Its flesh was so hard that she gave up trying to carve it and did a beautiful job of painting it instead. Nice recovery, that.

*The Package = masks, social distancing, hand washing, disinfection

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The rapper Megan Jovon Ruth Pete wrote an op/ed piece about her defense of black women that I thought was awfully good. So what is the opinion of an aged white male worth in such a case? Very little, I admit, but this is my blog and I get to say stuff. The lady’s professional name is Megan Thee Stallion, and what a title that is.

Here is a photo of the lady in performance. She is not a shrinking violet, it would appear. Nor doth she shrink in her writing.

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Lindsey Graham is having a real fight in his bid for reelection, and for many reasons I earnestly hope that he loses. He has publicly moved from one sycophancy to another, a decision forced upon him by John McCain, who was ill-mannered enough to die on him and expose him as a character without character. So when Graham stopped being the anti-Cluck and took his place at the feet of the Grand Posturer, it was no real surprise.

The man is the very definition of an empty suit.

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I am indebted to friend Caroline (and to Scotland) for this addition to our vocabulary. It’s yet another example of the fact that what we think is all new today has not only happened before, but there is already a word for it. Such a word is cockwomble.

It goes right up there with kakistocracy, or government by the “least suitable or competent citizens of a state.”

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Our ballots arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon. We saved them for later today, when I will open mine with as much eager anticipation as if it were Christmas. I am going to savor every single X that I put in every single box that will help retire the gang of thieves presently in office, up to and including P.Cluck himself.

If ever there was a bunch of politicians that deserved to be put out to pasture it is these people. They forgot long ago what they had been elected to do – the nation’s business.

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Sunday Morning

We’re heading home after a trip to Denver for a child’s violin recital. The event came off beautifully, attended by only ten people beyond Leina’s parents and sister. It was held outdoors, on the patio of the instructor’s parent’s home, which is a large house located on a hill overlooking the city.

Leina played the entire program without an intermission, I think there were nearly twenty short pieces. Each piece was followed by a deep bow, and when she came up there was this lovely little smile on her face. Like she might be thinking I nailed that!, didn’t I?

Under ordinary circumstances, we might not have traveled this distance in Covid times for an hour’s entertainment, no matter how precious, but this was not an ordinary time. Leina and her parents are moving later this month to California, which will quadruple the distance between our families. And no matter what spin one places on this (i.e. It’s only a two-day drive, or We can use our airline miles) it will make in-person visits more complicated than just getting in the car for a few hours.

That’s enough of a change to provoke some grieving, because it is in an unwanted direction. Seven summers ago we moved to Colorado to be closer to Robin’s grandkids, and for the most part, it worked out. That move was also a change. Closer to one side of our blended family, further from the other.

Buddhism talks all the time about change, stressing its constancy and inevitability. It encourages acceptance of that fact, and with that acceptance we are promised some serenity, some peace that can only be achieved by letting go of what it is impossible to hold onto. These blessings do not come without doing a bit of work, however. Often quite a bit.

Well-meaning friends will come up with cheerless statements (in trying to cheer us up) like “Change can be good” and they are both right and wrong at the same time. There is always a flip side. Each step of “progress” means something is left behind. Today I am eighty years old, and maybe, just maybe, I am a little wiser than when I was seventy-nine. I wouldn’t place a very big bet on that, but let’s pretend that I am for a moment. However, I also just dodged a fair-sized bullet a week ago, and now I am wearing a heart monitor and taking two drugs meant to encourage my platelets not to congregate with one another in unacceptable places. And in my own mind, a nice-sized chip was taken off of what remained of that sense of invulnerability that I started out with when I was born. This was change that I didn’t care for at all, no matter how much I accept it as a fait accompli.

So we wish our friends good luck on their move to the West Coast, and we will be happy with the successes they find out there, but the fact remains that they will be there, and not here. So we can be forgiven a few tears, a few chokings-up when telling the story, the moments of sadness in upcoming days and weeks. Letting go is a process.

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