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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Maternal Celebration

If she had kept on living, today my mother, shown above, would be observing her 113th birthday, but regretfully she had to leave in 1977. She was born in New Orleans in 1896.

My mother was a wonderful woman. She was a strong woman, and I increasingly marvel at the wide variety of adversities that she faced for a long time, and I regret the way that the cheerful veils of childhood kept me from glimpsing just how serious things were. Yet she wore them down and eventually prevailed over all.

At the center of her troubles was the chance that her husband of 22 years died nearly on the eve of World War 2, in 1938, when the Great Depression was still in progress, and that left her, a housewife, alone with no money, a small house, and two small children that she was bound and determined to carry through to adulthood and beyond if need be, no matter what.

I was probably my mother's greatest triumph in life. I don't at all mean the person that I became, or the person that I am now. I mean instead the very fact that was I born at all. Up to then, back in those dark ages of health care, she had suffered a long series of miscarriages, and she had had to bring me in only at a huge risk to her own life, but she did it.

I wonder what it was about my mechanism that allowed me to come down the chute safely, when all those others did not. And I wonder who all those quasi older siblings of mine would've been and how they would've been. But those are among those deep imponderables that take such delight in being impervious to all reasonable speculation.

My mother probably saw some great added significance in the fact that I arrived just two days before her own birthday.

This post opened with a picture of my mother and me, amidst all the marble of the downtown D.C. of 1931. Obviously it was taken just days after her Big Moment.

A year later my mother also bore a healthy girl, and that was it.

Now all those people who loved me without reservation of any kind are gone -- my mother, my father, and my sister -- and like Ishmael in "Moby Dick, "I only have escaped alone, to tell thee," whatever the story may be.

Often I try to reconstruct the ambience of being around my mother. Sometimes I succeed.


Scattered Notion No. 85016Y -- Ants

What a truly horrible place the world would be if we could hear the footsteps of ants. And that's in addition to all the commands, comments, and insults that they must be furiously hurling back and forth at each other all the time.

Use of Sunbeds

One of the latest scientific findings is that the use of sunbeds and sunlamps is definitely carcinogenic to humans.

That is yet another of those official health conclusions that is heavily self-evident, isn't it?

I saw a sunbed once, and once only. It was somebody's bright idea of an extra added feature to what was otherwise a short-lived convenience store. I was baffled. I couldn't understand why anyone would want to get into the contraption. I thought it looked just like a transparent coffin.

If the goal of using sunbeds is to look "better," or to be better able to resist the ravages of the Sun, intermarriage ahead of time is a much easier and more salutary solution.

That's how I was able to arrange things so cleverly, against common practice and decades before I was born.

Police Degradation -- the Officer Timson Syndrome

The following is from a Richard Pryor bit of 40 years ago. He was a highly regarded humorist who was often able to throw some cold, hard illumination on many social issues -- when he wasn't letting too much hang out, such as the night he was forced to flee his house and run down the street with his face on fire, after having miscued while indulging in a definitely extravagant drug maneuver called "free-basing."

Cops put a hurting on your ass. They really degrade you. White folks don't believe that cops degrade.

"Aw, c'mon, those people were resisting arrest. I'm tired of all this harassment of police officers."

Police live in your neighborhood, see, and you know them as "Officer Timson."

"Hello, Officer Timson. Going bowling tonight? Yes, uh, nice Pinto you have there, hah-hah-hah."

Niggers don't know them like that.

White folks get a ticket, they pull over and say, "Hello, Officer Timson, glad to be of help. Har-har-har."


You wonder why a nigger don't go completely mad. You get your act together, finish a hard day at work making 80 dollars a week if you're lucky, you're taking your wife out for a night at a club, cops pull you over --


Now what nigger feels like having fun after that?

"Let's go back home, baby, and beat the kids and stuff."

"--Degrade." That is the operative word and the key element in matters of this kind, yet it is usually -- and probably intentionally -- completely overlooked by most in the American public.

With reference to the Henry Louis Gates controversay, I'm struck by how relevant and right on target the above Richard Pryor comment still is today. Contrary to constant hopes and predications, people should have realized by now how mpossible it is to put anything behind when it comes to the Rainbow experience in this relatively recently slave-holding nation. The reason is that that experience, more than anything else, always lies at the heart of the way in which the country likes to see itself.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Taking Advantage -- the Harvard/Gates Affair

Many moons ago in the Washington D.C area, the motto of a man's home being his castle amounted to fighting words for a long while, during a fracas, the exact nature of which I don't recall, though it was centered just outside of D.C., in Maryland, and had something to do with civil rights, real estate, property sanctions, or the like. This was in the Spiro Agnew era, even back before he ascended from being a Maryland governor to being an equally hapless Vice-President of the United States, before he ran badly afoul of the Watergate mess.

In the continuing erosion of privacy and property rights since then, has that concept of a man's castle also fallen by the wayside?

In the community in and around the U.S.'s most esteemed university, a member of the Harvard faculty had a bad day recently. But then any day that police officers enter a man's home uninvited is automaticaly going to be one of the worst days of that man's life, if his melanin count exceeds a certain level. This is a bald fact that never seems to occur to the tens of millions in the American public who blissfully and unconsciously wallow in the assumption that the police are protectors and never tormentors and terrifiers.

This man, Henry Louis Gates, was proud of himself. He was a graduate of Harvard's competitor, Yale, with a Phi Beta Kappa key also to his credit. And since then he had gone on to become the head of a department at Harvard that specialized in Rainbow ("black" or "African-American") issues, and so he probably also saw himself as being a credit to his race, which had been a very big thing in the days leading up to integration.

So it shouldn't be too hard to imagine how Professor Gates felt after the bad day he had already had, having just gotten back from a long trip overseas, and at last he comes to his own domicile, his Home Sweet Home at prestigious Harvard University -- only to discover that he has misplaced his key, and, being apparently on the prematurely feeble side at age 58, he has to get his driver to help him effect a forced entry into his own house.

And then once inside, who should come barging in behind him were none other than some singularly unwelcome visitors, one or more police officers, who demand that he identify himself and establish that he has a right to be there, which he does, but that turns out to be just the beginning of it.

--I know a young lady who in her teenage days had great aspirations to be a ballet dancer, and she was notable in having absolutely zero tolerance for nonsense of any kind, and I kept resisting the temptation of telling her that, should one of her ballet slipper straps break during a performance and the slipper comes off, she should prepare herself not to be upset for even a moment but instead to think, "Now how can I take advantage of this bullsh-t?" I don't know why I hesitated. She had probably already readied herself for that eons earlier.

