So help me dog, I was never able to figure the appeal of B. Obama, either when he first hove onto the political scene, or when he was elected, and reelected. He seemed to me, from the first and at a distance to be just a pleasantly and superficially-cultured nullity, with the not-uncommon ability to deliver inspiring, soaring speeches from words put in front of him, just like any A- or B-list actor I could name. He looked good, sounded good … and that was all there was to him, as far as concrete accomplishments went. Again, like any good actor – he looked the part that he was supposed to play, no matter that the actual legislative resume was vanishingly thin of substantive accomplishments.
Perhaps that was all that was required of him, that he look and sound the part. And what does that make of the sense and sensibility of those who voted for him, cheered him on enthusiastically, the establishment media who rolled his Juggernaut over the finish line, and supported him in eight years of trying his best to turn the United States into some nasty South American socialist dump, ruled in turns by a coterie of the elite, and their ambitious throne-sniffers? David Brooks, the token conservative at the National Paper of Record, got all thrilled and man-crushy, adoring the perfect crease of Obama’s trousers. This may live in infamy as the shallowest, stupidest thing that our Miss Brooksie has ever written, against considerable competition.

Frankly, no wonder the credibility of the national establishment media has gone down the tubes. Anyone paying attention knew that we were being snowed – gaslighted, even – over the interminable years of the Obama administration. As a minor and perhaps superficial example, look at how we were all told – insistently, through the cover stories on all the establishment fashion mags – that Michelle Obama was the most beautiful, tasteful, and stylish First Lady since Jackie Kennedy. And we had before us the evidence of our own eyes … talk about killing the credibility of the fashion papers. Something of the same diminution of credibility happened with the mainstream press, I believe.

A neighbor of ours is a recent transplant from an annoyingly liberal state, who has confessed in an unbuttoned moment to having worked the phones for his campaign in her original home. Why? I asked. This woman is elderly, but in possession of most of her original issue of marbles, an animal lover and a good neighbor. Pretty shrewd in most aspects of life, come to think of it. And her reply? “Because it was time for a black man to be president,” at which point I dropped the discussion and changed the subject to something a trifle less incendiary.

“Because it was time.” I could hardly think of a lamer reason for electing any mortal into the highest office in this blessed land. And I thought so, even when the Fresh Prince of Chicago first took to the hustings against the Dowager Duchess of Chappaqua, or as I termed her then, “Her Inevitableness.” “Because it was time.” Which may well be, but if it is so, then couldn’t the nominated candidate of “It’s Time” be someone of more substance? Was all they wanted – the establishment political parties, the national press, even a good part of the federal bureaucracy – and god save us, the so-called intellectual elite – a shallow, attractive man of no particular accomplishment or record? I guess so, watching the subsequent melt-down over the last year. I suspect that a substantial portion of the outrage, frenzied justification and rationalization after the fact are to cover up their own bad judgement in having cast all their chips and credibility on the bet of a candidate so shallow … a man of cotton candy: a few shreds of sweet sugar, blown up through the application of hot air, into something substantial in appearance. And now, the Cotton Candy Man appears to have signed a deal with Netflix to write and produce … well, something. I really wish that if being a reality TV star was his ambition, he could have done so without involving the rest of us.

So … even as I am starting research on the American Revolution-era novel, I am moved to start on another — about Minnie Templeton Vining, who was a peripheral character in Daughter of Texas, and in Sunset and Steel Rails.

A blue-stocking and a crusader, and … stuff. At mid-century, where there were a lot of things going on.

Enjoy. I don’t quite know where this will finish out … but Minnie is a ferocious abolitionist. And perhaps has other involvement in the Underground Railroad. It all depends…

Chapter 1 – A Lady of Leisure

A week after the reading of her father’s will, Minnie Templeton Vining sat in the old-fashioned parlor of her father’s tall house on Beacon Street with her sister-in-law Annabelle, while an errant spring breeze stirred the curtains … as well as the festoons of black crepe which adorned the façade of the Vining mansion. Narrow windows of the austere classical style that had been the height of architectural fashion early in the century now overlooked the broad avenue and leafy avenues and meadows of the Common and the public gardens beyond. The room within was furnished in the old manner; chairs, tables and shelves made in the austere style of two generations past, of polished wood sparingly ornamented, for the late Lycurgus Agrippa Vining resisted any change in the mansion in which he had ruled over as absolute dictator for half a century. The paintings and portraits, blue and white China trade porcelain, ranks of books in solid leather bindings, somber dark-red brocade upholstery, and very old-fashioned crewel-embroidered curtains – all testified at least as much to the wealth and pride of the family as to their magnificent disinclination to follow mere fashion … and thereby waste any portion of that wealth on transiently popular fripperies.

“So the house and a substantial income are yours to control absolutely!” Annabelle marveled, as she added sugar to the cup of tea which Minnie had poured from a silver pot which was one of the Vining’s treasured possessions, coming as it had from the workshop of the great Boston silver artisan, Paul Revere. In one of the account books in the old Judge’s study and library was preserved a bill made out in Revere’s own spidery handwriting, for that very teapot and a dozen silver spoons to be adorned with acorns and oak leaves.

“Indeed,” Minnie set down the teapot with a gentle clinking sound and took up her own refreshed cup. She was a confirmed spinster, being something somewhere in her fourth decade; a woman of decidedly firm opinions – and yet attractive to the eye for all of that, at least to those who entertained a taste for fine-boned features, and arresting blue-grey eyes, animated by a formidable and unsparing intelligence. “Cousin Peter is to be my trustee – but he is too sensible a man to attempt any thought of treating with me as if I were a silly child in need of correction and protection.”

“I should say not!” Annabelle chuckled. “One might very well try to rope and ride one of those wild bison creatures of the plains. Your dear brother – my late husband – told me such a tale of the President of Texas shooting one of those dreadful beasts in the streets of the capitol of that benighted place!” The humor briefly departed from Annabelle’s pleasant countenance. She was a slender woman of about forty years, the same age as Minnie – and like Minnie, garbed in the darkest black of mourning for father and father-in-law. They had been friends since their earliest childhood, indulged by their parents, friends of the heart, as well as of marital and distant blood connections. And Annabelle was a Saltinstall connection, which counted for something in Boston.

“My brother had many tales to tell of his travels,” Minnie acknowledged, although she held deep in her heart the one which she would never distress Annabelle by telling – of that low-bred woman in farthest Texas, the one who had cohabitated with her youngest brother, and bred four nasty brats with him, or perhaps some other man, no matter what her brother claimed was a proper marriage in that benighted place. That was a deathbed secret and confession she would take to her own grave, rather than distress Annabelle with revealing it. Annabelle was his wife in the eyes of the law and of Boston. That woman in Texas was a nobody and of no character at all. Annabelle – dear, innocent Annabelle – deserved a measure of peace of mind, if not happiness, in the wake of a marriage-not-marriage to a husband who was never present in Boston but always gone on interminable ocean voyages and travels in a vain attempt to recover his health.

“Telling the absolute truth can often be a brutal cruelty,” her father, Judge Vining was wont to say. “Consider well the costs of relieving your own conscience, Minerva, if that cost comes at the expense of another’s peace of mind and happiness.”

“He did, indeed,” Annabelle smiled, ruefully. Her husband – Minnie’s youngest brother – was dead some eight years past, in this very house. The consumption took him, painfully, on his final return. Minnie did not like to think of that even now, or the embarrassing situation which had brought him home for that one last time. “You were such an angel, Minnie – nursing him through those last awful days. Need I say again how grateful I was for that? It was all such a tangle – Sophia having just married, and in such difficulty with her first child. It was all that I could do to attend on my dearest little girl, night and day … I feared so much for her! Richard was a treasure in her travails, of course – but a husband is not so attentive as a mother – or a sister would be!”

“It is what we do, my dear – for those whom we love,” Minnie replied, whereupon her sister-in-law sighed.

“So we do, Minnie,” and her expression brightened with genuine curiosity. “Now – that you are a spinster of independent means, and your dear father is enjoying his heavenly reward; what will you do with yourself, and this establishment?”

Minnie set down her teacup and regarded the parlor; hers and hers alone, to do with as she thought fit. This was a heady feeling, and Minnie longed to stretch her wings and soar, soar on the pleasant updraft of a generous income and control over it, after two decades and more of being bound by obligation to family. Truth to tell, she had not minded all that very much. Papa-the-Judge (for so she always thought of him) may have been a magisterial and terrifying parent to his sons, employees, and those brought before him at the Bar, but his only daughter had always had an especially affectionate bond with her father. Her mother – dead in childbirth with her – had been the Judges’ second wife for a brief time.

“A clever woman,” Papa-the-Judge had often said, on those rare occasions when he had been moved to speak of such personal things. “Bold as brass, fearless – she was a spy in the late war, Minnie – did I tell you of that?”

“Yes, you did, Papa – often,” Minnie had replied.

During his last days on this earth, Papa-the-Judge had often patted her hand, at the conclusion of maundering about in his reminiscences, and promised, “Well, then, Minnie – you are to be well-provided for, my girl, since you aren’t inclined to matrimony. I’ll have Peter as your advisor, but he’s a sensible man. Have seen too it, y’see. The only intelligent female child of my blood … the image of your mother. She was a spy, you know. Carried messages for Doctor Warren’s network, back in the day when the bloody Lobsterbacks. Bold as brass, although she was only a bit of a child when I first lay eyes on her … she would want to see you holding to your own independency”

“I know, Papa,” Minnie would answer. She knew very well that she was the image of her mother. There was a small framed portrait painted on ivory in Papa-the-Judge’s monumental desk, secreted in one of the small drawers, which Minnie knew the secret to opening. When she was younger, she had often compared the painted features to her own, reflected in the small elaborate glass mirror which hung opposite the window in Papa-the-Judge’s study. And in any case – Cousin Peter, and others who had known her mother had often commented on the likeness.

No, she would not change the parlor, or Papa-the-Judge’s library, or even all that much about the house. All too dear and familiar, and now it was all to be hers, to order as she liked … but Minnie felt a restlessness in her. It was, she thought, like one of Annabelle’s songbirds, looking out from an elaborate silver cage, to which the door was open, wanting to spread her wings … yet wondering if she yet dared.

Yes. She did. Minnie sipped from her own teacup, and then set it down again with a tiny, decisive clink against the saucer.

“I have decided to go traveling,” she announced. “Oh, not terribly far, Annabelle – just as far as Charleston, and then for a stay in Richmond in Virginia. Cousin Peter has kin by marriage in Charleston. His daughter and her husband ministers – he is in orders, you know – to a very respectable parish in Richmond. They have written, extending their hospitality. I am of a mind to accept. Would you like to accompany me? I would welcome your companionship.”

“For how long, do you plan to remain abroad from Boston?” Annabelle regarded Minnie with an anxious expression, and Minnie smiled in a manner calculated to reassure.

“Not terribly long – for the length of the summer, and return in time to celebrate Little Richie’s birthday, of course. It is …” and Minnie sighed. “My dear, I long to escape these walls for a time, and refresh my soul by gazing on new vistas. I beg you to accompany me, for the sake of respectability. And …” she shot her sister-in-law a severe glance. “It would be energizing for the both of us. We are both allowed a certain considerable degree of freedom by our status as widow and spinster? Why not explore, as far as we are allowed by the strictures of decent society? Why should we be kept mewed up in our little tiny parlors, like falcons wearing blinding hoods, when we might soar?”

“Because …” Annabelle began, irresolutely, and Minnie couldn’t keep herself from snorting.

“Because, fiddlesticks. I have a purse and the inclination, and I want to do something other than sit in my parlor, see that the maids dust the furniture properly and take calls on my at-home day. There is a larger world and great causes to fight for, Annabelle – shouldn’t we begin claiming parts of it for our own, rather than just live as silly simpering angels in the house?” She fixed her sister-in-law with her most ferociously-determined expression, and – as Minnie had been certain that she would – Annabelle crumbled.

