Boxeo!  HBO carries the fights.  Usually pretty good ones or at least they try.  You never know; as they say style makes the fight and sometimes you get two guys whose styles seem to negate each other and all they do is shuffle around or paw at each other or heaven forbid spend the whole evening clenching each other and end up doing a bear waltz in the center of the ring for the whole fight.  That’s no fun to watch.  





And it’s not any fun either to watch a guy who is clearly overmatched but refuses to go down getting his head beat up over and over the whole 12 rounds.  You think, Jesus Christ man, just fall down, OK.  Nobody would blame you.  Put yourself out of your misery.  And ours, will ya.  But some guys take a perverse pride in going the whole 12 rounds standing up even though they are getting their heads knocked off.

But last night HBO had a pretty good one between Jermain Taylor and Kelly Pavlik for the undisputed middle weight championship of the world.  Usualy, if the fight has potential they do back ground stuff on the fighters, so that they have a narrative to work during the fight and to get you to identify with the fighters in a more human way.  It works too.

I mean how can you not root for a guy who was abandoned by both of his parents at the age of five so that he had to live on the streets till he found out where his mother was when he was ten years old and he had to walk half way across a continent to find his mother, who told him to get lost when he finally got there, and then perchance, he took up boxing—possibly because he had plenty to be pissed off about—and now here is he in Madison Square Garden fighting for a million bucks.

What a world.

Jermaine Taylor is from Little Rock, Arkansas.  He had a real good chance to end up in bad trouble, but he met this guy who ran a gym.  For his day time job, the guy was a brick layer.  So the guy took Jermaine out to the job one day to show him what he did for a living—laying brick—and Jermaine decided hell he sure didn’t want to do that.  So he decided to go into a line of work where he could get his head knocked off.  Tells you something about brick laying I guess.

And the other guy was from Youngstown Ohio.  Nuff said.  I have actually been to Youngstown, Ohio, to a conference on working class studies.  You don’t want to be from there.  It is in the rust belt and the newest building I saw there was a huge state of the art prison that looked like some sort of weird-assed space ship that had landed in the middle of an empty and barren field.

!% of the US population is in prison.  But I won’t go into that.  But if you live in a part of the world where you have a good chance of being in that 1% or being a brick layer for the rest of your life.  Maybe you go into the boxing game.

But this was a good one.  Both were undefeated, both were bangers.  Pavlick went down early in the second, all wobbly kneed and jelly legged, but was well schooled and hung up and covered up and threw an occasional punch to let the ref know he was not out on his feet and to make Taylor think, hey, he might still be dangerous.

So there was that added drama and it was over in 7.

Shore Line

The tide at Ellwood was further out than I had ever seen it before.


Perhaps because it was (so far out, I mean) the shore life seemed pretty vigorous.


With all sorts of sea birds flying hither and thither and


dolphins maybe fifty yards out
Another view of same..tidesundown 
 As the sun sets over Ellwood…


Back to School

So yesterday, it was back to the classroom, and I was (am) not ready to start another year.  How many damn years now have I been going “back to school.”  I usually buy my new jeans at some sort of “back to school” bargain sale.

So it’s back to school.  I parked in a new parking structure that I hadn’t parked in before.  It is better than the last one, but to get to my office I had to walk from there down the central path—like the main freeway—that the students are taking—it was at the noon hour—to get wherever the hell it is they might be going.

So there I am dragging my stuff behind me in my little airport roller bag, and I have to cross two bike paths, and for some reason the bikes have the right of way so you have to wait and then lurch across the path.  Which I manage to do and then I am on the main path and it is completely congested.  Eight people across, milling along.  With a large number of the current generation having never learned apparently that you are supposed to walk to the right.

And then cutting through the current are skateboarders.  I hear one of them coming up behind me and I get nervous.  I know as the skateboarders say that skateboarding is not illegal.  That’s true.  But it is damn noisy and damn irritating if they are skateboarding though a milling mass of people, and I am thinking just these thoughts, when whap!  I am hit from behind by a skateboarder who grabs me by the shoulders, to steady his self, and laughingly apologies. 

I am not injured but I am damn annoyed because I have been doing all I can to stay out of their way, and I surprise myself when I say, “You fucking idiot!”—which I genuinely and sincerely feel—and I surprise myself again when I say it loud enough for him to hear it.  And he gives me a sort of chagrined looked—as well he might be—chagrined I mean—for nearly knocking an elderly person like myself over.  And if he is thinking anything else, he doesn’t say it probably because he sees I am about ready to call him a “fucking idiot” again and take a swing at him with my rolling book bag.

