25 April 2018

Willie's Up!: Baseball, The Backdrop to My Youth

Cepeda and Stretch were back to back
Rookies but I'll tell you Jack
Sanford led the way in '62
Marichal kicking high
Willie's cap would fly
Nothing could match his basket catch the legend grew
-- From Talkin' Giants Baseball by Terry Cashman

“Mays is up.” It might have been me saying it to my dad or my dad saying it to me. In either case the message was received. We'd stop what we were doing and sidle over to the radio.

When I was growing up baseball season was the time when the radio, either the big one in the house or one of the transistors, was always turned to the San Francisco Giants’ game. Unless we were in the car in which case the car radio was tuned to KSFO 560, then the Giants' flagship station. This was in the '60s and the only time the Giants were on TV was when they traveled to LA. There was also no internet to stream games on. But the radio was fine.

We listened to Giant broadcasters Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons and boy were we lucky, they were  future Hall of Famers. Having also attended many a Giants home game (the first game I specifically recall going to was Game One of the 1962 World Series though I’d been to several before that) it was easy enough to picture the ball park, the stands, the field, the individual players (baseball cards were a big help) and to visualize the action as it took place. Russ and Lon's mellifluous voices, baseball wisdom and easy wit made the joy of following the Giants doubly pleasurable.

Of course the crack of the bat and the sound of the crowd often told the story as much as the excited voice of Russ or Lon. In the long moments between action you could hear the steady buzz of the crowd and even pick out the occasional sound of a vendor hawking his wares. It was a comfort. It was home and hearth to listen to a ball game. The Giants were our team. We knew all the players (actually, knew of them, but it sure seems like you get to know the individuals on your favorite club, they become like family) and the manager and coaches and most of the opposing players and many of the umpires. Listening to a game had the comfort of the familiar. The steadiness of three strikes and your out, three outs in an inning and nine innings a game unless there were extras. But there was always the unexpected, the pinch hit home run, the spectacular catch, the clutch double play, the slugger legging out a triple. Everything old was new again, but some of the new never got old.

Baseball was part of the fabric of my dad and my relationship. It was odd his being such a fan considering he grew up in Northern Finland and didn't settle in the US until he was in his early 30s. But love the game he did. And we loved it together.

Being a Giant fan felt special. No, there weren’t a lot of championships when I was growing up. In fact there were none. The Giants didn’t even make it back to the World Series until 1989 and didn’t win it until 2010 (it was one helluva a long wait, but well worth it). But it was still special to follow the team because we had such great players. Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Orlando Cepeda are all in the Hall of Fame. The Giants also had great supporting casts with the likes of Mike McCormick, Jim Ray Hart, Jose Pagan, Jim Davenport, the Alou brothers and my favorite player, Cap Peterson. Okay, Cappy Peterson was not a star in any way shape or form — in fact, he rarely played — but he was my favorite player. His baseball card was one of the great treasures of my life, as was my memory of being at the ballpark in one of the rare games in which he played. He did cause two great heartaches of my youth. The first was in a game at which I saw him get a couple of at bats. His last time up he cracked a high fly ball to left field that was on its way to the bleacher seats. But St. Louis Cardinal superstar Lou Brock ruined what would have been unspeakable joy for me by leaping above the fence and catching the ball, robbing Cappy of a homer. The other heartache was on the off season day when my hero was traded. (For the record Cap Peterson played 244 games for the Giants over the course of six seasons, cracking seven home runs — shoulda been eight — and batting a modest .235. He played three seasons in the American League and was out of baseball at the ripe old age of 26. He died at 37 from kidney disease. I’ll never forget him.)
Players came and went, the superstars like Mays stayed longer. The uniform remained unchanged with the black and orange caps with SF emblazoned on them. Russ and Lon were in the booth together until Russ retired in my senior year of high school. From my earliest memories through departure to college, the Giants were a constant and welcome backdrop, as much a part of my youth as birthdays, classmates and Sunday school.