“Of course, I will accompany you,” her sister-in-law yielded with a sigh. “But … have you set a date for commencing this … this project of yours. And … I suppose I shall not require any winter things in my trunks…”

“Next month, I think,” Minnie replied, in secret relief. “I shall have to see to the arrangements, and consult with Cousin Peter, of course. But oh!” she smiled and took Annabelle’s hand in her joyful embrace. “It will be such fun!”

The absolute nadir of bad days at work was sketched briefly in a recent book about the Revolutionary War battle of Saratoga – a decisive turning point in that war. There is nothing much new in Dean Snow’s 1777: Tipping Point at Saratoga, save that the author has gone through just about every set of archives, memoirs, and reminisces existing, along with an exhaustive survey of the site itself, and produced an hour by hour account. No mean feat, especially since keeping track of time was an inexact science. (And would be for at least another eighty years, when the developing railways, with requirements for exact timetables over long distances, and necessary scheduling of use on single track routes made it mandatory that scrupulous attention be paid to these matters.)

Briefly, that campaign was series of battles, skirmishes, and clashes on the banks of the Hudson River where it passes through upstate New York; the culmination of a grand plan to slice the rebellious colonies in – if not half – at least thirds. The supreme British commander, General William Howe (rumored to be a backstairs cousin to George III, his granny having had a productive affair with George I), was pleasantly ensconced in New York, where he was assisted in his revolution-suppression duties by General Henry Clinton. The British forces had chased the rebellious colonials out of New York some months previously. All the notable cities of the Colonies were ocean ports; Boston, New York, Charleston, Savannah. Only Philadelphia was an exception – and it sat on the inland reaches of the Delaware River. Still a port – but far inland from the Atlantic Ocean. In any case, the grand scheme was to split off New England from the other rebellious colonies by coming down from Canada with an overwhelming force of British regular troops and hired German mercenaries.

This grand plan was the brainchild of a handsome, raffish adventurer of some military talent and high connections in the British aristocracy, one John “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne. The son-in-law of an influential politician of the time, Burgoyne possessed the favor of influential friends, the reputation of an outspoken military innovator, a mildly distinguished record of active service in the Seven Years War, some talent as a playwright, and membership in the House of Commons. In 1776, upon the lower Colonies in North America becoming quite irredeemably rebellious, Burgoyne was given command of a force charged with recovering British control over Lake Champlain and the Hudson River Valley. Burgoyne’s grand theatrical plan was for three forces – one coming down the Mohawk River from the west, another coming upriver from New York – and a third, commanded by himself advancing south down the Hudson River, all converging near Albany at a date mutually convenient for all three – and that would put an end to this silly revolution nonsense. Against sober consideration of the odds, the territory to be covered and a sincere ignorance of the complications which this plan would fall heir to, Burgoyne was given authority to proceed. Which he did, with full enthusiasm, and an enormous baggage trail, a company which included the wife and daughters of the professional soldier commanding the German element, Colonel Friedrich Reidesel. (Who as a professional, thought rather ill of Burgoyne and Howe, and Mrs. Colonel Reidesel’s opinion was even blunter.) General Burgoyne was so confident of this plan that legend has it that he wagered ten pounds with Charles James Fox that he would return in a year, triumphant, with the rebellion utterly quashed.

The long and the short of it is that Burgoyne’s grand plan came to a grief which would have been – and was – predicted by soberer heads. Loaded down with heavy baggage both real and cultural, Burgoyne and his scheme crashed head-on into brutal reality. Their Indian allies bailed early on, the American Loyalists which he had counted on to report in substantive numbers did not oblige, the force sent along the Mohawk Rover was defeated in a fight at Fort Stanwix, and the large British force moving up from New York never materialized; General Howe went to take Philadelphia instead, leaving General Sir Henry Clinton in charge of New York. The sheer difficulty of moving his enormous baggage and supply train utterly crumbled his grand offensive plan once he met stiff resistance, a little way south from Saratoga.

A month-long series of bitter skirmishes, culminating in battles at Freeman’s Farm, Bemis Heights and the Balcarres Redoubt burned through supplies, horses, ammunition, men, and German/British morale. Gentleman Johnny’s best chance would have been to pack up what was left of his supplies, soldiers, artillery-train and beat a strategic retreat north. But he still held out a hope that General Clinton would send a relief force of 2,000 men to his aid, as General Clinton had promised. Messages between Clinton and Burgoyne were carried by an American Loyalist soldier, a man named Daniel Taylor, who carried them in a hollow silver ball, the size of a bullet as he stealthed his way in ordinary civilian clothing up and down the Hudson. On October 9, Taylor and another Loyalist were just returning from New York, with a message for Burgoyne. Upon approaching New Windsor, Taylor and his companion began seeing heavily armed men – but were they Rebels or Loyalists?

At this point in the fighting, not very many Rebels or Loyalists wore distinguishing uniforms. Taylor and his companion were challenged almost at once. Who were they, and what were they doing? Well, said Taylor, who are you and what are you doing? We’re guards for General Clinton, replied the men. Why – Taylor had just departed from Clinton’s camp, the day before! Hurrah, for Clinton making swift work of the distance. Much relieved, Taylor asked to be taken to the General, obviously assuming General Clinton might have additional messages for Burgoyne. The guardsmen obliged by escorting Taylor into the august presence of the general … and that was the point where the day became The Very Worst Day At Work Ever for Daniel Taylor.

Because this was not the British General Sir Henry Clinton … but the American rebel, George Clinton; a commander of militia, governor of New York (who would be re-elected to that office five times), brigadier general in the New York volunteer militia – and also a dear personal friend and supporter of George Washington. Taylor – whom one might assume was frozen in horrified realization for a brief moment and whose interior monologue might be imagined with some accuracy – grabbed the silver ball containing the message to Burgoyne from where he had it concealed on his person and swallowed it.

Too late. Orders were given, Taylor was separated from his companion (nothing is said of what happened to that man) a doctor was sent for, and an emetic administered – likely by force – and nature took its course. He vomited up the silver ball containing the message, and when it was opened, and the message read, there was no hope at all for him, save for dictating a confession to an obliging militia officer, and composing his soul; an enemy courier, carrying theater-commander-level messages, and out of uniform – such as they were at the time. He was hanged the following Sunday morning, from the branch of an apple tree near the church in Kingston, north of New Windsor, as the Rebels evacuated the area, in anticipation of the British advance. When Sir Henry Clinton’s troops did briefly reoccupy Kingston, they found Taylor’s body, and burnt the town in reprisal.

All to no purpose, as it turned out. Burgoyne surrendered within days – a precursor to the larger surrender at Yorktown, four years later, when the world turned upside down and Britain relinquished control of thirteen rebellious colonies in the New World.

OK, so it was linked on Insty, but this was an incredible read: of the Pan-Am commercial flight which got caught on the wrong side of the world after Pearl Harbor, and had to go around the long way to get home again, with pluck, luck and sheer stubborn inventiveness.
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Enjoy!
I particularly liked the part where they visited a public library, searching for relevant information.

09. May 2018 · 1 comment · Categories: Domestic

Well, a project progress report, seeing that one of the semi-big projects on my list of home-improvement items has been accomplished – and bountifully, at that. Well, it did run to about $300 more in labor and $200 more in stuff – specifically a wall-mounted mirror, a faucet set, and a glass shelf – than I had initially anticipated. But the small bathroom renovation is complete and gorgeous! Well, once the glass shelf arrives, courtesy of Amazon and UPS, it will be complete. I began working on the bathroom after I got back from Houston, at the middle of April – scraping disgusting wads of soluble plaster and popcorn texture off the ceiling, and alternately, those last bits of paint from off the concrete floor, while awaiting the convenience of Neighborhood Handy Guy. Neighborhood Handy Guy boogies to the beat of a different drummer, when it comes to a schedule, I’m afraid. When he says, “I’ll be over first thing!” it could mean anywhere between 8:30 and noon. When he says, “I’ll be over today!” it could be any time from mid-morning to late afternoon. This charming eccentricity is forgiven by neighborhood clients because he does amazingly good work (carpentry, tile-work, fixture-installation, painting, etc.) being a perfectionist at heart, and that his charges for labor are … well, let’s just say they are reasonable. Especially if you do some of the work, assist him, and purchase the necessary. So reasonable that he is in constant demand – another reason for being patient. So – two weeks of work from Neighborhood Handy Guy, including trips to the local Lowe’s outlet, first to pick up the pedestal sink and the new toilet, the paint, tile for floor and sink surround, good sturdy planks for a shelving unit, baseboards and trim, subsequently to collect other items as required … and now the bathroom is finished. Yay! (Pictures below. The room is so small that it’s impossible to back up far enough to take pictures encompassing the whole … and the paint color is more of a white with a pink tinge than the sort of Pepto Bismol shade that it looks under flash.)

It’s amazing how much roomier it seems, now with a nice pedestal sink, and with a custom, if simple and unadorned shelving unit installed. The original vanity was contractor-grade, and so shoddy that I bashed it apart myself with an ordinary hammer and consigned it to the gargantuan wheelie-trash-bin without any untoward exertion. And my place was built by a reputable company: homes built by the really fly-by-night builders must be equipped with cabinets built with heavy cardboard, and fixtures constructed from soda straws and heavy tinfoil.
It’s only the very first item on my Five-Year To-Do, though. I am awaiting the call from the roofing and remodeling company, in service to the second item – initial construction of the Catio and in association with that project, a new roof. Sometime in late May, early June, I think. Then the garage door – and that is dependent on sorting out all the crap in the garage, much of which is the Daughter Unit’s. She came home from her last station at Cherry Point and when her hold baggage arrived, it was all unloaded into the garage. The master bath reno must wait until after Christmas. Sigh. Another week of scraping popcorn gunk off the ceiling awaits me at that point. And likely at least three weeks of waiting every day for Neighborhood Handy Guy to appear and work his home-renovation magic. Until then, I solace myself by going down the hall, opening the door, and basking in the retro-charm of the finished small bathroom.

So, I meant to write something sarcastic and slashing about … whatever over the last weekend, but I got distracted by life, and by a couple of different news reports – one of them being that Kanye West apparently has gotten in touch with his inner conservative and decided – for the moment – to come out enthusiastically for Trump. While not a particular fan of his brand of pop music and acknowledging that his judgement may not be all that – the man married a Kardashian, for g*d’s sake – I have never heard of anyone calling him a stupid man. Talented – yes, fabulously successful, and financially well-rewarded for exercising those talents; there must be more to him than pure dumb luck. Lamentable as it is to me that present-day celebrities wield more social influence than is good for them, and for us … that someone with that much influence in the black community is pointing out some self-evident truths must count for something.

I cannot decide if Kanye West initiated a preference cascade, or he was sharp enough to see that Trump’s policies were benefiting urban black communities in a substantial way a way that Obama promised but never delivered, and made a rational decision to speak his mind and get out in front of it all. It has been suggested that this is all a gigantic trolling of conservatives anyway; still seems like going a bit too over the edge, in ginning up publicity for an album or something. In any case, Kanye West certainly has provoked a backlash of his own, with Mad Maxine Walters spouting inane and condemnatory gibberish in the manner which we have come to expect of her, Ta-Ne-Hissy Fit Coates spouting likewise in a somewhat more literate manner.

