28 July 2022

The Blog and I Have a Chat

Me: Hi, blog, how ya doin?

Blog: Pretty good. So does this mean another entry?

Me: I guess.

Blog: You don’t exactly seem enthusiastic.

Me: It’s just that I —

Blog: It’s just that you’re obsessed with your latest novel.

Me: As a matter of fact….

Blog: Don’t feel bad, I understand. A novel is a big deal.

Me: Especially one like my latest that’s twice as long as anything I’ve ever written before. It covers a period of nearly eight years and has what I guess you could call a large cast.

Blog: Lot to keep track of, eh?

Me: Yup. Why just yesterday I realized that one of the characters —

Blog: Yeah, I don’t really want any details, I kind of thought this would be about me.

Me: You know I love you dear blog. You’ve been my faithful friend since I birthed you over fourteen years ago.

Blog: I’ve never doubted your love.

Me: I sensed there was going to be a “but” attached to that last sentence. If there’s anything more that you’ve got to say, spill it.

Blog: I feel like I’m starting to be an obligation to you.

Me: No.

Blog: Let’s look at how many entries you’ve had so far this year.

Me: Fifty-four. That’s not bad. I’m on pace to have close to one hundred for the year. About average.

Blog: Okay, now look at how many you’ve had each month. I’ll save you the trouble. Eight. Every single month. Like clockwork. Never seven or six, never nine or ten. Eight exactly. If you post this you’ll have seven for July with three days left in the month which will probably mean an eighth entry. That’ll make seven consecutive months of eight entires. 

Me: Wow.
Blog: Yeah, wow is right.

Me: So what do you think it means?

Blog: That either consciously or subconsciously you’re filling a quota. There’s no spontaneity to it, like writing here is an obligation. 

Me: I’ll admit that there’ve been a lot of times in the past few months when I’ve struggled for content, especially as I’m teaching a class every morning. 

Blog: Maybe we should take a break.

Me: A break? Won’t that be hard on you?

Blog: Oh, I’ll survive. There are 1,460 posts in the archive.

Me: I’ve been prolific.

Blog: Here you have been, on my sister blog, you’ve been pretty neglectful.

Me: I haven’t been writing enough poetry, that’s true.

Blog: I just want to get you thinking about things.

Me: Ya know, blog, you’ve always been really thoughtful.

Blog: That’s a reflection on you, after all, you’re the creator.

Me: Besides giving things a good think, what should I take away from this conversation?

Blog: Writing should come from the soul, the heart. Unless you’re a professional writer, like say on a newspaper, it shouldn’t be obligatory (email responses aside). Maybe start by NOT writing eight entires this month. Leave it at this one for July. Seven. Unless of course you’re inspired by something. Maybe next month you’ll write only five or six, maybe ten or eleven. But let it be organic.

Me: You’re right.

Blog: Good lad. By the way, how’s the novel going? When do you think it’ll be done?

Me: I’ve been at it since December ’20, closing in on two years. But I’ll be ready to show it to my editor in less than a month. So I’m finally feeling like there’s an end in sight.

Blog: Cool. The excerpts you’ve published here have been good so I look forward to seeing the full completed book.

Me: I’m loving the process. Enjoy every minute.

Blog: Good for you. Now have that kind of love when you write here.

Me: I will, I promise.

Blog: You’re the best.

Me: No, you are.

Blog: I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

Me: I disagree.

Blog: Oh stop it. (Laughs.)

Me: We crack each other up.

Blog: That’s as it should be.

Me: Later

Blog: See ya, pal.

25 July 2022

The Mysterious Julie Yuan

A student at the university named Julie Yuan wanted to interview me for the school paper. She contacted me through my publisher as I otherwise made myself difficult to find. I didn’t grant interviews anymore having become bored with the repetitious questions. I also fancied the notion of becoming something of a mystery to my readers ala JD Salinger. After my first novel was published I’d happily spoken to every newspaper, magazine, podcaster, blogger and organization who requested an interview. But once I had three more critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels to my name I forswore book tours, festivals and press requests. It was suggested that I was becoming a crusty old hermit and I’d no intention of disabusing anyone of that notion. Yet I felt a certain loyalty to my alma mater and figured that this one interview, my first in ten years, would be the exception that made it a rule. I gave her my phone number.

