My lack of gracefulness on ice is legendary. In fact, the very last time I laced up a pair of ice skates I did an unintended triple-Lutz followed by some intimate contact with the ice and a broken rib. Therefore I feel safe in saying that I firmly anchor the challenged end of the graceful scale.
What would be on the other end, you ask?
Something like this, would be my answer, with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo. Whenever I watch it I come to the same conclusion. The only way that I could ever have moved like this is with CGI.
Listened to Sen. Tammy Duckworth being interviewed on radio about health care for veterans. That care is pathetic, as it has always been. Not enough hospitals, not enough clinics, not near enough mental health professionals.
Providing the needed health care for these men and women is part of the cost of waging wars. It should not be a topic for discussion. We couldn’t be more vigorous in pushing these soldiers into battle, but when they return we act as if we wish they would just have the decency to go away now that the emergency is past.
Just finished an ebook from the library loan system written by Alice Walker. It has the greatest title: Hard Times Require Furious Dancing.
Loved the book. Poetry can often be so dense and obtusely that I break out in a sweat just thinking about it.
Not this stuff. From the heart and mind of a brilliant author and activist.
One of Neil Young’s many great song lines is “every junkie’s like a setting sun.” Whatever brilliance they begin with gradually dimming until the light goes out altogether.
In a galaxy far, far away, when the pandemic first came to town and we were being advised to make our wills and say our goodbyes, I found it impossible to get my hair cut here in Paradise. So I purchased a Wahl home clipper set and with trembling hands and no expectations I approached the task of giving myself a trim, without knowing whether I could.
Just in case I ended up looking like a concentration camp escapee, I was fully prepared to wear a hat continuously until the hair grew back. Imagine my surprise when it didn’t end up horrible at all, just … amateur-looking. There were some irregularities here and there, but one of the benefits of being a geezer is that there are so few people who could give a rat’s behind about how you look. No one commented adversely nor positively.
Thus emboldened I continued to shear my own locks even after the salons and barber shops of the area were open once again. I’ve experimented with the various attachments with varying success, and now can do the trimming once every week or two without fear. It’s still an amateur job, but acceptable, and I have received a very good return on that original thirty dollars I laid out for the clipper.
The last time I used the set, I decided to employ a slightly shorter comb and ended up with basically the appearance of an octogenaric marine recruit headed for boot camp.
My personal favorite guidebooks to the hiking trails that surround us out here on the Western Slope are written by the husband/wife team of Anne and Mike Poe. I like them because they are not just maps of trails with a scattering of details, but provide much more, including:
Maps of each trail
Description of prominent trail features
Beautiful photographs of points along the trails
Descriptions of how to get to the trailheads, including what vehicles (car, SUV, 4×4) are best suited to the approaches
Overall assessment of scenic values of the hike
All of the trails that are covered spend most of the time above treeline. The Poe’s rationale is that you don’t go hiking in Colorado to walk in a forest. You can do that just as well in other places.
These books all about day hikes, so if you want advice on backpacking you would be better off looking elsewhere. We’ve done quite a few of the walks, and hope to do many more in the future. Some of them involve gaining quite a bit of altitude, but whenever I am up there gasping away, I remind myself that Anne did many of them as a senior citizen, and afflicted with emphysema to boot. (She has alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, an hereditary cause of this disease).
TRY NOT TO GET SICK IN AMERICA DEPARTMENT
A couple of related papers to mull over the next time you have to dig down deep to pay your health insurance premiums.
Let’s face it: The American sickness care industry, with all of its disorganized elements and multiple protected revenue streams, has become a financial behemoth, and at the town, city, county, state, and federal levels, an untouchable political juggernaut. And, unlike anything seen since the US ramped up to fight the Second World War, it is a recession-proof engine for job creation. Who would not be impressed by those achievements?
Any questions? Did I hear the word “outcomes”? Uhhhh. A healthy population? Ooooh. Average lifespan of Americans? Efficiency and effectiveness? Quality of living and dying? National happiness? No need for psychoactive chemicals to escape reality? A happy workforce? It’s all about greed, but not only greedy doctors.
Lundberg, George M.D., Medscape :’They All Laughed When I Spoke of Greedy Doctors’ March 20, 2023
There once was a comic strip called Pogo. It took place in a swamp which was populated by a variety of animals including an opossum named Pogo. It was political satire … wisdom coated so sweetly that you never even felt the medicine go in until it was too late and you were just a bit more enlightened than you were when you picked up the newspaper.
In one panel, in 1971, Pogo uttered the profound line that opened my eyes forever, and which still resonates today because … guess what … as a species we haven’t improved much.
The line? “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
This past week there were scads of articles and op/eds written about former president cluck’s speech at Waco, and one of them was remarkable for its clarity. “MAGA, Not Trump, Controls The Movement Now.”
The opinion piece pointed out what has been obvious for years now, that Cluck was only surfing on a sea of seething anger and deliberate ignorance. A mob traveling on its collective id, sort of like the Huns without Attila around to control them, because Cluck never did control them , although I don’t think he ever knew it. Still doesn’t.
It’s not like we didn’t know that this bunch didn’t exist. It was called up by Hitler and Mussolini not all that long ago. By Father Coughlin, that lovely old parish priest of the thirties who happened to dislike the same things that Cluck has been foaming about today. By Joseph McCarthy, the esteemed senator from Wisconsin who covered his lust for power with a blanket of faux patriotism. By the KKK, which at one time was a real political force in this country, but which largely has gone away. However, we see that the poisonous tumult that it fed upon never went away, but only waited for a new servant to get out there and open doors for it.
It’s a bit like the Dracula legends, where the monster can only enter a dwelling if it is invited in.
But the members of this mob are just like us. You know that old trope in comics where an angel sits on one shoulder and a devil on the other? In good old you and I, for whatever reasons, the angel is slightly bigger than the demon. In the MAGA mob that situation is reversed. That’s all it takes. But that small shift makes all the difference.
That’s why it is always so shocking when the man next door suddenly says something so repellent you can’t believe your ears. Because up until that moment you thought he was Mister Nice Guy, just like you.
So our struggle against ignorance and hatred will go on for my lifetime for certain, probably for yours as well, and generations after. Each day we get up and round up the “better angels of our nature,” as Mr. Lincoln put it so well. Part of our strength is recognizing that the enemy is not at the gate, he is already inside. He is us.
Last evening Robin and I were engaged in a game of cribbage, sitting at the table in the dining area. Willow came in through the cat door and carried a good-sized mouse to within three feet of my chair and dropped it, whereupon it scuttled into the baseboard heater.
A measure of our hard-won serenity in matters like this is that this time there was no screaming, no climbing on chairs, no gathering of brooms or shotguns. I simply looked at Robin and asked if we should deal with this before finishing the game. She nodded and we both put down our cards and were able to collectively shoo the creature out of its hiding place and into the open where Willow could re-catch it and take it outside.
We then returned to our game, where I was soundly beaten for the third time in a row.
It struck me this morning that I have been living in the West for almost ten years now, and I haven’t written anything much about anything Western. Today I will begin to catch up.
As exasperating and politically disadvantaged as some of my co-Paradisians are, they are the rightful heirs to one of America’s most enduring myths, that of the cowboy. There is no possibility of my counting how many books and magazines I have read, how many movies I have attended, how many photographs I have been enthralled by, that dealt with the American West.
That lore is part of my DNA, even though I was thirty years old before I saw my first mountain up front and personal. Older than that when I first walked in a desert. Last year when Robin and I drove through Monument Valley in Arizona, I realized that in my mind I had been to this exact place, seen those gorgeous buttes and that red sandstone so many times. It was déja vu without any mystery as to why I felt that way.
One of my personal favorites in the western songbook has always been The Colorado Trail. It has straightforward lyrics and just the right amount of mournful in it.
The Colorado Trail is a traditional American cowboy song, collected and published in 1927 by Carl Sandburg in his American Songbag. Sandburg says that he learned the song from Dr. T. L. Chapman, of Duluth, Minnesota, who heard it from a badly injured cowboy being treated in his hospital. The cowboy sang it, and many others, to an audience of patients in his ward.
The trail in the song was a cattle route that branched off from the main Western Trail in southern Oklahoma, heading northwest to Colorado. It has no relation to today’s Colorado Trail, which is a hiking trail completely within the state of Colorado.
The song got its widest attention from its 1960 recording by The Kingston Trio. It has also been recorded by Burl Ives, The Weavers, the Norman Luboff Choir, Tex Ritter, Johnny Cash, the Bar D Wranglers, and many others. The American Songbag version included only a single short verse; most who have recorded it since have added verses of their own.
Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.
Wikipedia: The Colorado Trail (Song)
A get well piece for our friend Sarah C., by Aaron Copland.
An interesting hobby for anyone living in the West is observing the facial hair of the local men. Styles range from commonplace to fanciful, and excite no comment from passersby, since they are only a normal part of the landscape. My own personal observations are that if you have the variety seen here in the top center position, you are likely to have a MAGA cap in your wardrobe somewhere.
Monday night and a sputtering of snow. Not enough to get a cat wet.
Now there is a new meaning for the word “Googled.” Once upon a time it signified that one had done an internet search using that product. Now it means being fired by email. Here’s an interesting article about the day when 12,000 employees were fired in this manner. I’ll bet there wasn’t a single LOL in any of those messages.
Sounds to me like the bean-counters are taking over the ship. Next thing will probably be the end of free searches. Even is it’s only a nickel at a time, it would add up. A nickel here … a nickel there …
I have no idea how many searches I do in a given day, but it is a bunch. I may have to return to Netscape, Webcrawler, Excite, Lycos, AltaVista, Yahoo, or Ask Jeeves, if any of them are still around. We used all of these search engines in those dim dark days before Google came along.
In fact, one of my metaphors for the aging process is that one’s brain function transitions ever so slowly from Google back to Webcrawler. You eventually get the answer, it just takes longer.
A few blades of grass are greener than they were last week. They are not wise blades, however, because the temperature still dips below the freezing point every night. Gotta give ’em credit for fortitude, though. Our weather is stuck in the 40s in the daytime, 20s at night zone. Hasn’t budged in nearly three weeks now, but each week I check the tire pressures and battery levels on our e-bikes, just in case a glorious day should blossom.
Some of my neighbors have been bicycling for weeks now. They basically put on standard Eskimo garb and climb aboard. None of them are smiling as they pedal by, however, with their lips drawn into tight lines against that chilly breeze in their faces. It does give them something to brag about, though, even if the rest of us couldn’t care less about how many days in February they were riding. It’s just not a number that inspires sparkling conversation.
Electric bicycles are continuing to increase in popularity, as they have moved from curiosity to common usage. It is interesting to watch all of the experimentation going on in that industry, as one company you never heard of after another puts out their version of what they think an e-bike should look like.
The really interesting part, though, is in the varying approaches to function. How many miles per charge, how much power, how fast should they go, where to put the motor, etc. etc. I haven’t put any photos here, but there is a whole section of the genre that has off-road capabilities, with larger tires and sturdier frames. Some of them actually have two motors, front and rear, to enable some herculean climbing out there in the bush.
The pic below is of the Thunder X-treme, a bike with a 5000 watt motor (most ebikes have 250-500 watt motors), a 200 mile range, and a top speed of 46 mph. If you are a senior citizen and buy this thing, the company thoughtfully supplies a small frame-mounted pouch to contain your will and instructions for the EMTs who find your Humpty-Dumptied body back on those rocky mountain trails. They even provide a small “license plate” to mount behind the seat that says Do Not Resuscitate, just in case.
Sex education can be a haphazard thing. Well-meaning individuals believe that this sensitive subject is better left to a child’s parents. Other well-meaning individuals believe just as strongly that it would be better to have it done in the schools, as a matter of public health. While all these discussions go on, as they have for decades, children are out there acquiring what bits of information that they can from a variety of sources, some of them far from unimpeachable. The following tale is a case in point.
When I was 8 or 9 my parents received several boxes of bonus books when they purchased an encyclopedia. That is where I first read Zane Grey (8 books) and Ernest Hemingway (9 books). Of course I didn’t understand most of what I read in Hemingway’s works, but I roared through them just the same. There was also a handful of random novels included in this massive infusion of culture into our home, and one of them was entitled Fetish.
I remember two things from that book. One is that it took place in a steaming African country where people lived on plantations and sometimes coveted their neighbors’ spouses. The second contained an episode where some of that coveting bore fruit, starring two people named Flavien and Urgele.
One day this bored and sinful pair decided to commit adultery on the plantation and couldn’t find anywhere to be alone. As their internal tensions rose they became so desperate that they finally ended up making love in an outhouse on those rough boards. As I recall, the descriptions of clothing being discarded, soft skins against harsh surfaces, and sweat dripping everywhere were quite graphic.
Of course, I wasn’t even ten years old yet, and pretty much a blank slate where useful information about sex was concerned. My experiences on my grandfather’s farm had given me only the roughest idea of what was involved, but I did know a great deal about sweating and about privies. Combining all three seemed awfully exotic and was more than a little overwhelming at the time.
The book obviously made a lasting impression, because here I am 75 years later and I still remember the names of the splinter-covered lovers.
Flavien and Urgele. My oh my.
As you might have surmised, I was a voracious reader from very early on. I still am, although I have slowed slightly. I do remember back in the 60s being intrigued by what was a fad of the time, speed reading. Why, a person could train themselves to read at enormous rates, retaining more, etc. … it all seemed too good to be true.
A system that works; a book that keeps selling. Since 1959, the Evelyn Wood Program of Dynamic Learning has been successfully employed by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, helping them break free of the self-imposed shackles that hinder learning. By teaching us to tap the natural power of the mind, the Evelyn Wood method helps us to dramatically increase reading speed, retain more of what we hear and read, improve comprehension and develop our powers of concentration. In just minutes, you’ll notice a real difference in your reading speed, and in succeeding chapters of this seven-day program you’ll get the secrets of effective note-taking, find tips for instantly improving your writing, and much more.
From the advertisement for the book The Evelyn Wood Seven-Day Speed Reading and Learning Program on Amazon.com
I did give the method a try, but quit after only a few weeks, because I found that although I could increase my reading speed, it reduced the joy that I found in the reading. For me, an author’s words were to be savored and rolled about in the mind, and the techniques outlined in the book made that more difficult.
While I am vaporing about reading, I think I’ll toss in a comment about e-books. Occasionally I will mention that I often use a reader like the Kindle, and be met with a look like I’ve just said “I like to eat puppies.” Often these are folks who are passionate about public libraries and bookstores, and I can understand their concerns perfectly … because so am I. Libraries have a romance about them that is undeniable. Rummaging in a used bookstore is akin to prospecting for gold.
Public libraries have always struggled with having enough space for shelves and enough money to fill those shelves. In recent years they have also been confronted with the digital revolution. We’re still not sure how this will all shake out eventually, but the process rolls on and trying to stand in the way is to risk having bulldozer tracks all up the front of your shirt.
What is my preference? To read an actual book, borrowed from a library or purchased, under light provided by a softly incandescent lamp, just as I did when I was a child. If I were living in a tiny town in the wilderness, and there was a library which only contained six books, I would happily read and re-read them and then volunteer to help glue the bindings back on when I was done.
But I have many more choices today. The last six books I read were e-books, transmitted to my Kindle through Libby, an app provided by a public library consortium.
Holding a book in my hands and leafing joyfully through it has been my pleasure for several generations now. I will continue to support public libraries and bookstores in whatever way that I can. But what is most important to me is the information and the artistry contained in those books.
The vehicle that brings that information to me is also important, but is not everything. I feel privileged to have access to the worlds of science and of literature that all of these avenues provide.
One more comment on our latest banking scandal. This one provided by Gordon Gecko, one of our leading capitalist exponents. You all remember Gordon, I’m sure, and this is only one of his many bon mots. Probably more than a couple of devotees of his at Silicon Valley Bank, no?
I don’t claim to know a great deal about the Cambodian genocide, the era that created the killing fields in that country. But there was a purity in that horror that was unusual. In the effort to rid the country of elite groups like politicians, intellectuals, and professionals, one of the criteria for selecting victims was – did they wear eyeglasses? The idea being that you only needed glasses to read, and who else needed to read but members of groups like those?
Simple, straightforward, and quite mad. Qualities of the architects of revolutions. Remember the French Revolution, where the admirable speeches about LIBERTÉ, ÉGALITÉ, FRATERNITÉ were being heard at the same time as were the sounds of the guillotines going about their efficient disposal of … who was that again?… those pesky elites, for the most part.