It seems certain that this moment also came to Professor Gates, in the midst of the indignity of being forced to identify himself and to justify his presence in his own home, when he was so highly regarded in the Harvard community and thus in national and world academic circles. Instead of demurring to an officer who clearly was short in the respect department, he would use this moment as a theme, showing his solidarity with the legions of his Rainbow brothers who had had similar encounters with the law, that had led to disasters up to and including being shot dead.

From that point of view, the resulting spectacle of the professor, a man who depended on the use of a cane, being led away from his own home in handcuffs and being held in prison for several hours played right into that concept.

It was a clearly bad arrest that was quickly disavowed by the arresting officer's higher-ups. But by that time too many other characters saw roles that they could also play in this encounter, and so this obvious tempest in a teapot is still boiling and roiling around the country, mainly because it furnishes so many pretexts for those who would leap to defend the officer, though, as the U.S. President, who used to teach at that same institution, said and should never have considered retracting in the least, it clearly did look stupid and was stupid, to go into a house to check on a possible break-in and to emerge moments later with the homeowner, a physically feeble individual and one of the university's professors, whom the officer then proceeds to clap into handcuffs and takes away, merely because of a strong difference in opinion between the two of them as to who rated respect and who did not. Good police work is supposed to amount to more than something like that, especially up there in and around the highly rarefied atmosphere of Harvard University.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Personal Evaluation

The time has rolled around for the latest evaluation of the functioning of the most important machine I own, now that, of the two people responsible for setting it on the world's stage, my father has already been gone for more than 70 years and my mother for slightly less than half that. But of course even from the very beginning there was never any question of being able to replace it with a new model, so that in this matter we are always left entirely with the mechanism that we have and with how well we've managed to keep it maintained in the days since, though mainly that works out to be almost entirely a matter of sheer luck, with a dash of good genetics thrown in.

I've been diagnosed with glaucoma for some years now but I can still see well enough to do most things without the need to wear glasses, though recently for closeup stuff like my stained glass and reading, I've had to make more and more use of reading glasses. To keep down the pressure on my optic nerves that causes the glaucoma, I have to take two kinds of eyedrops daily, one of them twice a day. But that's no chore, and the only other regular med I have to take is for high blood pressure, once a day.

Of the other faculties centered in and around my face, my senses of taste and smell seem to be totally unimpaired so far, and I believe that my hearing is also still just fine, due to a lifetime of staying away from over-loud sounds of every kind. And meanwhile my facial appearance has, like so much else about me, changed ever so slowly, and I am still quite recognizable as having once been that small boy whose picture you see up there on my sidebar.

Meanwhile the sense of touch associated with my skin seems also to be just as acute as ever, and I've been thinking of how handy that comes in, especially at this time of the year when there are so many bugs constantly on the attack. My potter neighbor across the road, K., just recently finished a regimen of taking antibiotics, after, while conducting pottery classes in New Jersey, he contracted not only Lyme's Disease but also Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever at the same time. The place where he was working had lots of deer walking around, along with signs warning of Lyme's Disease, and I have always wondered why, even here in much more benign Virginia, I haven't yet caught one or the other malady myself, because I am bitten by ticks so often that I must have long since used up all my probabilities

I have a heart murmur, but not much is known about that. Otherwise my main physical problem right now involves my feet. Some kind of thing keeps moving out to the surface of my sole on the right foot, causing pain that I can only alleviate by cutting the hard growth away with an X-acto knife, about once a week. I've been told many times that I need to go to a podiatrist for that. But you don't just find them on any street corner around here.

The problem with my left foot is more recent, and I don't know what it can be. It feels just as if I've stubbed my big toe on the same sofa leg every night for two weeks.

From looking around, I've seen how supremely important the simple act of walking is, and this restriction on that ability is worrisome, but so far not worrisome enough.

Meanwhile I still have the same numerous tiny demons flitting around up in my cranium, which causes all kinds of little hallucinations, ranging from thinking the little bugs have infiltrated me all the way from inside my throat to down on my ankles and on to seeing but never hearing numerous mice scampering just past the corner of my eye, and then on farther still to the overwhelming toxicities of regional, national, and world affairs. But that has always been so.

All in al, though some things about my invaluable mechanism could be better, many, many more could be much worse, and I couldn't be more aware and thankful than I am for that great, good fortune.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

God As Cable on Demand

For people who are attracted by the Sarah Palin Phenomenon, this article uses that hook to draw readers into a brief examination of the Pentacostal Movement as it stands today, and in the identities of the various offshoots into which it has morphed in recent times while still retaining its basic features, though actually there is very little said about Palin herself.

It would be an interesting and informative article if one had the patience and the interest to follow it through closely to the end, but I was not one of those people. I didn't need to be, because I consider myself to have figured out all that I ever needed to understand about Religion, which was so easy to do that I had managed it even before I became an adult, so long ago.

So to me, despite the warnings that this article tries to convey, Pentacostalism remains only as one of those things that a lot of people gather together to share but which do not merit any of my attention, much less my attendance. There are many such activities that are best avoided. Rock concerts, ball games, and marching in armies come quickest to mind.

And in fact, out of all the people that I believe I still know, though I rarely see any of them in person anymore, I can only think of one person who is a Pentacostal. She is R., the oldest daughter of S., another of our very interesting neighbors up beyond the bend, But I don't know why R. Is a Pentacostal, because I've never seen or heard her do or say anything that reflected her being really into it, or that would distinguish her from being in any other religion, and sometimes I wonder whether it's just something she got into to allow her to set herself apart from her mother and her three siblings. And she IS apart, though she can by no conceivable stretch of the imagination be considered to have arrived in Valhalla, because, unlike her mom and her siblings, who are all much more sensibly situated, even if unsteadily, right up the road, she lives in New Jersey.

I didn't think I had seen Pentacostalism anywhere in action, outside of niovies, though, as described in this article, I now realize that in the days when my dish was working (it's been broken for going on two years now) , I had seen snatches of it numerous times in all those religious channels that could never be avoided and that had caused me to marvel while calling it "Lounge Chair Religion." And that kind of thing must be what the author is speaking of when she speaks of God as being seen by the Pentacostals as being "cable on demand," dispenser of instant forgiveness and material prosperity. Is that a vestige of the Catholic institution of Confession, since Protestantism is an offshoot of Catholicism, and Tentacostalism is in turn an offshoot of Protestantism?

