Personal


Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

 The great American writer Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) is remembered especially for four novels: You Can’t Go Home Again,  Of Time and the River, The Web and the Rock, and Look Homeward, Angel, which is my favorite.  Although it’s a work of fiction, the book’s protagonist, Eugene Gant, is largely a stand-in for Wolfe himself. The author sets the stage for Look Homeward, Angel with an introductory poem:

. . . A stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.  

Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother’s face; from the prison of her flesh we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth.

Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father’s heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?

O waste of loss, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this most weary unbright cinder, lost!  Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When?

O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.

Thomas Wolfe as a young, 6-foot, 6-inch, pipe smoker.

What brings all this to mind is remembering that a couple of decades ago when I was between marriages, I briefly tried answering ads published by online dating sites. As it happened, one woman I began exchanging emails with wrote that she is a fan of poetry and asked that I send her my favorite poem. Without hesitation I sent her Thomas Wolfe’s existential poem and was surprised by her response, which amounted to: “If that’s your favorite poem, you sound too grim for me. Goodbye.”

Apparently I disqualified myself by being a Wolfe man.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

This week’s puns are from a book, which (to my surprise) I found at West Marin Pharmacy, and gave Lynn for Christmas: Dad Jokes, the Good, The Bad, The Terrible, by Jimmy Niro. Most of this posting outlines the various minor calamities that have befallen this household of late. Also included are three amazing photos of wildlife.

––––––––––

Yesterday a clown held the door open for me. I thought it was a nice jester.

––––––––––

My wife Lynn was cooking Christmas dinner when our oven quit working. She had finished most of the meal but never got to bake any potatoes. Nor was there any baked turkey. None was available after Thanksgiving. Nor could she find fresh cranberries. Supply chain issues? 

Having grown up in a Jewish household, Christmas was not part of her holidays. Lynn opted to cook eggnog-coated, breaded pork cutlets instead. Pork was a frequent meal in her childhood household, notwithstanding some stereotypes. The faux-kosher meal, which included previously baked yams and turkey stuffing sans turkey, was delicious.

After we ate, Lynn contacted large-appliance repairman David Brast of Inverness. She told him a section of the oven coil had gotten very bright, and a huge amount of steam had emerged from a stovetop coil. Then the oven stopped working. He said, “That wasn’t steam. That was smoke.” Brast quickly figured out the problem, sent away for parts, and agreed to come over and fix it this Thursday, which he did. 

–––––––––

The lady helping me at the bank has a big stain on her blouse. Should I teller?

–––––––––

The day after Christmas my car developed its own problems. Dashboard lights started telling me to “check engine” and showed tires skidding. Monday when I took my 12-year-old Lexus to Cheda’s Garage, mechanic Tim Bunce quickly figured out the problem. Rats had gotten into the engine compartment, chewed on the wiring, and started to build a nest.

Cheda’s too had to send away for parts, but it turned out the rats had also damaged an injector harness for the engine’s computer. Now I have to take the car to Santa Rosa to get the harness replaced and the computer reprogrammed. Goddamn, it doesn’t sound cheap! Which raises the question….

–––––––––

How does the Vatican pay bills? They use Papal.

–––––––––

The car and oven breakdowns came on the heels of the smoke detector in Mitchell cabin starting to give off a bird-like chirp every minute or so when the air was cold. That has now been fixed, but I’m wondering what will go wrong next.

–––––––––

“Dad, I’m cold,” his son said. “Go stand in the corner,” replied the father. “It’s 90 degrees.”

–––––––––

There are times reality can be as humorous as puns. We’ve been hearing coyotes howl every night for months, so I was particularly intrigued by the “People’s Choice” award winner of this year’s Living with Wildlife photo contest sponsored by WildCare. 

Photographer Janet Kessler managed to snap a shot of a coyote knocking down a “Don’t Feed Coyotes” sign.                                                                                                      

 

This photo of a peregrine falcon taken by Carlos Porrata of Inverness won the “Best in Show” award.

And this photo of a badger, which Porrata also submitted, was among the contest’s finalists.

––––––––––

A doctor made it his regular habit to stop at a bar for a hazelnut daiquiri on his way home from work each night. The bartender knew of his habit and would alway have the drink waiting at precisely 5:03 p.m.

One afternoon, as the end of the workday approached, the bartender was dismayed to find that he was out of hazelnut extract. Thinking quickly, he threw together a daiquiri made with hickory nuts and set it on the bar.

The doctor came in at his regular time, took one sip of the drink, and exclaimed, “This isn’t a hazelnut daiquiri.”

“No, I’m sorry,” replied the bartender. “It’s a hickory daiquiri, Doc.”

 

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

Birthday lunch. Maddy Sobel of Point Reyes Station (standing) took my wife Lynn and me out for lunch at the Station House Cafe Tuesday to celebrate my 78th birthday.

