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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Report On Our California Drought

The world has lately seen worrying photos from this state, like this one from Associated Press, of the effects of substandard rainfall.
It shows what happens when the weight of water is removed from topsoil. With nothing to hold it down, topsoil comes free from earth in large chunks and floats off into the sky. This sample appears to be about the size of Rhode Island, and is following a slight breeze toward Utah. Utah could use topsoil, certainly, because they don't have any. Like Arizona, Utah was never quite finished. So both states have stationed crews with long hooked poles to snag the soil as it drifts over and bring it down. I mention Arizona because I am Lieutenant Governor of that state and have a picture of it.


Another aspect of the drought is just as alarming. It has to do with our goat crop. Goat harvesting season is upon us and we are used to seeing orchards full of trees like this one:
Yes, acres upon acres of ripening goats, ready to be picked by seasonal farm laborers and students on semester break. But I have been to several grocery stores and there are still no goats in the produce sections. What do we find instead? Brussells sprouts! The wily parent will tell children Brussells sprouts are  cultivars in the Gemmifera group of cabbages (Brassica oleracea), grown for its edible buds, but kids know what they really are---

Heads! Little dehydrated RAT HEADS boiled in green dye! And I won't eat them because I'm a great big man now and you can't make me. But still, we Californians do not despair. We are at a lower elevation than Utah and Arizona and our topsoil will displace the water they do not have. Where will it flow? Here.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Sermon

There are times when it is difficult to write a sermon. One follows carefully the essayist's instructions and finds a room with a view, but the view is not always pleasant or stable. One feels ill or wonders if the view is booby trapped. One remembers a year back at this time; hopes one has reclaimed stolen financial identity and will not turn bright blue. On such Sundays it is good to think of happy songs. I can think of two.

The first is about anthropomorphized symbols of this country, the increasingly militaristic Uncle Sam and the utopian Lady Liberty, at least I believe it is. It touches upon runaway inflation and increasing costs of living that seem to devour simpler, less frantic ways of life and growing up. It suggests the past had much to recommend it over the complex problems that followed, yet it is not a sad song: 
And now, if we turn our hymnals to the second selection, we find a clip divided into two parts filmed 40 years apart. It begins with Marilyn McCoo singing her special McCoo song to a very special man in her life, Billy Davis Jr. It jumps ahead near the middle to another century, this one, and one realizes love is good for people --even in these complicated times.

Yes, they are still married.

These hymns of our time serve to remind us, even though much has changed, that simple metaphors still obtain. Happiness comes and goes, as does everything, but even when good times seem to be over there is a song, an idea, a dream, a person that says --and declares truly-- "Oh no, it is now that it begins!"

Go in peace.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Update On The 16-second Gravel Dance

I have been trying to determine, with geometric logic and sound empirical observation, whether it takes longer to rid my body of this virus than it does getting a fart out of a boiler suit. This is an enigma that occupied me and other gardeners when we were holed up in garages overhauling machines --back before I retired. We found stepping outside and dancing for 16 seconds in gravel would accomplish olfactory miracles, but would it work on the flu?

Five years ago I performed and posted  the therapeutic 16-second gravel dance and got 180 views in a single year. I hoped it would become famous and I would be lauded as a great healer and deodorizer. 180 views seemed to me to be a promising start. Now, four years later, it has gathered 73 more views and has doubtless done humanity a world of good. Observe:

 

As the astute observer may attest, I don't have a boiler suit on in this clip, so the purpose of the dance is purely medicinal. If I can shake viruses out with these contortions and convolutions, I shall consider the effort worthwhile and the dancing sick of the world will be improved. This is a certainty. I have been studying this method for many years, have been around a long time and know lots of authorities so knowledgeable they don't even exist yet.

So there. Stay well.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love And Fear Of Cities

 This being Lupercalia, and Valentine's Dayish, I thought it apposite to trot out this sentimental old essay about LOVE and FEAR:
 
Cities are places where lots of people live in each others pockets and everybody buzzes the hell out of everybody and, yes, I believe cities are alive. Some run up and lick you like big friendly dogs. Others rub against your legs. Always wear pants in cities. They are populated by people who are busy making money, laws and disease. I've lived in cities and cheerfully did these things too.

But always, I felt the call to see out and responded to it. I'd leave the city's heart, ooze through its suburban adipose tissue and find space. You can't really escape its circulatory system because roads connect all cities, but you can get pretty far. Cities, like opossums, grow all their lives. You move out, then by and by, there's the city at your door wanting stuff --new taxes, zone revisions and a wider road out front. This indicates cities are organisms of protracted adolescence.

We must never forget we are the parents of our cities and must always be ready to listen. This is not easy at my age because of all the times I had to hold infant cities and sing "Old Man River" until they stopped crying and got to sleep. I am right-handed, which is why I can't hear so good in my left ear. Other parents will understand.

We must also remember we are objects of affection and security to our cities. They love us. We are like stuffed animals deformed by a million hugs. There are worse ways to end up. I don't know what they are but I fear them like anything.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Flu And Fine Art

Norma and I got our flu shots in the Fall, just before winter holidays when large extended families travel far to gather and kiss germs all over each other as an expression of love and a test of faith. True, some people decline gatherings of celebratory infection in favor of safer demonstrations like snake-handling --unfortunately even they consider it virtuous to go to church sick. The snakes must suffer greatly. This is the sort of civilized social dynamic that guarantees whatever virus slipped the vaccine will go forth and multiply.

Norma --whom I refer to in times like these as my stunt double-- caught that virus two weeks ago and I came down with it three days back. I now feel lousy all the time. Since I can't lie down without coughing this evening, I decided to see what's bloggable. Slim pickings. Had wanted to continue Advanced Art Appreciation with this old favorite from the 1500s by Titian. It's called "The man with a glove":
But then my brother saw old pics in a previous post entitled, Venustraphobia, A Case Study and sent me an old photo I'd not thought about for a long time:
It is called "L'Homme au aluminum chaise de jardin", or "Man with aluminum lawn chair". Perhaps it would be useful to inject an explanation. As Brother Frank wrote, this was taken "long ago", and long ago aluminum lawn furniture could oft be heard clacking and flapping overhead in mass migration to northern breeding grounds in August. These creatures would land for the day in peoples' yards to rest and were content to be sat on. With sturdy hollow bones and articulated joints they could support most people on their aerodynamic webbing. I would come home after 10 hours of working in the hop fields and collapse upon one or another of them. This brings us closer to the present.

Forty years after Frank's photo, 2009, I retired from gardening for this city's public school district. Strangely, my meteoric rise from farm laborer to gardener did not intimidate my children and cause them to live in my shadow. I have no explanation for this. I also have no explanation for my delirious, flu-flummoxed venture out into the garden today, seeing my reflection in the back porch windows, then hobbling in to report to my stunt double:
"Do you know there's an old diseased man creeping around in our garden?"

"Gah," said Norma.