When Julie Yuan showed up at my door I was immediately taken by how she managed to somehow be simultaneously cute and sexy. My wife had left me a few months prior so I’d been quite randy recently, but even so had no thoughts of seduction. She was approximately half my age and had the look of  a virgin. Maybe it was her being Asia-American that convinced me of her innocence. I’d give the young lady an hour of my time — as promised — nothing more.

But the hour-long interview stretched into two. After patiently answering questions about my writing process, influences, inspirations, and my love of privacy, we drifted into personal topics. Julie was now doing a lion’s share of the talking. I learned that she was twenty-years-old, had emigrated with her family to the United States from Taiwan when she was six, was an English major who wrote a column for the campus paper, had two older brothers one of whom had died in a skydiving mishap, the other was an optometrist. Her parents ran a produce store in the city. She even revealed that she had only started dating as a senior in high school. 

Julie further confessed to having had sex exactly once (ONCE!) then being “ghosted” by her seducer. “I’ve been leery of guys ever since.” I don’t recall what prompted her confession but I found it endearing. 

I didn’t end the interview with Julie when we strayed off topic as I should have. There was something beguiling about this sweet, sincere kid. She was clearly intelligent, if a naif.

When the conversation finally stalled I had my opening to see Julie to the door and wish her well. I’d enjoyed our conversation having had so few since Myrna left me, but it was time to get back to my labors. Yet…

Instead of making my excuses I said: “I’m rather hungry and don’t feel like cooking. Would you care to share a pizza with me?”

“Awesome, I’m famished.”

What have I done? I wondered. Surely it was loneliness that prompted the invitation. After so many nights alone, the company of a young woman would be a welcome change.

We continued to chat after I ordered the pizza. Then I made an even bigger mistake by offering her something to drink. “I have beer, wine, mineral water — ”

“I’d love a glass of wine,” she said with far too much enthusiasm.

I poured the girl a glass then opened a bottle of beer for myself. 

Julie made short work of her glass so — again, stupidly — I re-filled her glass. Yes, I was being a polite host but I was also getting the little darling drunk.

By the time the pizza arrived she’d had three glasses and I’d polished off two beers.

We ate companionably. My guest was now comfortable enough (or tipsy enough) to refill her own glass which she did repeatedly. In an evident effort not to be outdone, I had beer after beer, something I wasn’t used to. I was feeling the effects.

After eating, Julie rose, took me by the hand and led me back to the sofa where we’d conducted the earlier interview. Both of the following two sentences are true: There was something chaste about the way she held my hand. There was something erotic about the way she held my hand. But most of all I was struck by her boldness.

So used to being in control in my life, I was at a loss about how to feel and wondered what would happen next.

Rather than position herself at the far end of the sofa as she’d done earlier, Julie sat beside me. Our thighs were touching. I could smell her hair. I could smell her neck. I could smell her deodorant. I could — I swear — smell her sex.

Every fiber of my being was either telling me to stop whatever it was that seemed to be starting or urging me to sate my lust.

Fifteen minutes later, after fourteen minutes of passionate necking, we were in my bed, under my covers, not a stitch on between us, fucking like the world was on fire.

It’s impossible to compare orgasms, yet the first one I had with Julie Yuan unquestionably tops them all. Yes, I said the first one.

For her part Julie was totally satisfied by our coupling. This was expressed both by her cries of love and the unqualified praise she heaped on me in the aftermath. The flattery was most welcome.

I knew that I should have felt terrible guilt for what I’d done. It was indefensible. But I’d broken no laws and Julie had not only consented to the act, she’d instigated it. I had used a condom so an unwanted pregnancy was not a concern. But wasn’t it terribly wrong to fuck someone so much younger? 

I should have felt guilt — but I didn’t. Indeed I felt fantastic. I hadn’t had a lover since Myrna left and had begun wondering if I ever would again. Plus I genuinely liked Julie, ingenue that she was.

At my suggestion, Julie spent the night. This allowed us an encore performance before I fell into a deep, contented slumber. My first good sleep in weeks. All seemed well in the morning when we showered together then had breakfast (Julie made an omelet). We said our goodbyes with Julie promising to call. 

Yes, everything was fine. I had a lover, never mind her youth. Until such time as I met a more suitable companion I could satisfy my carnal desires with a supple and willing young woman who was beautiful and smart. Yes, there was the risk of her being hurt in the long run, but surely she was wise enough to know that what we had couldn’t last.

