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Monday, October 9, 2017

Those We Love

I love birds, and those we love we want loved always. We look into the morning sky and marvel at sunrise. The sun rises over all life. We are Earthlings; we share a star --a Star!  I hear the first bird of the day as I pass the ivy trellis. It says, "Cheap!"

 I hear it again, "Cheap!" I stop.

"Hey," I say. "Who you callin' cheap?"

"You, human. You've got money --I heard you discussing "dollars" with your wife. Dollars is money, right?"


"Well, us birds have seen you spraying dishsoap on eggplants. According to my instincts, dishsoap is harmful to hornworms, mites, aphids, cutworms, lacebugs and flea beetles. Those are among our favorite foods. We wonder what's so special about eggplant that you'd spend dollars to run these delicacies  off the property?"

"Well, Norma likes eggplant and the bugs take over if we don't spray soap."

"Does every human like eggplant?"

"Dear bird, admittedly many don't --I don't, but she does. You see, most grown people don't mind eggplant but it nearly always makes children cry."
"What about you, human?"

"I eat it to be polite but then repair to another room to sob softly in private."

"Ok, here's my deal:  You just spray water on the eggplant and we birds will handle the pests. You take dollars to the market and buy eggplants for Norma. Win-win?"

"Brilliant solution, bird! How'd you come up with it?"

"We think simply and fundamentally, educated by instinct, form, appetite and our parents' example. How did you learn things?"

"Well, I went to school until I was upwards of 20 years old."

"Then what?" Asked bird as he hopped down to hunt bugs.

"Then I ventured away from curriculum..."

"What's that?"

"It's what they teach us humans in school about our place in the world."

"Sounds intriguing. How did you feel when you got out?"

"Bird, oh bird, to my horror I found out I was an idiot!"

"Join the club, human, but remember to go easy on the bugs."

Friday, September 29, 2017

Then X 3

This is both a partial repost and reiteration of an autumn post from two years ago (clickable here) which I trotted out because tomorrow is Sunday, the last day of September and the eve of my favorite month, October.  Two of my sons were born in September, so this is a favorite month too --but it's hot (they grew up and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where it's cool). I have combined these sentiments in this post, as well as added photos and a song (yes, I got the Ian And Sylvia album the month it came out). After all, or before all, the past belongs to those hindsightful enough to prepare for it. Let us proceed:

Then, Then It Will Be Autumn

To the California gardener, autumn means topiary lasts longer because shrubs begin to behave. To the retired gardener, it means excellent Cabernet from Lodi --25 miles from here-- to be opened in the afternoon as October fills the kitchen window. The photo below shows a specimen doing just that. It is a bit blurry because he doesn't have his glasses on. 

Our specimen will take his glass of wine and repair to the back porch.

And there, he will listen to one of his favorite songs, to a couple who sang to a world.  They compose a voice of autumn from the heart.
And yes, mais oui, in the back porch he will doodle...
Ian and Sylvia, "Mister Spoons"
....doodle the waking of the dinosaurs, which always happens in the fall.

Then, then it will be autumn! And it doesn't matter how many years have gone by, how many decades they've lived in their cities and made good lives, when my evolved progenies visit there is news, lovely silence and reverie --the memories all come back.
Then, then, then it is autumn.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Two Songs On The Trainride To Peace

When I first heard Elly Stone sing Jacques Brel's "Marieke" so long ago, I knew I'd encountered an enigma. I was quite young and could only make out bits of Dutch, French and English but later, after I saw this clip from "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris",[ I realized she had adapted the song to lament the loss of her childhood self, or a child, or a generation --in Flanders Fields?-- I don't know but would appreciate ideas from readers].

Elly Stone sings "Marieke"

Song 2 is one that still chokes me up a little. I was watching tv in 1969 because one of my favorite humorists, Moms Mabley, was a guest on the Griffin show. I had never heard her sing, maybe because her voice was calculated for comedy, but I heard her that night and never forgot --never will forget. I met Martin Luther King Jr. a few months before his death. Attended a welcome rally for Bobby Kennedy a month before his death. I listened to this Dick Holler song, which I'd heard on A.M. radio sung by the excellent Dion DiMucci, but it never hit home so hard until I saw this:

Moms Mabley, "Abraham, Martin, John and Bobby"

I can't add anything to these performances, only that they helped deliver us from chaos. Peace is an individual adjustment. You have to do it by yourself. Then you have to be stronger than those who prejudge others, who settle hurt upon them. Peace comes from saying, "Well, the world's gone a bit funny on me --maybe I should inquire politely what the problem is, and see what can solve it. Blasting away in all directions at populations who are nobody's enemy is certainly not the solution.  PEACE.

Addendum: Mainly in response to Louise's very interesting comments on this post, and hopefully for the encouragement of all who read it, who may think of it while browsing a book store or perusing the internet, I asked Norma to Normaphoto a corner of our kitchen shelves --mostly reference works kept at my right hand here in the heart of the house:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Where The Treefrogs Are

I started out looking for treefrogs. Found E(a)rnest Squirrel first:

Geo.: 'Morning E(a)rnest. What's up?