So I am not even at my office yet, and I am really, really wishing I was not there at all.  I am surrounded by the youth of today, and find myself completely repelled.  First of all they are young….which is one big strike against them, and then they are all talking away on their cells, and I don’t know why but it appears de rigueur for the dudes to wear t-shirts with shorts.  I mean I wore short pants as a child and then I stopped wearing them.  These guys look permanently retarded with their t-shirts and shorts and some form of Nike on the feet and those of them that can raise a beard seem to be into the I shave every three days look.

So there I am walking along in my new back to school jeans, wearing a Henley, one of those I bought when my gut was sticking out a mile, and I look down and I already have coffee stains on it.  And I am thinking my shrink is right, I have got to do or find something or I am going to turn into one hell of a bitter, nasty old man.

Major League Amnesia

Given I have been thinking about memory lately, I found it coincidental perhaps to open the New Yorker and find an article by Oliver Sacks—who has long written on brain injuries—on one Clive Barnes, a British musician and musicologist, who has perhaps the worst case of amnesia on record.  He had a form of herpes encephalitis that in 1985 I believe reduced his short term memory to next to nothing and wiped out also all his memories before the date of the disease.

According to Sacks, Barnes has but to blink his eyes and he forgets what he has just seen.  Once he was found standing in a room opening and reopening his hand; in it was a piece of chocolate.  Barnes would exclaim each time he opened his hand, look it’s different, or it’s new, and how do they do that—thinking each time that it was a different piece of chocolate since he could not remember having seen it.  Somewhere between the closing and opening of his hand he had forgotten that he had previously seen it.

Barnes tried to keep a diary too.  Pages and pages of the same thing.  215…I just woke up.  230…I just woke up for the first time today.  245…clearly awake.  The diary was an attempt to impart some sense of continuity to his day; but instead it records a mind with no continuity at all.  Each time he wrote he thought he was waking up for the first time because he could not remember having really opened his eyes for the first time that day.  Funny, though, that writing the journal entry made him feel as if he was waking up (for the first time that day).

 Obviously though he had not forgotten how to write.  Sacks refers to something called the semantic memory.  People with amnesia sometimes retain that.  One man after a stroke forgot all the events of his life but could remember much of the scholarly information he had learned over the years and could also speak several languages.  Barnes retained that memory too.  His wife—they love each other—and have remained married all these years noticed one day that Barnes too had retained this form of memory.  He could remember the words of a song and sing them; and has since his disease conducted orchestras.  He knows what was sung and what is coming up.

Oddly too Barnes remembers his wife.  If asked he could not tell you what she looks like; if he walked by her in a crowd he would not recognize her; he cannot remember when she last visited him.  But when he is told that she is coming, when she enters the door, and he hears her voice, he runs to her, embraces her, and sometimes weeps.  When she returns home she finds messages from him asking her to visit him because it seems like ages since he has last seen her.  This ability to remember his wife, in some fundamental, way Sacks sees as evidence of something called “emotional memory,” perhaps the least understood and known of all forms of remembering.

This is a very interesting article and well worth reading should you happen to have a copy the September 24, 2007, New Yorker.

birch one side paint ready

John and Juan came back last Thursday I think it was; they were supposed to come back Monday.  But were delayed.  We decided to go with John and Juan to fix up the closet into a small office since we did not like the plans the California Closet people came up with, and while what they might have done might have been purely functional, that’s all it would have been.  White all over, perfectly machined but not something one would want to look at or be around all that much.




In the back of my mind, all along I had the notion of “real wood.”  I have some sort of prejudice against “particle board.”  I know that technically it is made out of wood: like wood chips and saw dust.  But then some sort of chemical is used to fuse it all together.  Some contend that it is stronger than “real wood.” But no matter what you do to it, it doesn’t look like real wood.  Though of course you could put some wood veneer on it to make it look like wood.  But it would have to be a damn fine veneer to make it look like wood.

I, at John’s suggestion, went to this place downtown that must be patronized by all the carpenters in town.  I went to look at veneers because that had been John’s first suggestion.  I got there and all I could find was door knobs and hinges and stuff like that; two whole rooms of the stuff.  I was about to give up and wandered out back to find that there were several ramshackle buildings, all hooked together.  I went in there and began to find all sorts of things.

But I couldn’t find anybody to answer my questions.  They had guys back there that you could place orders with, but unless you were ordering something they wouldn’t look at you because the only people that were supposed to be back there were carpenters and contractors who knew the place and what they wanted and where to get it and not people like myself off the streets who cannot tell, when it comes to wood and working with it, shit from shinola.

 But I found this kid—who did not look depressed out of his mind—like the other couple of guys I saw there.  I mean these other guys had the classic signs.  No energy, lips that turned down at the corners, and big black rings under their eyes.  They were either terribly depressed or terribly hung-over.  But the kid in a ripped and torn t-shirt had some energy and didn’t mind talking to a wood illiterate like me and said maybe what I wanted was some plywood, and they had some “birch, paint ready, on one side” for a good price.

