By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

White Peaches—Yum!

What I like best about the summer months are the fruits that are available in the markets. By the end of May, I get very tired of apples and oranges and look forward to the arrival of peaches, apricots, and cherries. The apricots and cherries are available for only a short time, but the peaches last until the end of August or the beginning of September.

I particularly love white peaches. At this point of the year, they are not quite freestone, but they are delicious even if you have to cut around the stones.

Every day, I try to eat two or three different types of fruit. The most frequent are limes, which I squeeze into my hot and iced tea. Occasionally, I squeeze a lime into a glass, fill it almost to the top with water, and finish it off with a glug of tequila. Few drinks are as refreshing on a hot day.

In really hot weather, I make a pitcher of iced tea with lemon, a little dark rum, and several packets of artificial sweetener.

Later in the summer, the peaches become easier to divest of their stones, and tasty plums of different varieties become available. In September, I regret the passing of the summer fruits and look forward to fuyu persimmons. After persimmon season, it’s strictly apples and oranges until strawberries become available in February.

Classic Corvettes

On Saturday, Martine and I went to the Zimmerman Automobile Driving Museum (ZADM) in El Segundo. Martine has always loved Corvettes, especially the classic models of the 1960s.

There were over sixty Corvettes on view, surrounded by Corvette aficionados and the cars’ affable collector/owners. Martine loved talking to the owners about how much she hates bucket seats, and how they should bring back bench seats. That’s not terribly likely to happen because, as one of the owners remarked, you need bucket seats if you are racing on a slalom course (which is not something Martine is likely to do).

The ZADM has become a meeting place for collectors with show cars of various models. I(n a couple of weeks, they will have another show on B-Body cars, which were manufactured by GM originally for Buick and Oldsmobile before spreading to their other makes and models.

A Tricky Language

Children learning their native language in Hawaii don’t study their ABCs. For one thing, there is no “B” or “C” in the Hawaiian alphabet. In fact, their are only twelve letters in all—the same five vowels we have and seven consonants. Then, too, there is the okina, or glottal stop, which looks like a single apostrophe. You can see it in the above illustration next to the Hawaiian flag.

The sparseness of the alphabet could be the reason there are so many long words in the language. For instance, my favorite Hawaiian singer, the late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole has a name that is virtually unpronounceable to us haoles (i.e., mainlanders). When Bruddah Iz, as he was called, died in 1997 at the age of 38, he was well over 700 pounds. The flag of Hawaii flew at half mast—the only non-governmental-official to be so honored. He had the voice of an angel. I own several of his albums on CD and regard them among my most treasured possessions.

As a rare treat, here is Iz singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow”:

The video also shows his funeral, when his ashes were scattered in the Pacific.

Here are just a few Hawaiian street and neighborhood names in Honolulu. Imagine trying to pronounce them aloud to a native after you’ve had a few drinks::

  • Kaka’ako
  • Kekeaulike
  • Kalakaua
  • Kawaiaha’o
  • Nu’uanu
  • ’Aihualama
  • Pu’uohi’a
  • Likelike
  • Kapahulu
  • Kapi’olani

Sadly, the Hawaiian language is endangered, with most natives reverting to Pidgin, which I discussed in an earlier post.

The Burnt Orange Decade

Doesn’t It Seem the Whole Decade Was Orange?

Whenever I look back at the 1970s, it seems to me that everything was orange, burnt orange, or orange brown. There was also a kind o bold gaucherie in the fashion designs, from oversized collars for men to those ridiculous Bob Mackey dresses designed for the Carol Burnett Show.

I still watch reruns of the Carol Burnett Show from time to time on the ME Channel, especially when Comedy Central isn’t running new episodes of Trevor Noah in The Daily Show. I do it despite the fact that I will be inundated with ads for “Ask Your Doctor” prescription medications targeted at the elderly audience.

In general, I didn’t like the 1970s very much. Nixon was in the White House. It seemed all the hopeful promise of the 1960s was turning to a burnt orange shade of conformity. Some of the music was still good, but it seemed that the Silent Majority had won out.

At least the fashionable color wasn’t pink.

Hawaiian Cuisine

Three Typical Hawaiian Plate Lunches

There is more to Hawaiian cuisine than the simple “plate lunch,” but it is as typical for Honolulu as Hamburgers and French Fries are on the mainland. Typically it consists of:

  • A meat serving, such as kalua pork in the meal on the right
  • One or two scoops of plain white rice
  • Macaroni salad

What you don’t see is a salad. You get meat and a ton of carbs. Usually it tastes pretty good, but it drives haolies (mainlanders) nuts not to see their favorite grindz (food) on the menu. So many of them stick to hotel restaurants that cater to their expectations.

Oh, yes, there’s also poi, made from taro leaves.

Actually, poi is supposed to be very nutritious—even if it resembles slimy purple goop. I’ve never had any, but promise to sample some when Martine and I go to Honolulu later this year.

There are several other Asian cuisines that are part of Hawaiian food, especially Japanese and Chinese, with a hint of Portuguese in the form of their excellent linguica sausage.

Since Martine flat out doesn’t like Chinese food, and will only eat one or two Japanese dishes, I suspect we will eat mostly plate lunches (but no poi for her) or whatever mainland American chow she can find, even hamburgers and fries.

Questions and Answers

Drawing by Phil Wrigglesworth for The Guardian

If you’re doing the right kind of reading, you can find enlightenment anywhere. The following quote comes from a 2021 book review of Simon Critchley’s Bald, appearing in the July 20, 2021 issue of The Times Literary Supplement:

“To philosophize,” Critchley claims, “is to take your time, even when you have no time, when time is constantly pressing at your back.” It is also why it might seem that philosophy hasn’t advanced in thousands of years: because philosophizing isn’t about knowing the answers, it’s learning how to ask good questions, to keep asking them and to love the chaos.