The other matter which drew my attention, are reports that terminally-ill John McCain now is saying that he never wanted Sarah Palin as his VP in the 2008 presidential campaign. And he doesn’t want President Trump coming to his funeral. That first sentiment strikes me as spiteful, the second as ungracious, although Senator McCain will be in no position to complain in the eventuality. Spiteful, because it was clear to me at the time that adding her to the ticket was about the only thing that energized his campaign at all; having her on board was the one thing that energized me and a lot of others about what was a spiritless and by-rote campaign. Spiteful again, the way that his inner circle basically threw her to the dogs, blaming her for the failure. Looking back now on how it all played out, I wonder if McCain was ever really serious about pursuing the presidency in 2008 – was he always intended to lose? He did suspend campaigning, which seemed like an inexplicable decision then. Was the fix in for Hillary the Inevitable, and then for Obama, the Fresh Prince of Chicago; John McCain was just there to make a show for the establishment GOP and then gallantly concede? Supposing that was the plan, and everyone but Sarah Palin was playing along with it? Five years ago, fifteen, even – I would have thought that was political paranoia talking but considering the recently-revealed shenanigans of the Clinton-Trump campaign – I can’t quite be so dismissive. Was Sarah Palin just picked as convincing window-dressing for a deliberately self-sabotaged campaign, at the cost of her own formerly quite promising political career?
Discuss, if you can bear it.

I am distracted this week, through having to oversee and assist with a spot of home renovation, and the launch of Book Six of the Luna City Chronicles – One Half Dozen of Luna City, which is available as of today in print, Kindle and other ebook formats – although by no means have I not paid attention to various news hiccups which caught my fleeting attention as they went past.

As a parent, I can’t help but be sympathetic and supportive of little Alfie Evans’ parents, whose’ medical situation was as heartbreaking as it was mysterious and likely terminal. Just as I cannot help being viciously cynical regarding the decision by hospital and National Health Service administrators to set the poor tot on the so-called Liverpool Care pathway. Over the strenuous objections of his parents, the church which his parents apparently belonged to, any number of advocates for the rights of parents – all life support cut off, including oxygen, nourishment and water, with the powers of the State and its police minions standing by to enforce the dictates of the state. More »

I always had rather a soft spot in me for Barbara Bush; the exemplary old-school upper-middle-class good wife, with her triple strand of pearls, and the way that she didn’t give a damn about going prematurely white. That was the way she was, and she didn’t give two pins. Class – that’s what she had, the class of a previous generation; a class now belatedly appreciated and mourned, now that the upholders and exemplars of it are almost now gone from between us. Among my transitory friends in Korea was a security policeman who had come off the White House protection squad at the end of the senior Bush administration: he adored Barbara, who called him Timmy – possibly the only person on earth besides his mother who did so, as he was one of these six-and-a-half foot tall human hazards in traffic, who looked rather like an Irish-Anglo version of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
So – I took brief note of her passing; yes, good to die at home, refusing anything but palliative care, among family, and those whom hold you in affection. I am certain that Timmy – wherever he is now – is riffling through his fond memories of his particular First Lady and drinking a toast to her. A good long life, well lived, a loving marriage, well-adjusted and successful children, and grandchildren; what more could a brief life on this earth offer? I also drink a toast to Barbara Bush, and convey my sincerest condolences to those who loved her, a circle which extends far beyond those of her blood family. (I wish, though, that she had not been so catty about Sarah Palin, but I guess she was just going along with the old-line Establishment GOP crowd.)

This appears to be a simple social courtesy too much for a certain professor of … something or other at a California State University. Oh – it’s the one in Fresno. Fresno – like Bakersfield, it’s own punishment. (Yes, I am letting my latent California snobbishness show. Yes, there are places in California too infra dig for words. Fresno is one of them, although it did feature in a hilarious and all-star parody of 1980s dramas like Dynasty and Dallas. I continue.) The tweets posted by this so-called professor (of what, pray tell? Oh, dear – of English.) Couldn’t prove it through the content of her tweets, which largely appear barely literate speak for themselves – mostly a narrative of vicious ignorance and malice.

Her name is Randa Jarrar, which must be 21st century speak for Two Ton Tessie, the epitome of a certain kind of female academic social justice warrior, like Trigglypuff. If her now-notorious tweets are what she puts on her social media feed, god only knows what she says to her students in the classroom – at a public and state-funded university, I might add. MS Jarrar is apparently a promising author of the kind of socially-aware preciosity that most of us wouldn’t read on a bet, unless it was to make riotous fun of. She appears to be a lukewarm American Muslim of part-Palestinian extraction, raised in Kuwait and Egypt, returning to the United States for good and all after the First Gulf War in 1991; her previous claim to fame was to have authored a widely-circulated essay on Salon about how she couldn’t stand white belly-dancers. On the grounds of cultural appropriation, apparently.

Among the items of cultural appropriation that MS Jarrar seems to have refused to partake of is the classically Latin truism about ‘speaking no ill of the dead’ – and the other, more American bog-standard, about ‘if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.’ Tragic, since she seemed to have graced UT-Austin with her presence, for a degree in Middle Eastern studies. Oh, well – Austin, what can I say? I would venture a supposition that her very personal animus towards the Bush family has roots in the Gulf War and Saddam Hussein’s brief occupation of Kuwait. If I recall (and I do, for I followed events, being on active duty at the time), elements of the Palestinians in Kuwait and in the Middle East generally were enthusiastically backers of Saddam Hussein. When Saddam Hussein was chased out of Kuwait – well, those Poor, Poor, Pitiful Palestinians were considered as collaborators, and treated in Kuwait rather as French Nazi collaborators were treated after Liberation. While not quite having their heads shaved and marched naked through the streets, they were definitely made unwelcome by the Kuwaitis. I recall that many self-identifying Palestinians did leave Kuwait in a hurry. Being a logical person, I suspect that MS. Jarrar’s family were among them.

And so MS Jarrar found herself, after many academic adventures, comfortably in a well-paid sinecure at a small-town public university in California. Tenure, baby – it’s where you can find it. Alas, she seems to be addicted to the drug of “Calling Attention to Yourself”, and in this case, not thoughtful of how she went about getting that required fix or considering the wisdom of what she would say to get it. Now she has that attention – and having done so on her personal Twitter account (I swear, Twitter exists for the sole purpose of revealing morons in 140 characters or less) she has reflected nothing good on her employer, and from reports of her other social media appearances, she has nothing good to say about the local Fresno community, either. She may very well prove toxic to the university itself, tenure or no – having also demonstrated that she has no firm hold on the axiom regarding not bringing discredit or public opprobrium on one’s employer. Discuss this latest social media/academic dumpster fire; will she be sacked, or retained? Place your bets, gentlemen, place your bets.

While waiting to be put into the roofing/construction company’s schedule for the ‘catio’ and the new roof – which likely won’t happen until mid or late May at earliest, I have gone ahead and started work on the small bathroom renovation. The Daughter Unit was expecting this to be done while she was in California. I was also expecting to have Roman the Handy Guy start on the ‘catio’ before she even left, but he was in two minds about the project; an entirely roofed and screened-in porch was a bit more of a project that he wanted to tackle single-handed. So – I handed off the catio-porch element onto the professionals and asked him to tackle the small bathroom renovation. This is something more in his wheelhouse anyway.

The small bathroom project is a relatively simple one; rip out the vanity/sink and the toilet, scrape that nasty popcorn texture off the ceiling, tile the floor and the wall behind where the new sink will go, repaint the whole room, and install a set of built-in shelves and a new wall light fixture. The whole room is about 5 by 9, a third of that taken up by the bathtub across one end anyway. No big structural changes, no changes to the water or sewer lines, nothing to the electrical beyond replacing switch plates to match the new color scheme. Which will be white and a sort of grey-lavender-pinkish, to match a little vintage porcelain dresser set that the Daughter Unit picked up somewhere or other and wanted to use as the keynote design element. We plan to reuse the faucet set – since it was the one that I bought to replace the original construction-grade faucet about a decade ago, when I did my first redecorating pass through my little patch of suburban paradise.

So, yesterday we were at the local big-box home renovation store, picking up the replacement toilet and pedestal sink that I had ordered last week – both items packed in big boxes, which is why I had arranged with Roman and his pickup truck, rather than try and stuff them in the back of the Montero myself. While there, I bought the other material for the project; paint, floor and backsplash tile, the grout mix, lengths of baseboard stock, and lumber for a set of floor-to-ceiling shelves which will replace the storage space lost when the bathroom vanity is taken out. The bathroom is so small, the vanity takes up entirely too much of what little space there is – hence, replaced with a pedestal sink. Roman has a busy schedule for the rest of this week, so his part of the renew-work falls into next week. My part falls into the interim: scrape up the last of the paint on the concrete floor and clean thoroughly, so that the tiles adhere properly, take down all the stuff attached to the walls, patch the holes, sand, and otherwise prep the room for heavy redecoration. And that was my week – other than the trip to Houston, which I will write up anon.

15. April 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Allied Treachery

Well, it’s somewhere, among the albums.

One of my internet guilty pleasures is perusing the website of the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper, both the US and UK sides. I know – in the grand scheme of things, the Daily Mail is about one half-step up from a tabloid. The captions and headlines often give evidence of being written by middle-school students innocent of any knowledge of conventional grammar or spelling, they employ the execrable Piers Morgan, editorially despise Donald Trump, and have this inexplicable and unholy fascination with all things Kardashian. In my early blogging days, I favored the rather more high-class Times of London, and the Telegraph, but they went all pay-wall and frankly, hard to read. In any case and against the above-listed foibles and more, the Daily Mail is a free and straightforward read. Start at the top and scroll down; no hopscotching around to the various menu headings, hoping to get lucky and find something interesting. They nearly always do provide some daily amusement, or horror, depending on tastes. And they cover American news without fear or favor – although, as noted, they have no abiding affection for The Donald. They didn’t have for The Barack, either, so I’ll take what I can get, for easy AM reading.
This week’s headline bruhaha made the American conservative side of the blogosphere develop that kind of nervous eyelid twitch demonstrated by Inspector Clouseau’s boss in the classic Pink Panther series: an elderly retiree in a distant London suburb surprised a pair of burglars who had broken into his house in the middle of the night with the intent of robbery and god knows what other kind of criminal mayhem. This being England, land of hope and glory and strict gun control, the thirty-something burglar (who had a comprehensive record as an honest-work-shy professional criminal) was armed with an assault screwdriver, with which he menaced the home-owner. Much to everyone’s surprise – including, no doubt, the professional burglar and his faithful sidekick – the elderly retiree succeeded in defending himself against a pair of younger and presumably bigger men. Indeed, one of the felonious pair was stabbed fatally with his own screwdriver, collapsing in the street outside, whereupon his faithful sidekick abandoned him, gunned their escape vehicle, and vanished in a cloud of exhaust. (The police are searching for him, at last result, although they have located the burned-out escape vehicle. So much for honor among thieves, and the ability of the London police force.) The assault screwdriver-wielding professional career criminal was found, bloodied and dying in the street, taken to a hospital, wherein he expired. Well, they always said that crime doesn’t pay, even though for him it seemed that the eventual bill was a long time coming. More »

Damned if I know, as my educated guess as a long-time milblogger is probably about as good as yours. I never had a Myspace account – too busy with the original milblog, I guess, to be aware of or want to participate in any of the original or prototype Facebook iterations. Never got into Twitter, although I do have a barely-used, and all but neglected account, which I am camping on, since there is another author Celia Hayes out there, who likely would scoop it up, as soon as I vacated that account. (Yes, I am, spiteful that way. That other Celia apparently never did a google-search, upon deciding to publish her contemporary rom-coms. There is such a thing as due diligence…)

See – I am a long-form blogger. There are those of us whose skill is witty epigrams, or slashingly vicious put-downs on a daily basis. Mine is not; I prefer to open up a document, meander at my own pace, and then hit “publish.” Tedious, I know, for those readers with the attention-span of a gnat, but my most intense literary influences where those of the Victorians, who wrote complicated sentences, some of them lasting for at least a quarter of a page, if not for longer. My sense of humor (as well as my tastes in architecture) was set in stone by the influence of a book in the parental collection: Osbert Lancaster’s Here of All Places, who was at least as good as a cartoonist as he was a wordsmith, if slightly ponderous and wonderfully dry.