The marveling that I mentioned was due to seeing how the entire congregations of all those megachurches that I saw portrayed on the dish were esconsed in semi-reclining and well-padded individucal sitting devices, little different from what they would've used in their TV viewing rooms. I could never get over that sight -- so different from what I remembered of my own church-going days, which always, in the Big Church upstairs, featured high-backed wooden pews or benches that were definitely unfriendly to the backside and the back. though they were still a cut above the slatted folding chairs in the Little Church downstairs, where Sunday School took place.

I guess, at least in Pentacostalism, ideas have changed as to the dispositions in which the faituful are best placed, while receiving the Ultimate Messages relating to the Sky Chief.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Privatizing Virginia Liquor Stores

A candidate for Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell if I have his name right, hit on a way to take advantage of the state's current difficulties in funding much-needed transportation projects in its northern and eastern areas, by mixing in some basic Republican ideology, and that is to privatize the liquor store concession, which is run entirely by the state. So it's not surprising that, like privatizing in general, this is a bad idea.

When I moved from D.C. to Virginia several decades ago, one of the interesting differences was the liquor stores. Though it was hard to believe that Virginia had so fewer serious drinkers, there was hardly a liquor store to be seen, at least to know what it was. Nowhere to catch the eye were the garish displays of the D.C. booze sellers, whose exteriors left no doubt about the wares inside. Instead you had, and still have, "ABC stores," and they are precisely as rarely found and modestly signed as the Kingdom Halls of the Jehovah's Witnesses, so I am not really sure as to how Virginia imbibers keep themselves sufficiently stocked, though I'm sure that they do.

If the ABC store that I know anything about is typical, you go through a totally nondescript, spartan doorway and find yourself at the end of an elongated space, where all the bottles are in racks extending to the right, deep into the other end of the store, instead of the wares being behind counters as in the D.C. of my days there or maybe, for all I know, nowadays securely locked up behind stout plexiglass barriers.

Just beyond the ABC doorway sits a pair of simple cash registers, manned by women as often as not, who were never seen in the D.C. stores to my recollections, and never in the Virginia liquor places do you see the sweaty. sleazy-looking clerks of D.C. liquor stores, who somehow also managed to look as desperate as their clientele -- or so it always seemed to me.

And the ABC stores are quiet, and totally uncrowded. In fact, whenever I've gone in there over the years to get my usual fifth of Applejack brandy, made in Virginia and which I measure out in the bottle's cap, one a night most nights, to flavor my ice cream and that's all -- usually I've been the only customer in there, and the place has a cool, calm solemnity. It's all business, cut to the bone. You pick what you want from the racks, carry the bottles to the cash registers, and hand the cashier cold cash -- no checks or the like wanted. Just cash on the barrelhead.

All in all, the Virginia ABC stores are pretty wild, and they're perfect. They're a great Quality of Life thing, and I don't know why anyone would want to do away with that.

Hard drugs, which, if robbed of their profitabitlty by being made legal, would wreak far less havoc generally speaking than alcohol ever could, should be sold in the same way. But this is such a sensible idea and the level of ignorance about "controlled substances" is so abysmally high that no one would ever have the temerity to think of it, much less to suggest it and to do things to bring it about, despite all the good that doing so would reap for the society.

Meanwhile I don't see how privatizing the Virginia liquor stores would gain any money in the long run, as they are so are so lacking in frills of any kind that they must be very low cost to keep going. I guess there would be mostly a big initial bonanza as commercial interests would rush in to take advantage of the opportunities left behind by the 330 departed ABC stores. But beyond that things would soon descend into some very un-Virginia-like squalor in short order.

Proposals nevertheless keep being made to privatize Virginia's public sector liquor stores, but they keep being voted down, even by a few otherwise staunch Republicans.

This is one more instance of how modern life reduces one to living in a permanent state of keeping one's fingers crossed, lest the forces of Darkness win out over the Light, as they so constantly try to do, and to which the U.S. in particular seems condemned, because it took that legacy too lightly from the beginning.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Modern Invention -- the Jarion Extremity Cradle

When I was a kid back in the 30's and 40's, the idea of invention was big time stuff. I have no clear memory or evidence to back this up. It is just a strong impression that I still have. Maybe this just seemed to be that way to me because it was something that seemed to be well worth doing, but there must've been several occasions or situations or something to bolster that feeling. Maybe some show on the radio. But as with so many great notions encountered at an early age, I never got around to following through on this.

I mean doing the whole invention bit, starting with seeing a need for some device and convincing one's self that nobody else has thougtt of it yet, though as early as the age of 10 I sensed the absolute folly of thinking that that could be possible with anything and anybody. With all these billions of people in the world, how could anything at all be conceived that hasn't already occurred to somebody somewhere, and often hundreds of years ago at that? And anyway, going on with the process of building a model, then making the device, testing it, becoming convinced that it's a winner, and then heading for the Patent Office.

The closest I got was, once in a great while I would make some device that would help with some project in which I was engaged. For instance I invented a certain kind of painting easel that cost very little money to make and that did the job, even on the big heavy masonite panels that I used back in the days when I didn't take seriously the idea of growing too old to want to handle those heavy monsters, a time that turned out to be right around the corner. I made two of them, but there was really nothing special about those easels, except to me, and except that they can be easily made out of left-over lumber. They definitely are for a studio and can't be carried around for a little session out in the woods and fields.

More than once I may have also invented things to help with beekeeping, especially in the honey extraction. I figured out a way to make a neat uncapping box out of a brood chamber, and another time I made a--

Well, it would help if I could remember what I had in mind there. I ran across it in my beekeeping gear not long after I stopped keeping bees, and I was shocked to discover that though I could remember making it, by modifying a super used to make chunk honey, I had completely forgotten in that short a time what the purpose of it was. And to this day I still haven't figured out that one.

But you should see what I've rigged up for my stained glass grinders and my ring saw, to keep the water and the ground-up glass away from my person.

I've said all this to work up to the good news that my great friend and neighbor right up the road, G. J., has realized one of my dreams of inventing something. He joined up with one of his co-workers in the radiology department at the big U.Va Hospital in Charlottesiville, and they saw an important need, and they worked out just how it should go, and G. contracted with another neighbor, T.W., who is in fact my next-door neighbor to the west, with about a quarter-mile of woods between, whom I haven't seen in years and who has a sheet metal shop. T.W.fabricated the device out of stainless steel so neatly that it looks like an artist's sculpture, and to look at it, you might have trouble figuring out that it has a very practical and useful medical purpose.

