A Weight Somewhat Lifted

I was appointed executor of the financial side of the Tingle Family Trust.  That means Joan had a trust made and decided I should be the one to look after the money after her death.  I have not been comfortable with this job because I am not at home in the world of high finance. Not that we have high finances.  But for me a couple of hundred bucks has always been a really lot of money. 

 I wasn’t used to dealing with sums in the low hundreds of thousands which was what was left after the Delridge property was sold.  We had never expected to inherit a penny for Joan and WB so this was strictly speaking manna from heaven.

Even though it was manna, it has weighed on me because first I had to invest it, with in put from the brothers, in CDs; and then for about four months now I have been dealing with the lawyers, signing papers, sending information, and in general wondering how the hell long was this going to take.  

Last week, it started really getting to me.  I hadn’t heard from the lawyer for about a month, except for a billing, of course, and I wanted to know what was up, had I missed something, what was going to happen next.  So I left messages, four or five of them over the last couple of weeks, asking what the hell was going on, and I got no reply.

 Yesterday, I faxed a letter to the lawyer with my questions and emailed her too with the letter in an attachment, and as of noon today, still no reply.  I was fit to be tied and about to blow my stack.  But Carol, god bless her, called during the lunch break and actually got the lawyer.  She remembered that sometimes when the secretary goes to lunch the boss has to person the phone.

 After about a thirty second conversation (would it have killed her to call me earlier) I got the go ahead to distribute a portion of the manna to the beneficiaries named in the trust.  I was really grateful for this because Dan at the moment could use the money since some bills resulting from his stroke have come due and they are also trying to repair their bathrooms.

So I feel as if a weight has been somewhat lifted, though I will fret until the checks are in the hands of the brothers because to get there they have to go through the US mail, through the lawyer’s office, and back to the US mail and to the correct addresses.

I mean anything could still happen.

Hardaway Bone

Among the papers of a former Judge in North Carolina, one David Schenck, was found a document that has come to be called the “Autobiography of Edward Isham,” also known as Hardaway Bone, an alias.  Schenck defended Isham against a charge of murder.  He lost and Isham was hung in 1860 in Greensboro.

Isham was illiterate.  The judge, for whatever reason, however, wrote down Isham’s life story, and the document affords one of the few up close and intimate looks at the life of a unpropertied white person in the deep south before the Civil War.  There seems to be debate about the quality of life—for the unpropertied white person—in the south before the Civil War.  Some claim that most were honest, hard working and god-fearing yoemen. 

Those opposed to slavery tended to characterize the whole of southern society as corrupt and among the lowest of the low were unpropertied southern whites.  Isham’s story might lend support to their thesis.  The autobiography is short.  I read most of it, and it appears that all Isham did for most of his adult life was fight, beat up on people, wrestle, cheat, and lie in wait to kill somebody.  Authorities believe the document is authentic.  I find it difficult to get my imagination around Isham’s way of life.

Here’s a little bit of the document—to give just a taste of the flavor of Isham’s life:

They met at a grocery where we were all drinking. I had two pis­tols and two bowie knives. They fought and I kept the crowd off with my knife. Harmands pistol wouldnt fire and he then drew a bowie knife and cut Reeder very badly. Reeder then broke loose and ran and as he went I fired my pistol at him but missed him. We pur­sued him to the grocery but were shut out. Reeders friends came and we fled. We went out to John Borrows and got money and horses and went down to my old home in Johnston county leaving my wife. From there we went to Napoleon and then to Memphis, there to Paducah, being afraid we would be taken, then to Smithland. Here I fell in with "Jim Ingles" whom I knew in Chattanooga and we gambled together for awhile but lost all our money. I had but a half dollar left, and went to chopping to get some; but meeting a wagoner I went with him to "Nashville."

Apparently all Isham did was get in fights, then run away either from relatives of the person he had beaten up, or whatever law enforcement there was back then, and occasionally he would work.  And then he got hung for murder.  I thought Davy Crockett was a mean idiot, as based on my reading of his “autobiography,” but this guy takes the cake.  Nobody is going to write “The Ballad of Hardaway Bone,” though it has a nice ring to it.

