Sushi

Assorted Sushi and Sushi Rolls

One of the best things about living in Southern California is the availability of good sushi. It’s something you have to be careful of, because sushi made with seafood that is not fresh can not only be disgusting, but can make you ill. So I always insist on going places that have a trained Japanese itamae, or sushi chef.

Also, I will only eat sushi in places where really fresh seafood is available. I have always joked about starting a rock band named Inland Sushi.

When we go to Honolulu next week, I hope to go some places where I can have sushi and Martine, who wouldn’t touch the stuff, could get something she likes close by. That is possible only in shopping malls like the Ala Moana Center and the International Marketplace and Royal Hawaiian Center. There used to be a couple of Japanese food malls near Waikiki, but they were shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“At a Certain Age”

As Polish Poet Czeslaw Milosz shows us, the urge to confess can be a problem. Sometimes you just have to bottle it all up and hope it doesn’t burst.

At a Certain Age

We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers.
White clouds refused to accept them, and the wind
Was too busy visiting sea after sea.
We did not succeed in interesting the animals.
Dogs, disappointed, expected an order,
A cat, always immoral, was falling asleep.
A person seemingly very close
Did not care to hear of things long past.
Conversations with friends over vodka or coffee
Ought not to be prolonged beyond the first sign of boredom.
It would be humiliating to pay by the hour
A man with a diploma, just for listening.
Churches. Perhaps churches. But to confess there what?
That we used to see ourselves as handsome and noble
Yet later in our place an ugly toad
Half opens its thick eyelid
And one sees clearly: “That’s me.”

The Royal Siblings

Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne

Of the four children of the late Queen of England, I do not think the best possible successor is Charles. There was always something clumsy about the new monarch. I believe he is well-intentioned, but I do not think he has made good choices in his life, witness Diana and Camilla. Unlike most people, I regard Diana as someone who could not be happy in marriage with anyone.

If we were to pass on Charles, that leaves the next three siblings, in order of succession, namely: Andrew, Edward, and Anne. Andrew, of course, has led too scandalous a life to be anything but a salacious footnote (Stripper Koo Stark and Jeffrey Epstein). About Edward, I know very little. He appears to be the shrinking violet of the family.

Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward at St. Giles in Edinburgh

I think the most talented of the four is the current Princess Royal, Anne. When threatened with a kidnapping by a lone gunman in 1974, Princess Anne refused to cooperate, commenting only “Not bloody likely!” She was a noted equestrian who participated in the Olympics and looks decades younger than the tormented Charles.

Her peppery personality is, I feel, what the monarchy needs. But then, the actual tale of successions after the deaths of kings and queens has yielded up many weak sisters of both genders. For all the gory details about who is in line to succeed Elizabeth, click on Line of Succession to the English Throne 2022.

Medioxumous?

Image of God Terminus: “I Yield to No One”

My first real job was an odd one: Over a period of a year, I had to proofread and edit two dictionary databases. In the process, I began to collect strange words such as septemfluous, rotl, crwth, and medioxumous. The last of these means of or relating to the middle class of deities. This post comes from Philip Matyszak’s amusing book The Classical Compendium. It consists of some classical deities of which you have likely never heard:

Viriplaca. The goddess who reconciled wives with their husbands after a quarrel.

Vervactor, The god who ensured a favourable first ploughing of fallow land.

Vallonia. As you might expect, the goddess of valleys.

Terminus. The god of boundary stones.

Sterculinus. The god of manure spreading [and of Fox News?]

Rumina. The goddess who protects nursing mothers.

Nona. The goddess who, with Decima, presided over the final months of pregnancy.

Meliona. The goddess of bees and honey.

Laverna [and Shirley?]. The goddess of thieves and conmen.

Calcutta on the Pacific

Bus Stop at Bundy and Santa Monica

When I first arrived in Southern California at the tail end of 1966, I was pleasantly surprised by how crisp and clean it looked. Coming from grungy red-brick Cleveland, coated with decades of industrial grime, I really felt I was making a new beginning.

Cut to today. The city is crawling with bums (excuse me, “the homeless”) who think nothing of spreading garbage all around. The trash cans are all filled to overflowing, and alleyways are festooned with human excrement.

It seems that every year there are more men living in tents and ratty looking old Winnebago RVs parked up and down the streets. There has been a bum encampment now for upwards of ten years right across the street from my apartment. When I go to the local Seven-Eleven, there are scruffy men asking for “spare change.”

There are also a few women in these encampments, but their appearance usually begins a new round of competition for their favors, marked with nights of cursing and violence.

I still love L.A., but am dismayed that politicians don’t seem to want to face the problems that confront them. On one side, they face opposition from woke liberals who think they should be left alone, and the majority of the population, which would rather see them housed somewhere else. Considering that most bums are not into following rules regarding alcohol and recreational drugs, or any kind of personal hygiene, the latter is not a viable option.

Times are tough when vagrancy is considered the norm.

My Queen

I Prefer to Remember Her as Being Young

I like to think of Elizabeth II’s reign as paralleling most of my life. I remember as a 7-year-old boy watching her coronation in 1952. As I recall, they didn’t yet have the ability to broadcast live from across the Atlantic, so I probably saw it several days later. Even as a kid who looked askance at most of the goopy girls he knew, I thought that the new Queen of England was a real looker.

Today as a 77-year-old, I still see her with the eyes of youth. In her final days, she was a little hunched over lady, shrunken from osteoporosis. But then, at my age I am no dashing Lochinvar—and never was.

Elizabeth lived a long life, and a distinguished one. She has little to regret from her seventy years as queen. Even the Diana episode: I always felt that the Princess of Wales was one of those people who are not comfortable in their own skin and who consequently cannot have a happy marriage. Even had she married Dodi El Fayed, I think the result would have been the same.