It's called the "Jarion Extremity Cradle," and you can see and read about it here. My mind balks badly when it comes to medical details, but as nearly as I can make out, it is used for elevating the limbs of patients when they are being x-rayed or undergoing a number of other medical procedures. The "Jarion" is an amalgam of the names of the two inventors. They won a big prize for making this device, given by the U.Va. Hospital, and now they are trying to sell it to other hospitals,

I definitely wish them well. I would buy one myself, for my tiny collection of art objects and because G. did it, but I'm guessing that owning the Jarion isn't covered by Medicare, so I'll just have to settle for saying I know the artist.

I was a little envious when I heard about this and actually saw the device. The picture in the web site doesn't do the cradle justice, encumbered as it is with somebody's leg on it. But as an art object standing alone it is the very model of simplicity and mystery. And I was also glad to see that the art of invention is alive and well and exists so close to me, geographically speaking, and I was grabbed with that ancient urge.

So let's all go out and invent something!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tough Day, Stomach-Wise

This morning I awoke with a bad stomach-ache, and by 10 it had worsened, with more pain and then periods of nausea and throwing up, and I couldn't eat anything. Everything that I had just eaten kept coming up, but all the older stuff stayed down there and just kept jumping up and down. And right in the middle of all that two very nice ladies knocked on my door. They were Jehovah's Witnesses, and I had been guessing that they would soon be around again, and that would've been fine, but not at such a moment, and it was all I could do to look friendly and keep from telling them that I was sick.

I also didn't want to have to tell my wife that I was ill. She is still down in Florida, on the 18th day of her month's stay down there, visiting relatives, and I am a grown man several times over now, and I should be able to make it on my own for a mere month, though some might say that I am so many times over that I'm now well down on that downward slope, to where I am no more competent to manage things on my own than I was on the upward pull so many decades ago.

For instance food is definitely a problem, and it could be that not eating enough of it had an effect on this problem. Knowing when to eat and how much is so much beyond me that it comes in handy to have someone around who can keep better track of it, and there is only one such person available, my wife, and she's not here right now..

My distress had to be caused by food-poisoning, though I hadn't eaten anything questionable lately. Now, however, I've decided that I might very well have poisoned myself while doing my stained glass projects, at which I've been heavily active during my wife's absence. The work involves using two toxic chemicals, flux and patina, that get in touch with my bare hands, and though I've tried to be extra-diligent in washing my hands over and over, still it's possible that some might have gotten on the popcorn that I bought a few days ago and always end up getting my hands sticky with the butter or whatever is on it. So I guess I'' have to take the popcorn and also the potato chips out of the shop.

I also suspect the fumes from soldering that I try to keep blown away from me by a big fan, but I don't always remember to turn it on.. Stained glass solder is 60% tin and 40% lead. That just so happens to be exactly the same percentage of Democrats and Republicans currently in the U.S. Senate, and also with exactly the same degrees of toxicity.

But fortunately, after about four hours of suffering, the pain went away, and soon I was able to eat and drink and keep down the easiest things I could think of -- a piece of cake and some milk with honey in it -- and now I am having soup for dinner with no bad effects.

Meanwhile, a little earlier, as I was walking up the hill late in the afternoon to pick up my mail, I saw water flowing in quantity, out from under my workshop, though it was a clear, bright day.

My jerry-built plumbing connection above the shop sink had come loose, but luckily, instead of flooding my former darkroom as it had always done in the past, this time all the water went into the sink and from there down to where it drains out on the ground under shop, watering some roses and clematis along the way. But it had been doing that for about five hours straight -- far too much wear and tear on the well pump that I had installed with so much difficulty last Fall. It took only a second to cut the water off with a valve inside the shop, and due to the nausea, pain, and weakness, I had been in the shop hardly at all that day.

I wonder what kind of day tomorrow is going to be. I have important things to do.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What the GOP Requires of Al Franken

Sometimes the arrogance of those who espouse the Republican cause is so breathtaking that it actually is a threat to one's health. The sentiment implied by the headline of this recent article in the Wall Street Journal is a great example.

This article came out just a day or two after Al Franken's Republican opponent, Norm Coleman, finally ran out of ways to carry on his tactic of using the molasses pace of the legal system, in this case the Minnesota courts, to deny Al Franken the right to take the U.S. Senate seat that had been obviously his for several months already.

Now. after all that, and after the long career that Franken had previously made of rightfully lambasting the type of people that would now be sitting right across the aisle from him, and despite the fact that Franken's arrival would shrink the number of those Republicans in the Senate even more, to just 40 of the 100 seats, and after those men in charge of Republican Congressional election affairs had encouraged Coleman to stretch out the Franken ordeal as long as possible even after all was plainly lost, somebody at the Wall Street Journal writes as if to say, "Forget that. What matters is that we Republicans are still in charge, and so the very first thing that Al Franken must do is to start trying to win us over."

What! Before Franken has even walked into the U.S. Capitol, found out where the U.S. Senators hang out, found out what the rules and customs are, found out where his office is, found out whether the toilet and the light switches work, gotten his staff all picked out and in place, and, above all, refreshed his memory on what he meant to do when he got there, the very first thing he must do is to win over a bunch of guys who deeply resent every second that he is on the premises?

It is hard to imagine a more futile and ridiculous task.

First and last it would be beyond even Al Franken's comedic skills to win those guys over. Those 40 remaining G.O.P. Senators are -- for the most part -- a group of wolves that run all together in a tightly knit, snarling, and ever-snapping pack, and they would see Al Franken only as a large hare that they would like to bring down and tear asunder at the earliest opportunity, especially in light of the attitude that he had displayed so constantly toward their side of things.

But everything depends on what approach Franken decides to take. Most likely he intends to keep a low profile for a while, as befits any newcomer to the Senate. But I hope that doesn't mean that eventually he will surrender most of his earlier good instincts, in favor instead of catering to the well-known clubbiness of that chamber.

