Entries tagged with “Jon Carroll”.


As a regular reader of The San Francisco Chronicle’s Jon Carroll, I recognized an echo of the divine in his March 5 column, which was headlined: My legs are frozen and I can’t get up.

The column, which focused on his cat named Bucket, asked: “Do you inconvenience yourself just to please a cat? ….Do you allow your legs to freeze and tingle because the cat on your lap does not feel like moving just now?”

Indulging cats in this way is not another sign of modern Americans’ excessive solicitude toward their pets, many of which are better fed than impoverished citizens in some African countries. Rather there is historical and religious precedent for being especially considerate of sleeping cats.

I’m thinking, of course, of a cat named Muezza that, according to Muslim lore, belonged to the Prophet Muhammed. Legend has it that one day when Muhammed heard the call to prayers, he went to put on his robe only to find Muezza asleep on a sleeve. Rather than disturb the cat, Muhammed cut off the sleeve and wore the mutilated garment to the mosque.

An India peacock walks next to Mitchell cabin.

As has been noted here previously, a lone peacock showed up on this hill several months ago and eventually began hanging out with a flock of wild turkeys. He can often be seen bringing up the rear as the flock hunts and pecks its way across the fields.

Occasionally, however, the peacock gets separated from the flock and begins its shrill cries as he searches for his companions.

A peacock by the chimney.

Last Wednesday Lynn repeatedly heard the peacock’s cries coming from somewhere near Mitchell cabin. We both went out on the deck and scanned the fields uphill and downhill but saw nothing.

Eventually we went indoors only to hear more of the peacock’s cries, which always sound a bit like anguished screams. So we went back outside, but again we couldn’t spot it. I was about to go indoors when I heard some scratching on the roof. I looked up, and there was the peacock looking down at me.

After a minute or two, the peacock flew awkwardly to the ground (they’re not good at flying), crossed a field, and departed with a stately strut down the driveway.

Another colorful visitor during the past fortnight was this tom turkey. The wild turkey could be heard gobbling after a disinterested hen he was pursuing. The gobbles were noisy, but they didn’t compare to the peacock’s screams.

This bobcat, like the peacock and turkey, is a regular visitor to Mitchell cabin. Unlike the birds, however, it seldom makes a noise. A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor Didi Thompson called to let me know the bobcat was in my field, and I was able to shoot this photo of it, as well as several others.

Shaili Zappa Monterroso arrives at Larkspur Landing after taking a Golden Gate Ferry from San Francisco.

One visitor last month who doesn’t drop by Mitchell cabin all that often was my youngest stepdaughter Shaili, a student at the University of Minnesota. Shaili grew up in Guatemala and lived at Mitchell cabin during the months I was married to her mother, Ana Carolina Monterroso.

Shaili turned 20 while she was visiting and is seen here celebrating with Lynn.

Although her first language is Spanish, Shaili speaks better English than some of my friends who grew up here.

Of recent, I’ve noticed people having trouble with homonyms, words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things: sum and some, weight and wait, wear and ware, or there, their and they’re.

Homonyms are one reason why it’s better to get news from newspapers than from radio or television, for it is obviously easier to distinguish between written homonyms than spoken ones. This is particularly important when it comes to one’s “burro” or his “burrow.” A “burro” is an “ass.” A “burrow” is a “hole in the ground.” Listening to the radio, it’s sometimes hard to tell one from the other.

A German word, schadenfreude, is steadily becoming more common in English. It means finding pleasure in the misfortune of someone else, and it’s pronounced just like it’s spelled. In the aftermath of last week’s election, Democrats, many commentators, and most pollsters can’t be blamed for indulging in a bit of schadenfreude.

Fox News used to claim that most of the other news media have a “liberal” bias. In the wake of last week’s election, the new complaint from Fox is that most of the news media have a “mainstream” bias.

The schadenfreude isn’t all in reaction to Mitt Romney, the plutocrat, having lost to the more-egalitarian Barack Obama — although Democrats were certainly delighted by their victory. Interestingly, much of the schadenfreude is in reaction to the humiliation of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. Unlike Romney, who conceded with grace, Fox News commentators have been apoplectic. Despite many polls to the contrary, they had insisted right up until the end that there was no way their man could lose.

(With Florida’s election results finally tallied, Obama as of Sunday evening had won the nationwide popular vote by a margin of almost 3.3 million votes out of 120 million cast. In the all-important Electoral College race, Obama trounced Romney 332 to 206.)

“It’s not a traditional America anymore,” Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly growled as the outcome became obvious, “and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff…. People think they are entitled to things.” O’Reilly refused to acknowledge that convincing voters a Republican has what it takes to be President is no Tea Party.

“Could it be that the Fox model has played out?” asked columnist Jon Carroll in Friday’s San Francisco Chronicle. “Could it be that the lack of civility and grace, the embrace of the most extreme candidates as long as they were Republicans, indeed the whole idea behind [Fox News president] Roger Ailes’ brainchild — a pimping station for the far right — may be politically bankrupt?

“Perhaps not financially bankrupt; it seems supported by its advertisers very nicely. It could go on for quite some time. The question is: Is it hurting the very people it is supposed to be helping? Does the existence of this high-profile echo chamber deafen candidates to what the electorate is actually saying?”

General David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell. Photo by Command Sgt. Major Marvin L. Hill.

Only two days after last Tuesday’s election, CIA chief David Petraeus admitted he’d had an extramarital affair with his biographer and promptly resigned, acknowledging he had used “extremely poor judgment.”

As news media worldwide were quick to report, Broadwell and Gen. Petraeus had formerly spent time together far away from home in Middle East war zones. This has led to a popular tweet, I am told by a friend with a Twitter account, “Having sex with your biographer is unquestionably more fun than having sex with your autobiographer.”

Before leaving the Middle East, we might note a headline CBS used for an online account of a gruesome crime. It sounds as if the testimony will be riveting.

Finally,  for those of you who refuse to believe that alligators and crocodiles live in sewers, such as New York City’s, here’s a crocodile caught after two years in a Gaza sewer. Al Jazeera photo.

“A crocodile that has been roaming the pipes of the sewer basins network in the besieged Gaza Strip has been captured, according to Brigadier General Mohammed Abu Sissi, a police officer,” Al Jazeera reported Nov. 5. Already there there had been word of the crocodile making forays out of the sewer long enough to snap up a couple of goats.

“‘We have been chasing the crocodile to catch it before it grows more and becomes a real threat for civilians. We have used all possibilities — including fishermen and civil defense men — to catch it alive. We could have sniped it, but we preferred to catch it alive and bring it back to the nearby zoo where it fled from,’ Abu Sissi said.”

Regarding the alligators in New York City’s sewers, most Americans have heard that the story is a classic urban legend. If so, how do skeptics explain all the alligators down there? I’ve lived in New York, and as everyone in the city knows, residents vacationed in Florida, brought small gators home as pets, got tired of them, and ultimately flushed them down the toilet.

Don’t believe it? In 1935 (this is true), an eight-foot alligator was captured in the sewer under East Harlem and pulled out of a manhole. Moreover, retired New York sewer official Teddy May in the 1950s (again this is true) told public utilities historian Harold Brunvand that he had actually seen one colony of alligators in the sewer system 20 years earlier and had his workers get rid of them.

Fox News is headquartered in New York City, and finding out how the alligators fared during Hurricane Sandy’s flooding of the sewers would seem like the perfect assignment for Bill O’Reilly.