Baseball is a cruel game. A team has had a terrific season and likely made the post season by winning 100 games. But that’s out of 162 so the fan — in a really good year — will have to endure 62 or more — often many more — defeats. Many of the defeats are heart wrenching. The yielding of late inning home run to give up a lead, someone striking out in the 9th inning with the bases full, a costly error that opens up the flood gates for the opposition. Baseball has all manner of ways to break a heart — if only for an hour or two. But there is a flip side to tragedy. Late inning heroics, come-from-behind victories, masterful pitching performances, prodigious home runs. The game taketh away but it giveth too and can lift the spirts — if only for an hour or two.

As a boy and now as a wizened older gent I can brush off defeat while still savoring victory (in my middle years it was a tougher task). But I withstood the disappointments as a child. Hope sprung enternal and abounded and every time the Giants played I anticipated victory. (Cynicism came later.) The radio was rarely the focus of our attention. It was there while I played in the yard and while dad puttered in the shed and while we had dinner and while we played cards. We’d even check in during commercials while watching TV. We listened idly to the tedium of another foul ball or a pitching change or lazy fly ball to center field or a pitch in the dirt or an intentional walk. But the instant there was action our focus was on the game. “There are two men on with no one out,” one of us might say. Or, "Fuentes just tripled," or "one out to go and Marichal has a shut out." And of course we always paid attention when Mays came to bat. He was special. One of the greatest if not the greatest player of all time and a home run hitter par excellence. There was too great a chance of missing something if you didn’t pay attention when Mays batted. When he came up there was hope, there was anticipation. Also Mays was immediately followed by McCovey so that if the first Willie failed there was a second chance with the power hitting Stretch up.

All of this came to mind when I watched a 1964 documentary about Mays on You Tube. It recalled all the magic of Mays, the Giants and the game of baseball. It is a wonderful time capsule, showing Russ and Lon in the broadcast booth, the press box (comprised of white males wearing hats and suits) and Candlestick Park ( I remember it now as a dump, but as a kid it was a golden palace of baseball). It recalled the smell of hot dogs with Gulden's mustard, the cold Candlestick winds, the SF-LA rivalry and eternal summers of playing, watching, listening to and talking about baseball.

Baseball was the same back then. Played the same with the same rules. But boy is it different. None of the bells and whistles of modern ballparks, for one. When I was a kid I went to the ballpark to watch a game, now there are all manner of distractions for children and older fans alike. Scoreboard and sound systems bombard the senses, never giving one time to think, let alone talk. It wasn’t until 1962 that Mays, for one, wore a batting helmet, now players go to bat looking halfway between ball players and knights in armor. Ticket prices have skyrocketed. It was a simple enough matter in high school to go with friends to a game with the price of a ticket quite reasonable. Now you have to take out a second mortgage to afford a decent seat. In my youth ballpark’s offered hot dogs, beer, soda, peanuts and a few other concessions. Now there are all manner of offering from pizza to sushi to crab sandwiches, to salads to barbecued meat to well, the list goes on and on. The variety is nice but the prices would challenge a sultan’s budget and yet some fans make endless trips from their seats to fill up on over priced and mostly unhealthy fare. Another distraction.

Like so much else baseball has been corporatized over the years. It’s a gold mine for fat cats and the players reap rewards, many making millions (yes, plural) of dollars a year. In 1963 Mays made just over 100 grand for the season which, even with inflation is less than a million today. The games take longer, there are many more pitching changes for one thing. Many of the fans are there for the spectacle and know or care only a little about the game. We didn't have to endure the Kiss Cam or between innings quizzes or the incessant blaring of music when I was a kid. But we got to see Mays in centerfield making his patented basket catch.

I don't listen on the radio anymore. For one thing every single game is on TV. Also I have less time for baseball what with books and movies, English soccer, my own family and the like. Plus I can always get up to the second updates on line whether at home or commuting or out running errands. I go to less games what with exorbitant ticket prices and games lasting three hours. The Giants added to their World Series with two more so the desperation to see them win is significantly less (but I wouldn't turn up my nose at another title or three if the baseball gods see fit).