If I were Al Franken I wouldn't be too excited about entering that "august body," if what he had been up until this moment ever meant anything to him, and the biggest threat to that would be the gang of malcontents who so smugly wait for him to try to win them over. Even in the best of cirumstances, the U.S. Senate is not a good place to keep up one's spiritual health.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Eulogy, Maybe

The other day something happened to the blood pumping organ called the heart inside the body of Michael Jackson, best known to me as the brother of Janet Jackson, a cute singer who in turn is best known to me because while performing at an event having to do with, I believe, a Superbowl football game of some years ago, she experienced having one or maybe both -- I don't know, not having seen the pics -- of her twin frontal appendages that, as in the case of all women, so admirably protect her heart plus her lungs as well as serving other useful purposes, laid bare to the grateful view I think I can say of as much as half of the known world. This happened because, whether by design or by accident, another performer onstage with her at the time, a man named Justin Timberlake, applied too much force while yanking her blouse during his delivery, and ever since then, just to show how buried in various bigotries large sectors of American thought still are trapped, legal threats continue to be uttered, over what I do not know nor can I fathom, and all I know is that the great "crime" of partially uncovering the lady's upper torso on TV is invariably placed not at the feet of the person who yanked the blouse but instead against Janet J., the victim, maybe because she is a female -- or because her melanin count is not seen to be as desirable as that of the Timberlake guy.

But anyway, as I was trying to say, a few weeks ago the heart of J. Jackson's brother, M. Jackson, either thought it needed to take some time out or was prompted to do so by other sectors of his body, in a process probably helped along by M. Jackson's own powers of misperception, which he had already demonstrated several times during his time on earth, most notably when while still a young man he paid good money to have plastic surgery performed to change his face from the natural one of a Rainbow man, to which the appearance of his sister offers clues, because her ship apparently maintains a more even keel than did her sibling's, and that has allowed her to keep her face largely as it always was, and she is still alive, while he instead had his altered to the unnatural one of a Rainbow who hoped to be taken for being a Euro man, with an outcome that was even more predictable than was the placement of the blame for the Timberlake Superbowl tug, namely that all too soon thereafter M. Jackson might have been thought to have cast himself in the lead role of Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray," or maybe, because of the liking for shades, H.G. Wells' "The Invisible Man," and in all the countless glowing testimonials to M. Jackson, one will hear few if any references to his most startling and baffling act as "The Man Who Ordered the Assassination of His Own Face."

And anyway, as I was about to say, suddenly not long ago at a mansion that M. Jackson was renting though he owned a 2,600-acre ranch somewhere, and probably close by, called "Neverland," after 50 years of constant and unusually profitable operation, the heart of M. Jackson suddenly missed several consecutive beats too many, and though a doctor was close by, help was slow in coming because, though M. Jackson was apparently the heart of millions, including the President of the United States, no one in that mansion could quickly tell the people with the defibrillators and things the street address of that edifice. And this flew also in the face of the fact that M. Jackson himself should've known about the importance of always keeping up the beat, and he may even have recorded a celebrated song called "Beat It," because he, like his sister and seemingly everyone else in his outsized family, was a musician, and a proficient one at that, as I have been told interminably through the years, though I came along too soon to appreciate not only his sound but also that of his many siblings, including J. Jackson's, after finding that the space music of the 1960's and afterward better emulated the beautiful and mysterious sounds that had presented themselves all through my childhood earlier, like a constant film score underlying all the essential drama of existence.

But I digress -- that malfunction of M. Jackson's auricles or ventricles and what-not had the least desirable result, and now, as a country and as a planet, and as in the case of Elvis Presley, we are all doomed henceforth never to hear the end of it.

I wonder if M. Jackson would've liked it that way, or whether he and his blood pump had finally gotten thoroughly tired of the endless beat and throb of all his tremendous celebrity and all the controversy of likewise monstrously excessive proportions.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Peculiar Aroma

Quite often in the Summer, especially a day or two after a rain, the woods here have a strong scent of buckwheat pancakes. It must have mostly to do with all the tons of decomposing oak, hickory, water maple, tulip poplar, sourwood, and other kinds of leaves.

Imagined Conversation No. 1 -- Disaffection

"President Obama has not done something that I very much think he should do. Or he has done something that I deeply disapprove of. So, in disgust, I am leaving the Democratic Party."

"But President Obama is not the Democratic Party."

"He's not?"

". . . Does this mean, then, that you're joining the Republicans?"

"No, not at all. I still am very much on the side of progressive causes, and I had thought that the Democratic Party believed in them, too, which was why I was in their camp. But now, no more, and I think that instead a third party is the answer."

"Third parties, or four or even more, are a worthwhile dream, but I think they're a dream only. It seems to me that it is the nature of any political system to be a duality of, generally speaking, liberal vs. conservative, and that's it. Look for instance at Canada. It has long had an operating, progressive third party, but the New Democrats have almost never had a chance to dominate the Parliament and to choose the Prime Minister. And look at the constant turmoil in those countries that have multiple parties, where elections are just the first step, and after that more campaigns have to be waged to form ruling coalitions that, however, end up falling just as short as anything else."

"But at least then in a third party or a fourth or however many it takes, I will have been true to my principles, and that's what matters to me, and I had thought it would to you, too."

"Sorry, I just think that the Democratic Party is still the best chance, and it's better to stay in there and, if necessary, even try to subvert it, instead of wandering in the wilderness, which everybody who jumps the ship condemns themselves to do, because I think that now and for a long time to come, an effective third party in the U.S. is just a pipe dream, and even if one of those could form and have enough substance to last for a while, it would be just as subject to various distortions as any other party."

"Nevertheless I'm mad as hell, and, as the man said in that movie, I'm not going to take it any more."

"But you will, because that's what wandering in the political wilderness involves. In case you don't know, you heard it here first -- a man should never do or say anything when he's angry, or else he'll do something dumb nearly every time."

"Bullflop. And anyway, are you calling me 'dumb' now?"

"No. Just that ... you're not well. because anger is just another form of illness. You have to admit, don't you, the results will definitely be dumb -- all that applause you'll get from the Republicans because you dumped the Democrats."

"That may be, but all the same, at this point I just don't care anymore, about any of it.."

"Yes, you surely don't care. So, to what address should I send the card?"

"What card?"

"Your 'Get Well' card."

Friday, July 10, 2009

What! No Beetles Yet?

The Rose of Sharons, the big bushes or small trees that are also known as Hibiscus and also Althea, have started blooming. Whenever I see that, I know that the legions of Japanese beetles can't be far behind and in fact may already be trying to reduce the beautiful blossoms three or even four inches across to ragged little droplets of leftover color. So it's a miracle this year -- so far -- to see the Rose of Sharon blooms with not one hole eaten in them or any beetles deep in each flower, huddled against the bases of the antlers and ready to get on with their wholesale wrecking work.

