All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Country Seat

My previous post was all about how I couldn't think of anything to write and Amy Saia  helpfully suggested I post something with a cat in it. This got me thinking about personal advancements in my life that involved cats, beginning with early childhood. When a boy pets a cat the wrong direction or picks one up by the wrong appendage, he learns things he can learn in no other way. This is education. But it does not stop in childhood. Cats still teach me things I did not know. Nowhere is this principle more evident than in an essay I wrote five winters ago, when I was a boy of 60: 

I have been communing with nature. Never one to neglect exercise I went outside an hour ago to sit on a bench and vigorously absorb vitamin D. I also took my New York Times crossword puzzle and meditated upon the "Opposite of nocturnal". Yes, well, Twain said we are not quite sane at night, but it was daytime and the mind races from whatever night did to it. Then nature arrived.

An orange and white tomcat slunk under the gate. I didn't know him. He didn't know me. He looked freaked, wide-eyed and wary. He cowered, then sat. He was showing himself, trying to make friends. It is, after all, suddenly November and even California gets chilly at night. This cat was a creature of nature saying he'd decided against nightlife. Opposite of nocturnal. We shared a quest.

"Hello kitty," I said. "You seem troubled. Perhaps I can help."

"Help?" He replied,"What can you know about it? You're human, a silly bag of thoughts enslaved by the products of its own reasoning!"

"Well, that's quite an accusation. Is that what nature really thinks?"

"Cat's don't think, we arrive at accurate estimates instinctively. But yes, it reflects natural consensus."

"Nature hates us?"

"Nature is indifferent, but we cats hate you like anything..."

"I'm getting a beer. Would you like some cream?"

"Cats love you."

I went in to the kitchen and returned with a bottle of stout and bowl of milk. The cat was asleep on the bench but woke at my approach.

"Humans are noisy." He said.

"I know. And you hate and love us."

"Really? Why would I do that?"

"You don't remember our conversation before the cream."

"No need. Understand, you humans live incredibly long needy lives that are full of consequences. For us cats, life is short and full of hairballs. We may have had memory once but we're well now."

"You prefer amnesia? That's insane!"

"I'm not the one talking with a cat."

He had me there. I decided to return to the crossword.

"Seven letters." I said.

"What's seven?"

"A mathematical term for the amount of letters in the 'Opposite of nocturnal.'"

"Mathematics, like memories, are unnecessary. Can mathematics tell you how to jump over something twenty times your height and land uninjured?"

"No, but it informs our vocabulary by allowing us to calculate what time it is. That's how we identify nocturnal animals."

"Some are nocturnal," he said. "Some are not. Scientifically speaking, it depends on when they get up."

He finished his cream in silence, and I my beer. I had hoped nature would communicate some more useful truths than those contained in this cat, so I waited. When he rose, I spoke.

"I've enjoyed our drink together, and our conversation. Did you?"

"I forget," said the cat as he slunk toward the gate. "But, just for winter, I've decided to become diurnal."

"Diurnal?" I cried, "Seven letters...That's it! Damned ugly word though."

"Now you're catching on, silly thoughtbag," he said, and was gone.

As we approach August, California's cruelest month, it has been refreshing to recall that November. It is also therapeutic to think about the many cats who have slunk onto this property since the above interaction to continue my education in exchange for hunting rights. I believe the amount of learning, the percentage of total human knowledge, provided by stray cats is grossly undereported by the academic community --which, like TSA, has long since become a bureaucracy dedicated to its own perpetuation over any good it does. Then again, that's precisely the sort of scheme a cat would come up with. Clever creatures!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Enigma Of Ignition

My powers are compromised. Thursday, I prepared 24 hours early for an appointment because I thought it was Friday. I discovered my mistake in time, by calendar and newspaper date. No help from Norma --she thought it was Friday too.  I have been a bit off ever since and gravitate toward the chair in which I feel most normal in hopes of collecting myself.