I still love baseball but it is no longer the backdrop of my Spring and Summer. One of the pleasures of the sport is its connection to my youth, to my dad and to old friends who I've gone to games with or just talked baseball with. I passed my love of the game in general and to the Giants in particular to my oldest daughter and my nephews are fellow travelers too, so the family connection is strong. The game is forever in my heart. Baseball abides.

I'll tell you one thing I do miss though -- when Mays came up. That was special.

Affectionately dedicated to my good friend Phil who sent me the above mentioned video and with whom I share similar memories of the Giants in the '60s and Russ and Lon and of course, Willie.

20 April 2018

Yesterday and Today Eight Americans in History, A Slavery Parable

Glad and sorry
Happy or sad
When all is done and spoken
You're up or I'm down
Can you show me a dream
Can you show me one that's better than mine
Can you stand it in the cold light of day
Neither can I
- From Glad and Sorry by Faces

Royce Hawkins sat in the back of his freshman English class wearing sun glasses. He’d take them off in a minute. But right now he felt cool wearing them. It was late in the Spring semester and Royce totally had the hang of college. He was headed for an MBA and lucrative career in business. But best of all, for Royce was right now. He’d gotten laid the night before and the chick was totally hot. It had been their third date. She dug Royce because — let’s face it — he was handsome. Slightly above average height, good build, muscular, chiseled good looks, brown hair that always warranted an expensive haircut. Royce had been a pretty good athlete in high school but wasn’t cut out for college sports. Being on a college team would take way too much time away from socializing. And Royce didn’t need any more pressure on his schoolwork. He was skating by with a good GPA without busting his ass. As for other stuff, well Royce couldn’t give a shit about politics. He thought people who obsessed about it, especially the protestor types, were a bunch of losers. He’d vote and stuff for sure but just to make sure that candidates who were good for business got in, ones who’d keep taxes down. Royce took off his sunglasses and scoped the room. Couldn't wait for class to end so he could head to party.

Two hundred years earlier James Dial Hawkins, a direct ancestor of Royce, spoke to his wife Leila. “You should know that I aim to sell your girl in the kitchen, Dolly.”

“But why?” Dolly asked him.

“The bitch was caught stealing again. The only time she doesn’t steal is when she’s too lazy to.”

“But she’s fixin’ to marry Jupiter.”

“Well that’s too bad. I warned her three times already that if she didn’t mend her ways I’d sell her."

“Oh James, she’ll be heartbroken and so will Jupiter.”

“That’s too bad for her and as for Jupiter, he can find himself another wench.”

“Such a shame.”

“I know, but what can you do with a thief?” 

What was left unsaid by James Dial Hawkins was that Dolly was pregnant by the only man who’d had relations with her, her owner James Dial Hawkins. This was the real reason he was selling her. A mulatto child born of a house slave would point directly to James and incur the wrath of Leila and perhaps worst of all Leila’s mother. No, she had to go.

Tracy Pendar was coming home from the downtown San Francisco shopping center with her friend Kylie who was currently texting. They were riding the subway out of the city back to their clean, pleasant suburban community. Tracy, a tall pretty 17 year old, was, in her words, grossed out by some of the people she’d encountered at the subway station. Tracy didn’t have anything against black people. There were a few African Americans at her school, she’d been in a couple of classes with this boy Anthony who seemed nice and had gotten to know a girl named Crystal on the volleyball team. But at the same time she noticed that several of the scarier and skankier looking people she’d seen that day were black. Tracy wondered why that was. She’d heard stuff about economic conditions in class and something called institutional racism but wasn’t sure what they were all about. The 17 year old also had heard some people say that blacks were lazy and mostly not as smart. Tracy realized that such talk was definitely bad and maybe wrong but she also wondered if there wasn’t some truth in it. Tracy turned her attention to the two large shopping bags she was holding. She’d got a couple of really nice tops  and a skirt and a new bikini. Her dad was bound to think the bikini was too revealing but she know how to handle him. Kylie finally stopped texting and the two girls started talking. Mostly about boys at school and summer plans.