What is happening? Is it too early to look for them? Last year was a miracle, too. The beetles arrived but they were late and never reached their usual huge numbers, but I think that at least a few had arrived by this time. Was last winter too tough for them? Or have the same voles that made me put all my bearded irsies in pots instead of it in the ground been responsible? But I think of voles as being vegetarians and not underground eaters of the beetle grubs, as moles are.

Anyway I never thought I'd see the Rose of Sharons being able to do their thing as well as they are doing now, and I wish I knew what to thank.

Getting One at Pamplona

Yesterday the bulls finally got another one at the festival that is held every year in Pamplona, in Spain. The doer of the deed was named Capuchino. He is being called a "rogue bull" because he hooked a 27-year old Spanish guy in the neck as the man, who had already been gored though more lightly moments earlier, was trying to get away as fast as he could by crawling under a wooden barrier, and the bleeding caused by Capuchino's final thrust came too quickly and too generously. But Capuchino had merely gotten separated from the other bulls, and that caused him to lose his cool and to get more serious about bulling his way out of there, instead of just running with the pack.

Trying to put the best face on things, so as not to hurt the popularity of the festival, the reports on the man's death are playing around with words, by saying that it was the first goring death at Pamplona in nearly 15 years. But in 2003, only six years ago, another man, who happened to be 63 -- the reckless at Pamplona are not all young -- was sent into a coma by being trampled in the head by a bull, and he died a few months later, and the question I ask is, what is the difference between being gored and being trampled in the head, when the end result is the same?

The running of the bulls at Pamplona is one of my favorite sports. I take part in it faithfully every decade or whenever it comes to my attention. I do this from my eminently sensible front row seat at home in Virginia, thousands of miles to the west of Pamplona. And in that contest between the human public and the thundering bulls through that town's narrow streets lined with thousands of obviously drunken people mostly dressed in white and wearing red neckerchiefs, with a great many of them, all males quite naturally, taking turns running just ahead of the bulls, it's a miracle that the bulls don't score higher fatality-wise, and instead usually they settle for ordinary injuries that have to happen during such close contact of mobs of highly excited men with a juggernaut of equally excited bulls on a stampede to where they do now know, except that it's always straight ahead.

Bullfights leave me cold, because they are so ritualized, and because they almost always result in the death of the bull, and because it redounds to the credit of "sports heroes" called matadors who are armed with concealed weapons in the form of swords about which the bulls have not been informed, and I thought that Ernest Hemingway went way overboard in his endless praise of the activity, in what nevertheless has to be his best book, "Death in the Afternoon."

But the running of the bulls at Pamplona is something else, because -- especially if you already have an excessive amount of good wine coursing through your head and your blood stream --there the public, far from being spectators, can jump down into the arena and actually take part by running or staggering or whatever just ahead and to the sides of not one but dozens of bulls who have been sent charging down a long series of streets. It must be intensely exhilirating to tempt the fates like that, especially with loads of senoritias watching admiringly from the balconies overhead, just as Goya pictured the mayas in their seductive mantillas, in his paintings of several hundred years ago. And I suppose that it must even amount to a lifetime of glory to be one of the few to be sent from this world in that manner.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Closing Rest Stops

In two weeks Virginia will close, temporarily it is hoped, 18 rest stops, to save money.

The amount saved will be 9 million dollars. What does that come to as a fraction of the 2.6 billion by which the Virginia money coming in is expected to fall short of the money that has to go out?

Yet people are still pushing to have the state spend money to build more prisons.

Rest stops are much to be preferred over prisons. They improve the quality of life much more than prisons do. Though I don't drive on them nearly as much I used to -- it's been almost 10 years since I last set a wheel on one -- I still feel confident in asking what would an interstate be without a bunch of rest stops?

An excuse for this move is that the state has rest stops that are no longer needed, because they have been supplanted by commercial enterprises that can be found at the interchanges.

But those are no substitutes, because state rest stops have the huge virtue of being there strictly for a couple of basic purposes that have no commercial aspects at all. They are great examples of government at its best, which comes when it is doing something for the public good instead of for the benefit of corporate sectors, and usually the two have no connection and instead run counter to each other, usually at the expense of the public.

So, in two weeks, drive the unfriendlier highways, near here at least.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Laboratories Run Amuck

Scientists in Britain claim to have found a way to make human sperm.

Why would they want to do that? Isn't there already far more than enough of that already floating around?

The rest of life on the Earth would answer the latter question with a loud and resounding "YES!"

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Small Difference in Time -- Cabeza de Vaca

What a difference a few years make!

Nearly 500 years ago, in 1528, a large party of Spanish land-grabbers and believers bringing the Good News was driven ashore by the familiar hurricanes near what is now Tampa, Florida, and, as all the Spanish newly arrives did, they promptly set about ripping off the native population, calling themselves "trading" stuff like beads and broken pieces of pottery for food and, preferably at first but not for long, gold. The Spanish carried a lot of weapons, armor, horses, and crosses but not enough food, and for eats they depended on these 'trades," but more often on the use of outright force. But the party of about 300, of which a man named Cabeza de Vaca was the treasurer, was too large for the food supply as it then existed in that part of the Florida Gulf Coast,and that was the beginning of their downfall.

Their story is to me one of the most dramatic chapters in all of American history, because of those original 300, only four emerged from the wilderness eight (8) long years later and thousands of miles away, far over near the Baja Peninsula in Mexico and not far from California. One was Cabeza de Vaca, and another was a Moorish slave from Africa named Estabanico. For all those years they had meandered -- it can't be said that they hiked, because hikers usually move in reasonably straight lines -- generally westward across the underbelly of the American South and the Southwest, undergoing all sorts of interesting experiences and deprivations and escapes while dealing with the numerous tribes along the way and eating things that hadn't been part of their cuisine since they had been tiny tots sampling bugs and dirt.

In this process, first they trekked a little northward and then they turned west and passed right by where Left-Leaning Lady's newly refurbished house now sits, in what she calls Florida's "Redneck Riviera." And much farther on, near Steve Bates' haunts in Houston, Cabeza spent several years as a slave of some of the tribesmen on the island where Galveston, Texas now sits, during which he and other Spanish empire-builders devoted all their days to unceremoniously digging roots of some unnamed variety out of the shallows. (The Spanish made no attempt to drop by Minnesota where Rook hangs out, probably because it had too much water and too many trees to suit any right-thinking Castilian, and the Sioux and the Mandans were glad of that.)