Wait maybe here’s a bit:


One cold night down in Georgia state
No one knows the date or place
A woman let out a moan
And gave birth to Hardaway Bone
And he lived a life to tell
Of a short cut straight to hell
He lied and cheated and drank—that was his way
Until they strung him up that day
In Greensboro up in North Carolina State
1860 was the date….

 Well, that’s enough of that.

East is East

When I was a child in SC, I knew the sun rose in the east, so when I looked in the direction of the rising sun I knew I was looking east, and when I looked east I knew I was looking in the direction that the sun came from.  I knew also that the ocean was off there in the east too, but we never went there.





When we moved to California I knew the ocean, the Pacific, was in the west; from the top of a near by mountain I could see the ocean off there in the west.  So I knew west was where the ocean was and that the ocean was in the west.

But then I moved to Santa Barbara, California and I have been screwed up ever since as to where east and west and north and south are exactly.  Santa Barbara is located on a bit of land that juts out into the Pacific.  You can see on a map that, if you are standing in Santa Barbara and you decided to face the ocean, you are not looking west, you are in fact looking south!  

I don’t know how the hell the ocean stopped being in the west, but it did and ever since then I have been screwed up.  Since I continue to think the ocean is in the west, I am also confused as to where north and south are exactly.    I got so confused and upset by my confusion that Carol bought me a little compass to carry around if I became upset about not knowing which direction I might be looking.  That was a good idea.  But I lost the compass.

I have been thinking about directions because I hear on the radio that the Big Fire is moving north east.  So when I turn around and the ocean is at my back and I am looking at the mountains—and I don’t know how this happens—I am actually looking north.  It is good to know the fire is moving north because that means it is not moving south which is where I am located.

Maybe because of the fire, I will finally figure out which direction the ocean is, here in Santa Barbara.

 In the meantime, I don’t think I will look up at the sky again this month because I am sick and tired of that cloud of smoke.

Creature Features are not horror.

I was somewhat irrigated, though not troubled precisely, to find creature features categorized with “horror” films somewhere in my reading around on the web.  Of course, one can find any manner of idiotic statements on the web.  So while I doubt most would include creature features in the horror genre, I must say for the record that creature features are not horror movies.  If one places creature features in the horror genre, one fails to recognize that creature features are largely childlike and innocent, as befits their ancient and mythic origins. 





As I said, creatures in creature features are just bigger versions of “naturally” occurring regular creatures or, as I said, more than a usual number of some such creatures are featured, such as the many bees in the movie, Swarm, with the hard working Michael Caine or the many bats in the movie, Bats!” starring Lou Diamond Phillips or the movie Ants, with James Arness, who went on to become Matt Dillon. 

A classic creature feature, with just one creature in it, is King Kong.  King Kong is just your normal ape blown up a couple thousand times, and only the most salacious minds would find anything non-innocent in the inter-species relationship between the big Ape and his love interest, as originally portrayed by Faye Raye.   Clearly the big Ape has a crush on Faye; and that’s the limit of it, anything other than that being strictly impossible and certainly life threatening to poor Faye.  Now had the big Ape tried to get to third base or something—well, that would be horror.  But he doesn’t and that’s why I say creature features truly defined are innocent and rather childlike.

All sorts of fortuitous things pop up.  I don’t know how many times a group of people being pursued by some creature come to the edge of a huge canyon that they can’t get across, till somebody discovers a fallen tree trunk spanning the gulf.  And then we get to watch as people crawl across the gulf on that tree, with some people, minor characters of course, inevitably falling in.  Or if they don’t find a tree, they all just decide to jump into the gulf since there is a river down at the bottom of it, and they all land in the river and then they go over a waterfall.

One very childlike moment occurs in the classic Tremors.  I know I have insisted that creatures in creature features are just normal creatures writ large, and some might claim that the creatures in this film—affectionately called “graboids”– are not naturally occurring.  I would argue however that they are nothing but overgrown and highly implausible worms capable of traveling at speeds of up to 20 miles an hour in the ground no less.