Inspired, I wrote prodigiously and brilliantly that day. I went for a late afternoon run, showered, opened a beer and waited for Julie to call.

She didn’t.

This was strange because she’d left me with the very definite impression that she’d phone in the evening. At 8:00 I called her.

No answer.

I tried again, this time leaving a message: “Julie, hi, looking forward to seeing you again. Call when you can. Hope you had a good day.”

Surely that would do the trick. 

I was growing drowsy while reading when I noted that it was nearly eleven and my new-found love hadn’t called. I worried that something may have happened to her but thought I should wait another twenty-fours before acting on my concerns. Anyway, she'd call tomorrow.

She didn’t

Instead of calling again, I texted. 

There was no response.

By mid-afternoon the next day I was desperate to see Julie again. I decided to pay a visit to the school newspaper office in hopes that they could help me locate her.

They’d never heard of the girl.

She’d lied about working for a college newspaper in order to interview me?

Oh God! You don’t suppose she really wrote for the high school newspaper and had lied about her age. I was in a panic. Back home I called the office of the high school newspaper. No Julie Yuan there. Thank God.

I looked up local produce stores finding one owned by a Victor Yuan. I called and asked about Julie.

Who? Victor asked.

You don’t have a daughter named, Julie?

You’re all mixed up fella, he told me.

What in the fuck?

Julie had told me a series of lies. 

Julie? Maybe that wasn’t even her name. Her outgoing message merely said, “hi, leave a message.” No name. Were I to launch an investigation into who and where she was I’d not have anything to go on.

I sat in my house as darkness fell. I was bereft. Victimized. A little bit angry, a lot sad. The odd thing was that whoever this imposter was, I desperately wanted to see her again. If she walked though my front door right then I’d have taken her in my arms then made love to her.

That conviction was soon tested when my phone rang.

“Hi,” she said cheerily. “It’s Julie!”

Such enthusiasm.

What to do? Confront her? Beg her to come over? Act the innocent. I couldn’t decide so simply said, “hello.”

“Sorry I didn’t call you back sooner. Been busy with classes and at the paper. Plus my folks needed me to help out at the store.”

The brazenness!

At least two of her excuses were bald-faced lies. It was too much, I couldn’t let this stand.

“Julie you don’t work at the school paper and you don’t have parents who own a produce store.”

There was a pause during which if it were actually possible to, I would have died of curiosity. Would she fess up and explain herself? Or compound the lies? Maybe she’d realize the jig was up and end the call.

But no. Julie Yuan (or whoever) was full of surprises.

“Can I come over so we can fool around?”

“I assume we’ll talk first.”

“For sure!”

“Okay,” I said meekly, realizing that despite it all I was weak at the knees at the thought of making love to this angel again.

“I’m right outside.” 

The next sound I heard was her knocking at my front door.

This is weird and interesting, I thought.

Julie Yuan walked into my house and without a word started kissing me. I was powerless to resist. 

She maneuvered me to the sofa, sat me down then pulled off her clothes, prompting me to do the same. The sweet innocent girl who’d interviewed me a few days prior had transformed into a seductress. I loved it.

We fucked on the floor, knocking over my coffee table in the process.

After, we wordlessly went to bed.

Finally she spoke. “Let me know when you’re ready for round two.”

“Who ARE you?”

“My name is Julie Yuan.”

“Is it really?”

“I promise.”

“Why all the lies?”

“I didn’t lie about you being my favorite writer.”

“Did you lie about having had only one previous sexual encounter.’

“Oh most definitely,” she answered with a laugh.

“That doesn’t surprise me given how…” 

“Given what?”

“Just the way you are.” (I meant in bed.)

“Thanks — I guess.”

“Why the other lies and what is your real story?”

“Hush,” Julie said while placing a hand gently over my mouth.

Julie Yuan never told anything more about herself. Not whether she had a job or went to school or where she was from or her actual age or where she lived. She visited several nights a week for three months. We always made love, we always showered together and she always made breakfast. But I learned nothing about her nor why she’d lied. I thought about going through her purse while she was in the bathroom but couldn’t bring myself to it. Why? Was I afraid of what I’d find? I accepted the mystery realizing that it added to my passion for Julie. My constant desire for her was all encompassing.