When I began seriously scribbling on more than a weblog around 2008, I began connecting with other independent writers; the largest congeries of us assembled at first through an Amazon discussion group, swapping experiences, opportunities, and advice on marketing our books. A good many in the group had been on the fringes of traditional publishing in various editorial or technical capacities. Their experiences and insights into the dark heart of what I took to calling the Literary-Industrial Complex were invaluable to the rest of us.

In the light of recent events, one of those pieces of marketing advice has proven to be quite prescient: that is, utilize social media as you must – but don’t bet the farm on it. One should not put all of one’s hard-written content into a basket controlled by others; suck up the expense of your own website, mirror-post your content – because, if for some reason, the social media platform goes under, or takes against you, all your work can and will be lost. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter – all easy, popular, convenient … but when – when, and not if – the politicized and mostly left-of-center providers of the service decide to shadow-ban, demonetize or close your account, you will be stuck. I had a good three or four years’ worth of archive posts on Open Salon, which evaporated into the ether, when Open Salon had their plug pulled by management. Didn’t lose much, save for some of the connections, when that platform went down. I do have a Facebook account for myself as an author, and for several other of my enterprises – not that I post, connect to, or repost anything but the most neutral and anodyne materiel on them. I came into this internet game with a sense of probity already hard-learned, having as a military broadcaster to always consider what I said, wrote, and posted, from the public affairs point of view. Once what you have said on air – it’s out there. No reconsideration can draw it back or erase any line of it.

The social media oligarchs who control such venues have decided – for whatever reasons – to get in touch with their militantly liberal side, consigning better than half the country to perdition and obscurity. I have no idea why, although I can guess at a few possible motivations. Are they so thickly insulated in their bubble of the like-minded that they are genuinely baffled at the existence of conservatives of any stripe? Are they frightened; scared out of their wits at that straw-other built up in their own minds, and hysterically lashing out at the perceived threat by calling it hate speech, or terming conservatives a threat to the community? Or are the social media lords and the media nobility vengefully blaming half the country for not obediently falling into line and voting for Hillary, and punishing the outspoken for our lack of faith in Her Inevitableness?
And what action can we take in response? Can we switch to gab.ai from Twitter, MeWe from Facebook, post to Vimeo instead of YouTube, or explore other alternatives? Will a substantial shift to alternate social media platforms have any effect on oligarchs like Zuckerberg? Discuss.

(The historic WWI Battle of Belleau Wood is a part of the background in A Half Dozen of Luna City … and for your edification – an essay on it, which will feature in the latest Luna City chronicle.)

1918 was not the year that the 19th century died; died in all of its boundless optimisms and earnest faith in advancement of the human condition. For Europe – cynical, cultured, hyper-superior old Europe – that could be said to happened two years earlier, along the Somme, at Verdun, in the tangled hell of barbed wire, poisoned gas and toxic, clay-like mud, the burnt ruins of the centuries-old Louvain university and it’s priceless library, destroyed by German ‘frightfulness’ tactics in the heat of their first offensive. Perhaps the 19th century died as early as 1915. It depended on which front, of course, and the combatants involved, still standing on their feet, but wavering like punch-drunken, exhausted pugilists. One may readily theorize that only blood-drenched enmity kept them propped up, swinging futilely at each other, while the lists of casualties from this or that offensive filled page after page of newsprint; all in miniscule typeface, each single name – so small in print, yet a horrific, tragic loss for a family and community hundreds of miles from the Front.
All this was different for Americans, of course; sitting on the sidelines, gravely concerned, yet publicly dedicated to neutrality, and firmly at first of the conviction that Europe’s affairs were not much of Americas’ business. But softly, slowly, slowly, softly – American sympathies swung towards the Allies, even though there were enough first- and second-generation Americans among German and Irish immigrants to have swung American public opinion among non-Anglo or Francophile elements towards maintaining a continued neutrality. After all, it was a war far, far, away, and nothing much to do with us … at first. But events conspired; the brutality of the Huns in Belgium (documented by American newspapers), unrestricted submarine warfare which extended to American shipping (and, inevitably, American casualties), and finally, the publication of the Zimmerman Telegram – and in the spring of 1917, President Wilson formally requested of Congress that a declaration of war on Imperial Germany be considered and voted upon. Said declaration was passed by an overwhelming margin, and by summer of that year, American troops were arriving in France – first in a trickle, then a flood.
The Belleau Wood was a forested tract thirty or so miles northeast of Paris; a hunting preserve in a stand of old-growth European forest, the refuge of wildlife, and for those whose favored recreation was hunting them. At the northern edge of the forest was two-story octagonal hunting lodge; built of stone, it was a place to shelter hunters for a night, during momentary bad weather, or a hearty meal, mid-hunt. Until the spring of 1918, it had been relatively untouched by a war which had turned acres and acres of French and Belgian farmland into muddy, barbed-wire entangled wastelands – many of which are still poisoned and unsafe, a hundred years after the end of that war. That forest tranquility ended when the expected German spring offensive slammed into the Allied lines – lines which now included the Americans – and punched through to the Marne River. The Germans had hoped to break through before the sufficient of the American Expeditionary Force arrived to make a difference in the wars’ outcome.
Late in May, German forces reached the Paris-Metz main road – and if they managed to break across the Marne and reach Paris, that one last throw of the dice would pay off for Germany; perhaps in victory, or perhaps in a negotiated and face-saving settlement with the equally exhausted and embittered French and British.

An experienced career soldier, General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing commanded the US. Expeditionary Force. He had rejected British and French demands that the Americans be parceled out piecemeal among Allied units, and essentially fight under the command of French and British officers. This would not do – likely Black Jack was polite yet forceful about it. (His nic came from him having commanded a troop of black cavalry early in his career as a young officer.) The AEF’s 3rd Division went into the line to counter the German advance at Chateau Thierry – the 3rd Division, which included a brigade of Marines, had initially been held in reserve – was brought forward in a hurry. The Marines were pretty much seen as a second-class by the Army brass, according to some accounts: good enough to do rear-guard and support duty, and only thrown into what was expected to be a quiet sector because every able-bodied American serviceman was needed, in the face of the German spring offensive. Checked by stiff resistance at Chateau Thierry, the German advance poured into the woods, where the 3rd Division had just arrived. Retreating French troops, exhausted from the fight to keep from being overrun, urged the Americans to do likewise, whereupon one of their officers is supposed to have riposted, “Retreat, Hell – we just got here!”
Of course, the newly-arrived American troops were keen as mustard; champing at the bit, as it were – especially the Marines, few of whom were of the career old breed. Many were recent volunteers. Up until that moment, the Marines had been a rather small, and somewhat specialized service; more inclined to security on board naval ships and at US embassies abroad, perhaps a small punitive expedition where American interests were concerned in South America and the Caribbean; a military constabulary, rather than hard-charging infantry. Still, it was a service that took pride in having been founded by an act of the Continental Congress in 1775, recruiting at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, beating the official establishment of the US Army by more than a decade. (Yes, there was a Continental Army during the Revolution, but it was more like state militias seconded for service in the colonies’ united cause. The US Army wasn’t quote-unquote officially established until the 1780s. Upon this kind of minutia are friendly service rivalries built.)

Throughout the month of June 1918, the Marines fought with bitter tenacity through the deathly woods; sharpshooting at first, with deadly effect, and eventually to point-blank, then with bayonet, knives, and hand-to-hand. They kept the Germans from moving out of the wood, and then fought them back, yard by yard, trench by trench. The trees in the forest, the boulders at their feet were shattered by artillery and machine-gun fire. The stench from the bodies of the dead – too many to bury, under the existing conditions in the early summer heat – revolted the living to an unimaginable degree. And still – they went on, clawing back the wood to Allied control. More Marines were killed in that single month than had been killed in action since their founding in 1775. The Corps would not face another butcher’s bill to equal it until the taking of Tarawa, a quarter of a century later, and half the world away. It was a special kind of hell, this fight in a 200-acre French woodland, fought by relatively untried young troops, motivated by pride in service, by devotion to comrades, and by the leadership – which in many instances devolved onto NCOs, and even individual Marines, like Sergeant Dan Daly, a scrappy Irish-American career Marine (who had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor – twice, for actions in the Boxer Rebellion, and then again in Haiti). In legend he is said to have rallied the troops with a shout of “For Chrissake, men, come on; do you want to live forever?!” (Or similar phrasing. The war correspondent Floyd Gibbons later wrote that he had heard a similar expression shouted by a senior NCO, and the legend attached itself to Dan Daly.)
In the end, the Germans were driven from the woods, at a horrific cost; 10,000 casualties among the Marines, including nearly 2,000 dead. There is no definitive record of German dead, although there were around 1,600 Germans taken prisoner. But the Marines had clawed back the deathly woods, blunted the last-ditch German offensive … and in November of that year, Germany threw in the towel. By agreement, it all came to a temporary end on the eleventh hour, the eleventh day, the eleventh month. Such were the enmities and resulting bitterness that the armistice held only for the time that it took for a baby boy born in that year to grow up and serve in his turn. The shattered forest was christened anew after the battle; since then it is called the Wood of the Marine Brigade and an adjunct to a American war cemetery. The American 4th Brigade was recognized by the French government by the award of a military honor, the Croix de Guerre. To this day, active-duty Marines serving in the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments are authorized to wear the French fourragere – an elaborate garnishment of looped and braided cords – on their left shoulder as part of their dress uniform, in honor of that unit’s service in the Deathly Wood, a hundred years ago. And to this day, successfully completing Marine Corps basic training means completing the “Crucible” – a 54-hour marathon march on short rations and little sleep, featuring grueling marches, obstacle course and team-driven combat-problem-solving exercise – some of which was drawn on the experience of the fighting in the deathly woods, a hundred years ago.

For me, the very first – although not the most momentous disappointment in the accumulated collection racked up throughout the Obama administration – was the realization that there would be no line drawn under the old bug-bear of racism with regard to those of us – as a friend of mine during my assignment to Greenland in the early 1980s put it – with the year-round dark tan. Yes, said friend was black, Afro-American, a person of color, or whatever the approved term is these days. (You kids, get off my lawn! Oh … I don’t have a lawn.) My friend was a totally middle-class young woman, the daughter of professionals, who like me, had grown up without ever personally observing much in-your-face unmistakable racial antagonism or prejudice. It was merely something that had happened to other people, a fair number of decades ago; at worst howlingly illegal, at best, rude. We were in the habit of walking together every Saturday, around the end of the Sondrestrom AB runway to the Danish side of the base, there to enjoy a cup of tea and a pastry in the SAS air terminal cafeteria.

North of the Arctic Circle, you take your diversions where you can find them; in this case, the air terminal cafeteria was A) away from the base, and B) actually had rather good food, since it was entirely run by Danes; masters of pastry and good solid comfort food. One Saturday, the cafeteria was empty save for a large party at another table, who stared at the pair of us in a manner most disconcerting. It freaked both of us out, as soon as we noticed. Had we each suddenly grown another head? Were we trailing toilet paper stuck to our mukluks? It wasn’t an American uniform – both of us were clad in the customary Sondy winter mufti, of jeans and plaid shirts, with the addition of dull-green issue parkas and mukluks – why were they staring at us? Finally, I ventured – “Is it because you’re black and I’m white, and they’re from South Africa or something, where it’s illegal to sit at the same table?”