One hundred and eighty years earlier, Martha Pendar, a direct ancestor of Tracy, excitedly received the news that among her birthday gifts was her very own slave, Pandora. From when she could first walk until around her ninth birthday, Martha and Pandora had been best friends. Martha was devastated the day her father told her that Pandora was old enough to work now so she wouldn’t be around much anymore and anyway it was time for Martha to stop playing with slaves. Martha cried and cried that day and rarely thereafter so much as saw Pandora. But now on her 13th birthday Martha was to be re-united with her old friend, albeit in a different role.

“We’ve cleaned Pandora up and got her some new clothes,” Martha’s daddy told her. With that he he signaled to Thomas, one of the house slaves, to fetch his daughter’s slave.

Shortly Pandora appeared dressed in the classic blue livery of the Pendar plantation. She was a pretty girl, very dark, her parents both having been born in Africa. Pandora stood in the vestibule, head bowed, quiet, clasping her hands together.

“Why Pandie, look it you!” Exclaimed Martha. “You’re just a lovely sight all nicely dressed. Come here. Slowly Pandora approached her mistress and forced a wan smile. “Come now, let’s go upstairs and talk, we’ve ever so much to plan and to do and…land’s sakes, Pandie, come on, don’t be shy.”

In the coming days it gradually dawned on Martha that things weren’t the same between her and Pandora anymore. For one thing the girls were older and while she had spent the past three years with tutors studying literature and French and classical history, Pandora had been picking cotton. They’d both changed and the nature of their relationship was not one of playmates but as master and slave. Gradually Martha became accustomed to the idea (Pandora had more easily slid into her role) and there was a cool distance between the two. Martha no longer respected her old childhood friend and brusquely ordered her about. She sometimes lost her temper and even lashed out Pandora, who she never ever called Pandie again.

Thomas Dixon had just finished his biology lab class and was headed to the bus stop. Once he got to his apartment he'd have a quick dinner and then start a few hours of studying before going to bed. Thomas was close to finishing his second year in community college and had been accepted at a nearby state college for the next school year. It was sometimes difficult for Thomas himself to believe that he was about halfway to a college degree. He'd been an indifferent student through elementary school and had struggled mightily in middle school and his first two years at high school. Thomas had dyslexia which always made reading a struggle, but the special help he received starting in the 7th grade had eventually paid off. Of course Thomas had had disciplinary issues as well. It was never anything serious and was mostly a matter of his bristling at authority figures, namely teachers, especially most of the white ones. Looking back he was pretty sure none of them were racist but he was equally sure that they were piss poor at relating to and understanding African American students.
Of course Thomas's home life had made things difficult too, what with his father constantly being out of work and his mother struggling with drug addiction. But Thomas had stayed out of any serious trouble, managed to barely graduate from high school and know was working part time and making his way through school, He felt justified in thinking that with continued hard work he might just make a good life for himself.

One hundred and seventy years earlier Henry Dixon, a direct ancestor of Thomas, stood in the sweltering Alabama cotton field enduring the angry foul-mouthed taunts of the overseer, Mac, who was threatening a whipping if Henry didn't start working harder. With all his might Henry had to restrain himself from charging Mac, knocking him to the ground and beating the living hell out of him. When he was just a child Henry'd seen a slave attack an overseer. He could still remember the awful beating the slave administered and could equally well remember the torturous death that slave later suffered, hanging from a tree being skinned alive, castrated and eventually disembowled. The horror would stick with Henry forever, which was, of course, the purpose of the horrible exercise and why all the slaves were required to watch  Henry was born a slave. There had been occasional times of joy in his life and Sundays were generally happy days but for the most part his life was one of privation and misery. The worst of it being his unshakeable belief that this was all so very wrong, the worst injustice imaginable. 