I had no idea where she went or what she did when she was not with me. She never answered her calls or texts. I thought of following her but it seemed too strange.

Finally one morning she announced: “I have to move on.”


“I’ve had a lot of fun with you but it’s time.”

“No! Why?”

“Because it’s time, silly. You’ve been great. This has been great but it’s time.”

“I’ll marry you!” I was desperate but meant it just the same.

“You would, really?”

My hopes up, I said, “yes as soon as possible. Today, even.”

“That’s so sweet.”

“So what do you say?” I wasn’t in love so much as I was addicted.

“Let me go for a walk and think about it.”

I never saw her again.

A private investigator I hired couldn’t find a clue as to who Julie Yuan was or where she’d gone.

It was two years ago today that I last saw her. I received a postcard from Hawaii in the mail this morning. “Hi! Been thinking of you. We had great times. If you’re ever in Honolulu look me up. I’m still single and my name really is Julie Yuan.”

I’ll be on flight to Hawaii first thing tomorrow morning.

20 July 2022

I Like Moose, Nobody Wants to See Your Wordle Score, Poets, Bergman, TV and the Ruination of a Sport, All in One Wild and Wacky Post

A moose.

I like moose and I’m trying to figure out why anyone wouldn’t. They're lovely creatures. Not quite majestic nor regal, even a little dorky in a powerfully-built sort of way. I understand that some people hunt them. Why? What kind of sicko gets pleasure out of killing a beautiful animal? If you need to hunt them for food, fine but otherwise just take their picture and admire them. I like looking at photos of moose and follow an account on instagram dedicated to posting them. They can be dangerous if provoked so don't provoke them. Also, don't try to feed them. Leave a moose alone and you're fine. I think they’re pretty cool.

Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath are two of my favorite poets. Both committed suicide. Plath had multiple lovers before marrying, Sexton had numerous affairs while married. Both had abusive husbands. Both were trailblazers as poets and women. I’m reading about them now in a book called Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz: The Rebellion of Sylvia Plath & Anne Sexton. I find them fascinating, brave women who led tragic but meaningful lives. The book I'm reading about them is good. It was written by Dr. Gail Crowther.

Ingmar Bergman was married five times, had children with each wife and one with a lover, the actress and his frequent muse, Liv Ullman. In addition to Ms. Ullman, Bergman had affairs with Bibi Anderson and Harriet Anderson (no relation) who both appeared in many of his films. Strike the word monogamous from Bergman’s dictionary but underline insatiable. I've had my hands full with one wife and zero lovers on the side. How he managed it all while being such a prolific director is beyond me.

I’m loving the final season of Better Call Saul, one of the great TV dramas of all time. There are four episodes left. I anxiously await the appearances of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. I’ve also been given to understand that Carol Burnett appears on the show. BCS is from the same people who brought us Breaking Bad so you know they won't disappoint in the finale. I'll be sad to see it end but certainly have enjoyed the ride.

Speaking of TV I’m also enjoying season two of the brilliant comedy Only Murders in the Building. Martin Short and Steve Martin (or Steve Short as they could be called) are howlingly funny and Selena Gomez as their fellow podcaster and crime solver is equal to the task of holding her own among two geniuses of comedy.

I’ve never heard a satisfactory explanation for why some folks post their Wordle scores. I’ve been playing since the end of January and never thought for a second to waste anyone’s time thusly. I often discuss Wordle with oldest daughter but other than that keep it to myself because frankly why should anyone care about my score? Yet you’ll see people posting their day’s result on Twitter. Might as well keep a public diary of when you clip your toenails.

One of the great loves of my life for many years was college football. I’ve been a fan of Cal football since I was a wee tyke (such suffering) and enjoyed the pomp, pageantry and most of all the traditions. But the sport has been systematically ruined over the past twenty-five years or so. All in the pursuit of more dollars. Rivalries have been ended. Conferences have lost their geographic meaning and been eviscerated. Bowl games have saturated the market and the older ones have lost decade long tie-ins with conferences. Kick-off times are often not decided until a week before the game and too many games are at night. The straw that likely broke the camel’s back is the PAC 12 conference (of which my beloved Golden Bears are a member) losing two of its original schools, U$C and UCLA, both of whom are moving to the Big Ten (giving them sixteen schools despite the name). The two southern California schools are two of Cal’s three rivals (along with Stanfurd). This will have a devastating impact on the conference as a whole and Cal in particular. The loss of revenue will be staggering. People in the know speculate that the Bears' only chance of survival (yes, it’s that bad) is to also join the Big Ten — if they are wanted there. College football is a mere shadow of what it used to be and it is looking to get even worse. The big schools will survive and prosper (the rich getting richer in the US? Who’d have thought it). The situation constantly reminds of the song, Look What They’ve Done to My Song by Melanie. “Look what they’ve done to my song ma, it was the only thing that I could do half right but it’s turning out all wrong…” The more things change the worse they get. I can’t even escape the pain and heartache of the world today through college football anymore. Bad news is everywhere. 

