All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Day --an Unresolved Day

Let's face it, we all have them --at least I hope I'm not the only one. They begin like any other day --deceptive, capricious, full of  carouselling karma, maytagging molecules-- with scenes like this:
I was answering comments to a prior post. I got done, then dressed for errands. I wanted to go to the bank --in hopes they will someday give out free samples like grocery stores-- and drop by the grocery store for free samples . I fired up the Mazda. I fired up the Mazda again. The Mazda finally got out of the driveway. I stayed home:
You can tell I troubled to dress in my Monday best. I said, "Bye Mazda, have a nice expensive vacation. See you next weekend."
I walked back up our lane, feeling low and mean, then saw the rusty '71 VW Bus with vines growing over it.  "What the heck?" I thought and climbed in. Turned the ignition key and the old thing roared into life --despite all the time I'd neglected it. 


Time is many things at many levels of reality, but it always is a measure of entropy. Entropy is the ongoing rate of disruption in a closed system --like a car, like me. Cars are only partially conscious, but we get ringside seats.  Time turns us into things we've never been before. No wonder I had to go sit down in the bus, I was jumpy--dreading another surprise from time.

I took Bus to the corner store. Gassed her up and bought us each a bottle of Merlot --which of course she ceded back to me.
I poured one in the kitchen and checked what was coming in from Norma's Iphone. This:
Honestly, I don't know how she does it. No fancy camera, no special lenses, wild things just let her get close --in this instance, a couple inches.  She knows scenes like this get me breathing right again. Now it's late at night, and a half-glass of good Woodbridge Merlot gets me ready for bed, but it's the closing photo of a busy bee that will calm and sooth my head.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Right Rocks

Norma loves bricks.  She also dislikes straight lines. Along with gender, this is the major difference between us. I am a guy, and bricks are rectangular. Guys know brick walkways are supposed to be straight. It's like when we shop, we go straight to what we want and go straight to the checkout counter, then straight back to the car. Women don't. They wander all over a store, double back, circle around a few hours or days and finally find some item that was invented, marketed, stocked and sold while they looked for it. But I digress.

I have hauled bricks for walkways to this property for many years. Norma creates plans for the walkways. None are straight. All  are curvy. I protest emphatically. She says, "Set them as they are plotted."

I say, "But there will be gaps!"

She says, "Gaps will be filled when we find the right rocks." ,

I am always surprised at her answer. Surprise is psychological condition caused by dopamine, a neurotransmitter, carrying a compelling message through the brain: the extent to which a reward or punishment differs from expectation. It directly affects mood, memory, attention and cognition, and therefore qualifies as a vehicle of addiction, fear, strong emotional response, involuntary conditioning, slavish agreement, flight or fight, and the strange expression men get when they decide to uproot to tend an off-shore oil rig in Qatar. This is all due to a molecule, dopamine --the irreducible essence of what guys call "going apeshit". 

But then, after 48 years of marriage, I look into her eyes and ask myself, "Is this the face of someone who will always insist upon curvy brick walkways?"
And I must say yes. I will, however redirect your attention to the first photo and point out the fact she found the right rocks to fill the gaps. Moreover, I must --as a guy-- warn all other guys about dopamine and all molecules: Stay away from molecules! They are dangerous! Especially brain ones!

Saturday, March 10, 2018


In the summer of 1963, I was standing atop Parnell Tower with my siblings and cousins. Parnell tower is a 60-foot wooden observation tower in the Kettle Moraine State Forest.  The forest is flat, having been scraped ahead by a glacier. It is part of the Ice Age National Trail --where glaciers leveled Earth in search of the sea.

I suspect glaciers could think, but am not sure they were compassionate. They did, however, provide places for towers from which fluids could be discharged and observed --this of course was in 1963, when there was far less chance of people being below. I noticed droplets assumed a spherical shape which they maintained so long as they were falling weightless. I noticed this again 55 years later, in little, from a Normaphoto: 
 This illustration of spherical droplets required somewhat less altitude than can be achieved at Parnell Tower. Observe:
The little solar-powered fountain is presided over by a concrete goose who, in my capacity of Goose Repair Technician, received a new head in return for its future vigilance. I hope, someday, that same kindness will be conferred upon me.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Exposé Memoir!

Today is the closing day of February, a march in time. It is probably a good idea to write down some account of my memories and learning experiences from youth before they become vague and distorted. 

I went to high school a very very long time ago. Here is a photo of me running track. Earth had cooled; I was in good shape.

By the time I evolved into a mammal (puberty) I realized I had to stop eating slower creatures and consider a career.  I consulted a certified school career counselor who said, "Find a job you don't mind too much and everything will fall into place." 

My first job was cleaning teeth off the dance floor at the Coconut Grove Hall on Sunday mornings. Strangely, I tired of this and decided to go back to school --knowing I could never again believably disarm my enemies by shaking my fisted claw and roaring, "You can't insult me. I'm too damned ignorant!"

I began to learn, "He that troubles his own house shall inherit the wind (Proverbs, Ch 11, v 9)." This meant 2 things to me: strife in the home causes indigestion; indigestion causes wind.  By and by, extrapolation is inevitable: It is better for domestic life to go down the commode than back up out of it. I also learned what that little valve left of the pedestal is for!

I read. I read Westerns and learned what "drygulched" meant  --ambushed from above. Hoodwinked meant you could cry "Zounds, I've been hoodwinked!", which is sort of fun. But "hornswoggled" just sounded so pleasant to me, I'm not sure I'd mind. I am indebted, for much of my education, to Zane Grey --and to Norma, who took these photos in the woody end of our yard;
And under the trees I planted:
Beyond these cerebral enshrinements, there are numbers, 3 come to mind --BP, Cholesterol, Telephone-- that we should not forget. I have also found it useful to remember the answer to questions like this: In a leap-year, how many months contain 29 days? 

