Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Read

There’s an axiom that’s been floated for a long time (how long? A century or two?), that the act of reading, in and of itself, is somehow intellectually nutritious. A noble pursuit.

I wonder how many books I’ve read. How many I’ve cracked for a one-night stand, with plots hell bent for leather, salivating to a destination.

I’ve read many books, not beginning to end, but beginning and end, skipping over the middle. To the there, there.

I’ve bought books based on the covers alone. Pretty, pretty faces. I’ve read parts of books that have been passed along, for my consideration. Just to get them off the shelf.

I’ve read cereal boxes, comic books, toilet paper wrappers, junk mail, license plates, the labels on my fruit.

Not instructional manuals, I never read instructions. I feel I’m the only one who can write them well. I could be wrong, since I never read instructions.

But I read and re-read stories. For their incidental music.

Miss Maudie, Miss Maudie, in your flower print dress. Eternally watering the roses. Atticus will never notice, I can tell you that now, as I told you ten years ago, and twenty.

But you still call out to him – it is to him, isn’t it? “Your father can make a will so airtight no one can break it!” He doesn’t turn around. He never will. He’ll just raise a hand and say, “You be good, children.”

Maudie will dress up again tomorrow, and fill her pitcher with water. The plants won’t wilt and flowers will bloom.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

We Are the Champions

Are you watching Wimbledon? If so, chances are we have a lot in common -- High cholesterol, low testosterone, restless legs, dry eyes, nail fungus, arthritis, clinical depression, and erectile dysfunction.

Fortunately, after our pills, odds are we feel an irresistible urge to walk barefoot on the beach, fly a kite, paint a picture, catch a fish, kiss a blond who is much too young for us.

Which is pretty impressive, considering some of us now suffer the unlikely side effects of kidney failure, liver disease, corns, warts, difficulty breathing, suicidal tendencies, and erections lasting four or more hours.

Things could be worse. We could be watching golf.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Keeping Hahamongna on the map

Hahamongna Watershed Park is our little bit of wet and wild land, bordered, cornered, by three towns -- south, east, west. It's at the mercy of temporary bureaucrats, and we know just how merciful bureaucratic mercy tends to be.

Hahamongna is safe for now, maybe, from development and destruction, but only because the cities and counties are broke. So, safe until money starts churning its way through the system again.

I don't think picking up a mantle is particularly difficult; I've bench pressed a mantle or two in my time. The only challenge is in carrying it around.

Dianna Patrizzi and the battle for permanent protections for Hahamongna

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Do you

ever wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it?

I always wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it. -- Great Gatsby

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A good ride

The best movies challenge our assumptions.

Thanks to the English costume drama, for example, I’ve learned that, whatever their faults, the aristocracy in and around the Elizabethan period, most particularly if they bore a strong resemblance to Peter O’Toole, flourished in Britain’s halcyon, albeit brief, period of straight teeth and solid dental hygiene.

Strange how a country can start down one path and veer to another.

Just to digress a bit, I don’t know when the Brits decided to pull back from world domination and concentrate their best brains on dry wit. But it worked; in the latter they’ve reigned supreme for at least two centuries. And to that, I say god save the queen.

Here’s a couple of clips from the newly released The Trip.

Clip one

Clip two

It’s a road movie, with lots of good bits by two British comedians. I assumed the whole film would be a string of snappy impressions. But The Trip is actually a profound examination of communication, and the irritations and comfort we find in personal relationships. It makes an understated argument for companionship, accepting both the weaknesses and strengths of our friends.

There’s more to say, but I saw the movie with a guy who didn't like it. Missed the nuances, subtext; thought it dragged. Isn't that life? Just when you want to talk about about the subtleties of human interaction and tolerance, you're sitting with a fucking idiot who gets on your last nerve.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Father's Day

There was a death in the house this week; not anything of weight. In other words, not a person, dog or horse. A parakeet died, one foisted on me by a friend who one day found it shivering in the corner of her garage.

This bird hated me from the day it entered my house and never came round on that issue.

What I didn’t expect was the attachments it had formed with other members of the household. Phoebe the boxer had known this bird for seven years. After the bird died, Phoebe took to pacing. Tap, tap, tap across the hardwood floors. Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap.

I couldn’t bear to touch the bird, dead in its cage. The bird never had a name, I had tried a couple – Petey and Junior -- but in the end, he just didn’t invite that kind of liberty.

I moved the cage to the driveway and left it there for the night.

The cockatiel, another rescued bird, and one of much sweetness, picked up the mantle of loathing. Murderer, he cried, dive bombing my head. And then he landed where the other cage once stood, pecking at leftover seeds.

Well, this too will pass, I assumed.

The next day, the cage was still in the driveway.

And I started to imagine bugs getting inside, which is even worse than a dead thing just lying there dead. So, I wrapped my hand in a plastic bag, picked the bird up, put it in a paper bag from Trader Joe’s, and threw it in the trash.

Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap. Oh, for god’s sake.

I retrieved the bag.

I dug a hole and planted the bird underneath some wildflowers that needed a transfer from pot to earth anyway.

And I thought about how my sister and brother and I handled my father’s death, and his ashes, at the turn of this century.

We hiked for miles into some place in the Cascade Mountains and divided the ashes into thirds. Something we hadn’t reckoned on – you can cast stones, you can’t cast ashes. Ashes float, suspended in air, then travel and swirl, some come back to stick in your hair, on your eyelids and mouth.

And so we laughed. Because we hurt so bad, had walked so far, and tried so hard for something perfect and poetic, and instead, we were covered in Dad.