But the characters in this movie, among them the actor Kevin Bacon, while being pursued by the graboids figure out that they are safe if they can get on a big rock.  Unfortunately they get stuck on a big rock in the middle of nowhere, BUT, fortuitously and implausibly, they find 10 or 12 feet long pieces of plastic pipe, having been abandoned out in the middle of the desert for no apparently reason.  These pieces of flexible pipe the characters then cleverly use to pole vault from one rock to another on their way to their escape vehicle.  Something about the image of these people pole vaulting one after the other from rock to rock in the middle of the desert while being pursued by graboids captures for me the childlike innocence of the true creature feature.


This German poster for Tremors–Rocket Worms–may serve as evidence for my claim that the graboids are worms writ large. 

Oil Platform


I have kept the oil platform so far out of the pictures from the Elwood Beach.  But it’s there alright, sort of a pimple out on the edge of the horizon.  There’s oil in the Santa Barbara channel, the one running between the coast and further out the Channel Islands.  It’s very load grade stuff; expensive to refine, but possibly the price of gas these days makes it worth the effort.


I bring it up partly because, as of yesterday, a ship was moored just off shore, with a couple of smaller tug like boats hovering about it.  I suspect it has something to do with the oil platform.

The sky this morning is once again yucky from the fire, and at the club, when I go to workout, if anybody is in the locker room somebody is sure to bring up the topic of the fire, how long it has been burning, how long it will burn, and what the heck we are breathing into our lungs.  One fellow knows a man with terrible allergies, and since the start of the fire he has been confined to his air conditioned house.  Another went out golfing to find his older golfing buddy wearing one of those masks.

One may locate some fairly imposing pictures of the fire plume at. 

While out at the beach yesterday afternoon, Carol got a call on her cell.  Her mother had been taken a few hours before to the hospital.  Her breathing had become very labored.  She has congestive heart failure and that, apparently, can produce fluids that weigh on the lungs.  It looked as if we might be driving down to San Diego this morning, but this morning the doctor reported some improvement.

When I first heard about it and though we were going to drive down, I don’t know but I felt as if I had been hit in the chest with a sack of cement.  I just wanted to sit down right there in the dirt and not move.  I don’t think I have come to grips with how exhausting these last 18 months or so have been, what with WB dying about a year and half ago, Joan dying 4 months ago, and now to watch Carol’s mom preparing for her last exit.

Massage Chair


That’s a massage chair.  You sit in it and it massages you.  I never thought one of those would be in a place where I lived.  But Carol wanted one, since she has constant back pain from a scoliosis; she scouted it out and we bought it.  I find it a personal affront to my work ethic, one that says aches, pains, minor discomforts, toothaches and other irritations are things to be endured and not addressed. I mean unless you have blood pouring out somewhere or a bone sticking out where it shouldn’t be sticking out, you didn’t have anything a swift kick in the butt couldn’t cure.

So when I tried the damn thing out in the showroom at Carol’s request, I felt as if I was slipping over into some vague New Age realm of increased wussiness. But once the machine started—all questions of wussiness aside for the moment—I was impressed by the engineering.  I could feel stuff going up and down my back, and while I am sure a live human message therapist would be quick to point out that the thing doesn’t have a very sensitive touch, it does have a whole lot of settings, running from “percussion,” thought “compression” to “kneading” and “rolling” from the lower back up through the neck.

I don’t know if it will offer anything more than temporary relief or possibly the illusion of that.  But I do have something wrong with my neck so that if I engage it too much in a “craning” motion a pain starts to spread from the top of my neck into both shoulders and all the way down my right arm.  And just the other day, I got this pain that feels as if someone is digging her elbow directly into my neck at the base of the skull.  So I will give it a try, and even it doesn’t really work, it might produce the old placebo effect that arises from the feeling that at least you are doing something about it.

