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Archive for the ‘History and Recollections’ Category

According to Joe the Talking Head Who Smokes Cigars and Sweats Profusely, here is absolute proof that Obama is a failed President.

  1. Tiger Woods isn’t going to take questions at his public appearance tomorrow.
  2. Heidi Montag is going to bare it all for Playboy.
  3. A Utah state senator proposes to eliminate the 12th grade in Utah schools.
  4. Tim Urban replaces Chris Golightly in American Idol’s Top 24.
  5. God told Moses, “Do not lust in your heart for Hollywood bimbos, either.”
  6. A plague of grasshoppers is expected to descend on Northern Nevada this year.
  7. Joe stepped on a crack and nothing happened.
  8. The alien body in Area 51 is the real Barack Obama.
  9. Joe thinks, but he isn’t certain, Gavin Newsom (will) (will not) (who cares) run for Lieutenant Governor of San Francisco.
  10. Dick Cheney supports waterboarding.

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I saw Elvis Presley yesterday. At the Coco Palms Hotel on the Island of Kauai. That’s where the wedding scene at the conclusion of the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii was filmed.

My wife and I stayed at the Coco Palms for three days once upon a time. We weren’t there on a romantic sojourn. I happened to have a business conference in the Coco Palms and we decided that we’d spend some time looking around the island when no conference sessions were scheduled.

At check in, we were given a room on the second floor overlooking a moat and a grove of coconut palms. At first, I didn’t make a connection between the moat and the movie. I did mention to my wife that the place seemed oddly familiar, although I couldn’t imagine how I might have thought so. This was our first visit to Kauai and it was more than thirty-years after the movie was filmed.

I continued to worry about the moat’s familiarity until just by chance I opened a desk drawer beside the bed and saw a postcard with a picture of Elvis and his bride on a (for lack of a better description) moat boat surrounded by the wedding party, all dressed in the baroque wedding splendor of the times.

Fast forward to yesterday when the air and radio waves saturated us with stories about Elvis’s 75th birthday accompanied by many of his greatest musical hits. I had an immediate flashback to Elvis standing regally next to his soon-to-be-bride with his rendition of the Hawaiian Wedding Song playing as the moat boat glided softly to the end of the moat where the two embraced.

This may well have been one of the more romantic moments in film history. Certainly, it made the Hawaiian Wedding Song one of the more popular songs at weddings in Hawaii and beyond. And in my mind, it reinforced my perception of Elvis as one of the best singers of romantic ballads in American popular music. He may have been the King of Rock and Roll but the versatility of his voice was something to marvel at, and in no song was that versatility illustrated more prominently than in the Hawaiian Wedding Song.

I like Can’t Help Falling in Love (With You), too, which I used to sing in my raspy, atonal, tuneless voice to my wife.

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My Ten Resolutions for Twenty Ten

1. Use the phrase Twenty Ten as often as possible. I like the sight and sound of it when I say it out loud.

2. Continue posting sporadically because my mind is still too screwed up for regularity.

3. Neither write nor say negatives about people. My old aunt used to tell me, “Unless you can say something good about others, keep quiet.” A rule that is hard to follow in every instance, but worth the effort.

4. Read more books about cowboys.

5. Write at least one positive post about Sarah Palin. I may have to hire a ghost writer for this one. But, then, she has nice legs.

6. Figure out how much detergent to pour in the washing machine to avoid flooding the floor of the laundry room with suds.

7. Maybe hire a housekeeper. I say maybe because this is still a little bit iffy. A cook would be better. I’m sick and tired of cold Vienna Sausage.

8. Tell my neighbor, who is a police officer, how much I appreciate her help and thoughtfulness after my wife’s passing.

9. Sell my house so I can move on; perhaps find a new life somewhere. This will be very difficult, but I need to try.

10. Maybe teach again. Another hard goal to achieve. I have lost patience with students who perceive college as a place of encounter rather than as an arena for learning.

Okey, dokey. I’ve shown you mine. Now show me yours.

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According to several reports, Rush Limbaugh has been rushed to a hospitlal in Honolulu after complaining about heart problems or something.

The name of the hospital hasn’t been included in most of the newspapers, but one reported that it was the Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu.

That sounds right because Queen’s is the flagship hospital in the State of Hawai, if not in the Pacific region, and it has some of the best heart specialists in the nation on its staff. In that respect, Rush is fortunate.

On the otherhand, he may feel a wee mite uneasy. Queen’s staff consists primarily of Asians or Hawaii residents of Asian and Pacific Islands ancestry. There are a few staff who look like Rush, but not many. And I wonder, considering Rush’s well-known antipathy to anything non-white, how he is managing his daily interpersonal relationships.