Because of Covid restrictions, the cafe’s only seating was outdoors in the garden, which was attractive but chilly enough to warrant my wearing a hood while eating.

Now in my 79th year, I’m enjoying myself but have problems walking and remembering things. In short, I am definitely slowing down.

When I was born on Nov. 23, 1943, the US was about halfway through our involvement in World War II. My parents and I were living in the Marina District of San Francisco, and though I was too young to understand what I was seeing, my parents later told of freight trains chugging past the Marina Green carrying tanks and other military vehicles to ships heading off for the war in the Pacific.

The one thing I do remember of the war was the Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945. China had been our ally against Japan, and the surrender prompted a massive celebration in Chinatown. Hearing about it, my mother loaded great aunt Amy and me into our family’s Pontiac and drove across town so we could see it first hand. The merriment no doubt was exciting, but as a two year old, I found it terrifying. Firecrackers were exploding everywhere, and as we headed up Grant Avenue, they started raining down on our car from overhead balconies. The traffic was so heavy, mom couldn’t immediately drive away, and for the next couple of years, loud noises — even from kids’ cap guns — frightened me.

Merely growing up in the United States has meant my lifetime’s been filled with warfare: World War II (1941-45); the Korean War (1950-53); the Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian Wars (1956-75); two wars in Iraq (1990-91 and 2014-17); and the Afghan War (2001-present). I never fought in any of these wars, but I did witness a couple of others. In 1984, while working as a reporter for The San Francisco Examiner, I was sent to Central America to cover the wars then being fought in El Salvador and Guatemala. All this left me with a sense that the world is never going to be peaceful, at least not in my lifetime.

Just keeping happy is enough for me these days. I spend afternoons carrying armloads of firewood into the living room and spend evenings sitting by the fireplace, smoking, listening to jazz from an earlier era, and chatting with Lynn when she’s not in the bedroom watching British murder mysteries on the TV. Keep calm and carry on, she says.

 

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

 

“A bird in the hand,” wrote Cervantes, “is worth….

 

“two in the bush.” (Don Quixote, 1605)

 I had opportunities to enjoy both this past week, and at least for entertainment value, the bird in the hand is definitely more interesting. It was the third time recently that I’d had the opportunity to hold a live bird. Our cat Newy catches birds outdoors, brings them indoors as gifts for Lynn and me, and drops them on the floor where they are relatively easy to scoop up by hand.

As I noted last week, it appears that the experience of being carried around in the cat’s jaws is enough of a shock that it leaves them fairly dazed for brief period. But that doesn’t last, and the bird I’m holding above flew off after I took it outside.

————————————

Environmental news

Of course, in West Marin even what animals belong outside is matter for debate. One of my favorite sections of The Point Reyes Light are its Sheriff’s Calls. On Sept.28, the column reported, a Woodacre man complained to deputies that “his caretaker fed the raccoons, and he was worried the animals would become dependent on people and turn into a larger issue. He said there were too many animals outside.”

That left me guessing: Was he only concerned with an abundance of raccoons? What other kinds of animals might he have on his mind? Just the name Woodacre would seem to refer to wooded acreage where wild animals might be expected.

And now for some more nutty national news

“A woman is accused of fatally shooting a man earlier this week,” The Chicago Sun Times reported Saturday, “when he refused to kiss her and instead asked his girlfriend for a kiss. The three were hanging out and drinking at their home….

“While they were drinking Thursday [Claudia] Resendiz-Flores asked 29-year-old James Jones for a kiss and became jealous when he refused and instead turned to his girlfriend and asked for a smooch,” prosecutors allege. “That’s when Resendiz-Flores’ demeanor changed and she again demanded he kiss her…

“When Jones said he wouldn’t kiss her, Resendiz-Flores took his gun, which was tucked between couch cushions at the home and aimed it at him,” prosecutors added, noting that Jones tried to push the gun down, but she “shot him once in the chest, killing him.” Resendiz-Flores has been charged with first-degree murder.

It’s as nutty as last week’s story about a man who shot his brother to death because his brother, a pharmacist, was administering Covid-19 vaccinations. The killer was convinced that the vaccinations are the government’s way of poisoning people. And while he was busy killing his brother, he took time out to also kill his sister-in-law and an 83-year-old woman who was a friend of hers.

It’s all tragically nutty.

 

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

Our daily Rorschach test.

What we see in the clouds may sometimes reflect our feelings. This fiery sunset unfortunately brought to mind our crazed President and the danger he poses to world order, the environment, and social harmony.

Another sunset, but with a blacktail doe and no Rorschach test.

Looking at real creatures as opposed to those imagined in the sky is more certain to engender tranquility. Here’s a look at some of the ones I see virtually every day.