We got a micro version of the chair as most suited to our miniaturized living space (otherwise known as a condo).  There are really grand ones available up in the low thousands and one more in the upper thousands that is voice activated.  You can just lie there and say up or down, or faster, faster, or deeper, deeper, and it will do whatever you say.  Also, though it is not much discussed, there is also an x-rated one, with a device built right into the chair for women and a sort of cuff like affair for men designed to agitate the genitals with percussion, compression, kneading, and rolling, as well as deeper deeper and faster faster.

At least that’s what I was told.

Dick Smith Wilderness

Depression seems to be getting the better of me lately, and knowing that a little moving around seems sometimes to shake up the biochemicals, I dragged my ass out to the ocean again yesterday. 


 There I saw those little-bitty beach birds that run along the surf line in little herds picking madly away at the sand.  The sky in this photo shows signs of the Zaca fire.  It’s sort of yellow grey and not the more traditionally sky blue color.




On the way back from seeing the birds, I notice a large plume of smoke from the fire.  Such plumes are frequent, but this one was a bit different—though I don’t know if you can see it in this photo in that the very top or crest of the plume was a more traditional white could white while all of the lower part of it was your Zaca fire grayish brown color.   Why the top was white I couldn’t say.



Meanwhile people have given up washing their cars and have decided to embrace the more hip and up-to-date ash droppings look.


The fire continues apace, having now burnt up over 100,000 acres and is heading south, south east into something called the Dick Smith Wilderness Area.  I don’t know who Dick Smith was or is but there are said to be beers, deer, bobcats and other wild beasts in his area.  I hope the best for them in this time of troubles.

Continue reading Dick Smith Wilderness

On Being Small

As noted elsewhere in my different ruminations on the “death thang,” I first became aware of death or at least of its consequences for me personally when one day walking home from high school I had something like a mystic experience, although I don’t know what that is, or an epiphany, which I think is a sort of poor man’s version of mystic experience.  In any case, it was an experience with sensations of the hair standing up on the back of the neck variety that lasted all of maybe thirty seconds, and in those moments, while I felt the horror of it all, I also felt strangely exhilarated because I felt free.  As I put it to myself in a form of sub-audible articulation, you are free because you are small, oh so very small.

While I have thought about this moment over the years, I have not been able to add much to it beyond the bare bones offered above perhaps because it was a bare bones experience.  I do remember wondering at one time why I was free because I was small.  All that ever came to me was that being so small I might, like a grain, of sand slip through their fingers, the fingers of my tormentors, my parents, I mean.  I also wondered how small my smallness was: the size of a pea or perhaps atomically small.

I had this experience around 1963 I think and just the other day, in 2007, I was perusing the New Yorker and came across the review of the writing of a man, now long dead, named Robert Walser, who had also thought on the issue of smallness;  the reviewer writes:

            It [a particular passage] shows the tightness of Walser’s switchbacks from sweetness to sarcasm and back to sweetness again.  It also offhandedly announces his credo—everything small and modest is beautiful and pleasing—and establishes the depths of his affinity with Kafka.  After all, Kafka…makes the same curious declaration—“Indeed I am Chinese—and cherished the idea of smallness in a similar way: “Two possibilities: making oneself infinitely small or being so.”  For both writers, smallness implied a drastic aversion to power, the exercise of it as well as submission to it.

So it would appear I am not alone in my speculations on smallness, and indeed, Walser like myself, as the reviewer implies in another place, associated the idea of it with freedom.  The reviewer notes another dimension to the issue, if one may call it that, of smallness, by saying it marks for both Walser and Kafka a drastic aversion to power, to the exercise of and submission to.

I had not thought of that idea.  Having power makes a person vulnerable (to those who want to get it) and having it to use makes those upon whom one uses it also vulnerable.

But poor Walser checked into an insane asylum in 1927 and did not check out again until 1957 when he died.  So far I have not become that small.