There was hope in Henry's life. Word was that some slaves had successfully escaped to the North. In his younger days Henry knew only of slaves running off and within hours or days or weeks or months brought back in chains, often to suffer terrible punishments. But now there was a system in place and more and more slaves were running off and never being caught. At least that's what Henry heard. The first whispers of some sort of escape route that included people helping and places to stop had just reached the plantation. Henry was going to keep his ears open and when a chance, a good chance, came, he would run for freedom. Of that he was sure.

Sasha Washington sat nervously waiting to give the student speech at her high school graduation. She had already been the featured student speaker at the African American student graduation but this speech would be before the high school's entire graduating class of 700. Sasha wished it was all over -- the speech, the ceremony, the handing out of diplomas, everything -- and that she could be at the party at her best friend Jamaica's house. Sasha was ready to relax for a little bit. Behind her was all the work she'd put in to earn her sterling GPA and acceptance, with an academic scholarship, to Columbia University. Also behind her was all the work put in with the African American Student Council as well as her participation in various clubs and volunteer organizations, not to mention the activist work she'd done on behalf of various local, state and national causes and candidates. Ahead of her was college and more hard work and more extra curriculars and more political and social justice activism. But that's what she was all about. Sasha had been raised by a single mother. A mother who never graduated high school, let alone college, but worked two and half jobs to make sure that Sasha and her little brother Lester got everything they needed. Now the time was coming for her speech. Sasha would expound on three themes: appreciation for all who made their graduation possible; clarity of vision as they moved on to the next phase of their lives; and perseverance in the face of the oppressive forces or racism, classism and social inequality that conspired to keep them down. "Everyone keep your head up, your eyes on the prize and look out for your sisters and brothers as in solidarity we make the world a better place than the one we grew up in." She'd do fine.

One hundred and ninety years earlier, Lizzie, a director ancestor of Sasha, nervously tried to listen to the cook, Annie and the butler, Nathaniel, as they told her in great detail of the many duties she'd be performing now that she was part of Amos Morton household. Lizzie was still wobbly from her experience earlier in the day when she had been forced to stand naked on an auction block as fully a dozen men leered at her, made comments about her and even touched her. She had been bought by Amos Morton who smiled lasciviously when someone remarked that his new purchase, comely as she was, would make a fine bedroom companion. Lizzie was 16 years old and a virgin and was terrified at the idea of fornication with a man like Mr. Morton, who was well over 40 and as she later discovered, a widower.

"You understand all you been told?" Nathaniel asked her gravely. Lizzie shook her head dutifully, though everything they said was a complete blur. "Course she didn't," spat Annie. "She'll just have to learn as she go along. And child, one thing we didn't tell you about is Master Amos. He likes pretty young things like you so you might as well get used to the idea."

Lizzie sobbed uncontrollably. Why was life so horrible? How could she have been sold away from her mama and her brother? What kind of cruelty is this? It can't be right. Now I'm at a new place and I don't understand what I'm supposed to do, I'm afraid, alone and I'm going to be taken to bed by an ugly old man. I'm no better than an animal.

Annie comforted the girl as best she could. "Now it ain't all that bad child. Least you in the house. You don't got to work in no fields in the broiling sun. You young yet. Maybe you escape someday. Maybe they end slavery someday. Why I hear tell in the North there's a lot of white folks trying to end slavery. You got to have hope. Always.

Annie's comforting words helped. They reminded Lizzie of what her mama said about never giving up, never letting the white man beat you, never losing faith. Lizzie now knew what Mama meant and she was determined to keep her head up. There would be better days, there sure couldn't be any worse.

14 April 2018

A Trio of Topics: Music and Me, Crowded Busses, Depression Again

I read this article on the BBC about how music from our teenage years stays with us longer and has more of an influence on us than music from other times. The writer went on to say: "The brain’s memory systems are at their most efficient during late adolescence and early adulthood. We also experience many things then for the first time, which makes them particularly memorable. But the key reason that we return to songs and anecdotes from this period of our lives is that they remind us who we are. It is during these formative years that we make many crucial life-changing decisions, initiate significant long-term relationships and establish the cultural and political beliefs which form our identity." 

