The Things in My Pockets

I Accept G.K. Chesterton’s Challenge, Sort Of

It was in an essay entitled “A Piece of Chalk” that appeared in his collection Tremendous Trifles (1909):

Once I planned to write a book of poems entirely about the things in my pockets. But I found it would be too long; and the age of the great epics is past.

As I am not a poet, I will attempt to write an essay, or at least a blog post, about the contents of my pockets.

To begin with, I know it is a fashion among the svelte to wear shirts that have no pockets. (If you have ever seen any pictures of me, you know that “svelte” is not ba word that can be used to describe me.) One pulls one’s head through a hole at the top, and the result is a look that signals that one is in all probability dyspeptic. Fortunately, they haven’t attempted to do the same thing with pants. I suppose that if I had some native bearers, I could afford not to worry about he things I have to carry. But I have no native bearers.

Let’s start with the shirt. I prefer a shirt with two pockets. In the left one is an eyeglass case bearing my reading glasses. Shoved up against it is a Parker Executive ballpoint pen. The other usually contains a pill box for my Metformin HCL, Atorvastatin, Vitamin D3, and Oleuropein.

My pants have four pockets. Let’s start with the front left pocket, which contains my wallet. In my right front pocket are the sets of keys I need for the day’s activities: car keys, house keys, and—if I become employed again—my office keys.

In my back pockets are two handkerchiefs. The left back pocket contains a usually clean hanky used for cleaning the smudges off my eyeglasses. The right back pocket contains what Shakespeare would call my snotrag.

Now that usually is not enough for everything I need. If I step out of the house, I need room for a Ziplock® sandwich bag containing my two types of insulin and a supply of nano-needle nibs. Then, too, I go nowhere without books and/or one of my Kindles. Then, too, one must add bus schedules (on general principle, I do not pay exorbitant parking fees), a floor guide to the Los Angeles Central Library, my cellphone (when I allow myself to be so bothered), and a folded-up plastic bag for carrying books, if necessary. For the items in this paragraph, I use a Magellan travel bag which I see I will have to replace soon if I do not wish to be confused with the homeless.

And that is it. I don’t think it would have made for a good poem. Though, if anyone could do it, it would be G.K. Chesterton.


Tough Guys

Yeah, Well, It’s Now an Epidemic

What ever happened to the American male? At some point, did everyone get together and decide that they’d be happier if they looked like Roman gladiators? What with all the tattoos and several days’ beard growths, guys are looking as if they can take care of themselves. Even if, really, they are marshmallows.

Even fat guys are wearing those shorts that go down to the ankles so that they resemble gang veteranos. Even if they never belonged to a gang.

What I want to know is this: Is anyone being fooled, really? What do we gain from looking like tough guys, even when we aren’t? Perhaps it’s because of the movies. I just saw the last half of a movie called In a Valley of Violence (2016) starring Ethan Hawke and John Travolta. All the male actors are as scruffy as makeup can make them, even the ones who are actually cowardly. The two women in the film—Taissa Farmiga and Karen Gillan—who play sisters, are actually tougher than their men, and without being scruffy.

I would hate to think that the American Male is a victim of Central Casting.




America: Going Down the Drain?

The Vegas Strip

Somehow, over the years, something happened to the United States and its people. In 1945—the year I was born—we were one of the few countries involved in the Second World War that were not in ruins. We were on top of the heap. The hardworking people who struggled through the Great Depression and helped restore Western Europe after the Nazi onslaught, were suddenly guilty of hubris. We thought we were really something, that our way of life was the only way to go. We were the City on the Hill, and everyplace else was a steaming sh*thole.

Nemesis struck quickly and often. Korea. The Bay of Pigs. Viet Nam. Iraq. Afghanistan. Panama. Grenada. Al Qaida. ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. And that was just the military!

We still thought we were really something. We got into deep debt, figuring that we had it coming to us. We stopped saving money for a rainy day. There was always Vegas, the Lottery, or the Horses.

We built fancy new things, never figuring that we would have to maintain and repair them somewhere along the line. The streets of Southern California are full of potholes, ringed by K-Rails, and bumpy with steel plates.

Americans drove these mean streets in leased luxury automobiles they really couldn’t afford. The more they paid, the more they assumed they could do anything they wanted: They were the privileged class with their Lexuses, Bentleys, Porsches, Mercedes-Benzes, Infinitis, and Range Rovers.

These same Americans elected a President like them, a privileged real estate developer who made the Whites into the New Aryans.

Will I live to see American feel a twinge of humility? Or will we continue to swirl around the drain until we go down it?



“We Cling to Whatever Floats”

Actually It’s a Lot Sooner Than That

Let’s face it: 2017 was nobody’s favorite year, unless they’re billionaires or right-wing extremists. And it definitely wasn’t mine. In the month of December, not only did I break some ribs, but Friday I was admitted to UCLA Hospital for one of my rare recurrences of adrenal insufficiency.  If you want the full background of what happened to me in September 1966, click here. To summarize very briefly: Chromophobe adenoma (pituitary brain tumor, rarely malignant) leads to panhypopituitarism which results at intervals in an Addisonian Crisis, which is what I had on Friday. The cure, very simply, is to inject me with 100mg of Solu-Cortef. Otherwise, I just fade peacefully and lethargically into nonexistence.