The people of Hawaii are quite nice and pleasant and they tend to say nice things to others because the nature of the culture of Hawaii is, for the most part, non-confrontational.

On the other hand, they do not like what they refer to as “loud mouthed Haoles.” The word Haole in its original definition means simply “foreigner” or someone from a different place, although somewhere in my memory banks, I have this feeling that it may have referred to a white flower.

Be that as it may, Haole has become, in one sense, a derogatory term, as in, for example, “that damned Haole” or “that freakin’ Haole,” usually with a variation of the spelling of the word freakin’.

Rush Limbaugh’s radio personality is a perfect model of the Hawaii concept of a loud-mouthed Haole–verbal volume on extra high, opinionated,  critical of local ways and customs, superior in all respects, and condescending.

One would hope that Rush wouldn’t invoke his entertainer’s persona while a doctor or nurse from, for example, the Phillipines was busily engaged in ministering to his medical needs. These professionals would continue their treatment, but eventually, somehow, the word would get around. Lips flap even in professional circles.

Given Rush’s monetary situation, he may have called in his personal physician in an advisory role or he may have asked for a referral from his doctor.

Another possibility is that Rush in real life may be a decent human being and, consequenty, he may treat the local folks with the respect they deerve.

Sadly, I am in Texas at the moment and have no access to the ever-floating gossip that goes around below the radar in Hawaii. One of these days, though, the story of Rush’s stay in a Honolulu hospital will get around.

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Around this time of the year, I begin to think about the blogs that I read regularly and boil them down to a select group that I call My 10 Favorite Blogs. Except this year, try as hard as I could, I’ve only been able to come up with My 5 Favorite Blogs. How come? When I began blogging  a couple of years ago, the blogosphere was overloaded with blogs, and for some reason, I seemed to like all of them, or many of them anyway. Everything was so new. What a relief from the sterile reporting and analysis of the mainstream media. Picking my favorite ten was easy then. Almost everything I read was at the top of my daily reading list. As a last resort, when the time rolled around for my Top 10 list, I arranged them alphabetically and lopped off all of those below the first ten. Mechanical but functional.

This year my selection process isn’t going along as smoothly as it used to. I’m puzzled. Has the number of blogs decreased? I don’t think so. In the Bay area alone, there must be several hundred, maybe a thousand. If you don’t believe me, check out CBS5’s Eye on Blogs, the brainchild of Britney Gilbert. She’s compiled a list of Bay Area Blogs complete with links to each of them. Quite an accomplishment.

What about quality? In my judgment, the blogs I check regularly are well-written, topical, and timely. So, there must be another variable to explain my difficulty in selecting ten blogs that I like above all others.

After thinking about it for a minute or two, I’ve concluded that the problem is me. Over time, my interests have shifted. For one thing, I’m not into politics the way I used to be. Maybe I need another election or a scandal to pump me up. Nah. Scandals are so commonplace these days, they’re kind of like clouds of gnats circling around my ears.

I think my declining interest in politics began when I started blogging on Open Salon. The variety of topics and styles of writing that I encountered there led me to think about wider more varied fields of interest as topics for my own blog.

And that’s how it stands at the moment. I have found writers and bloggers beyond my original boundaries. And from my newly-found peers, I’ve compiled my list of a very few favorites, writers who rise above the crowd. Here they are.

·       The Ax Files heads my list this year. I stumbled across the author a long time ago and was struck by her originality. Her name is Alexandra Jones, and she has a captivating way with words combined with a facility in observation and interpretation that can lead you to think you are there with her if you let your imagination go. You won’t be disappointed if you check out her essays.

·       The Renaissance Lady is a prolific author and the repository of a volume of information equal to that in many libraries. I became aware of her blog on Open Saloon and quickly added her to my Favorites list. Her interests are eclectic, ranging from politics to a casita inhabited by spirits in New Mexico.  She writes fascinating material with originality and passion.

·       The Fog City Journal is an online newspaper rather than a blog, but if it were a blog, it would rate with the best. Publisher Luke Thomas is a world class photographer who captures a variety of activities in San Francisco that he uses to good effect throughout the publication. Add to that a stable of top writers and analysts and you have an A-One site.

·       CBS5 Eye on Blogs isn’t, strictly speaking, a blog but a compendium of Bay Area blogs with commentaries by the site’s mastermind, Britney Gilbert. She’s a product of Tennessee where she operated a similar site for a television station in Nashville. Luckily, her talents caught the eye of someone at CBS5 and now she applies her talents to Baghdad by the Bay, as Herb Caen called it. Good for Ess Fff.