Here is one end of our kitchen table. It is organized. There are usually flowers in the vase, and tea in the pot. It is her side of the table.
The other side is not so well organized. It often looks like this:
There is a man on that side who is writing but hasn't a clue what to write about. For obvious reasons, I hope something occurs to him. She took a photo because he seemed so pensive. Because I'm him and he's me, I considered this encouraging. She also takes less encouraging photos, like when we had to call the auto club to jumpstart him:
The electrodes above are more area-specific than older models and, I think, more comfortable. Of course, that may just be my subjective opinion reflecting desire to stop referring to myself in the third person. But you can look at the 1931 arrangement and decide for yourselves:
Either way, cables were attached with scissor-clamps and run out the window to a vehicle like this:

This is why we always keep our automotive roadside service membership up along with health insurance. We take it in stride. I go to the doctor the old fashioned way. She is told to use her computer to make appointments. They tell her to download apps.

She: Quelles sont ces «apps»?

He  I: Apps is for people who are so busy they don't have time to say Applications. 

She: My doctor told me of an app., which I just consulted, that says my appointment is not tomorrow, but the day after.

I: That's because we had two Fridays last week. Everything's moved up one. 

She: That can't be good.

I: That much is certain. Since it's either yesterday or tomorrow, I have no idea what to write. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday Sermon: An Enigma Of Berkeley Square

Recently, Mike, at Genial Misanthrope , listed some pivotal points in history he'd like to visit. He and Armchair Squid, with his cinematic fun,  have got me thinking about time-travel movies. On my blog profile page, in 2008, I listed "I'll Never Forget You" as one of my favorites. It was made in 1951. I had only seen it once.

It was summer 50 years ago, in another century,  I was watching tv and saw a movie that permanently and romantically affected my sense of space-time continuum. It starred Tyrone Power, Ann Blyth and Michael Rennie, and then it was gone --it was gone for half a century! I looked in film catalogues in the '70s,  video stores in the'80s and '90s, then lately in Hulu and Netflix. It was never available, until last night. I found it on Youtube. For  those who wish to spend a pleasant hour and a half (and do click the "full screen" box, lower right) I will post it here:

Video Clip:"I'll Never Forget You"

The story is an interesting one. The story of the story is interesting too. It was first used as the plot for the book, A Sense Of The Past, by New York-born novelist Henry James, brother of philosopher William James, who often went famously east --not to be confused with brothers Jesse and Frank James, who  went infamously west. The novel was left unfinished. However, playwright John L. Balderston was so taken with it that he used the story for the stage production, Berkeley Square, in 1926.  The play was successful, and Mr. Balderston was invited to adapt the script to cinema for the 1933 film, which was also successful and not lost for 50 years. It was lost only 40 years, and pieced back together in the 1970s. I found it (also on Youtube) this morning. Here is a clickable link.

The 1933 adaptation is remarkable in that it has Leslie Howard's character insulting a female lead: "Madam, I've seen you in Sheridan's plays. I've read you in Jane Austen's roll over things like a tank!" --something he never consented to do again. I find I prefer the 1951 film because it better uses stock characters of Restoration Drama, and the sound didn't exacerbate my tinnitus.

I would like to thank the congregation for a kind welcome and assure you your regular pastor will be back next Sunday, or after he settles his gambling debts in 1784 --whichever comes first. Go thou and do likewise.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Six Normaphotos: Goodwill Loading

It is morning. I am confused and carrying an ugly bucket from the trash bin back to the pumphouse. I see a strange  object, a steel strut with bolts at both ends leaning against the van --the '71 van I have driven and tinkered with for 35 years and have almost got working the way I want. I ask my stunt double,"Qu'est-ce que c'est?"
"What do you think it is?" She replies in the guise of a mobile surveillance camera, "It came with the underpinnings of the kids' art table, 30 years ago, but was never installed."

"It looks important and yet, curiously, they survived," I say. "How crucial can it be?" It appears to have great tensile strength and comes up to my hips. 
"Put it in with the other items and let Goodwill Industries figure it out."

 I toss it onto the pile and watch it roll out of sight.
"It has disappeared."
I am left bewildered between an elusive mystery and my pumphouse bucket streaked with toxins. It happens too often.
"Close the door, drive to the donation depot...and get a receipt!"
"In a moment...but they..." I reply as if slipping in and out of consciousness."They will figure it out, won't they? And when they do, will the next young owners use it as safely as ours did? Will they be safer or less safe for a yard of steel and two bolts?"