Unfortunately my condition is rare enough to flummox most doctors. It took a whole day for them to come up with an endocrinologist. Fortunately, she knew her stuff; and I got well quickly. Most doctors know that my condition exists, but they know little or nothing about the symptoms and treatment.

So that, plus my retirement and Martine’s impending departure (some time in January), added to the continuing devastation wrought by the Trumpf Administration, has led me to regard 2017 as an evil year.

2017 was, indeed, a prime number, which school janitor Frazz in the above cartoon strip of the same name, got right. But his teacher friend, Miss Jane Plainwell, is wrong about the next prime year being 4034, which it can’t be because it is evenly divisible by two. The next ten prime number years are, in order: 2027, 2029, 2039, 2053, 2063, 2069, 2081, 2083, 2087, and 2089. As you can see, they come pretty fast and furious.

Are there any benefits to be derived from surviving through a year that is also a prime number? Nope. As Frazz observes, “We cling to whatever floats.”

I wish all of you a Happy New Year!

It’s Uayeb Again, Folks!

Mayan Glyphs

This is a slightly edited reprint from my posting of December 31, 2012. As you may recall, there was widespread fear among New Age types that the Mayan calendar was coming to an end … and we would all be doomed! We were: Trumpf got elected in 2016.

We’ve been hearing a lot about the Mayan Calendar lately, mostly in connection with The End of the World back in 2013. Well, it didn’t quite end; and the Mayan Calendar just went on into a new baktun.

In the Haab’, or Mayan Solar Calendar, there are eighteen months of twenty days each. Where does that leave the other 5.25 days? To account for the difference, the Mayans created an intercalary five-day month referred to as the uayeb. Unlike other days in the Solar Calendar, the five days of the uayeb are thought to be a dangerous time.

The Mayan Glyph for Uayeb

According to Lynn Foster in Handbook to Life in the Ancient Mayan World, “During Wayeb, portals between the mortal realm and the Underworld dissolved. No boundaries prevented the ill-intending deities from causing disasters.” It was a time of fasting with abstention from sex and all celebrations. People avoided washing their hair or even leaving their huts during this time.

As we in the United States come to the end of another uayeb, I hope we are ready for what 2018 brings. Because, ready or not, here it comes….


The Summer of Our Discontent

Earthquakes. Hurricanes. What’s Next?

The last several weeks have seen some serious damage done to North America: hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean; then earthquakes in Mexico. There was even a small quake a few days ago whose epicenter was only two miles from me. I shouldn’t be surprised if a volcanic cone started pushing up through the ground the way Paricutín did in Michoacán back in 1943.

Of course, the one really, really serious volcanic event on this continent would be for the Yellowstone Caldera to blow, the way it has three times before: 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and 630,000 years ago. Each explosion made major changes to the map of North America. If Yellowstone did in fact blow, the only good news is that it would take out Washington, DC, along with everything else east of it.

I’ve already written about Nibiru, though I disbelieve most Christian projections of doom. I merely think it’s wishful thinking on the part of Evangelicals, who, just perhaps, may be realizing that they’ve f*cked up really bad this time. They want to be raptured up quickly so they don’t have to take any more blame for destroying what once was a perfectly viable country.



A Mythology Out of Comic Books

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

In desperation, o avoid another afternoon of a multi-day heat wave, I went to Santa Monica to see Wonder Woman in air-conditioned comfort. As one who, in my tender years, was an aficionado of comic book heroes (and heroines), I remember the thrill I felt at their sense of power against evil. When you’re a little kid, injustice really bugs you: You want to wreak vengeance on bullies without having the law, or the vice principal, or someone’s angry parents coming after you.

Superman came from Planet Krypton, Batman from a wealthy American family, and Wonder Woman from the secret Mediterranean (one presumes) island of Themyscira, which is shielded by fog from mortal view. All these super heroes have super powers. (As a kid, I had none—except the ability to survive a sickly childhood.)

Princess Diana, alias Wonder Woman, is powerful enough to stop bullets and deflect mortar shells. On a First World War battlefield, she singlehandedly attacks the German lines and frees a captive French village. She is in search of Ares, the God of War, whom she identifies as General von Ludendorff, and whom she kills with a special sword. But Ludendorff is not Ares: It turns out to be the British politician Sir Patrick Morgan, who ostensibly is trying to set up an armistice, but who really wants everlasting war.

Evidently, we still have war and lots of it. I guess that makes room for a sequel, which I am not surprised to hear is already in production.

What Would Be My Kryptonite?

In the jejune mythology of American comic books, there is frequently a weak point in every superhero. I guess it started with Achilles in the Trojan War, who was immortal provided no one shot him in the heel. It was Paris (no relation to me) who found this out and hit the Achaean hero there with a poisoned arrow. With Superman, he lost his powers when he was exposed to Kryptonite, a fragment of the planet where he was born. For me, I would probably lose such powers as I have if someone dug up some dirt from the East Side of Cleveland, near the intersection of Harvard and Lee, and waved it in my face.

I guess what I’m getting at is that this comic book stuff doesn’t move me much any more. The young love it, because they feel powerless in the face of all us evil adults who want to put them down and make them take out the garbage and clean their bedrooms.