Two Arabian Adventures steeds in a feeding pen within a pasture next to Mitchell cabin. Since we haven’t succumbed to the national disaster yet, there’s nothing here for this buzzard.

Jackrabbits and towhees may have very different cultures, but they manage to coexist side by side peaceably.

There are more wild turkeys to be seen hereabouts than there were last year at this time.

Also abundant are blacktail deer, but that’s common. (Curiously, just now when I tried to type “blacktailed deer,” Spellcheck kept changing their name to “blackmailed deer.” This, in turn, raises the question: how would you blackmail a deer?)

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

Silverfish are one of the oldest insects and may predate the dinosaurs by 100 million years. By now they’ve evolved into household pests that eat documents, photos, and clothes. So while I’m usually displeased at seeing a spider in the shower stall, I forgave this one because of his taste for silverfish.

Another encounter at home. A dove left its image when it crashed into the living-room window last week. Although initially dazed, the bird eventually few off.

A red-tailed hawk perches at sunset downhill from Mitchell cabin.

Waiting for the music at the No Name Bar in Sausalito a fortnight ago. Sitting from the left next to me are Friday night regulars Vivian and Ray, my wife Lynn, Paul Leclerc, and in recent weeks Billy Hobbs.

Sitting by the fire. Billy had been homeless for five years and was sleeping outdoors in Point Reyes Station when the rain and cold winds hit two months ago, so Lynn and I offered to let him wait out the bad weather in Mitchell cabin. Once he did, Billy was able to resume showering and getting his clothes cleaned regularly. Add to that a haircut and a beard trim, and he had dramatically cleaned up his act. 

Resting indoors by our woodstove. Being warm, clean, and well fed led to quite a metamorphosis for Billy, as regular readers of this blog know. Now his story has been read worldwide.

This week, his story reached journalists around the globe — not only throughout the United States and Canada but as far away as Ireland and Nepal —  when the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) republished my Dec. 10 posting. In short, Billy has now become an internationally known artist.

Caveat lectorem: When readers previously submitted comments, they were asked if they wanted to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people said they did. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version that includes all photos by simply clicking on the headline above the posting. For the moment, no new comments are being posted as a result of international hacking.

Artist Billy Hobbs (left) and yours truly on the deck of Mitchell cabin. Billy was homeless for more than five years after his 25-year marriage broke up. For a year he spent his days sketching outside the Point Reyes Station Postoffice, which is where I met him. He had been sleeping outdoors when cold, wet weather set in. This prompted my wife Lynn and me a month ago to invite him to stay with us until the weather clears.

Billy is an intriguing artist, so this week I’m posting a small sampling of his drawings.

The Sacred Tree is Not Dead depicts the chief of the Northern Cheyenne, White Antelope, before he was killed by a U.S. cavalry charge despite having been assured he’d be left alone if he flew an American flag on his tepee.

Lao Tzu, a Sixth Century BC Chinese philosopher. Billy calls Lao Tzu one of his favorite philosophers because of his emphasis on slowing down to smell the roses.

How It Really Went Down. Making his last stand on June 25, 1876, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer runs out of bullets and is killed, along with all 200 of his men.

Holding Up a Skull and looking through it was inspired by artist Georgia O’Keefe. 

A Pretty Woman. Billy hasn’t quite finished this drawing, but she’s still haunting.

Donald Trump, one of Billy’s rare political drawings. The president bends over to perform another scene from reality TV.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

Billy Hobbs last spring impressed me with this self-portrait that showed his face collapsing in a landslide.

Billy Hobbs first showed up in SparselySageAndTimely.com (click here to read) at the end of May when he wrote a letter to Marin County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, suggesting ways county government could help its homeless population. Billy, who will turn 62 at the end of this month, grew up in Lucas Valley. He has been homeless for five years following the breakup of his 25-year marriage.

For a year, he has spent his days sitting on a bench near the Point Reyes Station postoffice, drawing in sketchbooks. For awhile, he slept in the postoffice lobby but hasn’t in recent months, instead lying down at night outdoors under an overhang.

When the weather is good, I usually have my morning mocha at Toby’s Coffee Bar, sitting at a picnic table not far from the postoffice, and that juxtaposition led to Billy’s and my getting to know each other.

Billy last May drawing pictures inspired by Native American, Buddhist, and Greek history while sitting next to the Point Reyes Station postoffice.

He may have looked scruffy, but I came to realize that despite his dirty hands and clothes, Billy was worth talking to. Previously, he had lived and worked (primarily as a carpenter) in Montana, Mexico, Novato, Tiburon, Ross, San Anselmo, Fairfax, San Rafael, and San Francisco, which gave him insights into a variety of cultures. Nonetheless, because of his appearance, aggressive men occasionally demanded he leave town, but of course he never did.