At first when he said plywood, I was skeptical.  This stuff, too, is not real wood, but thin sheets of real wood all glued together and the plywood I was used to seeing was crappy stuff with pieces missing.  You might use it for flooring, but you would cover it up with linoleum or something.  But when I looked at the sheets of birch, paint ready on one side, I was impressed because the paint ready side really did look like wood.

Not bad, I thought.  And birch too.  I liked the sound of birch.


Above: a shelf box made by John and Juan out of plywood birch one side paint ready, plus trim. 

Aphasia Poetry

With all that’s been going on with Carol’s mother and the deaths over this last year, I have not thought consciously at least that much of Brother Dan’s stroke.  I have managed to see him nearly every week—not as frequently lately as school and getting ready for it approaches, but the other day he sent me some aphasia poetry. Because that’s what he has—though it is getting better—aphasia.  Anyway that made me remember; and realize too that I have not really forgotten about it.

I have had lately memory problems; the result I expect of no more than aging.  But I spoke with a colleague the other day whose mother, only in her mid seventies, is showing signs of Alzheimer.  He went to where she lives—for a while during the summer—to spell his father who was becoming worn out from tending his mother.  Amazing, to think, I think: of the memory just going.  Not just forgetting but not even knowing that one has forgotten.

I can’t imagine what that might be like: like drifting up in the clouds perhaps, unattached, with a bottomless pit right below.  Especially when the short term goes; you might wash your face over and over, forgetting as you blink your eyes, each time that you had forgotten. 

 I think this just incomprehensible: to lose your mind in this way; and not even know that you have lost it because the mind is just the brain in situ.  One might know, by means of the brain that one has lost one’s arm or one’s sight or that one is losing one’s strength.  But when the mind itself is being lost there is nothing to know the loss.

I get cold with fear thinking about it.  And wondering if that loss waits around the corner for me.

But this is what Brother Dan, in a different form, has been struggling with for eight months now.  Does he have problems with memory?  Maybe yes, maybe no. Certainly not of the short term kind, and if of the long term, I don’t know.  When he says something is 12,000 dollars and he meant 1200 dollars, did he forget that it was just 1200 or did his mind misspeak, mistaking 12000 for 1200.  I don’t know if he would know, or if I would know, for that matter, unless somebody had been there to say otherwise, because at times at least I don’t think he knows he has misspoken.

 They say the intelligence of the aphasiac is frequently unimpaired.  But how would one know.  How could you give a cat a test to see if it is going blind, since he cannot tell you want it sees. I think Dan’s intelligence is unimpaired.  But were he to take some sort of verbal comprehension test he would do poorly I think.

Here are a few lines of his aphasia poetry—that he titles “halo ended”–which he said was OK for me to put on the blog:

You can take it in your tung. Your effectiveness. Your dreams. I can hold it thus. Thus is mine. Mine. Do you want it to me yours? I will give it to you. My thoughts, my actions thus thus thusly for us. In my friend, my pozole, my poseque, my POS. We wait, we wait for a positive reaction to my heart. We wait for a plant operator selection system. We wait. Can we do it? Can my heart take it? My bubbles?

We are doomed: the prequel

I have been trying to find out for some time where the consumer society came from.  People of course have been consuming since the beginning of time.  When I say consumer society I mean the flowering of that long standing consumer trend in the United States in the last 30 years or so.

Of course, I don’t think there is one cause for anything as complicated as the consumer society.  Lots of thing figure in.  Technology for example, the computer especially, played a role in the creation of the mounds of junk that it is now possible to buy.  I suppose too one might throw in the creation of the global market.  But being a materialist, I think these factors secondary to the primary one.  Money.

People would not be able to buy all this stuff if they did not have the money to buy it.  So where did they get all that money.  For some reason, the Arab Oil Crisis kept coming to my mind.  So I started reading around to see what I could learn about the Arab Oil Crisis, the one of 1973, not the one of 1978.  This was an amazing shock to the American economic system.  Since WWII, the US had known unparalleled, in all of human history, economic growth; then wham! the oil embargo hit.

This showed our economic vulnerability.  The prices for everything took off.  Hard to remember, but Nixon, who was a rabid capitalist if there ever was one, actually initiated, for a brief period, the absolutely socialist move of wage and price controls.  Talk about the government interfering with the free market.  Short of nationalizing the fast food industry, or something like that, it’s hard to think of a more anti-capitalistic measure.

But this raises a question.  It seems logical that if the price of everything was going up that people would end up buying less rather than more.  But of course—in what is called the inflationary spiral—wages went up too.  Because if they didn’t people wouldn’t be able to buy anything and the whole economy would go down the tiolet.