I found this all particularly interesting because in recent years I've been listening to music that was popular and meaningful in my youth. Specifically music from just before my teen years and just after. This came about after a long period in my life when I was almost exclusively listening to jazz. I don't know what brought about the change but I rarely listen to jazz anymore. Probably 80% of the music I listen to is from when I was between nine and 25 years old. Some of it evokes particular memories. Some recall past loves or friends or events. It bathes me in the warmth of nostalgia. It can inspire me, make me feel sentimental or can just comfort me. When I was young I looked for wisdom in rock songs. I was convinced at various times that people such as The Who or David Bowie or Neil Young held the key answers to life itself. Certainly their music was an integral part of a path toward enlightenment. Other music was square, passé, meaningless drivel. In my mind rock and roll singers were sages at least and messiahs at best. I searched through their lyrics for meaning. But I also got off on the rhythm. It was so easy to dance and bounce and sway and celebrate to rock music. Alcohol and drugs helped fuel the excitement. I wanted noting to do with the hokey melodies of country and western or the boredom of classical or the banality of pop music. I liked Soul music too because it was cool and beautiful and urban. But rock provided the soundtrack to my life as it does again today. Maybe it allows me to feel young again (then again, I haven't started feeling old) or maybe it allows me to live in times of promise rather than in the Autumn of my years. Hell, I don't know, maybe I always liked it better and the jazz thing was just what I should be wondering about. Dunno. Just like what I like.


I take a commuter bus to San Francisco everyday, then walk a few blocks to where I catch a local bus to work. It is almost always crowded, often packed to the gills. Fortunately there are always seats available when I get on (as is the case on my return trip). Earlier this week the bus was particularly sardine can like. Perhaps the preceding bus hadn't come. I got just about the last seat on the bus. A few stops later passengers were wedged in tight. Then we got to the stop at Market Street where a lot of people always get on. I happened to glance toward the front of the bus and the scene was similar to the fall of Saigon. It was so packed that the driver couldn't close the doors, even the front one. Passengers literally had one leg on the bus and one leg out. For the life of me I can't imagine what they were thinking. The driver -- quite firmly -- let people know two things: it was impossible to start the bus unless some people got off and there was another bus less than a minute behind. His announcement -- repeated several times -- was to no avail.

Experienced as I am at bus riding I was not really surprised. Some folks will pile onto a bus like it is the last one they'll ever see. Many are so desperate to get on that they'll bull past people who are trying to get off and indeed push such people further back in. I notice such situations are more prevalent on the #30 that I was on on the morning in question and that I ride twice daily on weekdays. I have to be careful here but....This is a bus that goes through Chinatown and most of the people who are so desperate to pile on busses are clearly Chinese and many of them are late middle age or older. In fact a lot of them are elderly. I am not trying to disparage my Chinese brothers and sisters, I am merely stating a fact. Not a few San Franciscans, and residents in other metropolitan areas, hold quite dim views of Chinese people because of their behavior commuting or in other crowded situations. I do not hold the worst actions of a few members of a group against the group as a whole. In the case of these older Chinese citizens I realize that there are cultural factors at play.

Another example being that when I taught middle school, roughly half of my students were African American. Many Black students were likely to speak up spontaneously without first being recognized, as the rules of a classroom dictate. As a teacher I had to walk the fine line between maintaining school policy and being culturally sensitive. It isn't necessarily easy to live in a multi-cultural society but it is ultimately rewarding. Anyhoo, getting back to the bus ride, the driver finally had to become adamant (read: angry) about people getting off and was able to "persuade" those who were half off to get the hell off. The thing is that those people who had to get off were able -- within a minute -- to board a bus that was likely half empty and comfortably take a seat. Maybe they should have thought about that before trying to ride on the hood.
So what happens a lot now is that I'll start to write and maybe manage a sentence or a paragraph or nothing at all and I'll stare at the screen for a bit and mind you I'm already depressed and so the inability to write will make me more depressed and the gloom will envelop me and writing will become impossible. So I'll just quit. I haven't found that there's anything I can do in such situations that will work.