Ern.: Well, you're taking notes and...hey, is that all I get, 3 letters in my name?

Geo.: Same as I get. Why are you chewing bark?

Ern.: No toothbrush. What's your real question?

Geo.: Where are all the treefrogs? They're not out this morning.
Ern.: Oooyour'e right! My guess is the little bald boogers felt the wind keenly last night. Try checking the backyard bench, the one with the tarp over its cushions.
I followed his instructions, went out back and withdrew the tarp.
Geo.: Darwin? Darwin Doorbooger? Are you in there? What are you doing?

Dar.: I'm on the left, Geo., with somebody's butt on my head.

Geo.: 'S'ok, happens to all of us sometimes. Are you guys all right?

Dar.: I think so. After 5 months of hot nights, we thought summer was permanent, then it suddenly got cold!

Geo.: Surely, not that cold.

Dar.: Geo., we have brains the size of nonpareils --those little sugar-specks moms used to sprinkle on party cupcakes. We teeter on the very edge of reason and all it takes is a slight breeze to knock us into chaos.

Geo.: My species has big brains, Darwin, but we suffer the same problem. Weather change makes humans bananas.

Dar.: Well, we treefrogs haven't the intelligence to go mad, or minds to be out of, so we get under covers and huddle up.

Geo.: A most sensible solution.

Dar.: Sense, we have in combination, piles in fact --as evidenced by your investigation...
...we also wipe our muddy hands on your outdoor upholstery. Please replace the tarp and give our regards to E(a)rnest.
Geo.: G'night Ernest, and best wishes from the clutch of treefrogs --right where you told me they'd be.
"Good night, Geo. You know, treefrogs are full of ideas despite their paucity of brains --and when ideas become ideologies, they are not so easily contained. Be cautious, old friend.

Geo.: Are there no exceptions?

Ern: Oh, certainly. Go back and take note of the treefrog who has Buddha's ear:
Geo.: Understood.

Ern.: Good, and I hope you did not tell them what "nonpareil" means.

Geo.: It is French for peerless, isn't it?

Ern.: Indeed, but don't tell them. A few scraps thrown to any species --even humans-- makes a cosmic joke of them. Work from nature, the language of  the universe.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Enchanted Objects

Let's begin this post with a public service announcement. It's early evening, August 31st, and the pumphouse thermometer looks like this:

The city suggests:
▪ Check on your elderly neighbors.
▪ Never leave children or pets in cars.
▪ Drink plenty of water and avoid very cold drinks.
▪ Take cool showers to lower your body temperature.
▪ Limit your exposure to the sun – stay indoors where it is air-conditioned or go a public place that is air conditioned.
Because of  heat warnings, the city is extending hours at the Downtown Library from Thursday through Monday to serve as a cooling center. The Downtown Library will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. those days. Other cooling centers can be found by calling 211, a health and human service referral hotline. 

Read more here:

What with wildfires in Butte County and Nevada City, it doesn't look like the valley smoke, inversion layer and intense heat will abate anytime soon. California is burning down spectacularly this year.  Norma even stretched a crew-sock around our back doorknob because it's so hot to touch. My intention is to stay indoors and come up with a cool topic. Enchanted objects are cool, so is the voice of Edith Piaf. This is one of my favorite childhood --and adulthood-- animations

If you wish to see the whole cartoon and lyric sung by the incomparable Piaf (and yes it is she, not the Andrews Sisters --who also did a fine job), I recommend the video below. If you are enchanted enough to see the abbreviated toon and hear it in English, sung by the excellent Michael Feinstein, please click on the link below the clip.

Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet. (Michael Feinstein)

My own contribution to this theme is to recommend heat-sufferers find enchanted objects in their own homes. I did, right here in the kitchen. Next two Normaphotos are of a curvaceous coffee grinder who lived in my Grampa's general store from the 1890s 'til 1914. and an Art Deco ice shaver from the '20s. They now occupy the top of the refrigerator and Coffee is on a pedestal I built for her because she's hot stuff. Ice shaver does pretty much the same job on ice, which is cool. They are enchanted objects of similar mechanism and are now holding hands:
This makes Ice Shaver very happy, so he flips his lid in joy. Unfortunately he has a very crazy smile...
but then, when we are in love, who doesn't?

***To those valued email subscribers, here is the link to the longer Piaf version, which somehow got attributed to the Andrews Sisters and subtitled in Spanish.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Darwin Doorbooger Solves An Enigma

In keeping with the previous post's investigation of  lexiconography (which happily drew good comments from good minds), I have decided to reference Helsingør and Word List #8 ,  posted June, 2011 (which didn't get any comments at all) --specifically to investigate question #3:"Has Mercator projection ever been tested on humans?"