·       Jeannie Watt’s Blog on eHarlequin is my latest favorite. Jeannie is a writer of romance novels set in the modern West, primarily Nevada. A product of Nevada’s Cowboy Country, she writes about cowboys most of the time, but she has touched on the ordinary people of small town Nevada in a few of her novels with marked success. I am including Jeannie Watt in my list for a special reason. I have never been a reader of romance stories. I stumbled across one of her books in the bottom row of a book rack in a supermarket one day, thinking it was a story about cowboys. And it was. But it also was woven around a hot romance between a cowpoke and a teacher, which made for a charming story. Jeannie’s descriptions of ranch and cowboy life were so realistic that I became enthralled with her writings. In her blog, she talks about her own life in a small ranching community as well as about the business of writing. She has many fascinating things to say and that’s why she’s the only writer of romances whose works I read.

Okay, that’s my truncated list of favorite blogs for this year. I’m publishing the list well before the New Year because I’ll be on an extended vacation shortly and won’t return until sometime in 2010.  I’ll undoubtedly be enjoying my family more than I enjoy blogging.

But, I’ll be back.

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Yesterday I received an e-mail from my cousin in Arkansas. She keeps me informed of goings on and I appreciate her messages. She wrote that her husband and brother (another cousin) had gone to “the farm” at three a.m. on a deer hunting foray. The farm she mentioned is owned by her husband and he drives about a hundred miles at least once a week, sometimes more often, to see how things are going and to consult with his manager.

This year, his crops are soy beans and rice. At least one of the rice fields has been harvested but the soy beans were largely destroyed under a deluge of rain that extended over several days and inundated the crop land. Such is the fate of farmers. It’s a risky business.

The farm is large and meanders in and out of stands of woods. The crops are ringed by dirt roads that form a boundary between the woods and the crop land. And running through the crops are a series of smaller roads, small dikes, and irrigation canals. Water for the crops is diverted from creeks and streams that run through the woods by a series of diversion dams between the woods and the crops.

The woods are a convenient home for deer and smaller wildlife, and the crop lands are prime sources of food for them. When my cousin’s husband gave me a tour of the farm a couple of months ago, we saw several herds of deer browsing along the edges of the soybeans, which were still thriving at that time. The deer were easily visible from our ground-level position on the perimeter road, and had anyone had the inclination and a deer rifle, he could easily have shot one maybe two deer before they bolted.

But the accepted method of deer hunting is from a deer stand. For lack of a better description, a deer stand is like a small tree-house constructed on the trunk of a tree about 30 feet from the ground. A stand is really nothing more than a platform anchored to the tree with two by fours as braces.

Hunters access the stand by climbing a wooden ladder. Then, they wait for the deer to appear in their view. If the deer are near enough for a clear shot, then the hunter is likely to kill his limit in short order. If there are two hunters, both may kill their limit before the day is over.

On the day I visited, my cousin’s husband pointed out several strategically placed deer stands. Even from ground level, the crops spread out before me for well over a thousand yards. From the vantage point of one of the elevated stands, a hunter could see much further. A hunter with a high-powered deer rifle with a scope can score a hit easily from that distance.

As we drove around the farm and the woods, with my cousin’s husband explaining the intricacies of farming, I began to think about my own hunting days. I was young then, very young, and a part of the culture of the time and place. My favorite reading material was the Shooters Bible, at that time a flashy publication advertising every make of gun anyone could imagine.

I myself owned four guns, a .22 caliber plinking rifle, a .20 gauge shotgun for small birds and varmints, a .12 gauge shotgun once owned by my granddad for quail, pheasants, and rabbits, and a  bolt-action 7-millimeter Belgium Mauser. This latter gun is a mystery. I can’t remember how I came to have it in my possession. I just remember driving to a gravel pit with friends and shooting cans with it. This was one hell of a powerful rifle, literally blowing a can to smithereens.

Because of my background, I entered the military service quite familiar with guns. I was very accurate with the M-1 Carbine used then by the Air Force. I could easily hit the bull’s eye with regularity, and at one time I was asked to join the rifle team. I declined respectfully. Although I was a good shot, I didn’t want to spend my service time on a rifle range. Competition firing isn’t just a matter of picking up a gun and shooting it when your turn comes. Consistent accuracy takes a lot of practice to achieve. I was too undisciplined then.

After my service time ended, I never returned to the old home place except for brief visits and I never hunted again. It wasn’t that I suddenly became anti-gun. My life following my discharge from the service became filled with family, job, and various other sports, primarily baseball at first but eventually fast-pitch softball. I played in a city league for a few years and hung it up in favor of golf. That’s where my life stands at the present.