One of the proximate causes of the Revolution is often listed as hikes in the price of a loaf of bread. Now would be the time to ask – who does the grocery shopping at your house? Have you noticed how the price of bread is doing?
Who knows what form our own coming revolution will take? The necessary ingredients are being brought together as wealth continues to be concentrated in a smaller and smaller stratum of society. As armed groups practice in militias around the U.S. that are just as lunatic as any of their Cambodian or French soulmates. As fascism rises, accompanied by its infatuation with strong and cruel leaders. As the average citizen loses their belief in governmental probity.
Perhaps enough scraps of sanity can be found and cobbled together before something like this happens. Perhaps the rich and powerful will do something completely extraordinary and unheard of – learn to share.
As for me, although I would never be confused with being an intellectual or a prince of finance, I do have two pairs of eyeglasses. Lucky me.
There is an attraction in visiting abandoned places like the “town” of Pea Green mentioned in a previous post, isn’t there? There are no signs of vitality but look, there are the things that actual people actually used, lying about and rusting. Check out those tattered curtains fluttering in the windows, bleached to the point where their original coloration is obscured. Men and women once pulled those same curtains back to look at someone passing on the road.
So-called “ghost towns” are on nearly every tourist map, playing to the fascination that so many of us seem to share. But it goes beyond that , there is a sense of longing that goes along with it, of wishing to be there when those curtains were new and share that life, those friends.
There is a word for this … anemoia. A longing for a time and/or a place where we’ve never been. Not the “good old days” we experienced, but some that occurred perhaps before we were even born. Interesting that there is a word for it, even though it is rather a new one as words go.
My recent wanderings brought me to a website with the most appealing title that a person of a melancholic nature could ever want – The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
Imagine stepping through the frame into a sepia-tinted haze, where you could sit on the side of the road and watch the locals passing by. Who lived and died before any of us arrived here, who sleep in some of the same houses we do, who look up at the same moon, who breathe the same air, feel the same blood in their veins—and live in a completely different world
The last “ghost town” that I visited was St. Elmo, which is about an hour’s drive up from Buena Vista CO. While there is a functioning “general store” in town, for the most part you can walk about and indulge in whatever faux reveries suit you. Your musings will not likely be contradicted since there are none of the original inhabitants around to interfere.
Whenever I find myself wandering in my mind down little-used streets, there will be a moment when I remember that I am looking at that scene through golden filters, because it was also a time when a “strep throat” was likely to be fatal, when life expectancies were very much shorter, and when there were even fewer certainties than today.
From The New Yorker
The Oscar ceremonies came and went this week, without any help from me. I wasn’t able to find a channel to view them, which is one problem that comes with “cutting the cord.”
Although there are times when you can sign up for a new streaming service, watch a show, and then cancel it, one grows weary of these tawdry exchanges.
Once last year I did just that and suddenly the service threw up a notice saying: “No no no you don’t, you cheapskate! You did that last year and then you took your chips and ran. No more freebies for you!”
So we missed the show this year.
It seems that this year it was payback time for Asians in the cinematic arts. Perhaps not, but it looks a bit that way. It’s almost become a ritual to acknowledge some group each year which has been grievously ignored in the past.
When as a child I was taught that the US was a “melting pot,” I pictured something like a creamed soup, where all the ingredients were completely mixed to a homogeneous fare thee well. But I think that we’re actually more like pancake batter, and we know that the instructions always say “mix together, but not too much. Some lumps should remain visible.”
This week we have had put before us once again the unlovely spectacle of banks failing, with all of the attendant social harm that expands outward from the collapse. I have a small suggestion that might prevent recurrences.
First pass regulations that treat such failure as a crime, rather than an embarrassment, and that hold the CEO of the institution personally responsible.
Second, make the penalties for failure consistent with the harm that is done, especially to the smaller folk of the world, whose businesses, jobs, and lives are put at risk, while the CEOs often skate away with their fortunes intact.
Thirdly, upon the elevation of the CEO to their new post, that this model be placed on the top of their desk to remind them of what is actually at stake for them should they blow it.
Finally, a little advice for everyone who exchanges usernames and passwords to streaming services with another friend or relative to avoid paying for their own subscription. The common refrain overheard is “I can watch five streaming services, but I’m only paying for one of them.”
There is a word for what they are doing and that word is stealing. Which makes them thieves. Their petty crimes, taken along with all of the others who are doing the same thing, eventually raises the costs for all who pay their bills honestly.
The advice? If one is going to make oneself into a crook, for goodness’ sake don’t do it for a paltry $9.00 a month. Why sell one’s integrity for so little? Get out there and embezzle something. Take up purse-snatching. Whatever.
One of the wisest people I have come to know (at a great distance, mind you) is Stephen Fry. And unlike yours truly, he seems to get wiser and wiser as he ages. Here is a very brief video clip where he is discussing depressive episodes. Very brief, but what a lot there is in these few words.
It’s out of your control … it’s real … and it will pass.Golden.
Actually, I should probably quit this post right here. Certainly there is nothing that I could add that is in anyway more useful or profound than what Mr. Fry has already said. So, hey … what if I just add a few more things that he has said?
If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.
The short answer to that is ‘no.’ The long answer is ‘fuck no.’
Sometimes there just isn’t enough vomit in the world.
People sometimes accuse me of knowing a lot. “Stephen,” they say, accusingly, “you know a lot.” This is a bit like telling a person who has a few grains of sand clinging to him that he owns much sand. When you consider the vast amount of sand there is in the world such a person is, to all intents and purposes, sandless. We are all sandless. We are all ignorant. There are beaches and deserts and dunes of knowledge whose existance we have never even guessed at, let alone visited.
The above quotes were intended to provide a transition to the usual poppycock that I put out. I hope that it was helpful, but in any case, here comes the poppycock.
Sunday is the annual beginning of the official kvetching season, as otherwise sensible people begin to complain about the switch to daylight savings time. The cries of “Let’s abolish it!” and “I hate the change!” “It makes me nauseous!” ring throughout the land. I did an unofficial survey last year and got these results:
92% don’t want the time to be fiddled with but left alone forever
5% would like the time to change randomly every four weeks just for the hell of it (it must be mentioned that these folks were interviewed through the bars of their exercise yard)
3% couldn’t be roused from their stupors to comment
At any rate, here it comes once again. Fortunately our home contains a number of clocks that will change on their own, but there are five that don’t and must be fiddled with. Computers and phones take care of themselves. Our car now takes care of itself. So it’s just those five.
Oh, and then there are the cats, whose ideas of feeding time are based on the position of the sun rather than economics. Hard to argue with them. Sensible creatures, they.
Saw our first robin this past week. First since they disappeared last November. These guys are always welcome as an early sign of the weather changing.
Not sure why, but some years they never really leave, and we can see them on our river walks all winter. That wasn’t the case this year, however, so seeing that lone returnee made my day.
In response to no requests at all, I thought I’d bring you up to date on the community of Pea Green, Colorado. Well, there really isn’t one. A community, that is. What remains at the corner on the highway is a Community Hall, an abandoned store, and a schoolhouse that is now a private residence.
Justin had come across a reference to this place in his readings and forwarded a link to us. So when Saturday morning dawned especially dreary, rainy, and just plain dank, Robin and I went for a drive to find it, and collected a few photos while we were there. Apparently there are occasional bluegrass concerts in the Community Hall, but the store is one of those places where the owners simply walked away one day. Allegedly it comes to life twice a year for “antique” sales, but it was certainly moribund on this particular day.
So here are all the photographs of Pea Green, Colorado that you may ever need.
I have come to the conclusion that if one was to become a vegetarian, there are two ways to do it. One is by studying nutrition, vegetarian cookbooks, YouTube videos, and seeking the advice of veterans in that discipline.
Toss in some other stuff whenever you want, but these little leguminous packages are stuffed with most of what we humans need to go on, with very few drawbacks.
One of them is that people stop inviting you over for tea, what with the necessity that you go outdoors every hour to release the abdominal pressures and not always making it to the door before such release occurs.
Robin and I are not officially becoming vegetarian, but there is little doubt of our general direction. There are scads of health and economic reasons to keep moving that way. Add to that the cruelties present in the animal industry which provide another set of incentives to reduce our contribution to that ugliness.
But I have to admit that if it weren’t for the fact that I probably wouldn’t last a month, I could cheerfully exist on a diet of bacon and Cheetos. The mortician’s problem would be how to get the orange stains out of my fingers, and they might have to go with covering them up with a pair of dress gloves instead of trying to get their natural color back. Or a closed casket altogether.
Excuse me, but I have to step outdoors for a moment to break wind. It’s been sixty minutes … .
[I have discovered another use for dried beans. When I go to the indoor track for my walking exercise, I carry a small backpack stuffed with 20 pounds of beans. They come in just the right size packages with which to add or subtract weight, conform to the body, etc. And as a side benefit I am thus prepared for the next pandemic with enough food for weeks.]
The weather is easing up. Our winters aren’t usually all that arduous, but still … damp and cold is damp and cold even when survival is not the issue. This week our high temps will all be around fifty degrees, and that will be enough to begin to wake up the earth. Grass will start to go green, buds will swell a bit, and the yellowjackets will climb out of whatever corner of hell they occupy during the winter to plague us once again.
Actually, the last time I was stung was two years ago when I was tearing up that deck under which the little beasties were nesting in great numbers. On that day they finally realized just who it was that was ruining their lives and got me four times in just a couple of minutes. Since then … nada.
I wasn’t going to ever mention George Santos again, but here I go. He is too easy a target, but I am a weak, weak man and can’t resist. The House Ethics Committee is officially taking a look at this guy to see if he broke the law. Not because he is simply the poster boy for Fibber of the Year 2022.
I turns out that there are actually no standards in politics for how many lies one can tell in a given year. All such attempts to study it in the past bumped up against the unpleasant truth that whatever number was chosen as horrificand dastardly inevitably included some members of the committee who were doing the investigation.
There was a made-up number that came up for discussion briefly, and that was falsehoods per square foot. Members of the committee thought for a while that using this meaningless statistic would get the public off their collective backs for a few months, but that proved not to be the case. Most voters can sense a snow job very well (except for supporters of former president Cluck and the QAnon adherents, who stand in lines to be bamboozled repeatedly).
So unless he was awfully incautious in the past and crossed some felonious line, Mr. Santos will probably serve out his term comfortably among the other fabulists in his caucus.
I watched most of Chris Rock’s latest Netflix special, Selective Outrage, and I didn’t love it. I don’t understand how this happens, but so many cutting edge comics become increasingly bitter as they age. When Rock was younger he was sharp, man, really sharp. But in this performance he wanders, dithers, and drops enough F-bombs for a half-dozen specials.
Then there was a long segment on abortion, which … I don’t know … does anybody, pro-choice or pro-life, see any comedic material in this issue? Rock’s routine here was callous, to put it mildly.
And then he took his revenge on Will and Jada Smith for that slap that happened a year ago. A long and a vicious segment. I have never seen a performer have a tantrum on stage like the one Rock has in this broadcast.
There were some funny moments in this special, but not nearly enough of them. Not when I know what the man can do.
In general I am quite pleased with the politics in Colorado. The level of common sense in the men and women who have been elected to office is above average, laws are passed not just to please the group that screams the loudest, and there is occasional cooperation between red and blue segments.
But just to keep our feet firmly planted on Earth, God sent us Two-Gun Boebert, our representative to Congress. She showed up at the CPAC recently, and we’ll let Stephen Colbert set the stage …
One hardly knows whether to laugh or cry when Lauren opens her mouth to speak.
Two of my long-time favorite musical performers are named Neil. One of them is Neil Young, but we’re not going to talk about him today.
The other one is Neil Diamond, that son of a Brooklyn cantor who has been able to put grief, loss, love, and feelings of disaffection to music that was loaded with enough hooks to be hazardous. One of the best live albums I’ve ever heard is “Hot August Night,” and for pure pop pleasure it is hard to beat.
Neil in the sixties. OK … he was adorable, but looks aren’t everything. Or musical talent. Or height.Or hair.
Yesterday at the gym I was doing my aerobic walking with headphones on when his song “Holly Holy” came into the rotation. You know how it is when a song comes on the radio and it absolutely grabs you at that moment and when it is over you wish you could put it on replay? That’s what happened with Holly Holy at the gym. But this time I could put it on repeat (iPod) and for the next mile on the indoor track I had it playing over and over.
In an interview with the BBC, Diamond said of this song: “What I tried to do was create a religious experience between a man and a woman, as opposed to a man and a god.”
Perhaps what I had was not exactly a “religious experience between a man and a woman,” but I did recognize the prayer-like quality of some of its lines. And there was my rapid heart rate and heavy breathing … . (But I go too far. There is a stupendous gulf between the rapid breathing of passion and my hypoxic gasping on the track. )
And as far as that experience between a man and a god, I’m actually laying kinda low and hoping to go unnoticed by the gods for a few more years. Not making any waves at all.
Picking up on something I just wrote, a phrase often heard is “the disaffection of youth.” Everybody has some sense of what this means. We were all young once and trying to figure it out, with no clear idea of what to hang onto or where we would end up. Confusion and doubt were our state of existence.
One of my problems was that I wasn’t done with disaffection when youth had passed. So I have had to deal with the disaffections of youth, young adulthood, middle age, and now advanced decrepitude. And at all these milestones Neil Diamond’s music has had resonance for me. (I do get my mileage out of a tune this way)
Perhaps by this time of life I should have sussed things out more thoroughly, but I haven’t. What this means is that the song I Am … I Said can still ring true every once in a while, just as it did more than fifty years ago.
Pet Peeve Department
Being the lifelong member of Anal-Compulsives of America that I am, there will inevitably be things that lesser beings do which annoy me. Those humans with less organization and perfection in their inconsequential lives, you know.
One of those annoyances, which unfortunately comes up way too frequently, is the use of the word decimate by members of the media. They use it to describe situations where nearly everyone was killed, whether it is in a battle or a natural disaster. The usage couldn’t be more wrong. The Romans had it right, because they invented it.
Decimation (Latin: decimatio; decem = “ten”) was a form of Roman military discipline in which every tenth man in a group was executed by members of his cohort. The discipline was used by senior commanders in the Roman army to punish units or large groups guilty of capital offences, such as cowardice, mutiny, desertion, and insubordination,, and for pacification of rebellious legions.
Now, compare this sturdy and no-nonsense definition of the word with the spineless one which follows:
Current usage of the word: decimation in English is often used to refer to an extreme reduction in the number of a population or force or an overall sense of destruction and ruin.
See the difference? The more modern one is sloppy and can mean almost anything the speaker mwants to say, which means that it is meaningless. This slovenly practice is so irritating to a man with standards that spittle flies from my mouth when I begin to speak of it and gets all over my papers. This, too, annoys me to no end.
From here on in, let the media beware. Every inappropriate use of the word decimate that I come across will be met with all the outrage that my computer keyboard can muster. Do it twice and expect to find me outside your door with a placard in my hands. Three times = decimation.
Cosmic Joke Department
(Headlines noted on two articles that I read this week:)
The recovery process from knee joint replacement is a slow one, with enough of pains along the way to bring joy to our all-time favorite sadist, the Marquis de Sade, were he still among us. Patience and taking the longer view are the name of the game.
But soon we will be gamboling once more on the mountain trails that surround us. In fact, when that day comes I believe that we should throw caution to the winds and take off to frolic naked in the alpine meadow moonlight with the fauns and sprites.
Now that I think more about it, there are bears and lions up there as well, and perhaps being completely uncovered may not be the best idea if one of these larger creatures comes ’round on an evening feeling particularly peckish. Diving into a tent means that you have only placed a very thin layer of fabric between you and an entity positively brimming with teeth and claws.
Let’s change that to “take off to frolic well-shielded in the alpine meadow moonlight,” shall we? I feel better already.
I was watching something on television the other evening, when there was scene, a brief scene, that reached into my memory box . A new father was doing the late-night-walk thing carrying a new baby. There was a close-up of the infant’s face, and you could hear its breathing. And I was reminded that there is nothing quite like a tiny child’s breathing. Nothing that sounds like it or looks like it.
In the work that I did, once upon a time, I spent quite a lot of time watching babies breathe. In any newborn nursery there are a whole lot of babies that are just fine and would have been just fine even if they had been born under an oak tree along the Oregon Trail. But there were a few, a very few, who were going to become ill, and some were going to die unless what was troubling them was discovered and treated early.