“Far from Dawn”

I have just finished reading a poetry collection that was the best I have read in half a century. Over the past month or two, I have read several poems by Adam Zagajewski (1945-2021). His Mysticism for Beginners is full of startling images, deep insights, and even clarity, which is rare in contemporary poetry. Here is the first poem in the book:

A Quick Poem

I was listening to Gregorian chants
in a speeding car
on a highway in France.
The trees rushed past. Monks’ voices
sang praises to an unseen God
(at dawn, in a chapel trembling with cold).
Domine, exaudi orationem meam,
male voices pleaded calmly
as if salvation were just growing in the garden.
Where was I going? Where was the sun hiding?
My life lay tattered
on both sides of the road, brittle as a paper map.
With the sweet monks
I made my way toward the clouds, deep blue,
heavy, dense,
toward the future, the abyss,
gulping hard tears of hail.
Far from dawn. Far from home.
In place of walls—sheet metal.
Instead of a vigil—a flight.
Travel instead of remembrance.
A quick poem instead of a hymn.
A small, tired star raced
up ahead
and the highway’s asphalt shone,
showing where the earth was,
where the horizon’s razor lay in wait,
and the black spider of evening
and night, widow of so many dreams.

Greater Than Griffith?

In Hollywood, Sjöström Became Seastrom

Much has been written about D. W. Griffith as the greatest early director. True, his very early films were revolutionary; and he had a great actress in Lillian Gish. But it is difficult to like a director who made the Ku Klux Klan into heroes in Birth of a Nation (1915), and to tolerate the Victorian sentimentality of his later films. At almost the same time that Griffith was working in Hollywood, Victor Sjöström was making great films in Sweden, films like A Man There Was (1917) and The Outlaw and His Wife (1918), both of which starred the filmmaker.

When Sjöström was brought to Hollywood by Louis B. Mayer of MGM, he made several silent masterpieces in quick succession:

  • He Who Gets Slapped (1924) starring Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, and John Gilbert
  • The Scarlet Letter (1926) with Lillian Gish and Lars Hanson
  • The Wind (1928) with Lillian Gish and Lars Hanson

These three pictures are—all of them—in my list of the ten all-time best silent films made anywhere. And two of them star Griffith’s favorite star, Lillian Gish, who shines more in both films than she does in any of Griffith’s productions. And without all the ludicrous sentimentality.

Ingmar Bergman (L) with Sjöström

Sjöström went back to Sweden in 1930, supposedly because he was unwilling to be bound by the many restrictions of early sound films. After making three more films in Europe, he returned to the theater as well as acting. He can be seen in his role of Dr. Isak Borg in Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries (1957).

If he weren’t so sentimental, I would rate Griffith higher than I currently do, but I still think Sjöström was better.

Smokey & the Firefighters

Smokey at the Los Angeles County Fire Museum

This morning, Martine and I trekked all the way to the southeastern City of Bellflower to visit the Los Angeles County Fire Museum. This is one of three firefighters’ museums in the L.A. area. (The others are the L.A. City Fire Museum on Cahuenga in Hollywood and the African-American Firefighters’ Museum on Central downtown.)

Martine brought along her 50th Anniversary Smokey Bear to show the museum staff. Smokey was a big hit to the retired firefighters who served as docents. Martine collects Smokey memorabilia, has a Smokey zipper pull on her jacket, and regularly receives a catalog from Woodland Enterprises in Moscow, Idaho of Smokey Bear goodies.

Many of the fire engines and other equipment on display were used in the television series Emergency! which aired on NBC from 1972 to 1979. That accounts for the Number 51 on many of the vehicles, as they belonged to fictional Squad 51 on the series.

The docents were all retired firefighters themselves who knew a great deal not only about the series, but how the firefighting equipment was used. Our guide was Javier Torres who patiently walked us through the exhibits.

Our Guide, Javier Torres

The Los Angeles County Fire Department covers fires outside of Los Angeles City, especially the sparsely populated areas to the north of the county where most of the wildfires happen.

I have always admired firefighters, as it is one of the few careers which create heroes. When a visitor to the museum asked me if I was a retired fireman, I quickly answered, “No, I’m not quite good enough for the job.”

The Bureaucratic Run-Around

The above picture shows a steady water leak under a parking sign at Amherst and Ohio in West Los Angeles The area around the parking sign sometimes looks to be wet (but today it looked as if it had evaporated), and there is a steady runoff over the curb and on to the storm drain.

We are currently in the middle of a drought. Governor Newsom is perennially on the verge of dictating mandatory water cuts but this, being an election year, makes it unlikely.

The leak looks as if the sign had somehow pierced a water main. If that’s true, the leakage could cause problems to the multistory apartment building adjoining, especially as they have an underground garage.

The View from the Curb

Being a conscientious citizen, Martine did her best to inform the proper authorities. Instead of appreciating her efforts, the bureaucrats merely brushed her off. First, she called the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, who promised two weeks ago to look into the matter. Next, she tried the Los Angeles City Hall where there was a help desk; but it seems it no longer exists. The Police suggested that she try the Department of Water and Power on Hope Street. There, she met with a security officer who brazenly lied about the employees working at home. What gave the lie to his assertion was the arrival of several employees while she was talking to him and the fact that the building’s outdoor parking lot was full of cars.

On a number of occasions, Martine has made several trips to Santa Monica’s City Hall over on a number of issues, and she was happy to see that they acted quickly to resolve them. Los Angeles, being ever so much larger, apparently is too large to be efficient or even respectful toward a citizen who is trying to help them.

Martine has read this post and suggested that a copy be sent to Mayor Eric Garcetti showing him how badly he is served by the bureaucrats under his control.