At least there are photos of moose to look at.

15 July 2022

Honoring My Wife and My Great Love For Her

My wife in Mendocino November '79

If nothing else in my life I’ve learned what loving someone feels like. No one has ever loved a person more than I do my wife of thirty-five years.  One hardly knows where to start in describing her. Beauty. Kindness. Warmth. Wisdom. Wit. Sensuality. Intelligence. There’s that beautiful voice. That beguiling smile. Those warm greetings. Her culinary skills. Her understanding and compassion. Her encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture from the Sixties through today. Her political awareness. Her passion for comforting the afflicted while afflicting the comforted. The list goes on.

My wife has always wished to remain anonymous on this blog and on social media in general. I respect that wish (meanwhile I’ve been inclined to share anything and everything about myself.) Of course I’ve made constant reference to her over the years on this blog, often as “missus,” a term meant to be of endearment. 

Tomorrow is a milestone birthday for my “better half” one that ends in a zero (just the one). She wants no gifts, no special celebrations, nothing more than dinner out. This is a woman with great pride but no ego. While she takes her views seriously and has always worked hard whether in the job she’s retired from or in caring for the household, my wife has always deflected attention from her self. She is truly selfless. 

Besides being — in my estimation — the world’s greatest wife — she also has no superior as a parent. My daughters couldn’t have asked for a better more loving, supportive mother and wouldn’t, I’m sure, think of doing so.

I recall vividly the first time I saw my future wife in the Fall of 1978. “Tall, beautiful, hippie chick” was my instant assessment. I subsequently got to chat with her and concluded that she was one of those rare women who were “out of my league.” I was thus stunned when I later realized that she “liked liked” me. Rapturous. Courting her was no easy proposition for as much as she liked me, she was not ready to commit. We both moved at various times to other parts of the country (we met in Chico) me to Sacramento then Boston, she to Santa Barbara. It wasn’t until the Spring of 1985 that she joined me in Berkeley. Two years later we married, making me the luckiest man on the planet, a distinction I still hold.

There have been bumps on the road, most of my own construction. But, corny as it sounds, true love conquers all. As a couple we have survived my missteps and she has weathered my emotional struggles giving me strength, love and support. Being on life’s journey with her has been an incredible privilege and joy. 

I’m not giving her birthday present tomorrow because she doesn’t want one. I hope she will accept this heartfelt declaration of my love instead. 

13 July 2022

A Streams Classic: Trying to Live Up to My Remembrances of the Past, The Sixties Redux

Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock

This post originally appeared in October 2012.

I gave a talk on the 1960s a few days ago. It was called: The 1960s, The Music, The Protests and Me. I felt good about it. I felt energized. I felt that I lived in a magical time in a magical place and seen amazing things happen. I'd seen hippies, the National Guard, tear gas canisters, the world through LSD. I'd heard anti-war chants. Beatles records on vinyl that I bought new for $3. I felt excited and hopeful and like all things were possible. I felt there was a chance to change everything. I grew to be disappointed that only some things were changed. I grew to appreciate that which did change. I grew angry and cynical and morose. I grew out of that to wax nostalgic and to re-visit Joplin and Hendrix and Neil Young and The Who.

I saw Watergate and said: that figures. I saw Vietnam end and said: it's about time. I saw Reagan elected president and said: oh no. I saw disco come and go and said: dance, dance dance the night away. I saw an end to my own over indulging and said: thank you.  I saw my children born and said: this is fantastic. I saw the U.S. invade Iraq and said: here we go again. I saw a middle school classroom for 18 years and said many many things. Now I see how things have been and understand some and not others. I am glad to be able to remember what I do and wish that I could have been a better passenger for the first decades of my trip through life. I learned to accept what I cannot change and not have regrets not have resentments and to try to be honest at all times in all things. I learned there are worse things than run on sentences.