The trick of it all was to pick out those very few as early as possible, and to leave the multitude alone.
Much of what we call illness, especially infectious disease, has a moment when it is not there, and then it is. Let’s take septicemia as an instance. Sepsis is when a micro-organism gets into the bloodstream, where it multiplies until it becomes a threat to life. But when that organism first gains entrance, there are no symptoms. The child, the patient, the host may not know that there is anything wrong at all. But at some point, as one of my teachers used to tell me, you could show the patient to a horse and the horse could make the diagnosis.
The subtleties of many illnesses in the newborn nursery operated in this way. The problem was that the patient had so few ways to tell us that something was amiss. One of those was a change in breathing patterns.
So I spent many hours sitting in rocking chairs in normal newborn nurseries at two in the morning, holding infants who had done some small thing to worry a caregiver. Maybe they hadn’t eaten well at their last feeding, or didn’t seem as vigorous as the child in the next bassinet, or something altogether different. I would be called and brought onto the scene as a judge or referee. The question was always the same – is there anything wrong with this baby?
I would take the infant to a rocking chair and we would sit together for as long as it took for me to decide. I would listen to it breathe, and I would watch it breathe. I would open the hospital blanket, undo the fastenings of the hospital shirt, and watch the movement of its chest.
I would feel how the child responded to being carried and moved, and I would compare its muscle tone with all the other babies I had held in the past. And then at some point I would act. Either by returning the baby to its bassinet and going home to sleep, or by initiating a workup for sepsis (and other things).
Deciding to do the workup was not a small thing. It meant that I was going to have to talk go out and talk to the mother and tell her that there was a possibility of something very bad going on, something that might threaten her child’s life. Something she may not have suspected at all. And then I was going to have to get her permission to do invasive things to her baby. Which might include taking blood samples, doing a chest x-ray, performing a spinal tap, starting an IV and beginning antibiotic therapy. No matter how tactfully I put it, I was going to scare the very beJesus out of her, and there was always this – I could be wrong and all of it was for nothing.
Quite a lot to be brought back by that single movie scene, but there you are. It caught me with my guard down, and for just that second I felt that slow burn of fear I used to have … of being wrong … either way.
An article that first made me smile, and then to understand. The story of the kung fu nuns.
Two more catalogs from nurseries have arrived. It’s pretty obvious that their customer base includes a lot of gentrified gardeners. When a single tomato-growing tower can sell for nearly $200, well, if you have a good year that would mean that after watering, feeding, and agonizing over all those pests you could grow your own, your very own tomatoes for only $10 each.
As a kid I perused such catalogs but they were printed on non-glossy paper where all you could buy were seeds and hoes and cultivators that you pushed yourself. Not a gnome or statue of St. Francis for sale in any of them.
But times change and the real stuff is still in there if you can ferret it out. We will have a modest container garden as usual, growing primarily tomatoes and salad greens. Generally easy to care for, fun to grow (when everything works out), and delicious to boot.
From The New Yorker
About two miles from home, there is a rural stretch of Ogden Avenue where the power lines parallel the road. Perhaps 50% of the times that we drive along this street we see an American kestrel on the wire. In nearly the same place every day. This is obviously its turf.
This week I didn’t see the little hawk for several days and I began to be concerned that something might have happened to it, which prompted a conversation between Robin and I as to – when birds die, as they all will do one day, why don’t we see their bodies more often? Except for the odd roadkilled pheasant we almost never come across their bodies. I ran across this explanation at Ornithology.com which sounds sensible, and since I am sharing it with you, I hope that it is also true.
When a dead bird hits the ground, it is almost immediately invaded by small decomposers in the form of bacteria and insects. Vultures and coyotes might also take part in the feast, but the tiny organisms are usually the quickest and most efficient. Being thin and light, a small bird decomposes into an unrecognizable blob in about a day and will disappear in three.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Friday’s weather prediction for the Los Angeles area – a blizzard warning. My problem is that the warning and the location did not compute in my rapidly shrinking brain. Instead of a collection of binary ones and zeros in there, I found myself with a bunch of threes.
But for the moment, let’s assume that the prognosticators are correct. First problem for the city fathers would be to locate the Los Angeles snow shovel. In the hustle and bustle of that large-ish city it would be an easy thing to lose track of. And it probably wouldn’t be the sleek and ergonomic model in the photograph, but something much more primitive. Perhaps a piece of sheet metal nailed to a 2×4.
Rounding up proper clothing for the populace might be difficult on such short notice, but surely there would be useful garments in the warehouses of the film industry where old costumes are stored.
This outfit worn by Jack Nicholson didn’t do his character much good, but even this garment would be better protection than the usual pair of shorts and a tank top.
Finding snow removal equipment would be a challenge. The last time they needed one they employed this horse-drawn beauty, but that was when the population of the town was 300 souls.
Two Republican legislators from Idaho have introduced legislation that would make the administration of mRNA vaccines illegal. (Just as a reminder, these are the vaccines against COVID 19.) It would only be a misdemeanor according to the bill’s sponsors, state Sen. Tammy Nichols and Rep. Judy Boyle.
What they would really like is to bring back the stocks and the dunking stool for these offenders, says Nichols, “but you have to start somewhere.” They are also recommending doing away with some of the subversive teachings in the state’s school system, including that the earth is round and that 1+1 = 2.
As egregious as the almost daily insults to the national intelligence provided by various members of Congress are, I don’t worry that much about them. As my Norwegian-American grandfather used to say, “Det ordner seg før fuglen fiser om morgenen.” Translated, this says: “Things will be alright before the bird farts in the morning.”
From The New Yorker
We’ve been very much enjoying our visits with Elsa and Marc this week. Robin seems to have acquired new color in her cheeks, the result of having people to chat with other than myself. She keeps muttering the words “insufferable blowhard” under her breath whenever I try to add to the conversation. I’m not quite sure how to take that.
The weather hasn’t been all that cooperative this week, what with intermittent snow, blustering winds, freezing temperatures, and the like. Truth be told, I would have much preferred balmy, for I am positively done with Winter 2023. After today, I will not say another word about it, but turn my thoughts and writings exclusively to the days ahead where we are not required to wear puffy jackets. Or long-sleeved anythings.
Where I can rush outside into the blazing carcinogenic sunlight and take my chances along with everybody else. That’s the way, uh huh uh huh, I like it.
At supper last night, we somehow got onto the subject of backpacking and were reviewing our successes and flops of the past. The very last time Robin and I went out into the wild with packs on our backs was just a few years ago, on a walk into Porphyry Basin. We’d planned to be out only two nights, because we needed to carry CPAP hardware with us and a battery to power it all.
The trip in involved driving three miles up a rough old mining road, ditching the car, then continuing on for another three miles or so along that same (but now rougher) road. Not an epic walk by any means but enough to get the cardioworks pumping up there at 10,000 feet.
We set up housekeeping on a lovely spot with not too many rocks to stab us in the back, and of a mild enough slope that we were in no danger of rolling out of the tent, down the hill, and off the cliff. One problem for me in the mountains is that they are so darned high, and there are plenty of opportunities to look down. For the acrophobic that I am, it’s the looking down that is the awkward part.
One minute you are having a great time and then you peek over an edge, see what mischief a wrong step could cause, and suddenly your brain goes completely haywire all by itself. The earth spins, panic sets in, and you can hear the universe calling you by name to step forward and off into space. Like a Star Wars tractor beam drawing you into whatever version of eternity awaits you.
No matter. Our tent was a short distance from the most delicious fresh water. There were three marmots watching us and providing entertainment as they moved about to get a better look at thee humans who had invited themselves into their home. The views were outstanding. The skies were clear. All was going according to plan except for one thing. Our efforts had made us hungry enough that by noon of the second day we had eaten all our food and had to cut the trip short. The packaging on those freeze-dried meals that claimed that there were two servings in every package flat out lied to us.
Perhaps they provided two servings for a pair of Lilliputians resting on a couch in their living room, but not for two average-sized people on a hike. So we explored the area until we ran out of gas and then walked down the hill to our car and back to the nearest grocery store.
The pix were taken on that jaunt, but they show none of the gasping episodes and waves of hunger that we had to deal with. Those photos were judged to be too upsetting to be viewed by the general public.
From The New Yorker
On the morning that Elsa and Marc took their leave our ongoing conversation had turned to politics. Our guests were remarking negatively on the advanced age of so many of our representatives. I observed that we frequently are told that our government is supposed to look like America, and I agree with that premise. It just happens that right now it achieves that look only if we believe that America is one big nursing home for old caucasians.
There was an article on CNN this morning about a piece of sculpture that was knocked over and destroyed. It was one of Jeff Koons’ balloon dogs. (Notice how authoritatively I write this in spite of the fact that I never heard of a balloon dog until today, and barely knew Mr. Koons’ name to boot).
Anyway, there was some sort of cocktail party going on at the museum, where only the créme de la créme would have been invited to attend, when a patron accidentally kicked the pedestal that the sculpture was resting on. It fell to the ground, shattered, and that was all she wrote. $42,000 down the drain, but the gallery was appropriately restrained in their criticism of the clumsy attendee, and appropriately downcast about the loss of an artwork.
The article did mention that Koons made 799 of these things, so it’s not exactly the tragedy that stomping a hole in the Mona Lisa would be, but we are now down to 798 balloon dogs, so let’s all pay better attention, shall we?
I have some suggestions that I will forward to the museum, to try to avoid such accidents in the future.
Do not put breakable art pieces on teetery pedestals where a casual bump can do such damage.
Do not put these pedestals in rooms where alcohol is being served. In all of the history of all of the booze that has ever been served there is not a single recorded instance where it improved the drinker’s coordination.
Be sure to put the guilty patron’s name on a list where they will be given repeated breathalyzer tests during the course of such evenings in the future. If their levels climb, move them to the part of the gallery where only rubber art is being displayed.
Call security whenever they see anyone at a gathering where art is being displayed, drinks are being served, and the person is wearing shoes like those below. Dead giveaway, this footwear, that there may be trouble ahead.
There is a bill before Congress that is long overdue. Eighty-one years ago President Roosevelt signed an executive order that sent 125,000 Japanese-Americans into forced internment camps. This bill would be a belated attempt to prevent anything like that from ever occurring again.
My early civic education being the tapestry composed of huge holes surrounded by a thin lattice of spiderwebbed information that it was, I didn’t learn about this whole ugly episode until I was in the Air Force, serving with an OB/GYN named Lt.Col. Don Okada. To say that Don opened my eyes when he told me about his days as a child in the camps would be a major understatement.
The Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act would establish clear legal prohibition against incarcerating Americans based not only on race, religion, and nationality but also sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability. The bill seems like a slam dunk – a way to speak truth to power when we say, “Never again.”
It doesn’t take much sensitivity to see how racist the original document was. No matter that there was all sorts of panicking in the early days of WWII, the fact is that when Roosevelt signed his order we were at war with Germany, Italy, and Japan. No one ever uprooted the German- or Italian-Americans and sent them inland. Only those of Asian descent.
Good on Congress if they can get this one passed. The article suggested that it should be a slam dunk. With the number of white supremacists in that body right now, I’m not as sure that this will happen as the author is.
To take a very short trip from the serious and worthy to the silly and comedic I offer this music video from 1980. Whatever it says about my musical tastes I liked it then and still do. About as purely ridiculous as rock and roll gets.
(Even the most casual observer will have noted that my favorite cartoons are those with a bit of absurdity in them. Or alternatively, a lot of absurdity in them. I have no interest in trying to figure out why this should be the case. To do so would be less interesting than listening to beans soak.)
From The New Yorker
Yesterday I took Elsa and Marc on a small voyage of discovery. We went to Delta, Colorado, in search of its resident population of sandhill cranes. And we found them. To be more descriptive, we found about 400 of them in a picked-over cornfield about four miles from the village.
The flock obliged us by doing their flapping dances, croaking like the ancient creatures that they are, as well as just standing there looking like something straight out of Jurassic Park. There was even a handful who beautifully circled the field before coming in for a landing. It was about all you can ask of a bunch of cranes, actually.
I’m including this photo (that is not mine) to show the dancing, and that beautiful scarlet blaze on their heads. Although I now can see them almost anytime I want to make the effort, I never tire of watching these birds.
An ornithologist described them as one of the most successful life forms on earth, having persisted unchanged for 2.5 million years. To put it in perspective, that’s way longer than you might spend waiting for a sensible word to come out of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s mouth.
From The New Yorker
(Over the years I have offered to accept the writings of my readers and publish them here. Granddaughter Elsa’s most recent submission was this limerick)
I’d like to submit the following for consideration:
There once was a man called Pappy He had humor that was quite snappy He loved his cats And always wore hats And seldom was he unhappy
Over the years I have often alluded to some of the oddities of the golden years. I try not to get too descriptive about some of them, knowing that there are readers who may be eating as they scan these posts.
But this picture caught my eye this morning, and it brought up one of the real puzzlers in the celestial plan – why does Nature take the hair away from one area of the body but then add it to another? Specifically it is the nose and the ears where the unwanted additions occur.
I have a sense that if I were not a compulsive trimmer of these areas, within a few weeks I would resemble this gnome. And it’s definitely not a look that I am going for … at least not intentionally.
As an older gentleman I have finally become resigned to being invisible. I don’t want to move on to a new category, that of horrifying. Not if it can be helped.
Unusual. We’ve actually had a two day snowfall here in Paradise. About 14 inches total. Driving is interesting in that the city fathers obviously don’t want to waste money on snow removal. So all those inches are still sitting there. Our Subaru Outback loves it, of course, leaping from drift to drift as happy as a malemute puppy.
But I had to shovel the walk and driveway three times on Wednesday, just to keep the them safe for my neighbors, especially those pesky senior citizens who still imagine they are in their twenties and walk places that they might better avoid..
A Dick Guindon cartoon
My eldest child reminded me of another sailing song that I should have included in last Wednesdays post, and that was from the soundtrack of the movie Windjammer. Title of the tune: Kari Waits For Me.
Thanks to daughter Kari for the reminder. ‘Twas the song that provided the name her parents chose for her.
The only thing that seems clear in the ongoing UFO drama is that if we see one we’re going to shoot it down. So far there’s been a bit of a hassle in that the wreckage of the four doomed objects so far has been in in places where recovery is a big problem. Like the Atlantic Ocean or the Great Lakes. So we have little information as to what these objects were.
Not so reassuring is the knowledge that we’ve blasted four of these things out of our skies this week simply because we opened our eyes and saw them. Spokespersons tell us that there may have been more of them dating back many years, but we weren’t looking that hard back then.
No matter. Everybody be warned. For certain, this is not a good time for balloon hobbyists to launch their newest creations. You may find an F-22 whistling through your back yard if you do.
Friday morning and it is one degree … it pains me to write this … below zero. Fifteen below is the wind chill. I would like to say that it is a pleasant reminder of winter-life in the Midwest, but it isn’t. While we moved to Paradise for the grandkids and not the climate, we have definitely become pleasantly accustomed to not having to worry about things like frostbite. We like it when the car always starts, and when the cabin starts to warm within a couple of blocks of driving.
We are spoiled.
So we are now sulking, which is what spoiled people do when they don’t get their way. You may call us the petulant twins, if you like. The acrid aroma of self-pity pervades our dwelling.
I think that, for psychological purposes, it might be better if we switched to the Kelvin scale, where the temperature would now be 255 degrees. It just sounds better. I think I’ll write to my congressperson and suggest the change.
There, I feel better already. I’m sure that they will say “Why, Jon, what a wonderful idea. I’ll get right on it!” And once I have their ear, there’s a couple of other items on my agenda that I know they will love just as much.
From The New Yorker
The introduction to this video from Boston Dynamics goes like this:
“This is a compilation video which shows two of Boston Dynamics’ humanoid Atlas research robots doing the twist, the mashed potato and other classic moves, joined by Spot, a doglike robot, and Handle, a wheeled robot designed for lifting and moving boxes in a warehouse or truck”.
Sounds pretty benign for something that ruined the day for me when I first viewed it, and will spoil all of the days I am yet to have. At no time in my life could I move this gracefully. To know positively and forever that I am clumsier than these advanced toaster ovens.
Sunday afternoon we expect visitors. Elsa and Marc are stopping by on their travels and will be with us for several days. Our fervent hope is that we don’t have a repeat of Christmas, where I transmitted a version of the Black Death to our guests.
I am unsure of what activities we’ll be able to pursue. The recent heavy snowfall shut down a few options, but hey, there’s always Uno to fall back on. Why, we could have an Uno tournament, starting right out with our group as the Final Four.