But something beside increased wages propelled that inflationary purchasing.  The extension of credit.  In his history of The Seventies, Bruce J. Shulman writes:

            In 1973, when Dee Hock, creator of the Visa card, installed his computerized authorization system, credit card spending totaled nearly $14 billion and growing at a brisk but not outlandish clip of about 3.5 billion a year.  But over the decade it roared ahead, reaching $66 billion by 1982, an almost fivefold increase.

Admittedly the origins of American’s reliance on credit are a bit murky.  But if one tracks the growth of the credit card “industry” I believe one could also track the growth of the consumer society and with it our very imprudent ways.

Call me Noah

Carol has recently been in contact with her mother’s brother, Bernie.  Bernie and his wife now live in Los Vegas.  Before that they lived on Long Island.  I visited their house years and years ago.  It was a nice house and they had a pool too.  Bernie also had a bug zapper that sat near the pool.  Bernie counted the bugs as they flew into the zapper and got zapped.  The house was East Coast style, upstairs, downstairs, and dark.  Small windows protect against the cold I guess.  Now they have a lot of sun in Vegas.

Bernie is pretty religious and when he heard Carol did not have a Hebrew name he gave her one.  By what powers he did so, I don’t know.  I don’t care either.  Maybe the power of an Uncle.  That’s enough I think.

Anyway, Carol’s Hebrew name is Chayva which means “life.”  I felt left out and told Carol I wanted a Hebrew name too, so Bernie gave me one.  I am now Noah which means more or less “laws of humanity.”  It’s easier to have a Hebrew name as a gentile like me than it is to have one and be Jewish.  Apparently to be worthy of her Hebrew name a Jewish person must fulfill 613 Commandments.  That seems like a lot of Commandments to me.  I don’t even know how a person could keep track of them.  As a gentile to be worthy of a Hebrew name I have only to fulfill the seven Noahide Laws. Which are as follow:

* Idolatry is forbidden. Man is commanded to believe in the One G-d alone and worship only Him.

  * Incestuous and adulterous relations are forbidden. Human beings are not sexual objects, nor is pleasure the ultimate goal of life.

  * Murder is forbidden. The life of a human being, formed in G-d’s image, is sacred.

  * Cursing the name of G-d is forbidden. Besides honoring and respecting G-d, we learn from this precept that our speech must be sanctified, as that is the distinctive sign which separated man from the animals.

  * Theft is forbidden. The world is not ours to do with as we please.

  * Eating the flesh of a living animal is forbidden. This teaches us to be sensitive to cruelty to animals. (This was commanded to Noah for the first time along with the permission of eating meat. The rest were already given to Adam in the Garden of Eden.)

·        Mankind is commanded to establish courts of justice and a just social order to enforce the first six laws and enact any other useful laws or customs

 Some of these are pretty easy.  No incest is pretty easy since I don’t have anybody to commit incest with.  I haven’t murdered—and don’t plan to—anybody.  Also I don’t steal.  But some of the others might give me trouble, especially the one about taking His name in vain.  But I suppose I could forgo His name and just say Jesus Christ, Sweet Jesus, or Jesus H. Christ  when I am pissed.  I don’t think Jewish people would mind.

Entry 500

Well, what do you know.  Entry 500.  That’s a nice round number.


Carol and I braved possible bad weather and slogged through mud to the Ellwood cliffs. 


This is looking away from the ocean and back towards the mountains.


Trees and sky in light and dark.


That’s a tree and sky from the golf course that is part of our path to Ellwood.  There’s a tiny bit of moon up there.

The walk was worth it. 

Positively Brutal

The phone keeps ringing.

Carol gets calls from doctors, nurses, family.  Her mother was in the hospital at the beginning of the week because of difficulty breathing.  She has congestive heart failure and one of the effects of that is a build up of fluids around the lungs.  This happened about a month ago and at that time the doctors inserted a needle and withdrew some of the fluid manually.  This time though they were reluctant to do that.

The doctors call Carol because she is the medical person for her mother’s Trust.  So Carol is faced with hard decisions.  Actually the doctors do most of the decision making, but Carol had to decide something this time, and that was, at the beginning of the week, to send her mother back where she had been but this time in hospice care.


Hospice is the end of the line.  It means that all parties concerned and lucid enough to be concerned have agree that there is nothing now to be done for a person but to make that person as comfortable and pain free as possible in the final passage.  Hospice doesn’t even use antibiotics.  No breathing tube will be inserted.  Carol’s mom is now on a morphine drip.


Carol has asked the doctors and nurses not to use the word “hospice” around her mother.  She is concerned that her mother will become very afraid.

At ten last night Carol is responding to an email from the daughter of the man Carol’s mom married about ten years ago.  The daughter says her father called crying and distraught.  He is 95 years old.  He is getting the picture that his wife of 10 years will soon be dying.

Neither of us slept well.

This is just brutal. 


We took a walk to Ellwood yesterday late and the sky was dramatic.  A storm was coming in.