Depression is like that. You can have the best of intentions and be determined not to succumb, but telling the depression to go away is like trying to tell a broken bone to stop bothering you. In a sense a broken bone is easier to deal with because the doctor can fix you right up and in within a predictable time the bone will heal. Maybe someday my depression will "heal" but it's been a pretty constant companion for three years now and I only occasionally get a respite. I've not given up fighting it by any means and the process of trying to eliminate the depression is a worthwhile endeavor that yields benefits. For example my weekly sessions with my psychiatrist -- while failing to eradicate the depression -- have borne much fruit.

For many people -- myself included -- therapy is a life long process that is a constant source of insight into one's life and into the human experience. Of course it helps to have a good doctor and I currently do. Meds have their place though as I've learned they come fraught with peril, specifically in the form on side effects. I'm currently on meds that don't have any side effects but then again they haven't totally freed me from melancholia. I've taken things that have numbed the pain but they've also numbed me in general leaving me closer to the zombie that a sentient human being. I'll here conclude as I always do when writing about depression, I've got much to be happy about and am grateful for life's bountiful gifts. 

09 April 2018

My Sunday Diary Entry Reveals a Most (Extra)Ordinary Day

Girlfriend Hortense playing the bagpipe.
Dear Diary: Today I continued my inexorable descent into madness. I’m progressing quite nicely in this regard and should be completely insane in no time at all. I also washed the dishes, brushed my teeth and ate breakfast, though not in that order. Before leaving the house to run some errands I got dressed, at least I think I did. It may well have been that I got dressed shortly after leaving the house or indeed I could theoretically have gotten dressed just before returning home. In any event I was fully dressed upon returning home. The errands I ran are too mundane to here recount although they did involve visits to the village smithy, the apothecary and Bruno my aroma therapist.

Back at home I was visited by recently deceased Aunt Martha. We enjoyed a lovely cup of tea and some scones she herself made. Nothing was said of her funeral nor my failure to attend (it was on my lodge meeting night). Aunt Martha took an Uber back to the cemetery. Forgetful as always, she left her reading glasses.

I spent two hours in my continuing study of the Iroquois language. I’m getting to the point at which I can order meals, make hotel reservations and ask directions. I still plan to visit Iroquois next Fall, assuming I can find it on a map.

Got a phone call from my herbalist, Herb who told me that the new batch of herbs I ordered had come in. I thanked Herb profusely for the herb update. Herb is an herbalist par excellence.

Had roast goldfish for lunch. Went nicely with the plum wine Cousin Rashford made.

Did my daily calisthenics which today consisted of pirouettes, deep knee bends, deep ankle bends, backflips and flipbacks.

Sat down to prepare a legal brief but it was too long. A brief brief is not always so easy.


Mined for gold in the backyard. Still no luck though I did uncover more of an ancient Indian burial ground. This may account for the poltergeist visitations I have suffered from of late.

My good friend Peabody McGander dropped by — literally, he fell from a low flying helicopter. P-Mac (as he is affectionally known) regaled me with stories of his recent gall bladder operation. We then chatted about this and that. P-Mac and I differ on this but agree wholeheartedly on that. Just as he was leaving my girlfriend Hortense arrived. She had been touring with all her all girl all nude bagpipe band. As a special treat she played Stairway to Heaven for me (on her bagpipes, of course). This inevitably led to a romantic coupling that I am too modest to recount here, especially as Hortense’s parents may read this (if you do, Mr. and Mrs. Gullypepper, please know that by coupling I mean chaste hugging).

Hortense and I went to our favorite restaurant for dinner, Seagull Sam’s Seafood Safari. I had the breaded blue whale steak and my girlfriend had the dolphin supreme salad. We washed it all down with Seagull Sam’s pure grain alcohol. Delish.

On the walk home I burped.

At home my beloved and I watched C-SPAN’s continuing coverage of the Bulgarian parliamentary debates. Wish they were subtitled.