Think of it … becoming the Uno Champion du Jour!
Tee shirts … endorsements … rose petals scattered in our path. What a great country this is, where a group of four unknowns could start with only an idea and go on to fame, fortune and laying about in villas in Italy. All in the course of a few days.
Gotta get started. Really haven’t a thing to wear if I’m going to Europe. Is it winter there?
I am not a sailor. Never have been. My times on water that I have treasured were all on inland lakes with paddles in my hand. But I do have a fairly fertile imagination and can sense that if I had put in the time on salt water I might have loved it. I’ve had too many opportunities to do other things, I guess, and haven’t even gotten to all of those yet.
But there have been two pop songs over the years that gave me a sense of what spending more time on the sea might have felt like. The first is by Christopher Cross, a song which won a Grammy in 1980.
The song was a success in the United States, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on August 30, 1980, where it stayed for one week. The song also won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Arrangement of the Year, and helped Cross win the Best New Artist award. VH1 named “Sailing” the most “softsational soft rock” song of all time.
And then there is this one. An anthem with gorgeous harmonies and thoughtful lyrics. Sung by artists who are personal favorites. Somehow its rhythms bring in the motion of a boat rising and falling on the ocean.
“Southern Cross” is based on the song “Seven League Boots” by Rick and Michael Curtis. Stills explained, “The Curtis Brothers brought a wonderful song called ‘Seven League Boots,’ but it drifted around too much. I rewrote a new set of words and added a different chorus, a story about a long boat trip I took after my divorce. It’s about using the power of the universe to heal your wounds. Once again, I was given somebody’s gem and cut and polished it.”
Wikipedia: Southern Cross
From The New Yorker
I’ve lost track of how many objects the U.S. has shot down this past week. Is there someone at an exalted level who could tell us what the hell is going on? And would they put it into simple and non-technical language, please? This morning I read that no matter what they are, the fact that there are so many unexpected things floating around in the atmosphere, large things, raises questions about the safety of air travel.
All of a sudden I am glad that I am not flying anywhere anytime soon. Over a lifetime there have been quite a few different things to panic about when it came to air travel. Way back in the sixties it was highjacking. Then it was about seagulls being sucked into jet engines and causing planes to crash during takeoff. Then is was drunken flight crews.
Between these major concerns there were always stories about parts of the plane falling off, batshit-crazy passengers starting fights while cruising at 30,000 feet, and how you were going to get your body into a seating space that was more suited to something the size of a meerkat.
When I think back to some of my early air travel experiences, it’s almost unbelievable how different the situation is today. A passenger would basically just walk right up to the plane and get on. No going through security two hours before flight time. You were shown your way to a seat much like those in movie theaters, which were meant to be spacious and relaxing.
All of the flight attendants were under 30 years of age, single, female, attractive, and wearing skirts completely unsuited to reaching over ones head to straighten things out in overhead compartments.
You were served hot meals on almost any flight that lasted more than an hour. This meant that those flight attendants had to take your order (chicken or beef), distribute all those aluminum trays of food, pick up all those same trays, serve drinks, and still be ready when landing was imminent.
These days I have no problem with taking one of the window seats where I am supposed to help with evacuations in the event of a disaster. My reasons for doing so have nothing to do with altruism, however. I have a bit of claustrophobia, and the cramped seats don’t help that one bit. What sitting in that window seat means to me is that if I lose my mind altogether all I have to do is turn that latch and kick out that chunk of the fuselage and I’m free! Never mind that we’re miles in the air if and when my composure slips, it is my mental safety valve and I’m hanging on to it. It goes without saying that I choose not to share this information with the others in my row. Why upset them?
Robin and I, as do many people who spend a great deal of time together, have evolved some daily routines. One set of those routines is around breakfast. We now have four menu items in ragged rotation:
Eggs of some sort
There are several good reasons for limiting choice at six o’clock in the morning, and they are all related to the fact that our decision-making apparatuses are not at their peak for the first couple of hours each day.
For instance, none of these breakfasts require the use of sharp objects. For another, they require a very limited set of seasonings – salt, pepper, a bit of maple syrup and that’s about it.
The only problem is that when it comes time to choose among the four candidates, we often cannot remember which one we had yesterday. So the possibility that we have been eating only cold cereal for the past several months does exist. There is no good way of knowing. I have half a mind to count the eggs in the fridge during the month of March to see if we are actually eating them or not.
From The New Yorker
Monday P.M. a full-on snowfall. Cold out there, leaden skies, cabin fever … time to release the kraken! … I mean, Zhivago! Every few years Robin and I rummage through our stuff and pull out our DVD of the film Doctor Zhivago. It is best watched when it is snowing outdoors, just to add a little frisson.
Our attention spans being what they have become, we will take it to the intermission the first night, then finish it on the second. Not quite as romantic, perhaps, but you work with what you have.
BTW, although I have written a few poems in my lifetime, I do not consider myself to be a poet.
To be one of those you need to pull up a frosty chair to a snow-covered desk in this frozen salon at Varykino.
You would then scribble your words while your hands are covered in knit gloves where the fingers have worn through. Each exhalation visible. Anything less would amount to little more than posturing.
But that’s a fantasy, you say. Not real at all. My answer would be that philosophers tell us that everything is a fantasy. Nothing is what it seems. Across history millions of people have perished for one fantasy or another. So it is not such a stretch, I think, to want to live in David Lean’s* castle in the air periodically.
Entire sections of Moscow were built as a set outside of Madrid. Elsewhere in Spain, predicted snow failed to appear, and marble dust was instead employed to cover the ground. The memorable ice-covered Varykino was achieved with frozen beeswax. The film is a testament to the incredible inventiveness of David Lean and his collaborators.
Sitting in the waiting room at Mountain View Physical Therapy has been interesting. The majority of the patients have had knee replacements, and are at various stages in their recovery. There is a camaraderie present among them, and the lead-in to conversations is often: “What day is it for you?” (Post-op day)
Each patient is curious about the others welfare, is unfailingly polite and is resolutely positive in their comments.
A major concern in joint replacements is infection. Postoperatively, Robin has a huge sterile bandage over the knee area which measures about 3 in by 12 inches. That stays on for two weeks. Anytime she has dental work or surgery she needs to take prophylactic antibiotics, and this practice continues ad infinitum. Prophylaxis is the name of the game.
Judging by the behavior of some Republican women at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, I have doubts that I’ll like living in the coming matriarchy any better than I did in the outgoing patriarchy.
The ever-growing literature on the influence of the intestinal biome on human behavior is fascinating. If you were too busy to keep up, it has been shown that our thinking processes, our moods, our behavior, and our emotions can all be swayed by what is going on in our gut.
I don’t know why it took researchers so long to figure this out, all they had to do is ask me and I could have started their particular ball rolling. You could begin with A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge sees the ghost of Marley and opines that “there’s more of gravy than of grave about you.” Or the commonly used phrase “Well, my gut reaction would be …” might have given them a clue.
Speaking for myself, whenever my gut flora is leaning toward “stomach flu,” I find that I seek out bathrooms and cannot be moved to any point that is far from one. Also, I cannot think of a time when I had diarrhea that it put me into a good mood.
Even though it took scientists an awfully long time, what they are now learning is of great interest to me. It raises so many questions that really need answering. For instance:
If our biome can act as a sort of intelligence, are there smart biomes and biomes that are slower to learn? Could my poor performance on a test be laid to the fact that Bloodyfluxia monocytogenes was at that moment in ascendance in my ileum, and B. monocytogenes is known to be notoriously stupid?
Hypothetically if my wife ever informs me that unless my mood changes and I stop behaving like an idiot that she will immediately take off for a week’s vacation to let me work things out, I will respond by holding up a sign that reads: Have pity, it’s my gut flora. She may then respond by handing me a case of Pepto-Bismol.
What will we learn next? Can hardly wait to see.
It’s been years now since we’ve been in a blizzard. The sort of heavy snowfall and strong winds where you can’t really see where you’re going so if you have any smarts at all you don’t go anywhere. For the most part, it’s a social drag, trapping you in your home until the weather relents.
Unless … you plan ahead to have a blizzard party. This is always spontaneous, involves some quick phone calls once the weathermen have firmed up their prediction, and then the host quickly rounds up food.
You call up a few of your best friends, the sort you wouldn’t mind having as overnight guests, and they show up in casual clothing with a small bag packed and a toothbrush and you all deliberately allow yourselves to be trapped in your home as the storm rages outside. In fact, the harder the storm, the better the evening.
Back when alcohol was involved in such parties, it was necessary for someone to keep track of the hardest drinkers so that they didn’t wander outside and have to be rescued.
[Bob is noted to be out in the foyer putting a hat on, is coatless, and is holding himself up by clutching a doorknob for balance.]
Where you going, Bob?
Waaal, I thought I’d step out and get some fresh air.
Not a good idea, Bob.
Who asked you, anyway!
You’re going into a closet, Bob.
In Paradise, we haven’t even had what I would call a snowstorm in the nearly ten years we’ve lived here. There was never a night I couldn’t get out to grab a pizza if the mood came over me.
I do have a song in mind to use if it ever happens … but since this isn’t blizzard territory … I think that I’ll play it today.
Watched a rare movie last night, streaming on Netflix. No car chases, no superpowers, no nudity, no smoking, and only the smallest pinch of profanity. One of those that makes you glad that the camera was invented. The Wonder is its name. Florence Pugh is its star. Beautiful.
I have a new nomination to put forward. Whiny Person of the Year. Most of my nominees will come from what has become one of the whiniest groups of people in America … wealthy stand-up comics.
In recent years we have had to listen to ongoing diatribes from the likes of multimillionaires Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, Bill Burr, Bill Maher and others as to how badly they are treated by the world and how stupid audiences are.
The main points of their increasingly plaintive and self-serving speeches seem to be:
They should be able to say anything they want to say, without suffering criticism of any kind
They are special and we should be way more grateful for their existence than we are
If we are offended by what they say, there is something wrong with us
Anything goes as long as you call it comedy, whether it is repulsive or corrosive or humiliating … or not.
It is not enough to pay them, we really should be building pedestals for them as well.
My problem is my long frame of reference. I watched and listened to scores of comedians over several decades who were able to make me laugh without making me nauseous. Who could see that there were lines that you crossed at your own risk, some of which were almost guaranteed to bring an avalanche of rotten vegetables tossed in your direction. They chose what to present to their audiences, and they accepted the outcome.
Some of these present-day performers are becoming more and more cynical and sarcastic with time, while becoming less amusing in the process. Instead they are adopting new roles as self-pitying yawpers.
A Dick Guindon cartoon
I received an unexpected treat this past week. On trips to the grocery store or recreation center my route takes me out into the rural for about a mile, on the eastern edge of town. There are some large pastures along this route, often containing large flocks of sheep.
But two days this week the sheep were absent and had been replaced by a flock of several hundred sandhill cranes. I’ve not seen these birds in our community before, although there are resident flocks in towns about 20 miles away. It is always a treat to see them.
When we visited daughter Sarah last summer, she introduced us to a movie we’d never heard of, and which is now up for an Oscar as Best Picture. Title = Everything Everywhere All At Once. Good movie, we plan on watching it again soon.
The lead role was played by Michelle Yeoh, who is also up for an Oscar in the Best Actress category after a long career in the shadow of other players. Christians Amanpour interviewed her recently, and I thought her answers were refreshingly intelligent and warm-hearted after seeing so many boorish stars who couldn’t put together a coherent sentence if they tried. Here is a portion of that interview. She seems a class act to me.
This is not a recipe website. But every once in a great while I find a recipe that’s either so good or so bad that I publish it as a public service. Today’s PSA is marinated tomatoes. It looks way too simple, but all you have to do is toss it together and let it sit for a few hours. Lord, they are too good for us sinners.
One caution. A marinated crappy tomato is still a crappy tomato.
On Monday afternoon Robin and I attended the monthly board meeting of the local public library. Rumors were spreading that there might be a dustup at the meeting, and supporters of the present library board policies were encouraged to show up, just in case.
The board started out wisely in laying out the ground rules for public comments. They were:
When you checked into the room, you had to sign in and check a box indicating whether you wished to speak. No box checked, keep quiet.
All comments were to be addressed to the board, and not to other attendees.
Three-minute limit on comments
The comment portion of the meeting would last thirty minutes.
The first commenter was a dude about my age, who was wearing a great sweater. What popped out of his mouth was a diatribe about allowing LGBTQ+ meetings to be held on library premises. Apparently such a meeting was held and one of the things discussed seemed like a very naughty book to him. The gentleman then dropped two phrases which I have found to be code words. According to this guy these kids (and they had been young people), had “adopted a gay lifestyle” and were “promoting a gay agenda.”
A quite proper-looking older woman sitting right behind me added when her turn came that she was a Christian and looooved everybody, but the Good Book said very clearly that being gay was a darned sin and that was that. I’m not quite sure what she thought the library board was supposed to do about that, and they wisely didn’t respond.
Three other women mentioned the same horrible book that had been discussed at the LGBTQ+ meeting, but although they didn’t seem to have read it they held strong opinions that such “pornography” should not be available to children. Get rid of it and other of it ilk, they strongly suggested.
Along the way it was darkly hinted that crimes were being committed by having such literature on premises, and that board members were appointed by the county commissioners and their appointments could be cancelled. One woman said she had spoken to an actual policeman about the whole thing.
Sprinkled in between the comments of these stalwart protectors of public morals were many statements of support for continuing the open and accepting policies of the present board. At least two gay women identified themselves as such and thought the board was doing a smashing job. As they spoke I noticed the proper older lady behind me clutching her purse and getting ready to bolt just in case those two would hit on her.
And just like that the thirty minutes (which turned out to actually be forty-five) were up.
What was my take? Well, the guy in the nice sweater was a bigot, even though he swore he was not. And he was behind the times. No really smart bigot uses the words gay lifestyle and gay agenda any more. It identifies them.
The three ladies were frustrated and afraid, and I don’t blame them because there are poisonous things in print.. There are bigots writing books. There are pornographers writing books. There are warmongers writing books. Unbelievable as it may seem, there are Republicans writing books! These women were in favor of picking out the literature that offended them and not having it on the premises at all, just in case one of their kids got to feeling frisky and might come across it. And if my kids were still young enough I too would want to know what they are reading, just like these people do. I would want to know, but I also would recognize that they might not tell me.
And there’s where the scary part comes in. If one believes, as I do, that some books are ennobling, then I have to accept that some might be potentially hurtful. As parents, our job is to do what we can to prepare our kids to meet the challenges that life will provide, and hope that they are ready to do their own sorting out when the time comes.
And there is, of course, that pesky First Amendment. Which says that even if you say something that I disagree with, even something that I absolutely abhor, it is protected. As is my right to say something that might curdle your own particular milk. That’s what living in a free society means.
Tolerance is part of the bargain.
And tolerance is not required when you agree with something, but when you don’t.
Last night it started to snow lightly just as we sat down to eat our supper. It slowly grew in intensity, then stopped just when we were beginning to clear away the dishes from the table.
‘Twas a small thing, but a nice touch, and we appreciated whichever one of you sent it over.
I’ve actually had to break out my snow shovel five times this winter so far, which is unusual. Truth is, the only reason to shovel at all is so that the sidewalks will be cleared enough that the morning sunshine will dry them and senior citizens don’t start flipping into the air and dropping like flies outside our living room window. If I didn’t scrape the snow away it would typically be gone from the walk in 24 hours.
Compared with what I’ve experienced in any of the other places I have dwelt, pushing an inch of fluffy stuff to the curb hardly qualifies as work, although each time I do it I think about the “fact” that graveyards are allegedly filled with old dudes who have heart attacks while clearing their walks. Surely that is in more northern climes only, because what I do now is not much more strenuous than pushing mashed potatoes around on my plate at dinner.
When people that know about such things begin to talk about water out here in the West, the word snowpack comes up quite a bit. That’s the snow up in the mountains that is inevitably going to melt and come down to our valleys where we can get at it. It’s talked about so much because 80% of Colorado’s surface water comes from melted snow.
This year we are doing fairly well in that regard. Which is a good thing in a dry country. It’s not nearly enough to begin to restore those shrinking reservoirs you read about, but puts us in more of at least a standing pat sort of position.
(This graphic was published in late December of 2022. FYI: those names in the graphic are those of the major river systems in Colorado)
So if any of the gods in charge are listening, I am absolutely down for shoveling quite a bit more if it means that we can get those numbers up. How about shooting for 200% of average for a few years? What could it hurt?