She agreed that it must be something like that; it must have been the only explanation, and we returned to enjoying our tea and pastries, marveling at how things had changed so much for the better, from the times of violent civil rights demonstrations twenty years before.
At that point – and especially in the military – systemic racial prejudice appeared to be something from the bad old days. It was so far off the table, it wasn’t even in the same room. No one turned so much as a hair over a commander, supervisor, NCOIC being of another race, and if racial prejudice were a factor in the dating and marriage scene, it was one of the best-kept secrets since the Enigma coding device. So, twenty-some years after that tea-time in the airport terminal, I had some thin and comforting hope that the election of B. Obama to the highest office in the land would at the least put a dagger in the heart of the myth of the USA being Teh Most Racist Nation Evah! – even if he delivered on nothing else of note. And this, even after the “G*d Damn America” sermon stylings of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright came to light among the conservative side of the blogosphere. I’m at heart an optimist … surely the chances of a light-weight Chicago machine pol, with not much going for him other than a mellifluous voice (when reading from a teleprompter) and a slightly unusual personal background couldn’t do all that much damage … could he?

Ten years later, that answer is along the lines of ‘oh, hell, yes!’ Between the crazed indifference to the actual facts of the various ‘police on black thug’ shootings on the part of BLM (and the statistics on crime by black vs white perps generally), the curious rise of the ‘knock-out game’, an anti-Semitic race-mongering sleaze-ball opportunist like Al Sharpton achieving a comfortable sinecure and apparent social respect among Dems as a media commenter, American institutions of higher learning piously condemning ‘whiteness’, an earnest and involved group of citizens like the Tea Party partisans being routinely condemned by the establishment news and entertainment media as racist … all that is bad enough. But now it seems that Nation of Islam honcho, Louis Farrakhan – vicious, anti-Semitic, poisonously-hateful of whites in general, and all-around nut-bar – was on closer acquaintance with our former President than previously thought. Yes, presidents and rising pols need to rub elbows with those from whom a normal private citizen would otherwise run screaming, or at least murmuring polite apologies as they edge towards the door – but what are we to make of this? Trump is expected to apologize endlessly for having attracted the support of David Duke – but the support of a malignant hater like Calypso Louie is just – oh, well, one of those political things?

Sharpton, at least, gives off the vibe of being a particular sort of crass racial opportunist (aside from the anti-Semitic thing). Stoking racial animosity been berry, berry good to him over the years – but Louis Farrakhan? He comes off as a fanatic, and of a dangerous sort. Discuss, if you can bear it.

And why – in the wake of the latest horrific school massacre. What I mean is the banning of gun ownership in the US, or the abrogation of the second amendment, or the passing of so-called “sensible” new gun restrictions (which will be as little-enforced as the last set of so-called “sensible” restrictions). Not going to happen, no matter how emotional the demands by the ban-gun advocates scream, weep, stomp their feet and accuse gun-owners and organizations like the NRA of having blood on their hands. And no, we don’t much care how they do it in Europe, or Britain, or Australia. Weirdly enough, in the United States, the most violent cities are the ones with the most restrictions on personal firearms. Violent crime is generally the preserve of a distinctly urban racial sub-culture, which if omitted from the statistics, presents a very different picture when it comes to violent criminal activity in the US as a whole. That’s an anomaly and discussion for another time, although it does have slight bit of bearing on this one.

I’ve rather lost track of how many times we have been to the gun-violence rodeo since the Columbine school shooting. Now it seems like we go through this hyperventilating over gun control every six months or so. I do recall, though, the reaction being extraordinarily muted when Republican members of Congress and their staffs were shot up at baseball practice by James Hodgkinson last June. But muted, or loud and foot-stompy, the results are about the same. It comes down to demanding that innocent, law-abiding citizens, exercising their rights under the Constitution, must be punished for the deeds of a single criminal, or for the deeds of a small number of criminals; collective punishment, in other words. The realization comes – or a sensible person should realize – that screaming grief to the skies and demanding collective punishment is the easy, cheap, facile response. It’s a reflexive reaction – understandable in the case of the grief of the bereaved, people with normal feelings of empathy, or the demand of a media personality under pressure, dammit, to say something before the cameras and microphones. Easy, and pointless – which is why it happens every damn time. Actually going ahead, full-steam ahead on repealing the 2nd Amendment would not only be hard work, even enforcing a total gun ban might prove ultimately impossible, as discussed here.
Effective efforts at preventing mass shootings that come out of the blue at schools, nightclubs, office Christmas parties, midnight movie showings and at concerts and malls is hard work, hard, complicated, and not a one-fits-all solution – made harder when a law enforcement agency like the FBI totally blows off tips concerning worrisome behavior by individuals, as in the current case – or an organization like the military not passing the word about a violence-prone individual, as was the case of the Sutherland Springs church shooter.

A common element in the last two decades is – besides a member of the Religion of Peace going all jihadi with guns, knives, and homemade bombs – is the element of crazy. A young male, as is the sad case last week in Florida, possibly not wrapped terribly tightly, over-or-under medicated, whose’ behavior in real life or on social media increasingly gives those around cause for extreme worry. Sometimes local police have long been aware of erratic and dangerous behavior; at the very least, friends, neighbors, employers all have reason for serious concern. But at present – how do we, or should we go about containing the crazy before the point where the crazy flips out for good and all and leaves a trail of bleeding bodies? Safeguarding the community and the crazy for their own good is another one of those difficult projects; running straight into the conundrum of accommodating the civil rights of the crazy-accused … and who gets to decide, anyway. There are pitfalls down that route; namely the danger of it being too damn easy to declare someone a danger on account of their words or beliefs and lock them up. Shades of the Soviet system, anyone?

Yet another element, discussed last night at Conservative Treehouse – the policy of schools to keep law enforcement away from problem students in the interests of protecting racial minorities. And a final element, related to the above – the problem of boys growing up without a father in the picture, or even a suitable, authoritative father-figure, compounded with the professional feminists blathering on and on about toxic masculinity. Too many professional and elite toes would be trodden heavily on, in the process of ameliorating those situations. Not that it would be impossible, just a very long job, the work of decades and small advances by individuals in reversing the policies that lead us to this point.
The short-term solution may be to follow the Israeli example, as is being done in some school districts in Texas, to arm selected teachers. But that will also be a long and bitterly-contested process. Discuss, and contribute your own thoughts.

In two more years, the mortgage on my tiny patch of suburban paradise will be paid off. This is a consummation that I have longed for, especially when I tossed aside all expectation of working full-time for other people, about ten years ago, and resolved to make a living from writing, and from doing freelance publishing with the Tiny Publishing Bidness. I had an almost wholly unexpected bout of good sense when I purchased the house in 1995; which resulted in a) not buying into too much house, and b) ensuring that the mortgage did not consume more than a quarter of my total monthly income, as it then stood. Since then, the mortgage has been paid monthly, on the dot, even in months in which I just scraped past, economically, by the skin of my teeth. Something always showed up in time to rescue us from disaster; the sale of the California property allowed me to install a direly-needed new HVAC system, for instance.
The situation now is that I have sufficient income to make serious and concrete plans for fixing various things about the house. Alas, I have concluded that unless and until I get offered a bomb of money for film rights to Luna City, or the Adelsverein Trilogy, the vacation home/residence in the Hill Country is off the table. The rational course is to work with the house I have in the real world, and not the one in dreams, and so the plans have been mapped out in best Soviet Five-Year Plan style. The end of the month will bring about the first of them; the patio project – or more precisely, the ‘catio’ – a residence for the cats who we have inherited or have claimed us as their permanent servant class. We have designed a covered, screened shelter for the cats; full of climbing stands, ramps, platforms, hammocks – what Roman the Neighborhood Handy Guy terms “a Disneyland for cats!” This is Phase One. Honestly, I will be glad to get their litterboxes out of the house itself and have them – or most of them – living in a place that we can clean with a spritz from the garden hose. One of the cats we inherited from Mom has a dicey digestion, the other is willfully and deliberately incontinent … and I am just that tired of dealing with the mess, the smell, and the puddles of liquid or not-so-liquid matter.
Phase Two; a renovation of the guest bathroom, which is the one mainly used by the Daughter Unit. Easy peasy, relatively. The bathtub/shower is in relatively good shape, but the toilet and sink vanity absolutely have to go. It’s a very small bathroom, those two items are the original contractor-installed, and besides taking up too much space, they are ugly, and well past their best-if-used-by date. (We’ve seen other home-owners in the neighborhood put them out for bulk trash collection in the last ten or so years.) We plan to replace the sink vanity with a pedestal sink, a better grade of toilet, and paying Roman the Neighborhood Handy Guy to tile the floor with tiles which we got from a neighbor – leftovers from her own home renovation. Hey – the price was right, and there should be just enough of them to retile a tiny cubicle of a bathroom. Our plan also calls for tiling the wall behind where the vanity was with some nice bits of ornamental tile, which we will have to purchase, before Roman can install the new sink and toilet. Aside from that – Phase Two is relatively easy on the budget, although the Daughter Unit wants Roman to build a shelf-and-basket-drawer unit to go up the wall and replace the storage space lost with the vanity.

Phase Three: the master bath and dressing room. A bigger project, and consequently more expensive, although it is really two small rooms. One has the toilet and bathtub-and-shower, the other the vanity and sink. The bathtub is totally shot – and I had a go at refinishing it about fifteen years ago, which bought about another decade of life for it. No – it is beyond all salvage. Roman redid a neighbor’s bathroom – taking out the bathtub and converting it into a walk-in shower stall. He did wonderful work – and has promised to do the same for me. I buy the materials, he does the work. My plans proceed.
I want a neo-Victorian look for the master bath, or as much as I can get, utilizing the existing fabric of those two little rooms and not paying a bomb for the various elements. I can reuse some brushed aluminum elements that I bought from Crate and Barrel some years ago – which means that I am committed to that metal for everything else. Fortunately, brushed aluminuim seems to be a popular finish, even in retro-styled fixtures, if the searches on the internet are anything to go by. The necessary bits for the shower enclosure are available at the local big-box construction outlet … and some of the smaller items are on Amazon at a quite reasonable rate. I want hexagonal white tile on the floor, dark wood baseboards, blue and white toile wallpaper, and vintage-looking lights over the vanity. All those elements are available through the big-box outlets. The room where the vanity is supposed to go is a weird space – 55 inches. Upon looking at what is available – oh, deary me. The ones I really like are either too big and massively expensive. But I did run across an a number of articles about repurposing a small dresser to serve as a bathroom vanity … and I happen to have two such items out in the garage. The small oak dresser would serve very well, especially if I can obtain locally a slab of quartz or granite, with a hole for a drop-in sink custom-cut for it … yes, the master bath reno will sop up the summer extra income, but the resulting bathroom will be amazing! It may very well take at least three months to pay for the materials and for Roman’s expertise. But I don’t mind. The deplorable condition of the master bath has long been a thorn in the side of this home-owner.
Phase Four; replace the garage door. Of course, the larger part of this project means sorting out the contents of the garage itself. It would be darned nice to fit one, or both of the cars in the garage again, especially if we can do this by the time we gear up for the Christmas market season.
Phase Five – this project is variable, as it is even more huge than the master bath. The kitchen. I haven’t thought that far ahead, practically, although we found – on our visit to Goliad last week – the image of the perfect kitchen to serve as a model. All this, and a peninsula to serve as a workspace … I haven’t even thought this far out to make an estimation of the costs, although I did buy a book for Roman to study last year, about custom cabinetry. At some point between this phase and the next, new flooring throughout the house will be involved, once the kitchen and the bathrooms are done.

Our Kitchen Inspiration

Our Kitchen Inspiration

Phase Six will likely happen next year or the following; replacing the roof. In March of 2005, a violent hailstorm ripped through my neighborhood, putting the final kibosh on my own roof and practically everyone elses’. At that time, I was told that the shingles would be good for ten years, maybe a little longer, if we were lucky. So far, I have not seen the little granules washing off and piling up at the bottom of the gutter downspouts, as I had before. We’ve been lucky, as far as marble-sized hail goes – but this will not last forever. A couple of neighbors have gone and done standing-seam metal roofs, which are good for a lifetime and then some. So – metal roof, next year or the year after.
Following upon the roof will be replacing the windows, especially on the badly-weathered side of the house; likely that will also mean replacing some of the siding, which is also badly decayed in places. I had looked into doing new windows four or five years ago but didn’t have the funds to commit to it then. And that will wrap up the Five Year Plan, finally, to improve Chez Hayes.