Now to bed but of course had to catch you up, dear diary, on my latest doings. Sorry it was such an ordinary day. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have some exciting adventures to reveal. Perhaps there’ll me madcap hijinks or stunning achievements or death-defying acts of bravery.

Oh, oh, here come the poltergeists, never should have started that dig.


04 April 2018

My Response to a Spam Scam

Since I moved from yahoo to gmail a few years ago I hardly ever get anything in my spam folder. Yesterday, however was a rare exception and I received the query below. Here is the email in its entirety and the response I would have sent had I been so inclined.

Dear Sir,
I am Alejandro Mario, i work with a commercial bank and i have a Proposition involving a business opportunity to discuss with you, It will be of mutual benefit to both of us if we can handle it together, once we have a common understanding and mutual co-operation in the execution of the modalities. I Would like you to stand as the surviving beneficiary to my deceased client Late Jason Thomas Price Who made some deposit of fund before he died without leaving any Will and any registered next of kin, i come and across his file and discovered that the account is dormant for sum years. If you should be interested, please email back to me through this email address: (alejandromario067@yahoo.com) for more details, If you receive this message in your spam or junk its due to your network provider
I await your earliest response.
Yours Sincerely,

Mr.Alejandro Mario
E-mail: alejandromario067@yahoo.comm

Dear Sir,
WC Fields once said that a sucker is born every minute. Sadly for you within the 60 seconds of my birth another bloke came into the world who turned out to be the sucker that minute. Nonetheless I read your email with great interest as it suggests a business opportunity that will benefit  me, assuming, as you say, we "can handle it together."

First I have a few questions that stem from my love and understanding of the English language and the rules pertaining to its usage. Why did you capitalize "would" "proposition" and "will" but not "I"? You say you "come across his file" don't you mean you "came" across it? It is after all in the past. You say the account "is" dormant, shouldn't that be, "had been"? You know, perfect tense. You further say that it has been dormant for "sum" years. Surely you mean "some" years. Really, sir, you should work on your spelling, punctuation and capitalization.

Now then you said that if I received this message in my spam folder it is due to my network provider. You are correct! They are very good at weeding out spam which is exactly what your email is. Also, thank you for providing your email address in the body of your message and at the end of it, because merely being able to hit "reply" were I of a mind to respond to you, is not nearly enough.

As to your proposition....why me? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that you don't know me from Adam (we're nothing alike). If you did know me I reckon that you would have dispensed with the Dear Sir and gone with a Dear Richard. You might also have asked what was up, how's the family and the like. But you don't know me, do you, Alejandro? You don't know a blessed thing about me. If you did you'd realize that I'm a poor target for your scam (spam scam?) as I am hardly a man of means (I have great riches that you'd have no access to such as a loving family). It seems to me Mr. Mario, that I was picked at random, where indeed a lot of picking goes on. It's sad that you have no close friends or associates with whom you can conduct this transaction and are forced to send blind emails (spam). You must be a lonely man.

Also how will I benefit from this "execution of modalities"? You neglected to mention that. Alejandro you need to be better at baiting the hook. Give the respondent (victim) some (or as you would put it, sum) indication of just how much dough they might rake in. There is nothing tempting about your missive. You've got a lot to learn about scamming.

You are quite vague about how our business deal would go down and why don't you name the "commercial" bank you work for?  Is it because you do not really work for a bank? And why no Nigerian prince? Perhaps they've turned into a bit of a cliche. Still some sort of exotic story always helps a good scam.

Mr. Mario you've got a lot to learn about internet scams, not to mention about the English language. Better yet, maybe since you're so poor at the whole spam business you should give it up entirely. Find an honest line of work -- or is this just a side hustle? How satisfying is it to bilk poor unfortunates out their hard-earned dollars? Maybe you have no conscience and are fine with what is essentially stealing. If that's the case you are beyond any help I can suggest.

But I want to conclude, Mr. Mario (if that is indeed your real name) by thanking you for your email. It gave me something to blog about.
Sincerely Yours,
Not a Sucker