From The New Yorker
There is a lady who passes our home nearly every day while out walking her dog. She seems quite pleasant, and never fails to make some cheerful comment if I happen to be out there. But the dog she is walking is right out of horror films. It is big, black, homely as the proverbial mud fence, and has jaws that look like it could snap four-inch fence posts without any difficulty at all.
It is the sort of dog that makes me look around for something to climb to safety rather than asking if I can pet the beast. I know, I know, I am overreacting … perhaps. But for all the fuss that pit bull owners make about their dogs being maligned unnecessarily, I will put this out there. Dogs have been bred to do certain tasks over centuries, and even before we knew anything about genetics at all, people were developing breeds that could hunt rats, sniff out escapees from gaols, find marijuana stashes, and guard what needed guarding.
Some breeds, like this adorable little creature, were bred to run up to humans to be petted and then sneak around behind and bite them on the Achilles tendon.
Pit bulls were not developed to sit around hearths and cuddle. Nor to retrieve game birds or to keep a flock of sheep in line. They were bred to bite things hard and often, and no matter what anyone tells me, I will take even one of the traitorous little ankle-biters any day over one of those with those jaws.
Or how about this … why not get a dog that’s bred to be a companion? Like a Labrador retriever or a malemute, for instance. A dog that was meant to work alongside of us rather than keep us in line. They have even temperaments, strong constitutions, and are safe around small children and senior citizens. Sounds like a win-win to me.
One more canine observation. It is a commonplace in Colorado to be outdoors walking about and enjoying the day when someone’s large dog comes racing at you. In the distance you can hear the owner calling out “Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite.”
Just as an FYI for those irresponsible dog owners out there, this is never, ever reassuring!
Leash laws are not there to make dog owner’s and their pets’ lives miserable. They are there to protect the rest of us against those large and meant-for-tearing-flesh-apart teeth. Canines, those teeth are called.
From The New Yorker
As of Tuesday morning I have a name for a long-present complaint of mine. Bunions.
Plagued for the past year with a localized pain just proximal to my right little toe, I finally went to a podiatrist for advice. My own differential diagnosis included cancer of the foot and black gangrene, so I hoped the professional would narrow that down for me. And he did. I have bilateral tailor’s bunions.
In my ignorance I had thought of all such afflictions as being located upstream of the big toe, occurring mostly in women of a certain age, and largely caused by wearing evil footgear for years. High-heeled shoes, primarily.
The podiatrist told me that I needed surgery, either on my shoes or my feet. I asked if we could please just talk about the former option, and for now skip anything that included scalpels, bone saws, and limping for extended periods.
So from here on in I will be stretching my shoes, buying only those with a toe-box as wide as that usually found in the footgear of clowns, and when I finally give up and crawl back into his office he might actually deign to operate on me.
Oh woe and double woe! Is there to be no end to the ever-lengthening list of decrepitudes I must deal with? What’s next … my acne comes back full on from the darkened crypts of adolescence to haunt me? Nursemaid’s elbow?
Our cat Poco is an older dude at 16 years, and he has become less tolerant of change as he ages (I have the same problem). Usually he is clingy when we return home after an absence of a few days, but this time he is positively like a furry tattoo on my leg. I am tripping over him constantly, trying to answer to his repeated fits of yapping without ever really knowing what it is that he wants, and these vexations are making me short-tempered. Here are some of the things I have said to him in the past couple of days.
Poco, go play in traffic.
Poco, remember you are adopted. We can send you back !
Poco, come over here and swallow this nice pill …
Poco, you see that tiny dark closet? How would you like to live there?
With Robin being slightly incapacitated post-op, I have been temporarily promoted to the full-time home manager spot. I an earlier post I discussed how we recently acquired a new vacuum cleaner which only weighs about 8 pounds and is cordless. I have found that when using this mechanical wonder there is a learning curve.
When you reach a baseboard, the thing will climb right up the wall, then leap backwards onto you. Somehow I can sense that it is ashamed of itself when this happens.
Yesterday it made a grab at Poco and removed a half-bagful of his fur before I could get them apart. Poco will now not come down from his perch on the overhead fan in the living room. I may have to call the fire department, because it’s hard feeding him up there as the food bowls keep sliding off. And don’t get me started on the litter problem.
When Willow saw what happened to Poco, she quickly packed a bag and tried to get herself adopted next door but was sent back to us by that neighbor after being encouraged to give us just one more chance.
The machine was advertised as having 60 minutes of battery life per charge, and this is true. True as long as you only turn it on and don’t ask it to actually do any cleaning. Actually vacuuming with it on a smooth floor cuts that time to 30 minutes right off the bat, and trying to clean deep pile carpeting … well … you get to take a lot of breaks.*
*It is possible that none of the above points are true.
We watched a Leonard Cohen documentary entitled, what else, Hallelujah! It’s just about two hours of examining his career through looking at this memorable song and the others who recorded it. If you are a Cohen junkie, the hours go by very quickly. There are interviews with all sorts of folks who knew him at different times, Judy Collins for one, and more surprisingly, Jeff Buckley.
I say surprisingly because although Buckley recorded perhaps the best version of them all (IMHO) the two men never met, and then Buckley was gone for good. What did come across to me forcefully while watching this film was the earthiness of the lyrics. It’s a song that if you don’t listen carefully sounds at first sacred while it it so solidly secular. It took Cohen five years to write the song, with many verses that came and went along the way, perhaps well over a hundred-twenty. Leonard was never accused of being a rapid-fire composer.
Robin and I have grown to love his music over the past thirty-odd years. To us he is a poet who happens to include music with his readings. Each composition opens a window on life for us to look through, with some of the views familiar and others quite foreign. But a guy who starts out his career with paragraphs like these to Suzanne … well … it brings out the hippie-folkie in a person for sure.
Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river You can hear the boats go by, you can spend the night beside her And you know that she’s half-crazy but that’s why you want to be there And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China And just when you mean to tell her that you have no love to give her Then she gets you on her wavelength And she lets the river answer that you’ve always been her lover
And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind And then you know that she will trust you For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind
Now Robin and I are well seasoned, and there are no boats big enough for sleeping on the Uncompaghre River, but we each have our half-crazy moments and I’ll bet we can get a bit of tea and a few oranges if we try …
It’s been a while since I waited outside an operating suite, and the experience hasn’t improved much. There is still the nervousness, the feeling of insecurity, plus my abundant knowledge of what mishaps can occur even when someone is in capable hands. The practice of surgery is a human enterprise, and perfection eludes us.
I afford myself the luxury of leaving the room when the needles come out, not out of squeamishness, for I have never had a problem performing procedures on patients, but I cringe when it is my people who are being poked or prodded or otherwise invaded. Turns out that if you take away my white coat and stethoscope, as a citizen I become Mr. Squishmallow.
It was 9 degrees Fahrenheit when we left our motel for the drive to Aspen Valley Hospital, and halfway there it began to snow. Nothing epic, just enough to make the road surface slightly slippery and the highway lines invisible. Since we had started out at 4:45 AM, we saw few other vehicles until we got closer to Aspen itself.
We read horror stories about patients having the wrong body part operated upon, and you wonder … how could that happen? Wednesday two different people (including Robin herself) each made large marks on Robin’s left knee with permanent Magic Markers, and at least four others asked “Which knee is it that we’re doing today?” They are dead serious about not adding to those dismal accounts in the newspapers.
The hospital there is a small one, only 25 beds, but with a busy ambulatory surgery department. It has a small cafeteria serving very tasty food at really good prices. This is not always true of hospital food. Things might have changed a lot by now, but long ago at Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton SD when the nuns were running things, the cafeteria output was dismal. Day after day … pfaughhh! I concluded that the nun in charge of the kitchen hated food as much as she hated sex, and that producing platefuls of tasteless beige entrees was her revenge on the concupiscent.
From The New Yorker
Aspen really isn’t the place to spend much time as a tourist unless you are pretty well-heeled. This morning’s fill at the Shell station was $5.14/gallon for 87 octane.
It requires no exhaustive searching to find a $20 hamburger in this modest village.
If you want to spend $2500 a night for your motel, no problemo.
A single day ski lift ticket for an adult which allows you access to the four mountains can cost you $219. That puts you on the lift, you still have to provide the equipment.
The surrounding mountains and valley are beautiful, and looking at them is the only real bargain in town. I think it is instructive that the Aspen city logo is as shown at right.*
*I might have made this up
I have finally left the Facebook and Instagram universe. Deleted my accounts. Proximate cause: Facebook’s allowing Donald Cluck back on. So I guess that I’m not for freedom of speech after all, nest-ce pas? I’m nothing but a closet censor caught red-handed with my scissors in my hand, or a petulant child taking my baseball bat and glove and going home.
But what of the commonly proferred example of exception to freedom of speech – shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater? Supposedly we are okay with that being a no-no. And that’s what Cluck is doing, in my estimation. Shouting his particular translation of the word “Fire” in a crowded country.
So when we say that the truth will always win if we let everybody have their say without intruding, we are basing that comfortable belief on a model that may no longer be valid. It has worked pretty well, although with definite hiccups, when the only way of disseminating information was the traditional media.
But what happens when a single media outlet has 2.9billion subscribers, like Facebook? We don’t really know yet what this means in the long-term, but what it means short-term is that we give a megaphone of a size never dreamed of to people who wish to do harm.
So Cluck has his megaphone back in hand, and some think freedom of speech entitles him to it. However, I believe that he is a traitor to his country and wishes to do harm.
So it’s a good thing that I am also free, free to not support the company that provides him with the space and the soapbox. I can withdraw.
From The New Yorker
It happened that the day we departed the Steadman Clinic in Aspen, the man who started it died. The two events are not connected, no matter what the rumors might say. It’s not our fault. We didn’t know him and never met him. Pinky swear.
Our experiences with the organization that he left behind make this the go-to place for me if I ever need a knee repaired. We found professionalism and a total lack of b.s. to be its hallmarks. We appreciated both.
(BTW, it was interesting that the walls of the waiting room at the clinic were decorated with framed jerseys of various professional athletes. Not bad marketing, there.)
A local insurance agent has a sign outside his office where he posts clever (or sometimes not) sayings. One of his best was yesterday when the sign read:
“Dealing with the present shortages of eggs and toilet paper it’s hard to believe that we used to throw them at houses!“
And finally. How many times in life do you get to see perfection? Here’s a video of a flawless performance that took place on 1/27/2023. Make you want to look out in the garage for those old skates?
We have been in Carbondale CO this week, and today (Wednesday morning) Robin is having a knee restructuring done on the left side. It’s being performed by a physician who is renowned for this particular surgery, and our hopes are high that much of the unpleasantness she has experienced postoperatively when she had the right side done in Montrose will not be repeated.
Carbondale? Where the hell is Carbondale? Well, it’s about 30 miles from Aspen, and offers a motel room for us to stay in that is less than $500 a night, that’s where. The hospital and clinic are located in Aspen, but that particular village is not famous for travel bargains during ski season. It’s a lot like that old story about an encounter in a Rolls-Royce auto dealership.
Salesperson: May I help you, Sir?
Customer: Yes, thank you. I’ve really been quite taken by this cabriolet in front of us. Could you tell me the price?
Salesperson: Sir, If you have to ask the price, you shouldn’t be shopping here.
So we’re in Carbondale. The idea of plunking down that much money for a room I will be spending very little time in seemed bonkers. Like paying for a full meal when you have no intention of eating anything but the okra.
My favorite genre of motels are the little “Mom and Pops” along the highway where you park in the lot right in front of your room and carry your bags about six feet before you put them down again.
A place where you can hang out on a hot summer evening, sitting outside your room on a rusty patio chair wearing nothing but a tank top and a pair of old jeans. That’s the motor hotel life for me. It’s like being a character in your own filmnoir*, waiting for Lauren Bacall to walk her most sinuous self across the parking lot with murder on her mind. Her husband’s murder, not yours.
Next you find yourself being handed a gun by Ms. Bacall even though you are not quite sure which side of the weapon is up and whether you would ever be able to pull the trigger, but she’s sure as anything that you are up to the task.
The two of you speak cooly to one another in clipped phrases, some plans are made, and suddenly you are only a couple of scenes away from becoming another poor sap going to the slammer on account of some dame.
All this good stuff goes with the room.
Compare this with spending a timid and insipid night in an upscale Marriott. Really … why would anyone?
A common film noir structure goes like this:
It is night, always. The hero enters a labyrinth on a quest. He is alone and off-balance. He may be desperate, in flight, or coldly calculating, imagining he is the pursuer rather than the pursued.
A woman invariably joins him at a critical juncture, when he is most vulnerable. [Her] eventual betrayal of him (or herself) is as ambiguous as her feelings about him.
Nicholas Christopher: Somewhere In The Night
We are now in the tedious part of Winter. The part where most of the season is past us, but it will still be another month or so before the first signs of Spring. I really want the birds back. While I am grateful for those hardy species that hang around all winter, it is the variety that is available in the Spring and Summer that is so amazing.
For instance, the plantings in the berm out front of our house attract hummingbirds galore, and once blossoms appear these birds put on their show all day long, every day.
Of course, it is not just the birds that make Spring so attractive. It is also the lack of shivering, improved footing on sidewalks, hanging out on the deck, picnics, hikes, wearing shorts once again, and the perfumes given off by blossoming trees. It is the possibility of camping out in some of those gorgeous areas here in Paradise that we can’t even get to during Winter because no one plows those remote roads. It is being able to take a long drive without needing a winter travel kit with its reminders that if you make a mistake out there in the cold it could be your last.
One day at a time … live in the present moment … don’t waste a second … I know and agree with all of those pieces of good advice. And I will do all those good things … but I am me, after all, and know that I will just enjoy everything a little more when my parka is put away and sandals can replace the snow boots.
The question of the day is: with the new revelations re: Mike Pence and his sloppy housekeeping – who doesn’t have classified documents in their home?
Perhaps in the future instead of being a scandal having them will become a new status symbol.
“How many Top Secret documents do you have at home?”
“I have fifty-seven.”
Quite a long time ago, while vacationing in northern Minnesota, I was nominated to go to the village for groceries by other members of our party. A few miles from our rented cabin I passed a small motel of about six rooms, just sitting there all by itself in the forest along a rural two-lane. Its sign read: NO-TEL MOTEL. That was its name, that was its claim to fame.
I could see some weaknesses in their bold approach to anonymity, however. At that point on the road there was nothing but pine trees and pine trees and then this little motel sitting in the middle of them. Also, the parking lot was just off the blacktop, meaning that whatever transportation you came in was easily seen, for identification purposes.
So who were the customers? Tourists like myself would find it only by the merest accident on that back road. Also, when you are a tourist almost any motel would fill that sort of clandestine need for you.
Locals … I wondered. If I were feeling like a betrayed spouse that parking lot would be the first place I would check. I would drive out there in the country and if I found my beloved had taken a room I would significantly reduce the air in all four of their tires, take a six-pound sledge to the car windows, and toss a few shovelfuls of manure I’d brought along onto the front seat. You wondered about the availability of manure? We’re talking living in the rural here, where such things are easily obtained.
I finally decided, without any facts to go on at all, that the customer base might consist mostly of entrepreneurs in the sex trade who would now have a reliable location in which to ply their craft.
Somehow I found it jarring, thinking that people might travel all the way Up North for sex, when the fishing was so good there. Sex could be indulged in literally anywhere, but catching northern pike the size of sheep … that was a whole ‘nother thing.
While the weather bedevils travelers all over rest of the state, it only taps us gently on the shoulder with a dusting of snow and some mildly chilly temperatures here in the Uncompahgre Valley. Now while this might sound pretty good to someone presently stuck sideways across Interstate 70 in a 35 car pileup near Vail Pass, there is a caveat that goes with the Winter Lite we enjoy. It all changes if you try to go anywhere. There are these gigantic piles of rock you have to pass through, and to do so you first go up and then you go down. It’s during the “up” part where most of the excitement lies.
Going east on I-70 you need to cross Vail Pass and the Eisenhower Tunnel. Take an alternative route and Monarch Pass stands in the way of your fun travel day. To the south, if you are brave enough to drive the Million Dollar Highway in winter, you need to cross Red Mountain, Molas, and Coal Bank passes.
Go west and you are in southern Utah, an area large in acreage and small in population. If your car should develop problems, waiting for help to come requires patience and I would definitely take lots of blankets and beefsticks with you to assist in staying alive while you wait and pray for help to come.