In Iowahawk’s deathless phrase regarding the establishment press, “Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.” Here it is a weekend and a couple of working days after the release of the notorious and long-awaited FISA memo, and the relatively conservative side of the blogosphere is still happily chewing it over. Doubtless the professional national media wishes the whole matter would just go away already, just because. Frankly, the whole matter reminds me of the swiftboat veterans and the matter of John Kerry’s service in Vietnam.

For weeks before the mainstream establishment media deigned to notice the whole kerfuffle, the blogosphere was a-bubble with discussions of how Kerry had gamed his tour in Vietnam and made his political bones afterwards by being prominent anti-war protestor – to the disgust of those who had served with him. (As an officer and gentleman, Kerry looks to have been an unlovely combination of Frank Burns and a grown-up Eddie Haskell.) And the establishment national media desperately put their fingers in their ears and sang la-la-la-la, no doubt wishing passionately that the whole thing would go away … but it didn’t. Eventually, they had to come to grips with the fact John Kerry’s comrades during his truncated tour of duty felt they had been maligned and insulted by his subsequent antics. The media did manage to twist the phrase ‘swiftboating’ into having another meaning entirely, but it didn’t win Kerry the White House, so we got off lucky in that event.

The corrupting of the FBI is a hundred times worse than John Kerry’s cynical attempts at burnishing his military service for higher office, in my opinion. He was, is, and remains a tone-deaf, clueless fool, notable for charmless ineptitude, a legend in his own mind. The weaponizing of a national crime-investigating agency against a political opponent is a far more serious affair. Here we have a shady oppo-research outfit, working up a bespoke but unproven suit of slime, paid for by partisan political interests, passing it surreptitiously to friends in the establishment media … and to the FBI, to use as justification for spying on a political opponent’s campaign. This is the kind of scummy political shenanigans which distinguishes Third World banana republics, where the president-for-life’s cousin owns the biggest newspaper/television station in the country, and his brother-in-law runs the national police force, and no one, by god, had better get in the way of the president-for-life’s stranglehold on the body politic. The parties who enabled this whole sordid farrago have got to be brought to account – and brought to account in a manner that stings, and demonstrates to the public that there are penalties to be paid for reducing this proud republic to the level of some third world hellhole.

As long as we are still talking about this, blogging about it, commenting on the mainstream media’s comment threads, passing around the word on social media, the issue is still on the table. The national establishment media may wish like hell that it would all go away, but as long as we still have the soap-box, the ballot box and the other boxes … we cannot let this matter pass. Discuss.

A discussion at According to Hoyt this last week developed from a long look the recent so-called “woman’s march”; an event which appeared to really be an open-air scream therapy session for a certain subset of the human population. They had the opportunity to mingle with others of their ilk, dress up in pink hats and vagina costumes and inform the rest of the world (yet again) of their acute unhappiness that Hillary, the Dowager Duchess of Chappaqua, formerly known as Her Inevitableness had not been able to win an election rigged in her favor, and that Donald Trump was currently the President of the United States. MS Hoyt speculated on what, exactly, the protesters were on about; what rights were imperiled, exactly? What did all the feel-good, content-free slogans have to do with anything in the lives of real, live women and men working for a living? And how did dressing up as an anatomically sort-of-correct vagina have to do with anything, in the real world. And in the long run, weren’t such pointless demonstrations of hysteria actually counter-productive, in that genuine misogynists would point to them as proof positive that women were too flighty, too emotional, to damn silly to manage anything, let alone their own lives.

Following on these ruminations, the comment thread wandered this way and that, as threads with three or four hundred comments (or even more) tend to do, until a regular commenter who goes by the nickname of “Kirk” posted:

“Go back and look at all the really base things which used to be said, and then compare that to the actual things going on today, and the behaviors endemic to many of the so-called minority groups. I swear to God, it’s like someone has sat down with a list, and said to their people “OK, we’re gonna make things look like those old-time racists and misogynists were absolutely right.”

In this bright, shiny, barely driven-off-the-car-lot new century, women are seen by the professional feminist class as easily-offended, fragile, put-upon delicate snowflakes, too fine, pure and noble to endure the rough and tumble of academia and the working world, and certainly too fragile to administer a withering rebuke when offended. Taking instant offense and cherishing grudges as if they were delicate orchids have been raised to a high art. This, if the women perpetuating this kind of thing stopped to consider the implications and possible outcome – will lead to nowhere good. (It likely already has led to nowhere good as far as the dating scene goes, for the girls who treat guys like dirt … and then complain there are no good men out there.) What intelligent person, male or female, will want to have anything beyond the bare minimum required to do with a hysterical, vengeful, grudge-nurturing woman in an academic or a business setting? Hire one of these women, or promote to a position of authority? Not if you are a sane business owner. As Kirk put it in another comment, “The feminists are trying to persuade the rest of us that women truly are too fragile and flighty to be out in public, and they can’t even grasp the final implications of their acts and goals.”

The professional feminist class mucking it up for women in general is bad enough, damaging enough, but the other part of what Kirk mentioned is something that I have wondered about for years; the racism angle. How damaging can it be for the African-American minority, that the black urban culture is everything that the most virulent 19th century racists accused Negroes of being; hyper-violent, sex-obsessed, ignorant, brutal, and incapable of being civilized. And here the same elements of violence, sex-obsession, willful ignorance, and brute force, are all glorified in contemporary black urban culture, in the name of ‘keeping it real.’ The KKK, or what is left of them, hardly have to bother with burning crosses or organizing lynch mobs any more, not when the urban black population has taken over donning their own chains. Your thoughts?

18. January 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic

As a matter of fact, the pantry closet is for one, not lamentable. It’s about the size of an old-fashioned telephone booth, and my daughter kindly saw to sorting out several weeks ago while I was nurturing what I hope was a light case of the current flu. Yes, we have a decades-worth supply of bottled BBQ sauces and condiments, and an equally substantial collection of pastas and dried beans, all now neatly arranged on the shelves, not that pictures of the results would get hundreds or thousands of likes on Instagram from what seems to be a sub-culture of women obsessed with neat pantries full of things in matching designer containers.
Look, I go for function – if I can find what I’m looking for in my pantry without thirty feet of rope, and one of those safety helmets with a miner’s light attached – it’s good. And such is now the case, although I do wonder what on earth I was were thinking of, when we ended up with two bottles of Fisher and Weiser Roasted Blueberry Chipotle sauce. I guess we thought it would be as good as the raspberry version … but seriously, dark blue sauce?
It was the freezer which I kept delaying doing a good clean-out, until this week. It was packed, every shelf with … stuff. Those disapproving articles published or posted here and there, chiding Americans for wasting however many pounds it is of edible food that we are currently wasting? I just threw out my share this week. This is really the only aspect of housekeeping where I have always fallen short; raw kitchen scraps like potato and carrot peelings go to the chickens, used tea leaves, eggshells, and scraps like onion peelings unsuitable for the chickens go into the compost bin … but the freezer is where leftovers of cooked foods in Rubbermaid containers go until they are ready to be thrown out – freezer-burned, covered with frost, dried out or just plain unidentifiable. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Good thing it has been bitterly cold this week, so the unidentified frozen blocks of … whatever … did hot have a chance to ripen into a substance which would gag a maggot at fifteen paces while waiting for the CPS trash collection truck had a chance to come and carry them away.
So – herewith my belated resolution for the new year; to make a dedicated effort to freeze leftovers, and on the following day to vacuum-seal, label, and date them. The vacuum-sealer is a great invention, BTW – essentially, what this does is to transform leftovers or extra portions of things into a home-made ‘boil in a bag’ entrée; fantastic for things like soups and sauces. Other things, like enchiladas and mac-n-cheese, I can put into a plastic bag, freeze to shape in the casserole dish that they will eventually be cooked in, and vacuum-sealed after they are hard-frozen. Next week – if still cold; the garage deep-freeze, of which nothing much will need to be thrown out, as most of it is vacuum-sealed already. And that was my week, cleaning out the house freezer because it was too freaking cold outside. What about yours?

So, there has always been a tension existing between city folks and country folks; the tale of the city mouse and the country mouse being an example. Then there are all those jokes about the city slicker and the country bumpkin, the effete city dweller and the down-to-earth country folk, the books, movies and television series painting the city as a glamorous yet spiritually and physically unhealthy place, the country being dull, desperately boring, backwards, even a bit dangerous … all in the spirit of good fun, mostly. But now we have a new and malignant version, and there is nothing at all fun about it. Here we have the bicoastal enclaves, all drawn as the glamorous and fabulously wealthy, sensitive and with-it woke folks … and then you have the flyover country in between, filled with – as the bicoastal see it – with those hateful, stupid looser deplorables, clinging to their guns, and religion, and hating on all those with darker skins.

The example linked early this week by everyone from Rantburg to Instapundit is perhaps sadly illustrative, even though it does date from a year ago: Tech Founder: Middle America Is Too ‘Violent, Stupid And Racist’ For New Jobs. (As it turns out, the referenced tech founder is one Melinda Byerley, whose company seems to consist of a rather pleasant-looking yet cookie-cutter website, and her business may be just one of those one- or -two person consulting agencies.) Still, the hatred is rather jolting, especially when combined with the sheer bigoted ignorance on previous display. It looks like her original post has been memory-holed, which belatedly says something for Ms Byerley’s business sense, or at least her awareness that there have been a lot of enterprises and individuals who have, in fact, legged it from the cultured, cosmopolitan and tolerant bicoastal regions for the supposedly violent, ill-educated and bigoted hinterlands.

This is not a good development, this mutual loathing – and it has just gotten worse over the last year. It’s not in the spirit of the city cousin and the country cousin having a friendly joshing of each other; it’s outright hatred and condescension from the bicoastal, from their higher perches in management, government, the media and the educational edifices – sentiments heartily returned by the residents of Flyoverlandia. The despising by Flyoverlandites was not heard quite as strongly, perhaps because those sentiments were – with a single exception – broadcast at somewhat lower decibels; on blogs, and in comment sections, and reported only by those media experts sympathetic to their woes and grievances. The exception of course, was the unseen groundswell popularity of Donald Trump in the last presidential campaign, and his election to the highest office in the land – to the absolute horror of people like Ms Byerley and other bicoastal elites. In addition to being hated for all our other shortcomings, we are despised for having elected him – and for that, we likely will never be forgiven.
Just for fun – a pair of graphics – Trumpland and the Clinton Archipelago. Whither Trumpland, and the Clinton Archipelago, now? Discuss.

09. January 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Media Matters Not, Politics

“All Norfolk need do is sign that paper and treason will have been committed…”
“Then let him sign it, and let it all be done.” – from the movie Elizabeth

Every couple of days, I look at the Trump-bashing headline stories on various news sources that I follow, and I think … nah, they can’t possibly top this, for spittle-flecked, screaming, chew-through-the-restraints insane rage. Yet within days – yep; topped, and topped again. I have never seen such spittle-flying rage against an American president, and I am old enough to remember the animus against Nixon, and especially Johnson. I was only in my early teens, and a serious consumer of the LA Times (back when it was a substantial newspaper), yet the sustained abuse of Johnson on every aspect of his person and character (both real and imagined) was so unbelted that I actually rather felt sorry for the man. Knowing of his faults then and later, much criticism of him was richly deserved, but the especially vile stuff, I think we could have all done without. Honest criticism can be done without the spittle-flecked irrational rage, although in the Age of Trump such clinical detachment seems again to have dropped even farther out of fashion.