Ironically, among other things, though they probably brought with them diseases that took out their share of the local tribes in the first place, in time Cabeza and his fellow survivors were literally forced by the tribesmen into becoming doctors or faith-healers, which they did successfully, using various Catholic prayers and what-not that the Indians found to be effective.

I thought of de Vaca and his comrades a couple of mornings ago when, during a phone call to my wife down in that same area of Florida where she is now and which he and the rest of his party found to be so inhospitably short of things to eat, a pickup truck loaded with watermelons, okra, and tomatoes came around and unloaded so much of these desirable edibles on my wife and her stepfather free of charge that she tried to get the givers to keep some of it. The second planting of such crops has already been made there, and much more will come later.

Well, there's no need to feel superior. If I were to wash up on those shores today, I would likewise be dependent on the pickup trucks and the stores. This is because, though I know perfectly well how to grow edibles of many kinds, there wouldn't be enough time before I would be in the same serious trouble as those would-be conquistadores.

But I have options, in place of which the Cabeza party mainly had chutzpah, and huge amounts of it, too, though still not enough for the great majority of them to see Andalusia and other such places ever again. Unluckily for the tribes, however, there were still far too many Spanish still in Spain, waiting to take their shots at sailing over and milking the New World.

The moral of this story is never to go anywhere unless you are absolutely sure of being able to get enough to eat once you get there, and also to be aware that Tennessee Williams' great line, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers," doesn't apply if being unkind is a big part of your agenda. Or, as was so wisely emblazoned on the front of Union Station in Washington, D.C. (I hope it is still there), "Those who would gain the wealth of the Indies must bring the wealth of the Indies with them."

Monday, July 06, 2009

Pulling Up the Ladder Again -- Health Care Reform

A couple of times recently, the computer that picks out the items on Google News has highlighted Letters to the Editor, maybe as published in various newspapers, though i believe the two I have seen were both from the NY Times. Can posts from weblogs as sensationally obscure as this one be far behind? Actually I have seen several posts from weblogs, some time ago.

The last Letter I saw was from a lady who recommended going easy on all the concerns with health care insurance reforms, and instead health care itself is what should be discussed, I guess as if the insurance does not even exist.

That sounds eminently practical and sage, but -- in this country at least -- generally it is difficult if not impossible to get most kinds of health care without paying for it to a greater or lesser extent, and that means acting ahead of time and setting aside for a rainy day or gambling on getting sick or working for a thoughtful employer or however one defines the situation of having health insurance. When one goes for health care, the first thing said is, "Show me your health care insurance card," and without one a person feels completely naked and vulnerable to all sorts of indignity. So right now it keeps coming down to making reforms in health care insurance that ensure that everyone who needs it can get health insurance and thus health care, and that the people who provide the care are suitably reimbursed.

But the trouble with making reforms in health care insurance, especially in making sure that no one is left uninsured, is that one runs up against the same kind of situation that leaves so many problems of American life only partly solved, and that is that you're asking the fox, "What about the chickens?" And in health care the fox consists of too many of the people who already have adequate health care insurance.

People who have something of value, however achieved, have a way of being less than zealous about helping others arrive in the same fortunate circumstances. It's the "Pulling up the Ladder Syndrome" yet again, that is seen over and over in other areas of endeavor from coast to coast.

In the past people who have gotten comfortable in beautiful and less populated Oregon have not welcomed Californians who want to move in with them. A prospector who has struck gold gets very uneasy when soon afterward other prospectors arrive and new claims pop up all around him. People who enjoy full civil rights are not happy about seeing those who were forced to be servile to them achieving the same rights, and, out of much the same overwhelming desire to think well about one's self, which usually involves feeling uncharitable toward others so that the glaring contrasts can be maintained, rich people are not overjoyed at seeing formerly poor people climbing into their ranks, and they snort such objections as saying that the undeserving are being given things that normally have to worked for, and so forth. And one of the great menaces seen nowadays are so-called illegal immigrants, loudly voiced by people whose ancestors in former times were themselves seen as being illegal immigrants in someone's eyes.

And because the foxes are in such numbers and have a lot of influence, especially by voting, and are so determined to keep things arranged so as to favor them above others, the problems remain seemingly intractable, so that attempted U.S. reforms in health care insurance have already failed at least twice in the last two decades.

We can see that happening in the responses of those who have health care insurance and are opposed to having changes made so that others can have it as well, and one of their tactics is to neatly combine this lack of concern for those 40 or 50 million who have no health insurance at all, with playing on anti-immigrant fears by charging that 20 percent of the uninsured are illegal immigrants.

Or those who have insurance act as if health care is finite, and as if, if more health care is furnished to others, less of it of the same quality will become available to those with insurance, and they complain about the costs of the proposals being made, yet they don't hesitate to approve spending trillions of dollars for weapons of mass destruction and large armadas designed to deliver this death and destruction -- always to lesser folk overseas.

A man named Johnathan Cohn who has looked at the health care crisis extensively says the following about research he did on health care in Holland and in France:

"...In the course of a few dozen lengthy interviews, not once did I encounter an interview subject who wanted to trade places with an American. And it was easy enough to see why. People in these countries were getting precisely what most Americans say they want: Timely, quality care. Physicians felt free to practice medicine the way they wanted; companies got to concentrate on their lines of business, rather than develop expertise in managing health benefits. But, in contrast with the US, everybody had insurance. The papers weren’t filled with stories of people going bankrupt or skipping medical care because they couldn’t afford to pay their bills. And they did all this while paying substantially less, overall, than we do."

Sunday, July 05, 2009

More Praise for Trees

The good news today is that this morning the Forces Above have again been favoring us by dropping some rain. This comes on the heels of a thunderstorm late in the evening a few days ago that broke a period when things had started making it necessary to start watering various plants.

With global warming ever looming, anything is good that goes against the possibility of creating anything that even remotely suggests those worst results of the lack of water -- deserts.

I have yet to read or to hear of any study that praises deserts and touts their usefulness, and I don't see how there can be any doubt that the nasty tempers that rage everywhere in the Middle East are due to more than just obsession with religion or the crusades of Christians. It is caused mainly by the treelessness there.

This certainty calls into additional question the decision of the survivors of the German death camps of the 1940's to take up residence in that least desirable part of the world's geography.

Unless a group is interested in evolving into scorpions, to set up shop in places where tall trees don't grow is asking for trouble every time.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Non-Revolutionary American Revolution

Today is just the right but reckless time to say that the American Revolution has never rung quite true to me, and this doubt started with questions that refused to go away, about why the Revolutionary War was held in the first place.