The same view I had
I gave a talk on the 60s a few days ago. The Beatles were singing, people tripping, soldiers dying (when, oh when, don't they?) and a helicopter flew over my head pouring tear gas on us. I was in high school, cut class and headed for the demonstrations on the Cal campus. On the way through campus large men in bright blue uniforms in full riot gear hid behind shrubbery, they were as obvious as the sand in a desert. We chanted, we yelled, we exercised the U.S. Constitution. Gave that mother a good work out. Then a helicopter appeared with the white clouds flowing out of unto us. An indelible moment in a young man's life. Lo these many years later the sound of a helicopter has a special meaning to me and not a pleasant one.

We ran.

I escaped the clutches of arresting officers and made my way back to school, the day's lesson learned on a college campus.

I spoke of this the other day. I spoke of Woodstock, Altamont, the Domino Theory, Nixon, Johnson and the Haight Ashbury. I write of it now. I write of belief. So powerful to have a belief system and values. A code we live by and up to and with and never ever -- if we can -- ignore. If we fulfill our duties to ourselves we are doing all around us a favor. The Sixties formed me and gave me backdrop and a sense of what is important --- crazy crazy ideas like peace and love. And brotherhood and sisterhood and true equality and not tolerance but respect and holding your truths to be self-evident and not in need of facelifts. We who we are have us to become and to value and to hold dear and be and we be as we are this. This. Ourselves.

We are who we were.

I was young and smart and idealistic. 

I have a past to live up to.

10 July 2022

I See Chris Rock Live Inspiring a Bit on Him and Comics in General But Also Get on to Politics and Depression

I saw Chris Rock at the Paramount Theater in Oakland last night. I don’t recall an evening in which I’ve laughed so often and so hard.

The great comedian touched on a variety of issues ranging from the Kardashians, to dating, to raising daughters, to politics. Like a lot of great comics, he personalized his performance allowing audience members to feel as though they were getting to know him and gaining insight into his life. The performance was one of four in the Bay Area this week, all part of his Ego Death tour. After the tour there will be a Netflix special, presumably pieced together from some of these shows. The majestic Paramount (completed in 1931) is a great beauty that recalls all the similar venues that used to grace this country. Thank the heavens its been preserved and indeed looks better than ever. Friday night it was packed. I had an excellent seat though not among the uber wealthy in the orchestra section. Some people chose to dress for the occasion, while others, as is so often the case these days, were attired as if they were hosting a barbecue. One woman, who was clearly in a very expensive dress, sported a purple sequined mask. Tres chic. I was surprised at how often people got up and went to freshen their drinks or visit the restroom during the performance. Seems utterly mad to me. One of the best things about the show was laughing in unison -- often applauding as well -- with so many other people. It makes the laughing and cheering all the heartier. My god the night was good for this old soul.

Both Comedy Central and Rolling Stone magazine have Rock at number five in their lists of greatest stand-ups of all time. For me he’d be fourth trailing only George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Ricky Gervais. I’d round out my top ten with Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Bill Hicks, Rodney Dangerfield, Jim Jeffries, and Jonathan Winters. There are four funnymen who I could also consider for my list of great stand-ups, Groucho Marx, Woody Allen, David Letterman and Steve Martin, but most of their careers have been spent in other areas of comedy and indeed Groucho never was a stand-up. All four are among the most hilarious people ever. I realize that my top ten only includes one African American (Rock). If I expanded the list to twenty, Red Foxx, Dave Chappelle, George Wallace and Eddie Murphy all would be included. 


Initially I thought it was a weird joke but some Ohio Republicans are sponsoring a bill that would require school to teach “both sides” of the Holocaust. The Nazi side? The side that justified killing six million Jews? Maybe we should teach both sides of the Manson family murders and the Jonestown Massacre and the slayings of all the children in Sandy Hook. The question of how low Republicans can go has yet to be answered. It should be noted that at the same time Republicans seem averse to having the horrors of slavey taught in school. After all such lessons might make fragile white kids feel bad. Boo hoo. In my years as a middle school history teacher I was explicit about slavery, my white students seemed to survive in tact, perhaps being smart enough to realize that these horrors were perpetrated by others more than a century ago. (Kids are pretty good about figuring those sorts of things out).