When I received my cousin’s e-mail, I wondered what I would do if her husband asked me to accompany him to the farm for deer hunting. I knew that I wouldn’t, so the only issue was how to say no gracefully. I finally settled on a straightforward and honest answer. “No, thanks, but I appreciate the invitation,” I would say simply without embellishment or excuse. If I were pressed further, I would add, “I don’t hunt anymore. It’s merely a matter of my personal preference, but I certainly don’t object to other people hunting,” I intend to avoid a never-ending series of excuses about guns and hunting. It’s counterproductive.

The truth of the matter is, a truth I will never tell my cousin, shooting a deer with a high-powered deer rifle is too easy. Where is the challenge? The process might be fair if the deer had a rifle, too. Besides, I am at a stage of economic independence that I don’t need to hunt to eat. Some people do, of course. Let them. Me, I just trot down to Safeway and browse the aisles, hunting for a can of SPAM.

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This is probably a meaningless post unless you know a little about San Francisco. But if you are somewhat familiar with the city, you may recall or have heard about the Jack Tar Hotel.

This relic of another era at the corner of Van Ness and Geary in San Francisco is going to be demolished and eventually replaced by a hospital.

Once upon a storied time, the hotel was one of many in a chain of Jack Tar Hotels. I’m working from memory here, but I believe there was also a Jack Tar in Dallas and several in the Caribbean. I don’t know what happened to any of the hotels in those locations, but the San Francisco Jack Tar somewhere along the line was sold and became the Cathedral Hills Hotel.

I mention all of this because the Jack Tar Hotel has occupied a central part of my life’s story. No, I didn’t attend any galas or other social events there. I didn’t hang out in the bar. I didn’t meet beautiful women in the hotel lobby who took my hand and whispered, “I love you so.” In my eyes, The Jack Tar was a 400-room monstrosity, a garish blot on San Francisco’s otherwise pristine landscape.

Why, then, and how has the hotel remained in my memory since I first became aware of its existence as a young, very young male, hovering in that twilight zone between adolescent stupidity and age-of-consent certainty?

I received a moving traffic violation in the hotel’s underground parking garage. It happened this way.

I was accustomed to driving in Oakland where a U-Turn was legal unless a sign specifically said “No U-Turn.”

One day, I had some business at the Jack Tar. As usual when I drove to San Francisco, I came off of the Bay Bridge and headed North on Van Ness. On this day, the traffic was heavy, and as I reached Geary, I had to wait in the left-turn lane for the light to change.

The traffic in the opposite direction was also heavy, and I knew if I didn’t make a quick U-Turn ahead of the oncoming traffic, I’d have a long delay. Since I saw no sign prohibiting a U-Turn, I decided to chance it.

So, the instant the light hit green, I immediately stepped on the gas and swung around, catching the right lane on Van Ness. From there, I immediately swung right again into the entrance to the outside parking area before the oncoming traffic had moved into the intersection. I had good reflexes in those days.

As I drove slowly into the parking area, I heard a deep-throated motor behind me. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw an SFPD motorcycle officer. Thinking nothing of it (I was also oblivious then), I continued through the outside parking lot into the underground area looking for a spot to pull into.

The parking garage was virtually full but I finally found a lonesome spot as far into the bowels of the garage as I could drive without bumping the back wall. All of this time, the motorcycle officer hung right with me.

By the time I had parked and stepped out, the officer had already placed his bike directly behind me and dismounted. He said, “You made an illegal U-Turn.”  He asked for my driver’s license and car registration, inspected them, and began writing me a ticket.

Like every idiot who has ever been surprised by a ticket, I tried to explain my way out of it. “I live in Oakland and we can make a U-Turn unless a sign says we can’t.”

This is the old out-of-towner excuse that might work in a tourist area, but I was no tourist and the officer knew it. He merely continued to write the ticket, all the while saying nothing.

I don’t remember now whether or not I signed the ticket. I probably did. But one thing sticks in my mind. The officer never said a word beyond his introductory remarks. He merely wrote the ticket, handed it to me, re-mounted his bike and cut out.

I probably would have argued a little more, but a couple of things gave me second thoughts: the officer’s silence and the knowledge that my company would pay the ticket.

Oh, and one other hint of my absolute stupidity in those days. While I waited for the light to change, the officer who followed me into the Jack Tar parking garage had been sitting on his idling bike in plain sight on Van Ness. I remember he looked very professional.

Little known fact: Jack Tar is a British Navy slang term for a sailor.

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