Going north there is no major geologic obstacle, but who in their right mind wants to go through Wyoming and the Dakota Territory in the winter unless they absolutely have to? This is the sort of country where you string ropes from your home to the outhouse so you can make it there and back safely during whiteouts.
I have many friends who are summertime dwellers in the Territory, but they depart en masse in the winter, only to end up huddling together in migrant camps like this one until Spring brings sanity back to the land and they can return.
My point is that we are blessed here in Paradise, as long as we stay right where we are. Doing anything else is problematic.
Newly sworn-in Rep. George Santos made headlines again this past week when he declared that he had invented Rubbermaid. “I did it during my freshman year in college,” said Santos, “when I was fooling around in chemistry lab. I was trying to find a container that would keep my stash fresh, and decided to create my own.”
When the reporter pointed out that the Rubbermaid company has been around since 1920, which was 68 years before Santos was born, the plucky congressman blurted out “Yeah, that surprised me, too. I wonder how I did that?”
In the photograph Rep. Santos is shown telling his whoppers directly to God, rather than going through earthly intermediaries. “I hate the idea that I might be misquoted,” said George.
I know that I’ve mentioned this program before, but what good is it being the godlike creature that I am if I can’t repeat myself? We are just about done with Reservation Dogs’ second season. Robin and I are fans, and if you haven’t watched at least one … how do you know if you aren’t a fan as well?
It is a series with heart, and how many of those are there?
Plus it takes place on an Oklahoma reservation, which is terra incognita to most of us. Plus the four main characters are all interesting people. Plus there is a hilarious spirit-warrior that comes in and out of the narrative.
David Crosby passed this week. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. Once for co-founding The Byrds and once for co-founding Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.
Troubled man, troubled life, with lost opportunities and lost friends littering the road behind him. But he left us some beautiful songs as well. Here’s are some of them.
The best summary that I’ve yet read about where President Biden stands today was in Saturday’s Times of New York. I know, I know, there are readers who believe that nothing good can come out of this news organization, but what can I say? Being generally on the side of liberalism (or conservatism) does not make one automatically wrong. All media must be approached with one’s mind open and one’s critical faculties in full employ or one risks becoming nothing more than an extension of the mob. And what sentient being wants to be that?
Anyway, the title of the piece is “Oh, Biden, What Have You Done.” I am among those who earnestly hope that Mr. Biden does not run for re-election. And I don’t want to get caught up in the vagueness and vapidity that is the ongoing discussion about aging and its effects on abilities. A fact of modern life is that there are too few thirty year-old voters who can get excited about eighty year-old candidates, no matter how much of their competency they retain.
I’ve lived with this knowledge for quite a while now. There was an axiom of the counterculture/revolutionaries in the sixties that went like this: Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty! This earnest proclamation was at its peak in 1969, the year that I turned thirty.
In contrast to the generally harmonious relationship that Robin and I enjoy, there is one recurring burr under our respective saddles. I possess a wallet that is of uncertain age. It predates our getting together for certain, so it is thirty or forty years old, at least. To me it is now fully broken in, has an excellent wabi-sabi sort of beauty, confirms perfectly to the curve of my right buttock, and holds no secrets from me.
To Robin it is a disreputable piece of roadkill that deserves only an ignominious burial, conducted far from civilization on a moonless night. If we are eating in a restaurant and I take out the offending accessory to get at my VISA card, it is all she can to keep her stomach from rejecting its contents instanter. Clutching at chairs she will stagger out to the street to put enough distance between herself and me that perhaps no passersby will make the connection that we are a couple.
I offer these unretouched photographs of my treasured pocket doodad for you to judge.
Now, be honest, doesn’t this just scream art more than simple utility?
I thought so.
I will inform Robin that you agree that she is overreacting.
Yesterday I was offered the opportunity to buy caps from some website. which All of them had clever slogans stitched on them, but it was this one that captured the feeling I have nearly every morning when I greet my image in the bathroom mirror.
A Dick Guindon Cartoon
SCENE: The Biden Household
DRAMATIS PERSONAE: President Joseph Biden, First Lady Jill Biden
President: Good morning, Jill, did you sleep well last night?
First Lady: Not really … the floor slants too much in that Lincoln bedroom and I kept rolling to the edge of the bed.
President: Let me take a look at it … you know, if I put something under that rear leg on your side, it would help a lot. There, that should do it.
First Lady: What was that you used, Joe?
President: Just some old papers
First Lady: Joe, it says Top Secret on them! What … ?
President: I really have no idea. They were handed to me when we moved in.
First Lady: Maybe you should check them out or give them to the Secret Service or something.
President: Let’s see … the first page says: “Master Plan For Response Of Entire United States Government To Nuclear Attack Originating In The Former Soviet Union.”
First Lady: Joe … what if the wrong people got hold of those?
President: You’re right as usual, Jill. I better find a new hiding place and get something else for leveling the bed. I know, I’ll put them in the glove compartment of my Corvette. No one will ever think of looking in there.And the garage is locked all the time.
First Lady: But do you think we should keep them, Joe? Shouldn’t they be under guard or something?
President: You know … I’m still not happy with how the bed sits. Would you hand me that little gray book over there?
First Lady: This one?
President: No, the one that says “ICBM Launching Codes.“
From The New Yorker
“Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.” ― André Malraux
“A secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept.” ― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
“When I like people immensely I never tell their names to anyone. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
What is missing so far from the discussions (if you can dignify them by that name) about classified documents being kept in insecure places by both of our last two presidents, is what those papers really contained, and whether they were worth classifying in the first place. Over time I have read enough articles about the arbitrariness and occasional downright silliness of the government’s system of classification – i.e. things being denoted as Top Secret when they are already common knowledge, et al.
So if I’m going to really take umbrage, get my dander up, or be well and truly outraged, I would like to have at least the opinion of someone trustworthy as to what category of sin these episodes represent.
sins of omission
sins of commission
Perhaps I am oversimplifying, but so far both men seem equally guilty of second degree carelessness and first degree dumbassedness. If it is found that we can’t trust them with anything important, then we shouldn’t tell them anything important.
There is precedent for this. During the Second World War, vice-president Truman was kept completely in the dark about quite a few awfully important things including the Manhattan Project, and had to be brought up to speed very quickly when FDR died.
This last word on secrets was first uttered by Benjamin Franklin, a man of many utterances.
“Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.“
Going to the gym these days is always worth a chuckle. First there is the resistance of the flesh, which in my case prefers to be that body at rest you learned about in physics class. It seems that without any planning on my part, all of my systems have gone over to the inertia side of things.
Once I get it moving, there are other issues. My body’s manager, wherever that is located, has figured out that it can almost completely ignore gravity as long as I never lift either of my feet. Even better, it realizes, would be that if I would simply lie down on the floor gravity would become irrelevant altogether. So the manager whispers as a steady refrain … lay down, fool … lay down, fool … lay down.
Today I exercised on the walking/jogging track. There are three lanes, clearly marked as to who should occupy them. The walkers in the left lane, the joggers in the right hand lane, and the center lane for passing. The majority of younger users follow these guidelines very well.
Unfortunately, my generation hardly follows them at all, but wanders from lane to lane without ever checking to see whether collisions are imminent. They go from left lane to right lane, willy-nilly, apparently believing those are considerations for mere mortals. Which means that if you are coming up on one of these folks and thinking about passing them you must be hyper-alert to sudden lane changes or you could become involved in an unsightly melee of fractures and dislocations as osteoporotic corpora collide.
This is definitely not in keeping with the mission of the recreation center, whose image of itself is handsome and fit patrons sprinting out the front door. Not a gaggle of stretchers loaded with the wreckage of the golden years.
Time certainly marches on, and the proof arrived in our mailbox yesterday. The first two catalogs of 2023 from nurseries and seed companies. One of the catalogs was interesting in that it offered nothing that would grow, but only the hardware to do it with. The sort of hardware that one might find on an estate, and not a humble homestead like our own. In fact, I could imagine those shelves and garden accessories as backdrops in the television series “The Crown,” as the former Queen wandered with her consort through the barns and sheds of her vast holdings.
Queen Elizabeth : I think those shelves would do nicely for the tomahto plantings, don’t you, Philip?
Prince Philip: Good God, but I’m bored.
Queen Elizabeth : Now, Philip, let’s not be cross again today, shall we? That would make 743 cranky days in a row … not the sort of look royals are going for at all.
Prince Philip: Blast.
I have enjoyed that series, BTW, and will no doubt watch the final season whenever it get to us. It is of course a soap opera, but one of a relatively exalted nature, with characters right out of the Disney canon. All the princes and princesses that a person could ever want, peppered liberally with stiff upper lips and the English language spoken exactly as it should be done.
The only problem for that television series is that Harry and Meghan, the Royal Whiners-In-Exile, are running a set of competitive programs all on their own. Let’s see … when was it precisely that I lost interest in what was happening to that noted pair of pampered persons whose noses have been put out of joint repeatedly by another cohort of pampered persons … wait … I have never been interested in what happened to them.
I have a feeling that Harry and Meghan must be frustrated. No matter how much attention that they have been paid to date, it doesn’t seem to equal their need for it. And some advisor somewhere has no doubt told them that in five years no one, not a single solitary soul on the entire freaking planet will care about them at all. So as the saying goes, they better maketh their hay while the sun shineth their way.
Let it here be said that I have friends and relatives (and some who are both) in the Midwest. Let it also be said that that they are having a difficult winter, with plenty of cold and snow and icy roads and all of the unpleasantness that living in a refrigerator can bring.
Additionally, I will admit that here in Paradise the snow is but a light dusting, the temperatures are compatible with life, and the worst that has happened so far this Winter is a couple of brief power outages.
Since I have always been told that Winter’s hardships are just the bracing jolt that our souls need for necessary toughening, I will have to accept that it is possible that my own soul is becoming a bit saggy and out of shape. Perhaps even the slightest bit decadent. It certainly is not being tested this year.
Why, on this last New Year’s Eve I was able to bicycle to the grocery store to get a couple of items that I needed. Wheels rolling on dry and ice-free roads. Give me another couple of years of this meteorologic cosseting and I suspect I will spiritually begin to look a lot like Jabba the Hutt.
My Viking ancestors are no doubt rolling over in their watery graves on the bottom of the North Sea in shame at what a fragile flower I am becoming. Well, let them roll and please pass the grapes and bonbons, would you? There’s a dear.
Yesterday I killed our vacuum cleaner. It was a case of second-degree vacu-slaughter, because I didn’t mean to do it. How it happened was only one more repetition of what so often happens when I try to DIM (D0 It Myself). The first time I remember was when I decided that the carburetor on my 1950 Ford needed to be rebuilt. How, in the abysmally ignorant state re: automobile functioning that I was in back then (and still am) that I could possibly come to this conclusion I cannot recall.
But I bought the repair kit, dismounted the carburetor, tore it apart, and began to replace what was worn. Hours later that same day I put the thing back onto the motor where it belonged and climbed into the driver’s seat to see how I’d done. I turned the key and sacre bleu!, the car wouldn’t start at all.
I had no idea where I had wandered off the correct path, so I went in humiliated posture to my father and admitted my failure. He graciously accepted the task of repairing my repair, and soon the motor was purring like a well-fed cat. When I asked him what I had done wrong, he first paused and then mumbled a reply. I caught the phrase “… so many things” in his response, and didn’t press him for further details.
To get back to the vacuum cleaner. The machine was operating poorly, so I went to the gurus on YouTube and found exactly that model cleaner with exactly that problem, and exactly how to repair it. I also learned that the manufacturer had never wanted people to be messing in there, so they had created access screws that required a very special tool to remove them. I ordered the special tool.
I will admit that my removing of an endplate and a gear or two only casually resembled what the guy on YouTube was doing. What he removed easily, I struggled to get off. What he pried loose with a tiny screwdriver required that I use a much larger lever and enough force to move the cornerstones of bank buildings.
But it all eventually went back into place, as I tightened every screw and replaced every plate, and then plugged it into the wall. Echoing that long-ago carburetor episode, the machine now wouldn’t work at all. After several pluggings and unpluggings, many disconnections and reconnections, and a couple of hard kicks to its solar plexus, the device stubbornly refused to suck.
The new vacuum cleaner should be here next Wednesday. It will be half the weight of the old one, which will be a good thing. The dead machine was a heavy brute. I like to think of this whole episode as one of the universe gently guiding me to what I should have done on my own long ago, which was to purchase that much lighter tool, to ease our aching backs.
I mentioned my father coming to my aid in an entry above. The man could fix things, build things, and create stuff with his hands and a hammer that are probably still functioning somewhere. He was very good at those things.
However, there were moments when he was just the teensiest bit absent- minded. Dad smoked cigarettes heavily all of his adult life. Occasionally he would light one up in one room of the house, walk to another room, forget about the first cigarette and start another. His personal record, achieved one summer afternoon when he was involved in a household remodeling project, was to have four lit cigarettes going in four ashtrays in four different rooms.
On another occasion when he was paying the household bills and writing checks to do it, he forgot to finish the job properly and sent one off with only his first name, “Joe,” in the signature line. The check sailed right through and the bank cashed it without blinking an eye.
My son Jonnie came home for a weekend visit on a college break. As he was unpacking I had some music playing … can’t recall exactly what, but it was during my New Age period. This was after my divorce and that time I was playing quite a bit of stuff that promised to bring some order to my disordered thought processes. It didn’t quite deliver, but didn’t require much of me, either.
Anyway, I think that it might have been David Arkenstone and his Valley in the Clouds album. At one point Jonnie raised his head to listen and then he observed: “And to think that this was once a house where rock and roll was played.”
Well, wasn’t a minute before Mr. Arkenstone was retired and the J. Geils Band cranked up as the background music du jour. I had been properly shamed.
I admit that on occasion, when there is no one to hear what I am doing, I will still bring some of this genre of music out for a listen. But I definitely wouldn’t want it to get around that I do. ‘Twould ruin my street cred.
We are just now finishing up our Christmas leftovers. When you plan ahead and precook several entrees, as I did, and then you infect your guests with a disease that involves messing profoundly with their digestive tract, well, you have lots of leftovers. A ton of them.
But … and I say this with some small pride … they were excellent. That beef roast for eight (including one teenager who resembles a machine designed to inhale food without chewing) but which only three people nibbled at … delicious. That may have been the best of them all.
We’ve kept track of the survivors of our holiday miserableness, and all have made full recovery. Some of them have declared that it will be a cold day in Hell before they come back to our casa for another meal, but I take that to be only a temporary posture because their wounds are still so fresh. Allow enough time to pass, I think, and all will be well.
What we have promised them, should they ever feel inclined to return, is the following:
a hospital tent set up in the back yard, manned by retired EMTs who have only recently surrendered their licenses
an old but serviceable large Dodge van would be available complete with stretchers, for transport to and from the hospital
family members who are still conscious would be allowed to play with the siren during van rides
a full line of gastrointestinal products will be available in-house, including antacids, Milk of Magnesia, chicken noodle soup, Pepcid, and generic PeptoBismol
three full cases of comfortable toilet paper will be stored on the premises to avoid those highly annoying shortages
all the orange Gatorade they can handle while rehydrating, available after that as a cash bar
Sounds pretty attractive to me.
On Sunday last we drove to the outskirts of Delta CO for a little bird-watching. There is a resident population of sandhill cranes which winters over in the area, and can usually be found by following the Uncompahgre River as it passes the town. We were not disappointed, but found perhaps 400 of the birds along tributary creeks north and west of the village.
It is always a thrill to see these creatures, which seem to be something right out of Jurassic Park. The other-worldly cronking sounds they make only add to their uniqueness.
It’s a real privilege to be able to see them basically whenever we choose to make the small effort. It’s only a 20 mile drive to Delta, then add another few miles to search out the birds, and that’s it. As we watched, new additions to the flock were coming in for landings, which was doubly fascinating. These big birds hit the ground running, but oh, so gracefully.
The Republicans in the House of Representatives have been giving us a lesson in civics this past week. The lesson is: Don’t do what we are doing!
It’s what happens when you begin giving in to the worst elements of your party, thinking that you can use them today and ignore them tomorrow. Except that when tomorrow comes and you keep doing it and doing it … well, eventually you get the mess that they are in. Because those fringe-style folks don’t want to run things any other way than theirs. Compromise is re-minted as a four-letter word.