I’m writing this bit the next day. I’m suffering a bone-crushing depression. The kind that makes me wonder if there’s any possibility of happiness ever re-entering my life. Every thought is awful. Trying to contemplate future events that will bring me joy is of no help. It’s as if every thought that emerges comes wrapped in a thick, black cloud. Utter hopelessness. The equivalent of excruciating physical pain that makes doing anything at all seem impossible. Somehow I am able to write these words as occasionally happens when even mired in the worst of the darkness. I can’t conceive of much else that I can do. I wonder who that happy fellow from Friday night was, or even, for that matter, the carefree chap from yesterday. What cruelty life slaps me with. A long continuous slapping from which relief seems impossible. Yet I carry on. What else can one do?

04 July 2022

Mr. Jones Gets an Ocean Swim

The family wheels

Yesterday my wife Bathsheba and I took the twins, Cecil and Cecilia, to the beach for a day of frolicking and fun. The tykes brought their pet flounder, Mr. Jones.

We piled into our 1947 Chevy Station Wagon for the thirty-five minute drive. In addition to bathing suits, towels and a picnic basket (filled to the brim with turnip salad, chipped beef and a herring soufflé) we towed our backhoe (to aid in the building of a sand castle). 

The conversation was lively and erudite.

“You think we’ll see any sneaker waves, Pop?” My precocious son, Cecil asked excitedly.

“Sure might son, but let’s not get our hopes up.”

“Maybe a dead whale or stingray will wash up on shore,” said Cecilia.

“If the fates are smiling on us,” I replied.

“Let’s focus on what we can be sure of,” offered my darling wife, “like cavorting in the frothy brine.” Then she pulled out some whale jerky and passed it around -- much to everyone’s surprise and delight.

The seven-year-old Cecil tapped my shoulder and said, “I’m reminded of what the philosopher Martin Heidegger said: 'Anyone can achieve their fullest potential, who we are might be predetermined, but the path we follow is always of our own choosing. We should never allow our fears or the expectations of others to set the frontiers of our destiny. Your destiny can't be changed but, it can be challenged. Every man is born as many men and dies as a single one.'”

“He was a rascal that Heidegger, that’s for sure,” I countered, which caused us all to convulse with chuckles.

“Can we discuss dialectics, daddy?” Cecilia asked after the laughter died down.

“Not now, darling,” said my wife, “Maybe on the way back.”

“Awwww, no fair,” the disappointed cherub reposted.

Arriving at the beach we were happy to note that a thunderstorm was brewing. “We’ll have the beach practically to ourselves,” Cecil shouted gleefully.

“That we will, that we will,” I said wisely while lighting my pipe.

The one disappointing aspect to our day was that the backhoe had detached somewhere on the busy freeway. “That must have been the cause of the the big accident we heard about on the radio,” opined my better half.

“It was an old and rusty backhoe needing to be replaced anyway,” I said philosophically clenching my pipe between my teeth and blowing bubbles.

For the rest of the day the children made merry. Cecilia swam out to a buoy bringing back an angry eel that we added to our lunch time repast. Cecil dug up a buried treasure and a corpse but Bathsheba and I insisted that he return them both.

The kids took Mr. Jones for a swim. The flounder is a great one for swimming and reveled in playing tag with our progeny.

The raging thunderstorm that arrived a half hour into our stay at the beach kept other bathers at bay so we we had plenty of room to stretch out. My spouse read a book she brought along, “The Mysterious Mr. Carbuncle and the Clydesdale Murders” while I listened to the ball game on the portable radio. My beloved Mine City Moose were besting hated rivals, the Placerville Polecats. 

Eventually the sun came out so we collectively decided to return to our humble abode. 

Bathsheba took the wheel for our ride home with Mr. Jones in the passenger seat. The kiddies and I drowsed in the back seat though at one point my darling woke me to point out the remnants of the accident caused by our errant backhoe. “Oops!” I said.

Back home we took turns in the shower though in our confused state Cecilia got in twice before I got my first turn and our housekeeper Maybelline accidentally joined me though she was clean enough having spent the day at home watching soap operas.

We spent the evening cozily on the sofa watching “The Sorrow and the Pity.”

Putting the tots to bed I happily proclaimed, “another great day for the Burgermeister family!”

Then Bathsheba and I crawled into bed where we mated like possums.