The Declaration of Independence clearly says why it was held. The British, as personified by its then king, George III, were guilty of all kinds of constraints on the freedoms of the American colonists, and therefore the Declaration was made to announce that the colonists had ceased to see themselves as British subjects, and instead they were now citizens of a newly formed country of their own.

That's all well and good, but was the yoke of London that onerous upon Boston in Massachusetts and Williamsburg in Virginia as the Declaration made things out to be? That's not so clear.

What violated freedoms were the so-called revolutionaries talking about? Mainly it boils down to two that should still be familiar to us today. In the northern colonies it was taxes, and in the southern it was human rights, which to the colonists included the right to hold people as slaves. So, simply put, in the North the colonists wanted no taxes at all, but if taxes were needed, they wanted the remittances to go into their own coffers and not overseas to the British, and in the South the colonists wanted to be assured that freedom would never be extended to its slaves brought over Africa.

And so it was done.

The northern complaint was much more reasonable than the southern, but as it was hard to do anything against the British without the South, the northerners went along. And just a few years later, in 1805 or thereabouts, the British abolished slavery wherever it still had authority and started intercepting slave ships, but in the U.S. slavery continued uninterrupted for decades longer, and eventually became a big boil that burst into the Civil War, during which slavery finally ended in the U.S., though the resentments over it continue to this day.

So was the American Revolution a revolution at all, when its motives were not that revolutionary, and, furthermore, when it didn't occur between the forces that are usually present in revolutions? True revolutions take place between two groups of citizens of the same country and on the home soil. Look, for instance, at the French Revolution that preceded the American, and at the Russian Revolution and the Cuban Revolution. In those revolutions no new nations were formed. Most of the French stayed in France, when they weren't following Napoleon around hassling the rest of Europe, and there was no New France outside of France. Most of the Russians stayed in Russia, when they weren't recoiling during and after World War 2, and there was no new Russia outside Russia. And most of the Cubans stayed behind in Cuba, and there has been no new Cuba, outside of a neighborhood in Miami. But in the American case, the forces didn't fight in the British Isles. All the fighting took place in distant North America, and there a big new country was formed and started growing by such leaps and bounds that quite soon it dwarfed Great Britain.

Or rather, the U.S. had already existed for a while before the Declaration, and with the War it finally emerged into plain sight with all the trappings of new nationhood, with its own capital, its own political system, its own currency, and, if I might also say, its own language, plus all the rest of the bit.

So, looked at in that way, the American Revolution was not a revolution at all. It was instead just another war between what had already become two distinctly different countries, fought by one nation to kick out another country's gendarmes, who had overstayed their leave but didn't know it.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The S. Palin Resignation

Sarah Palin, the "Hail Mary" play that John McCain resorted to during his recent run for President, by picking her as his running mate, surprised everybody today by resigning as governor of Alaska.

In these first moments of the announcement, the experts are badly divided on this move. Some think that it frees her to put more effort into running for President. Others think it will ruin her politically.

Often we do things for not one but a bunch of reasons, and I think that's the case here.

This gives her much more freedom and flexibility to do her political thing, and for that she didn't need to be in Alaska, as the governor or for any other purpose.

Also now she no longer needs to keep taking all those flights over unfriendly stuff like mountains, glaciers, and water.

Also she can sound more genuine than do most politicians when they step back so drastically from something, if she should speak about wanting to spend more time with her family.

Finally, now she can seem to be more a part of the country by even moving to somewhere in the Lower 48 and for the first time taking a good look around.

Right now I'm betting on California for her. Utah and Idaho would be too obvious.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Fate of a Hermit

I haven't posted much here in recent days.

I'm still writing as much as ever, but lately all that effort is going into some of my Great Unfinished Novels. And that is proceeding pretty well for a guy who will be 78 in a few weeks. My mental still is working well enough that I can compose the majority of what I want to write ahead of time in my head, and so I am able to keep up the flow from my head to the keyboard with surprising fluency and variety for two or three hours at a stretch, and in fact, after I get tired of typing and have to stop, my mind doesn't stop working. Instead it just keeps on churning out stuff for hours more, and to deal with that I have to resolve not to sweat out forgetting and so losing something permanently. The chances are still good that I will remember most of it during the next session the next night. Most of this writing takes place in the wee hours after midnight, in my life which consists of many short stretches of activity punctuated by brief naps that can't be considered to be real sleep, when I'm not doing other things, like tending to my chores and mainly trying to finish the very difficult second stained glass pane of the nine involved in my big "Iris Window."

Another thing that's happening to constrain my weblogging is that though the news still prompts me to say something, recently it hasn't done so well enough to move me to actually type some comment. The national and the world scenes seem to me to be taking naps of their own, from which they may or may not awaken before nightfull.

Still another reason had to do with my wife's trip to Florida, to spend a month looking in on her many relatives down there and also on mine -- two second cousins about my age whom I have been close to all my life.

She arrived in Florida safely last night, driving the Cadillac that she inherited from her mother, and so it has started, my stay here with only the one cat and the squirrels and the numerous birds to keep me company.

Before she left, my wife did a great job of stocking the kitchen with so much of my kind of food that she called herself an "enabler," and she said that she was enabling me to keep on being a hermit, with the strong possibility of not having to drive anywhere to get anything till she got back, except maybe to get milk.

But that brings up what had been bothering me. Because of my nearly pathological reluctance to go out on the road, and because the few relatives I have are far away in other states, and because the many friends I have here are all deeply immersed in their own lives and I don't see anything of them for weeks at a time, this means that now days will go by when I won't see or hear from any other human beings, and that in turn means that if something really serious were to happen and I am unable to get to a phone or anything, it would be more days before that situation would be discovered.

This applies only to the house. For some reason I am not at all concerned about anything that could happen in the woods, in my garden, or in my workshop.

My wife has said that she and I will talk to each over the phone every day, but I won't hold her to that. I know where her mind goes when she gets down there among all her friends and family that are such a big part of her life. "Out of sight, out of mind," you know. She has taken numerous long absences before, and I survived all those without any trouble. Should a few more years added to me this time make things any different now?

So there it is. I just have to promise myself not to climb any trees, fight any bears, or stick my fingers into any electrical outlets, and though these woods undoubtedly are teeming with nice Argentine ladies well versed in the art of the tango, they must be doing so only up beyond the first bend in the road.

So I will just have to let events work themselves out in their own sweet way. But that's what I've done anyway, not all the time, but most of the time, and generally that's been okay. ...Generally...