A compilation of thoughts over the past couple of weeks. Work has been consuming so personal time is at a minimum. Weekends I catch up on sleep and be lazy.
Melancholy morning. I got up early, 4:30, and finished reading Cannery Row.
Finishing a book always leaves me feeling reflective. Cannery has a beautiful ending. Sweet and sad, with a feeling that we must take our fun where we can because heartache comes without warning. Or maybe, as in this book, sadness is always there, hanging around the edges, and our lesson is to either learn to live with it, push it out with humor and adventure, or succumb totally to it. Maybe those are the choices John is presenting to us. Beauty is all around us of course, but it can be fleeting; and love is elusive. There is a richness and diversity in these characters in this era of John’s writing which includes Tortilla Flats.
The ending of the book is previewed by an odd little story that is sort of a trademark of John’s. He incorporates the struggle of some animal for symbolism (in Grapes, it was the turtle crossing the road). There is the story of the male gopher who builds the perfect den, complete with food storage and plenty of rooms for kids, in the empty lot between the Palace Flophouse and Western Biological, only to find he cannot attract a mate. Dejected, he finally abandons his house and moves a few blocks away to a garden–where presumably there are more female gophers, but also gopher traps. What the hell is that message? We can’t have it all? This is after Doc wakes up on the morning following the great party and starts cleaning up. Doc is also alone of course. Maybe, like the gopher, he must choose between living where he wants (eclectic and socio-economically diverse Cannery Row), and moving somewhere more traditional where he has a better chance of meeting a mate, but almost certainly will die a slow death of boredom and routine. Mack and the boys have one another and are unburdened, for the most part, by ambition for much more than whiskey and enough food to live on.
All of this follows the ups and downs of the great party. The party starts slow and awkwardly, but then builds to excessive drunkenness and then fades to quiet again as Doc puts on a melancholy record and reads from a Sanskrit love poem. The poem brings tears to everyone’s eyes and the party seems at risk of slipping away–and then the crew of the fishing boat show up and hit on Dora’s girls and a huge fight ensues that does damage to Doc’s house and as they drive the invaders away, works its way down the street. When they return to the house, the party starts again. The police are summoned and immediately join the party. Later, the men from the fishing boat return, humbly and respectfully, and this time are welcomed in to join the party.
The ending is Doc, slowly cleaning the kitchen and tidying the house, but then he spots the book he was reading from the night before on his bedroom floor. He picks it up and reads:
I know that I have savoured the hot taste of life
Lifting green cups and gold at the great feast.
Just for a small and a forgotten time
I have had full in my eyes from off my girl
The whitest pouring of eternal light –
So, a sad and tender ending with John calling on a tacit confirmation and reminder from a centuries old story that life is meant to be lived. We must savor the hot taste of life, even knowing there will be consequences and sad days may follow. The author of the poem was meant to be executed the next day for his illicit love of a princess. Doc seems both happy and lonely but never quite fulfilled.
The rattlesnakes and lab rats staring mournfully out of their cages are the final images of the book.
I’m getting more involved in daily NY Times crossword puzzle. Terri and I got about 75% one Sunday, which isn’t bad. Sunday is brutally hard. Terri is better at Crosswords than I am. This week I nailed Monday’s, got about 85% of Tuesday but first glance at Wednesday is not encouraging. I’m not nearly as smart as I wish I was; but fortunately I’ve always had the ability to project an image of being smart. And since most people are easily fooled, then….wait a minute, maybe I am a little bit smart after all.
I was thinking the other day how cool it was to get to vote in our first black president and then also our first female president. Or that’s what I thought on that fateful morning 3 years ago. Maybe I’ll still get to see a president drug from the Oval Office in cuffs, cussing and kicking and screaming. That would be pretty cool—almost worth having to put up with him as president in the first place.
On the way from our financial center back to my main office, the traffic got sidelined by a funeral. I was on the motorcycle. A police car was leading, then the Hearst followed by 4 or 5 limo’s with family and friends, and then another 100 cars or so. We all sat and watched the cars, flags on the front corners, drive slowly by. It dawned on me how nice it is that in this hectic time we live in, we still respect a funeral procession enough to pull over and let them pass. It was a nice moment in a strange sort of way.
I think god got it wrong. Humans should live about 15 years and dogs about 75 years. They are just better than us. Somewhere around 5x better I think.
The weirdness of politics continues. Trump is under fire from his general stupidity and all the consequences and drama that come with being a pathetic, ignorant narcissist. His reaction is to double-down on crazy, add in some vengeance, and generally attack anyone who looks sideways at him. But the real tragedy of this scenario, is just how weak and immoral the Republican leadership is. Their leader is off the rails and they cower, completely afraid of losing their privilege and power.