"They'll figure it out. Best we can do is include all the pieces."

I return my disreputable bucket to the pumphouse and drive my cargo into the future. I trust anybody who buys an art table will be clever enough to assemble it. There's a whole world to be built and rebuilt from countless points. This is one of them.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Big Dang Experiment And Goings-on!

My previous post was written after a series of grass-fires erupted within a few hours of each other and were presumed to result from mischief or goings-on. Here in the Vineyard area we may briefly tolerate mischief but roundly disapprove of goings-on. We're not quite clear on what the difference is but we're against it. It wasn't until I was pulled up at a traffic light that an explanation occurred to me that did not involve firecrackers and firebugs. I saw several cars nearby with hands sticking out holding cigarettes and tapping ashes to the pavement. When the light turned green, some stubs simply dropped to roll wherever the breeze might take them. I suddenly remembered cars have not been equipped with ash trays for many years. There are no ground-level combustibles in the city or suburbs, but  rural roads are bordered by ditches full of dry grass and fields that suffer from this automotive omission. I will take the theory to the community and see if it qualifies as mischief or goings-on, but will first repost this patriotic specimen  from the archives:  
                          [Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team]

I depart from the usual course of these essays to comment on the photograph above. Norma didn't take this one, Hubble did. It is a picture of one tiny rectangle of deep space. Deep space means anything outside our solar system, but to uncounted trillions of solar systems we are in deep space too, a planet at the arm of this galaxy pinwheeling in eternity. Looks like fireworks doesn't it?

I've read a lot of blogs about July 4th today and found them moving, thought-provoking, reflecting upon this 239-year-old experiment in democracy with favor, concern, worry, hope and celebration. The interests of those who produced the Declaration Of Independence are our interests too. Who are we? We are the artists, writers, gardeners, musicians, scientists, engineers, leaders and laborers certainly, every personality, every mother and father, everybody that accepts the awesome responsibility of bringing something new into the world.

The picture above might easily contain a billion worlds. Fireworks indeed. I wish them luck.

Us too. Happy 4th!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

California Weather News--Warning, I Get Political!

It has been upwards of 110 degrees Fahrenheit lately. After 8 years of drought, this is no novelty to California. Some of us older folk remember rain, accessible water tables for new wells, fields, pastures that were not dismissed as dangerous combustibles. Many counties have sensibly banned fireworks sales this year because the state is on fire already, but not the capital --not Sacramento. This is because the mayor is too busy in court trying to defend using tax monies to build an indoor basketball arena downtown. He is a 3-time NBA allstar and it got him elected to a political office. In his capacity and competence as mayor, he has proven himself a fine ex-basketball player. Sacramento County, however, has already lost a number of homes that give onto dry fields owned by foreign conglomerates that don't hire them disked for fire breaks. They don't care. Geezers care, and we have been trespassing on neglected prairies for two months, clearing edges and making them safe at our expense and by our own labor. Yes, this state will again pass one of our nation's stupidest holidays by burning down. I have taken a little break since the last punctuation mark and decided two things: I am garrulating overmuch about fire; I am more happily fired up about an old essay that I found among drafts from a few years back. This protracted introductory paragraph may serve to emphasize how some things don't change faster than we can keep track of them.  

As can be seen by the thermometer on the pumphouse door, our state is in the throes of a cooling trend. True, the encouraging reading is somewhat in the south shade. We had a another thermometer on an unshaded east wall but its needle spun around twice and flew off shortly after sun-up.

As refreshment I shall include a coastal seascape, to assure everyone that California is doing its best to maintain a tradition of beautiful sunsets over peaceful waters.
We have all our taps open and hope to get waves by evening.

I did find one Californian who seemed unaffected by both heatwave and temperature plunge and took a picture of her. She asked what I was doing and I said: Gathering what is best to buoy the spirits of humanity. To which she smiled that special smile and said, "Well, you look furtive. Stop it!"

And I shall, but my patriotism is unimpeachable --so not without a cautionary epilogue to the populace that our amber waves of grain, purple mountains and fruited plains are being sold to speculators worldwide. America will not fall by military invasion, so lay down your arms and try quitting the sale of America, bit by bit from sea to shining sea, to other countries --and, for gosh sakes, boycott fireworks stands!