Big Fire Continued Again

The Zaca Fire has become a brooding presence hanging over this summer.  As previously noted, it started July 4.  It seemed to go away for a while and was reported as 80% contained at one point.  For the last two weeks though, I go to the club and work out on whatever machine it is I work out on, and stick the plugs for my little FM radio in my ears, and every day a news caster voice comes on, interrupting the music on my moldy oldie station, with a Zaca Update.  Yesterday the news caster update voice said the fire was 68% contained, and moving away from Santa Barbara and environs but that residents should stay in a state of heightened alertness since the fire, depending on winds, could turn on us at any moment.



Soot and ash had not been raining so I was alarmed to see, Friday, I think it was, as I drove downtown to see my shrink, a huge grey plume of smoke rising above the mountains again, and in front of that, a still huge but smaller ball of thick black smoke suggesting an intense blaze in full swing.  Later, I learned that might have been a controlled backfire.

The mysterious end date for the fire, September 7, still holds and by that time, one person told me, the fire may have consumed 80, 000 acres.  That seems like a lot of acres to me.

Carol went over to her office and helped a friend move some of her family valuables in there because she and her significant other are going to Europe for two weeks, and the friend couldn’t shake her anxiety about the fire.  The idea that this fire might burn some precious family valuables was going to cast a pall over her entire trip.





 A bigger version of this very detailed imaged can be found at.

The Host

I think creature features are a genre in their own right.  If you think about it, you will see the form has been around in different forms for a damn long time.  Take, for example, Jonah and the Fish (certainly a creature of some kind); or that Minatour of Greek myth; or Grendel in Beowulf.  This makes a good deal of sense since human beings have long been around creatures with whom they did not necessarily get along all that well, like lions, and tigers and such.    As well as razor backed feral pigs that would sneak into peasants’ huts and eat any infants lying around.  Also, of course, we eat the creatures and perhaps within us remains some atavistic fear that the animals will decide to strike back.


Creatures in creature features are frequently just bigger forms of the actual creature.  For example, I do believe there was a movie with James Arness called Ants!  I think ants qualify as creatures even though they are insects.  These ants were just like your normal ant in every respect except that they were enormous and could bite a person in two with their pincer like jaws or perhaps they are called mandibles.  If the creatures are not larger than usual there are more of them than usual.  This is true of the movie Bees!  Here huge swarms of so called killer bees attack entire cities. Another as I recollect is called Bats!—perhaps that’s not the name—but it might as well be since it features Lou Diamond Phillips and many bats.

So at the risk of over generalization, creature features feature creatures that are either much bigger than the usual creature or many more of the creatures than is usually the case, all acting in concert to destroy as many people as possible.  Among the bigger than usual creatures, along with ants and other insects, one can find any number of snakes.  In this light, it is hard not to think of Jennipher Lopez going down the Amazon in a wet tee-shirt and being attacked by an enormous Anaconda, as big around as your average Winnebago.  This was one heck of an anaconda.

This creature feature is worth mulling a moment since it contains a few of the other basic elements of a creature feature.  For example, creature features frequently feature groups of people acting in concert either to attack the creature (as in the Case of Lake Placid, featuring an enormous alligator) or to defend themselves against it, which usually happens when they attack it.  Given a group, some character development, if of a stereotypical variety, is possible, thus tending somewhat to humanize the genre.

Mostly the group consists of males, but usually there are one or two females, like Jennipher Lopez, to add a possible Romantic element or at least a tasty treat for the creature.  Usually also there is a person who detects the creature and is considered a nut by others because they have not see the creature, or there is a nut, some sort of mad person, driven to pursue the creature up to death’s door and beyond, possibly because the creature threatens or has in fact eaten his girl friend.  In any case, this highly motivated person usually leads the group in its mad pursuit of or hasty retreat from the creature.

I ruminate on the creature feature—and may continue these ruminations at a later date—because last night I finished watching The Host, the first South Korean Creature Feature I have ever watched, though purists may say this is not a true creature feature, since a true creature feature must feature a creature than actually occurs in nature, and the creature in The Host is some sort of weird-assed mutant creature vaguely resembling a horny toad with a rotor rooter mouth and monkey tail.  But I am not a purist and willingly admit mutant creatures into my pantheon of creatures, though I might draw the line at creatures from outer space.