And I, who hate death more than anything in life, wasn’t horrified. This surprised me. To find when you love someone, death isn’t disgusting, it’s just loss. And loss isn’t horrifying or disgusting or any other adjective at all. It’s just big, bigger than anything. Pain, fear, and despair are only poor country cousins.

There was a dusting of Dad all over my face, and I touched my tongue to my lips.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Old Movies

I like the screwball comedies from the 30’s, war stories from the 40’s. But the movies from the 50’s have a gothic quality; there’s a woman in a black sheath and pearls, whose only purpose is to walk to the door when the doorbell rings.

“Yes,” she says as she opens the door. And it’s never a question.

And then, touching her pearls, she says, “She’s not here,” or “We haven’t seen him,” or “I’m sorry I can’t help you.”

I think she’s the daughter of a 30’s movie, a lighter time -- the Boston granny in diamonds and sequins who spent a lifetime on the staircase, listening for another doorbell, until she could say, “Smithers, tell them I’m not in.”

But in the 50’s gothic, she must sit in her chair, three steps from the door, and wait her whole life for the doorbell to ring. Day after day, she must put on her slip, slip on the sheath, wait for the bell, until someone will ask so she can say no.

Monday, June 6, 2011


When I was in first grade, we moved to a new state and a rural neighborhood. One with horses in the backyard – not in our backyard of course, but other backyards, up the street, not far away.

My dad had a temporary assignment, we knew that. Which made our assignment temporary; we knew that, too.

I liked the school and made friends easily. After several months, I skipped a grade. Then another grade. My first day in third grade math class, we were told to turn to the chapter on long division. And like everyone else, imitating everyone else, I turned.

It might have been a chapter on long division. Then again, it might just as well have been a chapter on the Pythagorean Theorem or a Shakespearean sonnet in Mandarin Chinese.

I did the only thing possible. I asked to go to the bathroom. And on my way up the aisle, I looked over everyone’s shoulder. Most were making notations of no sense at all, but one girl was copying, neatly with her number 2 pencil, the problems exactly as they appeared on the page.

Well, is that all there is to it? What a relief. I went to the bathroom, pretended to tinkle, then came back, copied the problems, and turned in my worksheet.

That afternoon I spent at the doctor’s office. It seems in those early years, my sister and brother always had pneumonia or asthma or scoliosis, and my mom and I spent hours and hours in waiting rooms. That afternoon, my mother taught me long division. I didn’t find the concept intuitive or interesting, but after hour 2 or 3, the lightbulb came on. Dimly, perhaps.

During the lesson, maybe I got impatient, maybe mom got impatient, but how impatient can you get, really. You’re in a waiting room.

That was my first and last experience with homeschooling. My mom must have done a decent job. At six or seven or whatever age I was, during that year, I made the cut. I stayed in third grade. I was in a tunnel with a flashlight. But you don't care if the batteries are weak when you know the tunnel is short and the exit is near.

In other words I didn't get demoted. Until we moved to a better school district.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

We get mail

Dear Sir/Madam,

L am 24 years old girl and single, it may interest you to know that L am a girl of PEACE and L don't want problem, how is your family, hope fine?

[The family’s ok, thanks for asking. Uncle Chester still has the farts. I don’t have to tell you, the man is a slave to his Boston Baked Beans. Oi. Gramma Iris’s varicose veins are now so big we could rope a cow with them (possible income opportunity?), and under separate cover, I’ll share what we’ve learned about Billy’s gingivitis.]

My name is Princess Kabbah daughter of the late Osman Kabbah former director-general of the government of gold and diamond office [GDDO]. Unfortunately, my father was attacked by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Kono, Eastern Sierra Leone.

[Don’t you hate when that happens?]

He survived the bullet wounds and was hospitalised at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown where he later died of internal bleeding.


But before he died he revealed to my late mother and me, he had deposited $10.5m in BANK OF AFRICA(BOA).

[$10.5 m? I always liked Osman Kabbah, ask anyone. He had nice eyes.]

Being the only one left, l have decided to transfer the fund out of Burkina Faso to a trust worthy beneficiary who will assit me to invest the money and see me through my education.

[Let's talk; I've started a Charter school and know spellcheck. We can begin with the word "I." "I" is not spelled L. Oddly enough, "I" is spelled I.]

L need your help to invest this family inheritance into a profitable investment in your country.

[Four words: Grammy Iris, veins, cows.]

l have decided to part away %40 as your commission. I demand an urgent responds. Due to my present condition now in Ouagadougou Burkina Faso which is a terrible ordeal.

[Yeah, well, we’ve all got problems, Princess. Not to keep bringing up Uncle Chester, and Uncle Chester when you stand downwind of the Santa Anas.]

Please confirm your interest, l will send you my pictures!

[Sorry, even Norton Security, a most enlightened and free-spirited service, seems to have problems with those.]

May God bless you,and hope to be your friend.

Yours faithful,

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Homeland Secure

We may not have a garden that looks like Monet's, but we're one step ahead of Germany. No E coli on my watch, trust me; I sample everything on a regular basis.

AOK on the apples, I tell Sergeant Karin. AOK on the loquats, cucumber leaves, blueberries, sorrel, pumpkins, strawberries, and green tomatoes. Oh yes, and those tiny heirloom squash, the ones you paid serious money for, after numerous tests I've found them safe.

I'm Private First Class Albert -- Squirrel and Raccoon Patrol, Vegetable and Fruit Tester.

As for the Financial Bananometer -- even I wouldn't try it, given current conditions.

10-4 and SNAFU. (If you're hankering for someone with my skills, let's talk. Not here. I freelance and have been known to take kibble under the table.)