The pundits and the chattering classes have been asking repeatedly: What does Kevin McCarthy stand for and what are his political beliefs? The answers that they have come up with seem to be that he stands for Kevin McCarthy, and has no firmly held beliefs other than that to be re-elected is a good thing.
That’s not enough to whip up much enthusiasm, apparently.
I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I am living proof of the old saw “There’s no fool like an old fool.” This past week I have immersed myself in the music of Tori Amos. Don’t bother to ask why … it’s today’s whim. But her songs are not easy listens, nor are they hummable. So why relive the angst that better belongs to another part of life, a long time past? That’s where the fool part comes in.
I should be leaning up against a bodhi tree in a cow pasture, reveling in the serenity that age is supposed to bring. Focussing on the beauty of the bee in the flower.
Instead I persist in getting myself all worked up about the vagaries of life and the fleeting qualities of past loves.
For instance, Marjorie H. never returned the passion that I felt for her. But we were only eight years old, so I forgave her her limitations.
I suspect that Judy M. never noticed how many times I bicycled past her home, going first this way and then that. I lived in hope that she would step out her front door and discover the dashing twelve year old ready to slay dragons and happily toss his cape over puddles for her. But she never did. I forgave her for her ignorance.
When Kathleen T. chose to trade me in on the boring stiff she eventually married, well, that was not a good week for a 16 year-old heart, but … what could I say … I forgave her for her huge lapse in judgment.
(I begin to see a pattern here…)
So Tori sings of fathers and mothers and assaults and many more of the confusions and alienations that being alive packs in your bag. I don’t know whether my rekindled outrages and angsts are appropriate for a man of my years or not. But, as I frequently have to tell myself, if you hurt somewhere it means at the very least that you are still sentient.
George Santos, a newly elected representative from New York has admitted to telling a long list of fibs in order to be elected. Today he admits that he isn’t even George Santos, but part of an alien vanguard sent from the planet Pinocchio VII to reconnoiter our world.
“That’s why I’ve come up with so many croppers … I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’ve only been here on Earth for two opteks, so give me a break! How well do you think YOU would do if you washed up on MY home planet?
When pressed, he revealed that his real name is Cfhhhvnxm. Which, roughly translated, means Charmin Plus.
The Canada geese can’t quite decide what to do. When the bomb cyclone hit up north, they came down as far as Paradise, where they found mellower temperatures and much less snow cover on their food sources. So they stayed. But they still get up every day and mill about making a great squawk, while flying in no particular direction.
I don’t mind. Is there a lovelier sight than a “V” of geese passing overhead following routes that go back a bazillion years? It’s a direct visual connection to a life we don’t live any longer. Where we were much closer to the rhythms of rain and earth and air.
Once in a great while I will smell the faintest hint of that existence, on a chilly November morning when I seriously need to turn up my collar against the wind and there it is. Archetypal memory … why not?
Hunters claim that they are out there to make that connection, but no one needs a gun in their hands to do this. What the hunter is there for is unutterably sad. When all that is necessary is the will to be quiet for a few moments. It may be that humans have evolved as far as they are going to go. That we can never fully divorce ourselves from violence and murder against other creatures and against our own species. But if we could, I think our earth would be the better for it. It’s just my guess, you know, because we’ve never really tried it.
Summers on the Jacobson farm, especially before electricity came along, did lead to some sense of isolation. Not so much for us kids, who never ran out of things to explore and invent, but to the woman running the household. There was church on Sunday mornings and the occasional visit to one of the neighbor women “for coffee.” But for daily reminders that you were part of a larger world, it was the mail.
When the U.S. Post Office got around to installing mailboxes in rural America, they weren’t always conveniently located. Grandma Jacobson’s front step was a mile and a half from the mailbox. Too far for a lady of her constitution to walk, especially in hot weather. So she would drive the car.
Picking up the mail was the only time she ever got behind the wheel. But her hands were steady, she fixed her eyes on the road ahead, and off she would go. In first gear.
Grandma never used anything higher. There was little need for speed and she had never learned how to change gears on the fly, so first gear provided everything she needed in a vehicle.
When this was coupled with her very light foot on the accelerator it meant that the car’s velocity rarely exceeded 5 miles per hour.
As kids, we loved it. We could jump off onto the road … get out on the running board and stand in the 5 mph whirlwind … all things were possible. Modern ideas about where a child belonged in a moving vehicle were still to be formulated.
When you reached the mailbox there was that sense of possibility, of expectation. What was behind that big galvanized door? Maybe it would change everything. Maybe … if we were very, very lucky … it was the day for the new Sears Roebuck catalog to be delivered.
CANDIDATE FOR POST OF SUPREME PREVARICATOR
Newly elected Rep. George Santos has announced that he will be aiming for the honorary post of Supreme Prevaricator, as soon as former president cluck formally relinquishes it.
“Even though I am a young man, I believe the I have more experience in this area than almost anyone in the country. As a matter of fact, I can’t recall the last time I told the truth. I know that there is a lot of competition for the post, but if you fact check my speeches and writings over the past several years you will surely come to the conclusion that I am a master of poppycock and dissimulation.”
I am by nature a quiet person. Never more so than in the early morning hours when my erratic sleep habits have me awake when more grounded people are sleeping. I pad around the house in stocking feet like a jewel thief, making far less sound than you’d expect of a medium-sized mammal. In fact, with my golden-age hearing acuity, I can’t hear myself at all.
But Poco can.
I will be in the kitchen sneaking a snack from the pantry, trying not to make a sound. I turn around and there he is. Silently staring at me like some stone lion from out in front of a public library … only miniaturized.
Nothing gets by that guy.
I posted this video on the blog several years ago … time to run it past you one more time. You don’t have to be a psychotherapist to want to give this advice on occasion.
In this strange little world my mind occupies, once we hit January it is okay to begin to hope for Spring. Of course I will be disappointed for another three months, but it’s my life and I resent your attitude. I saw that flicker of a sneer at the corner of your mouth, don’t think I didn’t.
When you hit an age that archeologists begin to be interested in you, winter is not your friend. Icy patches do not attract me like they used to. Once while I was still in college I walked out the door of a building, hit a slick, flipped up into the air, and came down hard on the back of my head. After looking around to see if anyone had noticed my uncool move, I got up and walked to my next class.
That would not happen today, not now that I live in Humpty Dumpty land. Someone would need to come by with a large shovel, scoop me into a wheelbarrow, and take me to the Emergency Department for examination. “Here,” they might say to the nurse at the desk, “I found this in the parking lot. I don’t know what it is, but it’s moaning so maybe you’d better take a look.”
Open any of the things I get sent in the mail these days that tell me how to live a better life in my senior years, and avoiding falls is at the top of most of the lists. Practice standing on one foot so you don’t fall, always leave a light on so you don’t fall, don’t throw your dirty laundry on the bedroom floor so you don’t trip yourself up and fall. You get the idea.
A few days ago, while still in my bathrobe, I was carrying out a bag of trash and I missed seeing one of those icy patches that had been covered by a thin dusting of snow. Bang! and down I went hard to one knee in a twinkling. I instantly began a mental checklist:
is my leg still there?
is it still connected to my body?
how about gouts of blood … anything?
do I hear angels singing?
am I looking down a tunnel toward a white light?
Once I had all the answers I needed and had determined that I was likely to survive, I could then give the pain my full attention and utter the appropriate curse words. I forget which ones I chose, but they were spot on, you can be sure of that.
So today it is January 4, and I am excited that Spring is just around the corner. Can’t come too soon for me.
Our Christmas snow fell on December 28, when perhaps four inches settled over the village landscape. Ours was nothing like the storm’s ferocity in other areas, but when we get four inches, someone else gets four feet seems to be nearly a truism. Early this morning there are still no cat footprints in the snow on the backyard deck . I can’t say it if is true for the species in general, but our cats are absolutely not the sort who enjoy blazing trail.
I mentioned on the previous post that I was being inconvenienced by an illness, and hoped that this would be the whole story. Monday I became ill, so I with drew from the social contract, emerging only to help with food preparation. I did this while being scrubbed and gloved as one would for heart surgery.
Tuesday every one else seemed still to be okay, but I maintained my distance. At least as much as you can in a small home.
On Wednesday the hammer fell. Sitting in my chair in the living room, I heard a child retching in the guest bathroom at four a.m.. Next I heard the parents trying to attend the child and clean things up without disturbing the rest of the household. An hour later Robin began vomiting and by the time the sun had risen, counting myself, there were now five people out of the eight of us who were ill.
Rummaging through the boxes in the professional part of my brain’s attic, which contains a lot of rubbish and that I really will have to go through and clean out someday, I came to the conclusion that I had almost surely brought somethingcalled rotavirus to the party, and that this infection was now running its course through our little group.
As rotavirus often does, it hit the youngest the hardest, and that poor child couldn’t keep anything down for nearly 14 hours.
I have no idea from whom I caught my own infection. Like many senior citizens I take it as safe practice to assume that any germ out there is a bullet with my name carved on it, and will go to great lengths to avoid anyone looking the slightest bit puny. And in a world that seems pathologically hug-seeking I am an outlier of the first magnitude. I hug only under duress.
Brothers & Sisters, if I may have your attention. If you were alert this morning while perusing your daily news, you might have run across this paragraph, which was included in an advertisement.
In 2005, a South African man, Marius Els, adopted a baby hippo after rescuing it from a river. Six years later the hippo dragged him into the same river and ate him.
Clickbait item, CNN homepage
Today’s sermon will therefore cover the territory commonly referred to as the viper in one’s bosom. Humans beings are basically gullible creatures that get themselves into all sorts of trouble because they keep assuming that the way they feel about another of the world’s creatures is reciprocated. This most commonly happens in romantic entanglements between humans, and indeed if it did not – imagine what a huge part of the world’s literature would never have been written.
We fall in love and believe that this is the one, our soulmate and life’s companion, and then we find ourselves out on the train platform, our bags having been packed for us, one-way tickets in our hands. Or we think we are raising our children to be responsible and patriotic citizens and then find that things didn’t turn out as well as we had hoped, as did the Hitler family.
The internet seems particularly fond of the bizarre in photography, and loves to show us snapshots of 500 pound pussycats hugging their 110 pound keepers. But they show these pics to us because they know that we want to believe what we see. That the lion really will lie down with the lamb, if only they do it right.
What we choose to forget over and over and over again is that lions just aren’t made to give up eating lambs altogether. All of its bodily systems are tuned to carnivore-ness. A few handfuls of clover hay just doesn’t cut it for them.
Aesop, that wise old Greek, knew about our tendency toward self delusion back in 600 BCE.
The Farmer & the Snake
A Farmer walked through his field one cold winter morning. On the ground lay a Snake, stiff and frozen with the cold. The Farmer knew how deadly the Snake could be, and yet he picked it up and put it in his bosom to warm it back to life.
The Snake soon revived, and when it had enough strength, bit the man who had been so kind to it. The bite was deadly and the Farmer felt that he must die. As he drew his last breath, he said to those standing around:
“Learn from my fate not to take pity on a scoundrel.”
Returning to the saga of Marius Els, although it seems that he was a great fool to trust a hippo, I think I might have liked him. He was either very kind or very stupid (0r a bit of both), but he was right in there with the rest of us. Trying to get through the territory.
Can I have an Amen?
It was announced yesterday that newly elected Rep. George Santos still has several bridges he is offering at ridiculously low prices. Among them are the Brooklyn Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, and … hold on to your hats for this one … London Bridge!!!
“Don’t wait another minute,” says Santos, “I swear on my mother’s grave that there won’t be sales like this again. Trust me on that one.”
Ian Tyson passed this week, at his ranch in Canada. He is an old favorite of mine, from when he was married to Sylvia Fricker and they made up the folk duo Ian & Sylvia. He wrote quite a few songs in his lifetime, and a couple of them you might remember – Four Strong Winds and Someday Soon. They epitomize what he sang about most often – the windswept spaces of Canada, the sense of loneliness and loss that so often colors our lives.
But enough of my dithering. They are beautiful songs, often covered.
First day of our new year. How do we even go forward at all from one New Year’s day to the next? Where is the hope for better times and what pocket do we put that hope into? I have my own coping strategies, which of course I will now share with you because I have the microphone.
Firstly, I do not ignore the shit. Each year is full of it, to the brim, and no one with a heart and a brain can peruse the morning paper without feeling at least a bit of despair at each read.
Second – life is a hard entertainment. Many of us scrabble by without having two nickels to rub together, as Aunt Pearl used to say. Some of us are unbelievable wealthy. Rich or poor, all of us will face sickness, disillusionment, loss, and death. If you’re lucky, there are good spaces in between. If you’re not, one poor measure flows into another.
Third- there are a lot of bad people in the world. Parasites and scavengers, they take without giving back. Always have been, probably always will be.
Fourth – our planet is a gorgeous home which we have not completely destroyed and probably never will. Damage and alter … to be sure … but destroy? My friends, even at our worst we are too puny a species to do that.
Fifth – all but one of the people I know personally are not parasites and scavengers. They are people who take in the stranger, the worn-out, the outcast. They work hard for their families and their communities with whatever talents and energies they were given. If they have two coats and you none they solve that problem easily. They befriend the other animals who cannot speak for themselves. They bring courage, honesty, kindness, and love to the table, and when I stand up finally to walk away from that table I am better for having spent the time with them.
It’s number four and five that carry me through. It’s realizing a while back that cynicism came too easily to me and made me a poisonous person to hang with, so I looked for that new pair of glasses … and found them.
So it’s New Year’s Day and I am going about the business of cleaning up and hitching up my big-boy pants for another 24 hours. You may find me at the grocery store, whistling in the canned goods aisle and trying to decide which can of corn will positively impact my future the most. I’ll let you know how it all goes down.
Christmas Present is now Christmas Past. Only 364 shopping days left till the next one. Now all I have to do is get past the idea that a newly numbered year demands that I come up with some part of my ample library of faults that I pledge to get rid of. My plan this year is to resist that temptation with all my manly vigor. It has occurred to me that I may need all my faults. Every blessed one of them.
Those that I still have after all this time are such an integral part of my machine that who knows what would happen if I could expunge even one of them?
Let’s see … starting up my own story before the other person has finished theirs because my own is soooo much more interesting. Let’s say I resolved to get rid of that one. Let’s also say (which is so unlikely that I hesitate to even mention it) that I am successful. Suddenly there is a hissing noise and I begin to shrivel like a beach toy with an air-valve problem.
And then there I am, a flat bag upon the beach of life.
Nope. Not going to happen. I’m hanging on to them all, even that one that makes you grind your teeth. Learning to accept me and my horde of horribles will become your opportunity for personal growth. It’s my indelible contribution to society and the world.
I feel really good about this decision. I think it’s the right one for all of us.
So what sort of world do we live in? Where the chief executives of some of our states are shipping bewildered human beings to other states to make their point. Which is what? That several generations of leaders have failed to come up with a workable plan to deal with the problem of immigration? Leaders of all political stripes and persuasions? That these same outstanding citizens would rather offer grandstand plays than their version of a solution?
I would be much more impressed if Governor Abbott himself showed up carrying a sign on a winter night to demonstrate outside of the vice-president’s home. Instead of slithering around a warm and comfortable Texas governor’s mansion on Christmas Eve while his minions drop poor people off buses onto frigid streets.
In this world we are afforded way too many opportunities to use the challenge issued by Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954. This is one of them. “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last, have you no sense of decency?”
Moving right along. Robin and I have developed the excellent habit of giving each other Christmas gifts that we actually use. Shopping in December provides constant reminders to senior citizens of the unpleasantness that occurs when cold weather seeps through worn garments and reaches the skin.
So under the tree there is always something warm to wear. A sweater perhaps, or a fleece hoodie. Slippers with deep pile to protect those poor feet that get so little respect. Something we can remove from the wrapping paper and immediately put to use. We give gifts now that are rarely exciting, but are always welcome. Could be worse.
One hour after I typed the above entry, and this would be early Monday morning, a minor calamity struck yours truly. At first I became aware that there was a clenched fist in my stomach which was not one of mine. How it got there I’ll never know. An hour later the fist was succeeded by a completely uncalled-for amount of retching. An hour after that, the rest of the wonderful adventure that is gastroenteritis took hold of me.
At that point I placed myself in isolation in my bedroom, hoping that this unwanted gift I had received would not spread to our guests. So far they are all well, and I have no idea where my own illness originated. Perhaps Santa has now switched from leaving lumps of coal in errant children’s stockings to leaving microbes behind as more forceful remembrances.