Then came the last couple of weeks of cold winds and rain, which made Lynn and me worry about his sleeping outdoors, so we invited him up to Mitchell cabin.

The new Billy.

Staying here not only let Billy sleep warm and dry, it gave him a chance to resume taking regular showers and getting his clothes cleaned. Then Danny at the Point Reyes Barber Shop cut Billy’s hair and trimmed his beard. Voila, suddenly there was a new gentleman in town, and more than one person complimented him on his appearance.

For Lynn and me, watching it all happen has been heartwarming, but it’s also been another demonstration of how appearance alone can determine how people fare in society.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

Thanksgiving dinner. Lynn (right) and I (left) with Inverness architect Jon Fernandez, his wife Patsy Krebs, and his son Michael enjoying dessert following a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday at Vladimir’s Czech Restaurant in Inverness. Beforehand, a couple of friends at different times expressed surprise that we’d choose Czech food on turkey day, but it turned out to be a good decision. In fact, it was the start of a series of social adventures.

The Michael Aragon Quartet

The next day, Jon and Patsy, Lynn and I headed to Sausalito’s No Name Bar where the Michael Aragon Quartet played its last performance after 36 years of Friday night gigs there. Drummer Michael Aragon, the bandleader, is retiring at 75 for health reasons. Sax player Rob Roth has been there with him 25 years, and keyboardist KC Filson has been there for 10 of them. The regular bass player, Pierre Archain, unfortunately was ill and guitarist Rob Fordyce filled in for him.

Michael is known throughout the Bay Area jazz scene, and the bar was packed with admirers who wanted to catch his last show.

Billy Hobbs

Saturday was wet and cold, which made Lynn and me worry about Billy Hobbs, the homeless man often seen sketching outside the Point Reyes Station postoffice. He sleeps outdoors nearby under an overhang, and periodic gusts of wind can blow the rain in a bit.

So we invited Billy to spend the day with us, and Lynn fixed a second Thanksgiving dinner, this time with turkey. With the storm not abating, we urged Billy to bed down here for the night, and he did.

On Sunday, the storm only got worse. When I drove to the bottom of our fairly long driveway in heavy rain to get our morning Chronicle, I found that the wind had dropped a large, dead limb across our driveway. Thankfully, no car was hit. Several pieces had to be moved, and I got a full baptism doing so.

Lynn, who was fighting a cold, put all of our clothes through the wash while much of my energy was spent carrying armloads of firewood up 50 steps to our house. Now that will get you warm. Billy meanwhile spent most of the day sitting by the fire arranging his sketches, which he hopes to make into greeting cards. 

Another get-together: While we stayed warm indoors, two blacktail bucks with no show of rivalry showed up to dine outside. The deer at left has a deformed right rear leg (probably hit by a motor vehicle) but manages to get around fairly well. And so in the end, it appeared that everyone had a reason to be thankful.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

Holding my step-granddaughter Cristina in Toby’s Coffee Bar. Last week was the first time we’d met, and we quickly hit it off.

My nuclear family (back row): Kristeli Zappa, Shaili Zappa, and Anika Pinelo with her two daughters, Lucia and Cristina; (front row): my wife Lynn and me. The young ladies all showed up last week for an end-of-summer visit.

Despite five marriages, I’ve never sired any children of my own; however, my fourth wife, a Guatemalan named Ana Carolina Monterroso, arrived with three daughters in tow. Although our marriage ended after a few months, I have remained close with those three stepdaughters. At least one of them visits me almost every year.

Kristeli, 30, Shaili, 26, and Anika, 32, all have dual US-Guatemalan citizenship since their natural father is an American. Shaili works for a finance company in Mexico City. Kristeli lives in New York, where she’s a clinical social worker providing mental-health therapy. Anika lives in Minnesota and before becoming a mother worked for a manufacturer that periodically sent her to South America to sell tanks. Those tanks, by the way, were not military but rather industrial vats.

My step-granddaughters, Cristina (four months) and Lucia (two years) turned out to be delightful young ladies.

I still have many of my childhood storybooks, and while she was here, Anika accepted them as gifts for her daughters. Although she can read only a few words, Lucia (at left) has already developed a fascination with books.

All three stepdaughters have led adventurous lives. Kristeli studied in France and then Taiwan before getting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in New York. Shaili studied for several months in Kenya before graduating from the University of Minnesota. Anika, who also graduated from the University of Minnesota, took up skydiving before giving birth to two children.

At the kitchen door after dark.

Also getting together here last week were two other families; a mother raccoon and a mother skunk, both showed up with their kits. The skunks muscled in on the raccoons’ clumps of kibble, but they didn’t spray, and neither creature seemed afraid of the other.

Shaili leaned out a window to photograph them although she naturally worried about getting sprayed. She wasn’t, and the whole end-of-summer visit had a most pleasant air to it.

Next Page »