To some degree, this behavior started a long time ago. When Obama was first elected, Mitch McConnell went on national TV and told everyone their (Republicans) job, was to make sure Obama was a failed president. The starkness and boldness of that level of corruption and misrepresentation of your role as a member of Congress was sort of hard to believe. But no one really batted an eye. It is just generally accepted now that most of Congress, but definitely it is in the Republican playbook, chooses party over anything else. They vow to protect only each others privilege. They openly put the good of the country behind their own position and power. Mitch attempted to do exactly what he said he would do. With some success; although Obama did many very good things, he did it fighting Mitch and party every step of the way. The Merrick Garland fiasco was the best example of Mitch openly choosing party and ideology over the country and doing what he was constitutionally bound to do. Even John McCain, on his deathbed and with nothing to lose, could not muster more than a mild admonition of Trump.
So fast forward to now. Trump, in his fury and rage from feeling cornered due to his own idiocy, is now calling for the impeachment of Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff and even Mitt Romney (is impeachment of a member of Congress even a thing? I don’t think it is). Mitt had the temerity to very gently suggest that perhaps Trump should not be openly inviting leaders of foreign nations to interfere in US elections.
Of course there are pages and pages of American lunacy and even the great lie that is our democracy that could be written. US government’s attempted genocide and routine slaughter of Native Americans, slavery, foreign intervention all over the world for years, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. Sure, Russia interfered in our election—we have done it for years in Central and South America and Africa. We got caught hacking Angela Merkel’s mobile phone just a few years ago—and Germany is our ally. We are a corrupt and corruptible nation and so the emergence of Trump I suppose should not be as much of a surprise as it seems to be. Bush was a dipshit who took us to Iraq, killing hundreds or thousands in his attempt to liberate them. Now Iraq is worse off than it was before we invaded. It’s just that the bar is now so much lower that we forget how bad Bush was.
Friday night I rode the motorcycle to Morton’s downtown. Not my favorite place, but had a gift card that was about to expire. The ride home was magic. I had a martini and two glasses of wine. Just the slightest buzz. I rode sans helmet and the night was crisp and clear. The roads were all mine. I took some backstreets but then got on 90 east and flew down the highway. It’s amazing the concentration and clarity that comes when riding a motorcycle. I knew a car was going to change lanes in front of me before they did. The gap was there and he changed lanes without signaling but I saw it in plenty of time. If a leaf blows across the road a hundred yards up, I notice it. There’s a great exhilaration that comes on some rides. In this case, just thrill of the ride as the sun was going down on a late summer evening.
On a separate note, closer to home and also frustrating. I work with a guy who is way over his head in his role. Which is fine. It happens. What I struggle with is that because he is in a leadership role, his actions affect lots of other people. But rather than knuckle-down, show some intellectual curiosity and commitment to learning and improving, he is casual. Lackadaisical. Almost Chancy Gardner’ish in his behavior. He is perpetually late and unprepared for meetings. He mis-characterizes his past decisions to minimize his personal accountability. He constantly takes knowledge he just acquired through observation and attempts to hijack it as his idea. All somewhat common human traits – but not at all professional traits. Not a bad guy, but his behaviors are starting to seriously de-rail work others are doing and that is a problem.
I recently re-connected with an old friend in Pocatello which has been cool. We had drifted apart, but now are drifting closer together again.
I made some andoullie sausage last weekend and then a couple of very good chicken pot pies. What’s better on a cold fall day than a chicken pot pie. I ate one for dinner and put the other in the freezer. Managed a couple of days out for a drink and a cigar–including two hours reading in the sunshine on the patio at The Standard on Sunday afternoon. With a Jameson and a cigar.
In the news today, the story about a college clown that held up a sign on national tv that said ‘Need Busch Lite’; he would up getting a total of $3M in donations to buy beer (which he later donated to a hospital). Oh, and his social media account was filled with him telling racist jokes. I get about $500 a year in donations for MYO. I’m doing something wrong I think.
I’ll finish with some good ole Townes van Zandt wisdom. My old friend.
There is the highway
And the homemade lovin’ kind
The highway’s mine
And us ramblers are getting the travelling done
You fathers build with stones
That stand and shine
Heaven’s where you find it
And you can’t
Take too much with you
But daddy, don’t you listen
It’s just this highway talkin’
All things at our life
Are brothers in the soil
And in the sky
And I believe it
With my blood
If not my eyes
I don’t know why we can’t
Be brothers here
I know we should be
Answers don’t seem easy
And I’m wonderin’
If they could be