Where was I, before diverted into ‘60’s nostalgia? Oh, yes – the latest Trump Flapperoo; the book by one Michael Wolff, alleged to be an account of the chaotic goings on in the early days of the Trump administration, as observed by Mr. Wolff. Although his resemblance to Dr. Evil is about the most remarkable thing about him, Mr. Wolff is alleged to be a reporter, who taped hours of interviews and observed much during the time that he had extensive access to the White House. However, a substantial portion of those quoted do not recall ever saying anything like what Mr. Wolff has attributed to them, and dispute his accounts of other matters. As the linked story points out, “… the way that Wolff’s account is written makes it impossible for readers to discern if Wolff was actually there or is recreating conversations based on interviews with unnamed sources.” Or to put it bluntly – if he has just made stuff up.

The key thing is that much of the media and the desperately anti-Trumpers want to believe Mr. Wolff; fake but accurate, to resurrect the thinking during the great GW Bush/Texas Air National Guard memo fiasco. The more rabid anti-Trumpites wanted so badly to believe in the stupidity/insanity/malignity of Donald Trump that many of them fell, hook, line, and sinker for the Gorilla Channel spoof attributed to Mr. Wolff’s book. Just too delicious a tidbit to be skeptical, which raises the distinct possibility of much of the rest being just too delicious and conformational to be skeptical about.

And why did such a reporter have such far-ranging access to the White House anyway? Did someone at the highest levels decide – as it was put in the movie quote above – to let Michael Wolff and his allies in the anti-Trump run free and make credulous fools of themselves with shoddy and incredibly biased reporting? Has the Wolff book and it’s rapturous reception been an epic trolling of the establishment media? If so, should we crown whoever thought of this as the Lord Galactic Troll now … or wait a decent interval. Discuss.

03. January 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Literary Good Stuff, Luna

The next Luna City installment will be called A Half Dozen of Luna City – and herewith a snippet of one of the stories.)

Five Men and a Baby
“The whole thing came up at the last minute,” Joe Vaughn groaned. He sat at one of the picnic tables out in back of the VFW, while a mild spring breeze stirred the leaves of the monumental sycamore tree overhead. Sitting in a monumental car-seat/baby carrier/rocker set on the table top, the infant Little Joe sucked on his tiny pink fist and regarded those gathered for guest night with eyes which had already gone as dark as blackberries. “I’ve been subpoenaed to testify in a court case – Monday in San Antonio. Not in Karnesville, which would be a walk in the park. God knows how long the trial will drag on; guarantee I’ll be sitting on my ass in the Bexar County courthouse for a week, at least.”
“I don’t see what the problem is,” replied Richard, sitting across from Joe and nursing a very respectable ale produced by a local small brewer. Really, he reflected privately – there were subtle advantages to this place, which no one coming from the outside would ever have considered. It was guest night at the VFW; he was enjoying the ale, and the company of Joe, Berto, Chris, Sylvester Gonzalez, and Jerry Walcott.
Joe sighed, heavily for dramatic effect. “Baby-sitting, Ricardo. Jess is away at the Methodist women’s retreat as of yesterday – until next Sunday.”
“So?” Richard sank another satisfying draft of ale and ventured a friendly wink at Little Joe – who merely chomped again on his baby fist and scowled in reply.
“Everyone – that is, every one of our female kin is also on that same retreat,” Joe answered glumly. “Every single one of them. Even Miss Letty – she would advise me as to who would be a good fill-in. Pat and Araceli chose this weekend for a get-away to the coast for some relaxation, or I would ask them. Look, guys – this is Jess and mine own first-born child. Handing him off to strangers, or giggly teenagers for a week is just not an option.”
“Tell me about it,” Richard acknowledged in a morose tone of voice. Beatriz and Blanca were filling in adequately, as far as front of the house service went – between giggling, and Robbie Walcott helped out at the back – but dammit, this was a disruption to his routine! Richard did not welcome disruptions, or handle them gracefully when they occurred.
“What about your parents?” Berto Gonzales asked, in a tone of voice which suggested an attempt at being helpful.
“Off on a Caribbean cruise,” Joe replied, dolefully. “They flew out yesterday – not back until two weeks.” He fetched up a deep sigh, from the very core of his being. “Screwed, blued and tattooed, guys. I need a babysitter for Little Joe … else I am taking him into the Bexar County Courthouse every day, and giving him to the bailiff to hold, when I am called to the witness stand.”
“What’s the problem with that?” Berto asked, in genuine curiosity, and Joe sighed again.
“Look – the bailiffs aren’t there to do that job. And anyway – have you seen the stuff you have to take along with a baby? They search everything. It will take me half the day just to get through security at the courthouse alone. God – think of the bugs that he would be exposed to! Just from being in that old building, with all those people! He’s too young to be exposed to all those viral cruds; kindergarten is soon enough.”
“They’re so small,” mused Sylvester, dapper in his usual retro-nerd wardrobe – today a pair of classic chinos and a fetching short-sleeved aloha shirt printed with images of palm trees, surfers and pineapples. “Babies, I mean – but all their stuff! It takes up so much space!”
“Tell me about it,” Joe grunted. Under the table was a diaper and sundries bag the size of a small steamer trunk.
“We could take care of him for you, Joe,” Jerry Walcott was home in Luna City for the weekend; a gentle and competent late-twenty-something, who worked as a nurse at the Karnesville Medical Center. “Seriously,” Jerry added, in serene response to the skeptical looks on the faces of the other men at the table. “I did my last rotation in pediatrics. It’ll be a gas to look after a healthy kid. Serious, you guys.”
“I can help, Berto offered. “It’s spring break. I gotta help Papi at the garage during the day, though.”
“I’m done at the Tip-Top ‘bout half-past five every evening,” Chris ventured, thoughtfully. “And Ricardo – you’re free in the afternoons, aren’t you?”
“Well…” Richard temporized. “I’m busy at the Café from about five in the morning until after lunch.”
“We can do it in shifts,” Sylvester pulled out a small spiral notebook. “When are you done at the hospital, Jerry?”
“Six AM,” Jerry replied, and Richard protested, “Look, chaps – I don’t know anything about caring for infants. I’ve barely worked up to having a cat…”
“Nothing to it,” Jerry answered. “Bottle at one end, clean diapers at the other, keep them from being too hot or too cold…”
“A piece of cake, as long as I don’t confuse one end with the other,” Richard meant to sound derisive, but both Berto and Jerry were impervious to sarcasm, and in any case, Sylvester was already mapping out a schedule.
“Ok, five of us – we can cover the baby-sitting duties round the clock. Four hours and forty-five minutes each – no sweat.”
In the space of five minutes and another round of drinks, Sylvester had worked out a rotation, while Jerry gave a swift demonstration of applying a bottle to the appropriate end of Little Joe and a diaper (accompanied by hygienic wipes and sticky white diaper-rash ointment) to the other. Berto and Sylvester volunteered to spend their nights at Joe and Jess’s house for their shifts – “Hey, the kid can sleep nights in his own bed, ‘kay?”. At around 6:30, when Jerry got home from the hospital, he would take Little Joe for nearly five hours. Then – it would be Richard’s turn, for the afternoon, until Chris finished at the Tip-Top. The plan had Chris delivering Little Joe home to Sylvester and Berto after supper, to begin the whole cycle again. Still, Joe’s expression as he looked around the table, and regarded his offspring was one torn between gratitude and worry.
“I owe you guys,” he confessed at last. “But I dunno about handing him around like a hot potato. I mean, Jess will have a conniption fit…”
“Babies thrive on the stimulation,” Jerry said. “And doesn’t Jess take him with her, when does her client consultations?”
“Yes, but …”
“I don’t see the difference,” Jerry said. “If he’s used to it, he probably likes it.”
Richard had a feeling that Joe didn’t precisely agree – but in the face of a workable solution, he had no other choice.
“We’ll start on Monday,” Sylvester folded away his notebook, after writing down a copy of the schedule for everyone else. “Any questions?”
Richard briefly considered asking for release from the rota – but then he considered Little Joe, and his own long-term plans to inculcate an appreciation for good food into a younger generation – and really, how much younger could you get than a six-month old? This merited careful consideration, but when he asked it of the table, both Jerry and Joe laughed.
“At this age? Rice cereal, and not much of it,” Jerry replied, and Joe snorted.
“Mother’s milk. No – really. The fridge is full – Jess began stocking up weeks ago.”
“Moth – oh, I see,” Richard considered that he had already looked enough of an idiot in front of the others; best now enjoy the weekend, before flinging himself into the baby-minding rota.

He had nearly forgotten about it all – or at least, shoved the trepidations to the farthest and most neglected corner of his mental attic, when the Café’s door opened and shut to a musical jingle, and Jerry appeared, with the baby – a tiny pink-faced morsel dwarfed by a monumental stroller. Richard could verily swear that he had seen smaller motorcycle sidecars. The enormous necessity bag was stowed at the back of the stroller. With some difficulty, Jerry maneuvered it through the dining room and into the kitchen. Richard was there alone; Robbie and the girls having capably dealt with the with the most immediate pressing post-lunch-rush chores.
“Here we are!” Jerry announced. “Little Joe is all ready to spend quality time with Unca Richard.” He almost succeeded in concealing a yawn. “He’s already had his midday bottle – you’ll want to give him another just before five. It’s in the side pocket of his ditty-bag with an ice-pack to keep cold. Just warm it up before you give it to him. Blood warm is about the right temperature. Remember, how I showed you how to hold him for feeding? Yeah, that. Remember to burp him, when he’s done – and check his diaper, too – he’ll probably poop again, just to make room for the fresh intake.”
“What do I do with the little … little tyke until then?” Richard demanded. He had almost made himself forget his promised child-minding obligation.”
“No idea,” Jerry yawned again. “Talk to him. Play simple games, pay attention to him, stimulate his imagination. That is, when he isn’t sleeping, eating, or pooping. Use your own … sorry … imagination. See you tomorrow, the same time. Chris will take over from you at five-thirty.” Upon delivering this dispiriting intelligence, Jerry took himself out the door – the bell chiming musically. Little Joe and Richard looked at each other.
“Goosh,” commented Little Joe, blowing a spit-bubble. It sounded philosophical; neither hostile or overly-affectionate.
“The same to you, my little man,” Richard replied. Well, that took care of the social niceties. “Look, sport – you’re a little young to become a kitchen apprentice. And I’m told that … well, you aren’t quite old enough to start cultivating a sophisticated palate. How about just keeping me company while I prep for tomorrow?”
“Goob-gurgle,” replied Little Joe with perfect amiability.
“Right then,” Richard said, and fetched one of the three high-chairs from the front of the house, setting it up next to the big all-purpose table which served as prep-space. Summoning up all of his nerve and silently sending up a prayer to the heavens that he not inadvertently damage the little sprout in any way, shape or form – since Joe and Jess between them had the capacity and will to inflict horrific damage on anyone who harmed a single one of the barely-visible hairs on the head of their tiny offspring – he lifted Little Joe from the stroller and settled him into the high chair. Regarding his handiwork, Richard thought the infant was sagging a little too far to one side in the chair – which would accommodate a much larger child. A pair of small cushions wedged in on either side of Little Joe did the trick. The two of them regarded each other solemnly across the worktable, and Richard continued his prepping for the following day’s business.
“Cinnamon rolls,” Richard ventured. “It’s cinnamon rolls for tomorrow.”
“Goo-goosh!” commented Little Joe, and Richard was heartened. Didn’t Jerry advise talking to the little sprout? Stimulate his development, or some such child-rearing mumbo-jumbo. “They’re a mainstay at the Café, don’t you know – well, you should. I think your Mum had one every morning. So – here’s the dough for them. Been rising in the warmer for a couple of hours. Now, this is the mixture that goes onto the dough, once I have patted it out just so. Light on the flour, by the way…” he continued in this vein, as if he were explaining and training a new apprentice, as he worked the dough with the expertise of long practice, and the yeasty odor of newly-risen dough filled the workspace. Little Joe was even drooling a bit. “Pity you’re just not old enough for a taste,” Richard commiserated. “Never mind, young-chappie-my-lad; soon enough, soon enough.”