Poor Charles III. I can’t see him having a happy, successful, or long reign. I shouldn’t be surprised if he winds up abdicating like Edward VIII.

My Lizard Life

Gecko and Opuntia Cactus

As the heat dome over the Western US continues, I continue to make like a lizard. Unlike a lizard, however, I seek shady cool places rather than sunny rocks or cacti for my perch. Today, I even went to see a movie: Bullet Train with Brad Pitt was no winner—but at least I sat for three hours in air-conditioned comfort while the people outside the theater looked decidedly wilted.

My dinners lately were very appropriate to a desert dweller. Several days ago, I went to the Persian market across the street and purchased Persian lavash flatbread, French feta cheese, and Turkish pickled vegetables (2 varieties). For breakfast today, I made two quesadillas with flour tortillas, Monterey Jack cheese, and pickled rajas de jalapeño. Despite the hot morning, I had my usual cup of hot Indian black tea with honey and a squeeze of lime.

Tomorrow, while Martine braves the dead hot air of downtown LA, I will probably make my way once again to Burton W. Chace Park in Marina Del Rey to catch stray breezes while reading O. A. Bushnell’s 1963 novel Molokai, about the Hawaiian leper colony. During that time I will constantly hydrate myself with mineral water to keep from getting dehydrated.

This weather is no fun.

With Saints and Angels in Long Beach

Saint George Slaying the Dragon

With the continuing heat dome over Southern California, Martine and I took a chance and went to the Long Beach Greek Festival at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church. Although it was as hot as Hades, I’m glad we went. The food was good, there were tons of tasty Greek pastries, and the church itself was outstanding.

The church was not as wealthy as Saint Sophia in downtown L.A. or Saint Nicholas in Northridge, but it was beautifully painted with what seemed to be hundreds of saints and angels. And, unlike many Greek Orthodox churches, most of them were identified in both Greek and English.

There were a few surprises, the most prominent one being an Eskimo—actually an Aleut—called Saint Peter the Aleut:

Saint Peter the Aleut, aka Cungagnaq

For an Aleut to be a Greek Orthodox martyr requires a leap of faith. And for Cungagnaq, it came in 1815 when the Spanish, who were uneasy about the Russian occupation of Alaska, captured him near San Francisco and had him put to death at the instigation of some Catholic priests who were upset that he was a heretic. Read about it on Wikipedia.

Just about every square inch of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin church was covered with images of Christ, Mary, and the saints and angels. The effect was quite stunning. Martine and I spent an hour studying the sacred images.

I might be an indifferent lapsed Catholic, but the simplicity and sincerity of the church held my respect and even awe.

Poor Old Poppa

Hemingway at His Typewriter While on Safari

When I was younger, Ernest Hemingway was considered a literary god. After his suicide in 1961, the colossus of his reputation began to be chipped away. After re-reading his Green Hills of Africa (1935), I begin to understand why.

Literary reputations are a tricky business. Who reads Thomas Wolfe any more? Is he even in print? What about James Jones and Herman Wouk? I can even foresee that my beloved William Faulkner’s rep might come in for revision by a younger generation less than enchanted by his difficulty.

What hurt Hemingway for me, especially as I developed a more adult taste in literature, was primarily his pose of machismo. In Green Hills of Africa, he is the Great White Hunter, even though it is one of his companions who kills the trophy rhino and kudu.

Even worse if Hem’s practice of never referring to his wife by name. If the edition I read did not rectify it in the captions to the illustrations, I would have known her only as P.O.M.—Poor Old Mama. What was poor about her? Pauline Pfeiffer Hadley Hemingway was bright and understanding. There were no bitter recriminations, even though the safari was mainly Ernest’s little red wagon.

PKT3042 – 208725 AUTHOR – ERNEST HEMINGWAY 1995 NOTED AUTHOR RETURNS FROM AFRICAN TRIP New York: Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Hemingway shown as they arrived in New York, April 3, on the liner Paris. They have spent the last three months in East Africa hunting lions. Mr. Hemingway, the author of numerous books, states that Africa reminded him of Spain and that he would like to return.

But really, P.O.M. this and P.O.M. that? And never once Pauline or Hadley? If I were her, I would have knocked his teeth out with his own typewriter for refusing the acknowledge her individuality. It’s as if I would refer to Martine in my blogs as P.L.F.G.—Poor Little French Girl (she was born in Paris).

What Hemingway had going for him was his literary style. Joan Didion used to study his short stories as a model for her early writings. Until, that is, she surpassed him.

Of course, Hem refers to himself a couple of times as Poor Old Poppa, but not 100% of the time as he does with Pauline.

El Dorado

John Wayne and James Caan in Howard Hawks’s El Dorado

Today’s poem was actually a part of one of my favorite Westerns: Howard Hawks’s El Dorado (1966), which is a remake of the same director’s Rio Bravo (1959) starring the same actor, John Wayne. The lines are spoken by James Caan, in his first major role. Edgar Allan Poe, who wrote it, spelled it as one word: Eldorado—and that’s the name he gave to the poem.

Unlike Poe’s knight, I have found El Dorado to be in many places: Iceland, Scotland, Mexico, the Andes in South America, and even—appropriately—parts of the American Southwest.

Eldorado

Gaily bedight, 
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long, 
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado. 

But he grew old – 
This knight so bold – 
And o’er his heart a shadow 
Fell, as he found 
No spot of ground 
That looked like Eldorado. 

And, as his strength 
Failed him at length, 
He met a pilgrim shadow – 
‘Shadow,’ said he, 
‘Where can it be – 
This land of Eldorado?‘

‘Over the Mountains 
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow, 
Ride, boldly ride,‘
The shade replied, 
‘If you seek for Eldorado!’