All of them.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

But Yes!

This is California. February. There should not be ice encasing Lamb's-ear leaves. But yes. There it is, a strangeness settling on the land. We have a leader who, for all good intentions he may have, looks as if he has digested himself and will implode, blast himself out backward, leaving only a ring --to be gilded and sold at auction. This level of tension is dangerous to stand behind, which is why the cabinet always stands arrears with mouths closed. There are also aides at ready to re-inflate the president with a bicycle pump.

But yes! I garrulate. I am near his age. My superpowers of prior years --flight, x-ray vision, invulnerability-- have left me. My final superpower was the ability to keep my mouth shut, but (yes!) I lost that somewhere too. Careless of me.

The balance of this essay concerns age. Here is how I feel when waking up in the morning. I don't know anything but am pretty sure I am a mammal, don't think about who is president or whether he or she has organized thoughts --what? 2 hours?-- ahead of me (consult a globe).  I look at the highboy in the bedroom corner. What is a highboy? It's a chest of drawers that was called that when I  was a a kid. I lay there and think: "Drawer spelled backward is Reward." But yes! Socks!

It has knobs. Knob spelled backward is Bonk! This bonks me back in time 10 years, when I had some surgery during which I unfortunately woke up. My skeleton got so scared it climbed out the incision and ran off down the road. It was apprehended a half-mile away trying hitchhike on the interstate. Good thing too.

By and by, I wake to my world --as it is now, and as I am. There is a region of agreement where I align my delirium to that of modern society. I feel compassion for my fellow humans, and for myself. Have you ever noticed how hard it is, after all the work you've done --after all the unkindnesses you've done to yourself to reach your goals of family, security, politics etc.-- to confer a little kindness on yourself?  But yes, me too!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Hamlet Under Almond Bough

"To be or not to be --that is the question:..." (Hamlet, act 3, scene 1). It seems insoluble, or so it has seemed to me since childhood. I began reading Shakespeare in 1963 and understood it was an important question. I turned 14 that year and was very fit --owing to the physical standards promoted in schools by the Kennedy administration. We were not strangers to tragedy, nor was Shakespeare. There comes a time at which one may become too fit. That is when we begin to think far beyond ourselves. A mere 55 years later, Norma showed me 3 of her photos, which resolved the question. Here is the 1st:

We are still invited to ask: To be or not to be? But are no closer to a solution. Therefore, under the almond blossoms we are tempted to repeat --perhaps with minds more opened... be?

It is at this point of enquiry we must examine the question itself. Is it phrased in such a way that it can be answered? Not easily. This is where semantics must be invoked. We must remove the object of the preposition in favor of an object of nature. "To be" must emerge into nature from its long tenure behind the Bard's brow. Given these grammatical modifications and simple addition, the answer is obvious:

                                      Two Bees.

Friday, February 9, 2018

In Advance of Lupercalia

I decided to post this in response to Robyn Alana Engel's  general invitation regarding opinions on the 2/14 celebration and, of course, chocolate.

This essay originally appeared in February of 2013 and was entitled
Romance Books, My Favorite Hot Parts but it seemed appropriate to trot it out again in observance of St. Valentine's Day. There are a few alterations  in  an  attempt  to "tighten it up" like I  was  taught to do in  school  but  they have largely failed. The serious questions and subject matter it deals with will doubtless withstand a few flaws in construction and research.

What is romance really, hah? Having got to another Valentine's Day, we still have little idea how it came to represent romance, especially since the saint it is named for didn't have any head --clearly not an ostentation of sentimentality. I am more inclined toward the Roman frolic it replaced, Lupercalia, which took place from February 13 through 15 and included the 14th --our modern Valentine's Day-- as a sort of recess reserved for apologizing to relatives and livestock and trying to stand up.
                                [The Lupercalian Festival in Rome (ca. 1578–1610), drawing, circle of Adam Elsheimer : Luperci dressed as dogs, goats, Cupid etc.--source Wikipedia (public domain)]

Plutarch described Lupercalia: "At this time many of the noble youths and magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter, striking those they meet with shaggy thongs." The apt pupil of the human pageant has no difficulty understanding the decline of this strenuous recreation and its replacement by "romance books" --a very popular genre in our less aerobic modern culture.

One of my favorite romance books is The Romance Of Modern Engineering, by Archibald Williams (also author of The Romance Of Modern Inventions, The Romance Of Petroleum, etc.). It was published in 1904 and contains interesting descriptions of the Panama Canal, Niagara Falls Power Co. and the Bermuda Floating Dock. But we cannot life-longly spend our noses in romance books, can we?

No. We must consider for ourselves what truly comprises the most Romantic technological and engineering milestones of all time. I would choose Velcro, gas-driven airplanes, two-sided paper and "even" numbers.

Velcro, still widely used, was invented by the Romans specifically for early horse-drawn elevators. They needed something to keep the horses' hooves stuck to the walls. It allowed horses enough traction to climb vertical shafts, pull elevators up from floor to floor, then back them down again.

Unfortunately, Romans failed to solve other modes of automatic ascension. Nothing short of propellers spun by internal combustion could lift the limitations of the horse-drawn airplane, which was confined to very low altitudes and velocities, but elevators are powered by Velcro-climbing horses to this day.

Romans wrote everything important on scrolls, or a single long strip, which they rolled up onto spools and corded on library shelves. If you check a scroll's table of contents, you'll find all subjects, chapters, everything listed on page one. That is because a scroll technically only has one page. It was not until the invention of two-sided paper that modern books appeared and tables of contents made any sense. Mathematicians were called in to decide what to call the back of page one. They suggested "two" and the even number was born.

Now if that isn't Romantic, I give up.