Mercator projection is the flat, 1-dimensional, map of the world that rolled down by a shade-pull from a long horizontal cylinder over classroom blackboards when we were schoolkids.However, it distorted the planet to where  North and South Poles were broader than any continents that were  not made out of ice. So I went outdoors (I usually do) and called out, "Darwin? Darwin Doorbooger!" You wouldn't know about my seminars with Darwin Doorbooger without clicking on this blue sentence and reading the entries there below this one. Let us proceed.

Darwin: I'm over here on a geranium leaf.
Geo.: Good heavens, old friend! Are you all right? You look pale.

Darwin: I'm ok. It's just something that happens to older treefrogs.

Geo.: Ah, like my hair going white.

Darwin: What's hair?

Geo.: Nothing important. I came with a question about how the world is mapped.

Darwin: The world, as I see it, extends some few yards around this geranium --maybe 100 feet in circumference, tops.

Geo.: What if I told you it is around 25000 miles in circumference?

Darwin: Now you're just being silly, Geo.

Geo..:  But it's been measured and ascertained as a globe. We have representations in our classrooms, halls of learning --not to mention the hall off my back porch. Look into my mind:
Darwin: What the heck is THAT?

Geo.: It's a simple sinusoidal representation of the planet, showing a more accurate surface of a globe.

Darwin: Geo., your kind thinks in three or four dimensions while we think in zero dimensions, and I'm sure  that map presents human population densities quite well but poses problems and anomalies to shipping lanes and international borders. What if somebody made even more gores, cuts and lobes?

Geo.: They have, Darwin, they have.

Darwin: Well,  that would disrupt borders, divide countries and bisect private properties! You humans need to stop this catastrophic cartology at once! It may approach  accuracy but sends the wrong message.

Geo.: Then upon whom was the Mercator Projection originally tested, if not humans?

Darwin: Treefrogs, of course.  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Back To Word List #5

I have lately been accused of using sesquipedalian verbiage in my posts --not by everybody, but by one guy and that's enough. Sesquipedalian just means "lots of syllables", big. In 1966, one of my favorite pastimes was driving over to Willie's house and discussing words. That year, one of the favorite semantic tongue-twisters in general was Antidisestablishmentarianism.  As ususal, Will leaned back smiling in his well-cushioned bamboo chair and asked me what I thought of it. I said I thought it was a 12-jointed godless reptile of a word and had no idea what it meant. He proceeded to parse it out for me. Turned out it started in England had to do with something very important, separation of church and state --and had a fundamental impact worldwide. I think disestablishment won here. Who knows? Will phoned me two days ago from Sonoma and invited me to his 80th, so I'll ask him again.  But to dispel the erroneous notion that my vocabulary tends toward the sesqu... the big, here is a repost of one of a series of Word Lists that introduced my blog so long ago:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Word List #5

[For this installment of Word List, I selected as illustration a map painted by son David, depicting the character of his town, San Francisco.]

This week, a friend in Sonoma wrote to inform me the Forbes Company had named his town one of the ten prettiest in the nation. As a parent, I disagree in principle with Forbes naming his town prettiest. It can only create resentment in other towns and cause them to grow up wrong. Nor does it help to divert admiration from Sonoma and say,"Oh, and here comes our dear little Bakersfield --she's at that oily, awkward stage, but such a nice personality." Also, showing off Sonoma while Cotati suffers a weight problem and her brother, Auburn, peevishly collects guns in the hills will just make her smug and give up on academics.

Unlike the example set by Sonoma's uncommunicative cousin, Richmond, not all mystics smell funny. That is a myth promulgated by his bookish, picayunish brothers, Berkeley and Davis, neither of whom gets out much. In truth, mystics seek the extraordinary experience of all-inclusive reality and bathe often as anybody else.

As a belief or practice, mysticism forms around an enraptured, ineffable state --an ecstatic identification of the self in relation to all things, all events. This sense of totality is expressed by such phrases as,"All is one" and "One is all." You may recognize this as the motto of Alexandre Dumas's THE THREE MUSKETEERS --"tous pour un, un pour tous!"-- a novel demonstrating the need for mystics to be really good swordfighters.

Of course, pretty is as pretty does, which is generally pleasant and I have exaggerated its schismatic potential. But what more effectively causes regional schism is political misbehavior seeking divisions along religio-ethnic lines, and among those who confuse race with phenotype --a problem that cannot be exaggerated. Where that happens I, like Richmond, go mystic: There is only one surviving human race, and it is all of us.  I usually hightail it before answering Jeremiads start their signatory rumbles --except this time. And maybe I smell a little funny too.

  1. I find the work of both father and son enlightening, provocative and delightful, showing once again that a thousand words (more or less) can be as much fun as one picture.
  2. Thanks Will. I'm planning to get a new car and will visit your pretty town again. Even I need to feel pretty sometimes.
    I include Willie's comment to the original text of my blog-glossary because its relevance is undiminished by the years. 

    And to the other guy --who attacked my word usage-- and his toady who attacked my service to this country: people have big chunks of time they don't talk about. So don't prejudge (conclude ahead of facts). You might be ignorantly insulting someone whose patriotism is unimpeachable (can't be rescinded), and may have outranked you. Another good word: PEACE.