By five p.m. I am sitting up and taking fluids, so my survival seems to no longer be in question. But I am not much help to Robin as co-host with some variant of the plague. I will owe her when this is all behind us. Big time. Actually, I owed her big time before this happened, so … big big time?
The headline on CNN read: Russian sausage magnate dies after hotel fall in India. This caught my eye because I have made it a point to follow the careers of Russian sausage magnates for years. Apparently he was a happy fellow vacationing in India when suddenly it occurred to him to jump from the third floor window to the pavement below.
Things like this have a habit of happening to lots of Russian magnates, not just those in the sausage industry. They have accidents or commit suicides or simply are found dead and no cause of death is ever listed. It makes one wonder what is a safe occupation to have these days in Mother Russia?
Speaking for myself, if I were going to jump from a hotel window, I think I would book a room on a higher floor. In this case, three were enough, but there is always the small chance of survival at this height, and who wants to wake up in the hospital with everything broken?
There is a line in this performance by Tori Amos that catches my heart. “When you gonna make up your mind, when you gonna love you as much as I do.” Nuff said, I think.
I never thought I would say this, but at this time of year I miss Bill O’Reilly a teensy bit. His smarmy programs would reliably trot out the nonexistent War On Christmas each year just to get his viewership enraged. For myself, I never failed to be amused by this. I thought that if there really was such a war, it was being lost as badly as the War On Drugs has been.
In fact, during my lifetime the Christmas season has taken over more of the calendar than it ever did. The advertisements warning us to get out there and shop our little butts off used to begin after Thanksgiving. Now they come out right after Halloween. There’s no reason to suppose that this trend will stop there, and I look forward to the Labor Day Christmas Sales that are undoubtedly in the offing. I’ll bet they will be doozies.
My advice, my friends, is not to watch this video clip I borrowed from CNN unless you are prepared to have your life upended and your general level of paranoia about things in general doubled. Really … don’t watch it. I did and now I’m not sure what to do with the information.
Perhaps it was this single statistic that was the most alarming. This poisonous cloud expands at the rate of 1-2 meters per second, while I only move at the rate of 0.75 meters per second. My math tells me that every use of a pubic facility (where there are never any lids on commodes), is a bit like playing Russian Roulette when there is a bullet in every chamber.
So if you meet me on the street, and you see that my brow is furrowed and I seem distracted, it is because I am still processing. What to do when traveling?
It may mean that the only safe practice is to go back to what my parents did when I was a small child and I HAD TO GO RIGHT NOW! You stop the car along the highway, get out, and go into the cornfield far enough to have become invisible to passersby.
This approach, of course, would be useless where I now live. In the mountains there is a dearth of cornfields, and to get out of sight might require use of a sturdier four-wheel-drive vehicle than I presently own.
This dramatic research has prompted comments from our leaders around the country.
Joseph Biden: No kiddin’?
Nancy Pelosi: Who cares? Give me a few more months and I’m outta here.
QAnon: We have looked into the matter and found that all of these toilets were installed by Hillary Clinton, and they were manufactured in sweatshops where slave children were forced by pedophiles to build the mechanisms that cause this spray.
Anthony Fauci: Begin holding your breath as you reach for the flush lever, and don’t let that breath out until you’ve left the room. Then spray your face with hand cleaner.
This week President Zelensky of the Ukraine addressed a joint session of Congress. It was an extraordinary moment … this dramatic nonpartisan cheering for the man whose nation is caught up in a very unequal conflict.
Of course I am cheering the Ukrainians on, from inside a comfortably heated dwelling in a quiet village where the electricity is on, the shops are jammed with things I don’t really need but can’t wait to get my hands on, and I can go anywhere in town without worrying about bombs falling.
It is embarrassingly easy for me to shout “Go for it, Ukrainians, show Putin that he can’t get away with this crap.” Not only am I not suffering, I am not even inconvenienced.
After some prolonged navel-gazing the other day, I realized something about myself and Christmas. Each year, I begin the whole season armed with the full-bore-Dickensian-19th century-tra la la Christmas in my head. The whole thing. I have forgotten any disappointments, tragedies, irritations, faux pas, mistakes, frozen engines, stuck cars, cookie disasters, and miscellaneous maladies from past Christmases.
Gone. As if they never existed or happened. I become Scrooge yelling at the passing urchin to fetch the biggest and best turkey and send it to the Cratchits, if you please. And if you’re quick enough, my lad, there will be an extra farthing in it for you.
I am the kid lusting after the Red Ryder Carbine in spite of the undeniable fact that it is hazardous. (In fact, in real life I did get exactly that air rifle way way back there in the mists of time. And although I did not shoot my eye out, I did need cataract surgery seventy years later, and perhaps the two events were related somehow.)
I am James Stewart at long last realizing that with lovely Donna Reed waiting for me at home, why drown?
I am every error that Clark Griswold ever made in the movie Christmas Vacation, minus the squirrel. I was never involved with a squirrel .. well … except for that one time when I was eight and made a grab for one and it bit right through my thumb just like that.
By the time Christmas Eve finally rolls around, that imaginary English Christmas I begin with has taken a few hits, been chipped a bit, and is not nearly as shiny as it started out. But there is always enough left to charm my soul, to awaken the embarrassing sentimental parts of my brain that I can usually keep tucked away well enough that most folks don’t know about them.
So before I get too moist, Merry Christmas to you all from your neighborhood Buddhist geezer. I make you an offer. If you’re alone and life is getting you down right now, Zoom me and we can hum a tune or two together. Or if humming is out of the question, at least we can talk about how things these days aren’t what they used to be. Never get tired of that.
And finally. Got to play this one more time. It’s Little Drummer Boy as might have been envisioned by a marching band instructor at a military academy in 1776.
NMP*: Not my photograph. Usually borrowed for the day from the internet.
I’ve just been alerted that for some parts of the Rockies and the Midwest this will be the coldest Christmas in 40 years. Checking the maps it looks as if Paradise may escape this massive blunder by the gods in charge of such things, but for my friends in Minnesota … be sure you know where your snuggies are located before it hits. There is absolutely no point to ransacking closets looking for warm clothing while your fingers are turning blue.
The meteorologists’ term for all this nastiness is bomb cyclone. Something positively awful ferments in Canada and then makes its way toward US citizens who have never done that country any harm. At least nothing bad enough to warrant such treatment. Over the years whenever I have a passing thought that the USA is turning to merdedu poulet, I begin to muse about emigrating to that northern expanse. And then I think … wait … where does all the ugly winter weather come from? And I put down the pen and crumple up my application for Canadian citizenship.
Because as cold as it sometimes gets here … at that same moment … it is always worse there.
Every president in our history has defended this orderly transfer of authority, except one.
The United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack has wrapped it up and sent along their findings to the Justice Department. As far as committee members are concerned, former president cluck is a crook and a traitor, and he and a large number of his cronies deserve being given some special time to reflect and meditate while living in a Federal institution.
Now we’ll see where this all goes. Everything grindeth exceedingly slowly in proceedings with at much at stake as we have here, so taking the time to do it right … I get that. I would be tickled to death to drive the bus carrying His Celestial Orangeness to Leavenworth Prison (or wherever). I hereby officially volunteer for the job, and would accept no salary for doing my patriotic duty.
I will even pack bag lunches for the rest of the transport crew.
I have a guilty pleasure … a secret vice. No, it’s not pornography, or a cult membership, or even that I dabble in astrology. It’s none of these. But when I awaken early in the morning, plug in my earbuds, and have only myself to entertain … I will sometimes listen to ABBA.
Not every day, mind you, but frequently. There, I feel better, having come out.
I know that I may have lost the respect of many of you, but it’s true nevertheless. If you’re going to continue to read this thing, you’ll have to take me as I am.
I listen to pop pap.
For what they were, and that is pop musical artists, I think that ABBA was close to perfect. Talented songwriters and musicians, beautiful women, and men unafraid to wear stretchy pants in public.
And even the name of the group is a cool acronym for its members – Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny, Anna-Frid.
Yep, that’s it. Now I have nothing more to hide. Do with the information what you will.
Had one of those online shopping kerfluffles yesterday. Robin had ordered a Christmas gift from Eddie Bauer for one of the kids. When the package arrived, its contents were not what she had ordered, but consisted of two men’s T-shirts instead.
So we got on the phone with Eddie’s customer service. The lady assigned to help us was a very polite person who was located in some exotic part of the world.
I related the problem, and then asked two things of her. Tell me how to get the items we wanted, and then tell me how to send back those we didn’t. Twenty minutes later, and after being put on hold twice, we had still not resolved these two issues. So finally when she said that our original purchases would be speedily put into the mails on that very day, I accepted the news with gratitude. (I could hear her supervisor in the background dictating what she should say to me.)
When she then asked: “Is there anything else I can do for you?, it was obvious that she had completely forgotten about those T-shirts that Eddie had no record of ever having sent to us. I did not remind her. To be honest, I didn’t have another twenty minutes of my life that I wanted to throw away. I will not keep the shirts, I think, but pass them along through the Salvation Army store.
I’m sure Eddie wouldn’t mind. He’s a great guy when you get to know him.
Only four more shopping days till Christmas. There are those for whom these words strike terror in their hearts. Cringelings who did not plan properly and must now scrabble through the leavings of more thoughtful shoppers. Forget sizes and color choices. Even if you are shopping online these have long since become limited. Yes, you can order the Saturday Night Delight from Frederick’s of Hollywood for your lady friend, but only if you want it in camouflage pattern and in size nano-petite.
For whatever reason, our cats don’t seem to be excited about the upcoming holiday at all. Of course, it might just be that they are pagans.
I did something yesterday that I rarely do anymore … I listened to a Rod Stewart song. It was on the large iPod playlist that I use to try to escape the pains and boredom of exercising. The sound comes in loud and clear on the headphones as I drag my ancient corpus around the track at the Recreation Center.
Suddenly I was transported to the year 1971, the year that his third solo album came out. Mandolin Wind is the tune in question, which I find to be a delightful folk/rock song. Sometime soon after that the poor man had his operation and his music has never been the same.
What operation, you ask? Well, I answer, the one where he had his rock and rollglands removed, and which turned him into the schmalzmeister that he is today.
I think that it is informative to look at these two photos of the man, one from the early 70s (pre-op), and the other from 2012.
The pic on the left is of the rougher and sneer-ier young rocker, who wouldn’t have cared much what we thought about him. The one on the right is the nose-bobbed and gelded version who might be saying “Look at this swell suit I bought, just for you.”
But let’s listen to Mandolin Wind one more time and think back to a time when juices still flowed and hairdos cost less than $500, shall we?
A Dick Guindon cartoon
In anticipation of guests coming at Christmas we’ve been cooking up a few entrees and putting them in the freezer, trying to avoid the Grandma Jacobson syndrome, where the host spends most of the time in the kitchen doing meal preps, and then hovers at the periphery during the meal. “No, no, thanks, I’m all right … I’ll eat later,” was Grandma’s mantra.
Here’s a pic of Ida Jacobson and her husband Nels, taken around 1937. They were standing in their front yard, and that building you see on the right was the woodshed, where wood was chopped, tools were stored, and instruction was given when lessons on proper behavior were needed.
(Grandpa Nels was one of my heroes growing up, but for some reason in this photo he reminds me of a mobster in 1930s Chicago … think Tom Hanks in the movie Road To Perdition. I keep looking for the submachine gun.)
But to get back to being the host. Yesterday Robin and I put together what I think is a pretty decent lasagna, and froze it uncooked. The meat sauce, however, had to be cooked beforehand … and I nearly swooned while tasting it. (Those of you who hang around me know that I never come to a full swoon.) Starting with a recipe with the modest title of “World’s Best Lasagna” we weren’t quite sure what to expect, since the names of recipes online tend toward superlatives.
Whether or not it truly is the best lasagna recipe in the whole wide world, it’s about as much perfection as this country boy can handle. Anything more might bring on ecstasy and that could be the end of me.
Our second Christmas movie to re-watch this year was Elf. It’s all a bunch of warm-hearted mindless nonsense but we like it. Afterward I was thinking how well Will Ferrell plays the buffoon, and that there aren’t many around who do that as well as he does. Robin Williams was a great one, but who else remains? So many of our modern comedians’ personas are too cynical to make it work for them.
Because it’s no small feat to play a simpleton in a way that is acceptable to audiences. If he’s too stupid they groan. If he shows too many signs of intelligence then much of his cavorting becomes infuriating. Ferrell basically plays the same character that he did in skit after skit on Saturday Night Live. He has got the schtick down pat. A master.
From The New Yorker
When I am forced to seek medical care, for whatever reason, there is something that I dread almost as much as whatever problem brought me through the clinic door, and that is TMI*. Because I have a medical background, sometimes physicians feel compelled to tell me much more than I need or want to know.
Let me give you a case in point.
A couple of years ago I had a by-god stroke that instantly made it nearly impossible to speak and brought on an odd sort of confusion. Fortunately I was riding in a car with Robin (my hero) who made all the right decisions, got me transported to a hospital, and in the ER they gave me the good stuff that dissolved the clot and returned me to my normal state of disrepair.
Here’s where the TMI comes in. When the neurologist came by he couldn’t wait to show me my scans and before I could muster the energy to refuse he demonstrated:
Where the clot was, before and after dissolution. (Kind of … interesting.)
How many other narrow places there were in the blood vessels in that brain that could plug up in other interesting ways. (Kind of … urk.)
How much my brain had shrunk due to aging, leaving enough empty space for a whole new organ to be stored in there if I needed. (Kind of … sheesh.)
Evidence of an old stroke that I had sometime in the past, in the cerebellum, which had damaged a part of the system that deals with balance and coordination. I am abashed to admit that my balance and coordination have always been so lackluster that I actually hadn’t noticed much change. Just one more part of getting on, I thought. (Kind of … who knew?)
The neurologist was so pleased to show me all of these things that I was glad for his sake that he’d stopped by. Whenever I can brighten someone’s day I am always glad to do so.
*Too Much Information
It’s 1:30 pm, the sun is shining, the temperature is 22 degrees, and Poco is out in the backyard sleeping alongside the fence while lying on a slab of limestone. That is one tough old bird. For myself, even watching him through the window is threatening to bring on chilblains.
A delicate constitution like my own must be protected at all times from meteorologic extremes. Why, the slightest blanching of the tip of one ear when outdoors is enough to trigger 911 calls and ambulance rides. There is no such thing as being too cautious, not in my book.
ERDoctor: But sir, I can find nothing wrong with your ear, nothing at all
ME: That’s because you are trusting your eyes alone, while I must listen to the very cells of that organ screaming in terror. It’s more than I can bear, I tell you!
ERD: Mmmmmm, let me look again (takes a large magnifying glass in hand to do his examination) … you know, there might be something there … don’t know how I could have missed it.
ME: What – what – what do you see?
ERD: There’s an area about 1.0 mm by 0.5 mm that is slightly erythematous and that redness is not present on the opposite ear.
ME: Omigod – erythematous – I had no idea … it’s already advanced to that stage! Have I got here in time, or will I lose the whole thing and have to wear odd-shaped caps for the rest of my life?
ERD: Oh, I believe we can save it, but you’ll have to follow my instructions to the letter. Can you do that?
ME: Doctor, you don’t know this, but when up against terrible odds, I positively shine. You have only to lay out the program and I will take it from there.
ERD: Alright, we will enclose it within a special thermorelief material called ultracotton
ME: Ultracotton, I like the sound of that
ERD: Then Nurse Falmouth, you know, the one whose bosom you have been giving such close attention during your time here in the Emergency Department?
ME: Yes, yes, I know them … her.
ERD: She will wrap your ear and your entire head with the finest gauze that medical science has ever produced, and which is kept in reserve for just such situations as these.
ME: My whole head? Is that necessary?
ERD: You don’t want the wind to flap that tender organ about and further damage it, do you? We must anchor it to something dense, like your cranium.
ME: Of course, don’t know why I didn’t think of that.
ERD: And we would like your wife to drive the car right up into the ambulance bay, an area protected from the weather, where several orderlies will assist you in the transition from hospital to automobile. Nurse Falmouth, of course will oversee the operation.
ME: I am so impressed with your professionalism and efficiency. And the follow-up on my injury?
ERD: Please keep the entire dressing in place for 5 days without disturbing it. At the end of that time you may take the whole thing off and toss it.
ME: When would you like to see me again?
ERD: We positively guarantee 100% recovery, sir, and the good news is that you don’t have to come back to see us. Not now, not ever.