01. January 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Fun With Islam, Iran, Media Matters Not

Which, naturally, we are hearing little about from our Dear National News Media. This article explains why.

I see by another link on Insty Saturday afternoon that the United Airlines- Sheila Jackson Lee flap has not quite faded away – much as MS Jackson Lee, AKA ‘the Queen’ or ‘Cruella’ Jackson Lee likely wishes it would. I surmise that this bit of congressional bad behavior is still rattling the newshounds and the commentariat for several reasons. The first of these is that ‘Cruella’ is one of the dumber members of Congress. (The honor of the dumbest must go to Hank “Guam Might Tip Over!” Johnson, of whom it might rightfully said – stealing a paraphrase from the late Molly Ivins about another spectacularly dumb career politician – “Lose any more IQ points, and his staff might have to put him in a pot in the corner and water him three times a week.”) But there’s more! ‘Cruella’ Jackson Lee has been acknowledged hands down for many years as the rudest and most abusive boss on Capitol Hill.

For extra points, her award-winning awfulness is not reserved for members of her staff, but has been spread around pretty freely during her decades in public life and aimed at just about anyone who has the misfortune to draw her ire, judging by comments on the various stories posted about her, over the years. Abusive, rude, demanding, and free with accusations of racism are her calling cards; as well as true to form in demanding an upgrade to first class on the spot from United. As a frequent flyer between Washington and Houston, ‘Cruella’ has been notorious for appalling public behavior, a reputation dating to her very first days in Congress, according to this 1998 local article. My guess is that the United management sensibly wanted to avoid yet another ghastly public scene and took the easy way out, but with such resounding customer-relations ineptitude that they managed to make a potentially sticky situation several degrees worse.

Yes, booting another flying customer out of the seat she had paid for, with frequent-flyer miles rather than cash in hand, in favor of Queen Cruella, and then treating that customer in a demeaning and insulting manner – well, really, that does trip the trigger of flying customers everywhere. United rightfully should take some lumps for crappy customer service in this. Not many of the traveling public have experienced the indignity of sharing a Houston/DC or DC/Houston flight with Queen Cruella, but lots of us have had the experience of a stupendously bad airline flight. OK – so, flying now is like an intercity bus with wings. Crammed in, treated like cattle by security before the flight, treated like cattle during it, thrown a measly packet of pretzels or nuts, and a soft drink, perhaps the chance to pick up a cold sandwich on our way in … it’s become an unpleasant experience, which the public puts up with because a basic airline ticket is relatively cheaper than it was in the Golden Days of Yore when it comes to airline travel. That is the game, much as we regret the courtesies and luxuries available in the Golden Days of Yore.

We paid through the nose for those benefits then, and are still able to pay for an upgraded seat in First Class if we are still inclined, using cash or air miles. All to the good, having the means of obtaining a degree of lessened awfulness. A more comfortable seat, additional courtesy from the cabin staff, a higher- quality meal … and then to have that all yanked away from you, for no particular reason than one of the Ruling Class wants your paid-for-seat for their careless last-minute convenience? And then to be calumniated as a racist upon objecting for this high-handed behavior? Well, yes – given the generally miserable flying experience lately, no wonder that coverage of this otherwise insignificant incident has legs. I shouldn’t be surprised if an additional motivation is suppressed resentment bubbling up from underneath; resentment by white Americans at being unfairly calumniated as racists and then informed by handsomely privileged members of the ruling and media class – like Queen Cruella herself – that such disparagement is deserved somehow because of our so-called white privilege. Discuss.

All well, then for the closing out of the year? For a couple of years running, I had a list of ‘stuff’ to do, and would tally up at the end of the year what I had managed to accomplish on the list – what I had done, and what I had left undone. Most of those stated goals have been done and dusted several turns of the Earth ago. The main one left unaccomplished is my ambition to become the Margaret Mitchell of the Texas Hill Country, and earn sufficient from the book-writing to buy my very own little patch of valley – say around Sisterdale – and build a modest country dreamhouse bungalow on it. That is more of a dream than a readily-achievable goal, so my breath on this is not held with any great conviction. I should work more social media in marketing my various books, as I was able to do in November and December, but I had two books out in those months, and I would really like to take a bit of time and care with further historical installments … any way, as far as the achievable goals are concerned –
The main one is to renovate the back porch. We tore down the existing rather flimsy structure, with the aim of putting on a more solid roof, and screening in the sides with hardware cloth to make a ‘catio’ – where my daughters’ cats can live. And sleep, and eat, romp to their hearts content, and piss on stuff that doesn’t matter. We have a lovely design worked out, and Roman, the local handy-guy is keen to make it a veritable Disneyland for cats, with ramps, shelves, rope-wound columns for them to climb on, hammocks and hidey-holes … all of which can be cleaned off by a spritz with the garden hose. Roman has more business doing handy-guy stuff than he can shake a stick at, these days. He lives in the neighborhood himself, does splendid work and gets even more work by word of mouth reference.

The second goal is to do the patch of front garden to the left of the driveway – Miss Irene, our next-door-neighbor, an elderly and long-time resident of the neighborhood, now has a near relation (along with one of her grandsons) now staying at her house. Myron, the near relation, is keen to set up a small neighborhood yard-maintenance business. He wants to use the embarrassingly-neglected patch of my front yard as a sample garden and advertising for his business. It’s a piece about 15 x thirty, and it used to look nice, until the butterfly bushes all died, and a species of scraggly purple ruelia took over. It’s also right at a corner where practically everyone coming through the neighborhood stops and turns right to go farther into the neighborhood. We have a handshake agreement with Myron; I’ll buy or scrounge materials, he’ll do the same, I’ll buy or supply plants and come up with a design, and he’ll do the work.

I’m also doing his business cards and flyers, and when the garden patch is done, there’ll be a discrete little sign, referring admirers to his business. He and Miss Irene’s grandson are all gung-ho for this project. This will reap benefits for us both; Myron will have his perfect little patch of garden-services advertising, I will have a perfect little patch of suburban garden, and hopefully, Myron will be doing a ton of business on the basis of it. We have already introduced Myron to Roman, and they got on like a house on fire, being of much the same hard-working and perfectionist character. This is a neighborhood – our little patch of suburban paradise, which gets along perfectly well on the lubrication of personal acquaintance and references.

The third project will be to sort out the garage, and replace the garage door. At least a quarter of the sorting out was done when I had to replace the hot water heater, and throw out all the stuff that had been ruined by soaking in water leaking from the unit. But there is still stuff that needs to be sorted, and if required, pitched. Much of it is my daughters’- but the expense of replacing the door itself will be mine. I hope that at least two of these projects can be completed by next year – but not holding my breath on the third.

I swear, I have no idea why the denizens of celebrity-world are going nuts lately. The distinct possibility is that most of them were always nuts, and I – despite once having had a nice collection of subscriptions to publications like Premiere, Entertainment Weekly, and Rolling Stone, and a mild and mostly professional interest in the entertainment field generally – managed to not notice the frothing waves of insanity emanating from the world of popular entertainment … since … Well, I think some entertainment figures began to go nuts about a decade ago, but in the last year it’s been … OMG, are these people allowed out without a keeper?
And this was before Pervenado, and the revelation to the wider public that apparently just about every big producer, star, or media figure in a position of authority is a sex-crazed perv who cannot keep their nasty hands off lower-level staff or prospective employees. Well, it wasn’t like the existence of the casting couch was that big a secret, but still …

No, I speak this morning of the manner in which a wide variety of media personalities and performers who once appeared to know that sales of their movie tickets, their personal appearances, concerts – all of that, which were based on personal popular appeal, or at least, not kicking the larger audience in the teeth by bringing in matters political/social to front and center. It’s a sad thing for me, to recall that once I thought Rosie O’Donnell was funny and basically harmless. She had the single funniest line ever in A League of the Own which was a slam on Madonna – richly deserving of it in several ways, even back then. So was Janeane Garofalo, too – and a whole raft of other entertainment figures, until Bush derangement took them up to the edge. Now in the last year or so, sheer frothing Trump-hate pushed them over, and it is not a pretty sight at all.
Trump-hate has turned them deranged. Seriously – no other word for this quite fits. Seriously, I cannot figure it – because until two years ago, he was one of them! A grade-C celebrity, a buffoonish caricature, kind of larger than life, a bit (OK, a lot! )vulgar, seemingly pretty competent as a big-city real estate developer – but otherwise, one of them. He went to their weddings, was a habitué of the places familiar to the big-city celebrity class, appeared to be a pretty representative social liberal of the moneyed urbanite class … and yet now appears to be The Worst Person In The World.
Looking at the entertainment news headlines over the last decade, it appears that only a few
entertainers are of a socio/politically conservative bent, or have the wit to keep such opinions to themselves on the sensible grounds of not wishing to piss off a good half of their potential audience.
Rosie O’Donnell has become a special case, in the last few days, by offering (via her Twitter feed) what appears to be a bribe to sitting officials. (more here, thanks to Ace of Spades HQ.) This goes beyond trash-talking. This offer can be, if one is inclined to take it at face value (and not as a ‘joke’ as Ms. O’Donnell will doubtless claim that it is) construed as an effort by a person of wealth and standing to peremptorily override the votes of those elected to carry out the wishes of ordinary citizens. This is a serious business, as Ms. O’Donnell’s legal adviser may be reminding her over this weekend. Yes – us ordinary voters are extraordinarily humor-deficient when it comes to having our elected officials bribed and threatened by the wealthy and connected, miffed at not having their own political whims catered to. Discuss, if you can bear it.

19. December 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Luna

(This is … well, something of a sad story, which I began to write on December 7th. I drew on some things which my mother had told me, about her family’s saddest Christmas, in 1943, when her brother was posted as missing over Europe. The rest … well, I made it all up.)

Radio Silence
Adeliza Gonzalez-Gonzales – who was never called anything but ‘Adi’ back then – was just thirteen when her older brother Manuel – Manolo to the family, Manny to his Anglo friends – came to Papi and Mama and said to them, “Papi, I want to see more of the world than Karnes County, an’ at the Navy recruiting office, they say that I’ll get a paycheck nice and regular, and I can work on ship engines that are bigger than this house. Besides, everyone says if America gets into a war, then they’ll be drafting men my age, an’ I don’t wanna be a soldier, marching around in the mud and all that. The Navy lives good, and they say that the food is great. Can I have your permission, Papi?”

Mama got all pinch-faced and weepy, because Manolo was her favorite and oldest child. Papi sighed and looked solemn and grave, saying, “Manolo – mi hijo – if this is what you truly want, I will sign the papers.” To Mama, he added, “Do not cry, Estella, can you see your boy as a soldier, following orders?”

“But he still must follow orders – the navy is as military as the army,” Adeliza piped up, and Manolo jeered and replied, “Nothing like the same at all, Adi!”

So, Manolo packed a few things in a cheap cardboard suitcase, and climbed aboard the bus to the city, and in time over the next three years the postman delivered hastily-scrawled letters and postcards – letters with odd postmarks and postcards of splendidly colored landscapes and exotic places. Manolo came home on leave once, in the summer, splendid in his white uniform and round white cap, carrying a heavy duffel-bag over his shoulder with apparent ease, seeming to have expanded from a boy into a man. Manolo was greatly excited – his ship was being transferred from the west coast to the Hawaiian Islands. He brought presents for the family, a breath of fresh air and tales of travels in exotic far lands. He brought his little sister a scarf of silk gauze, printed with a map of the Hawaiian Islands and pineapples and exotic flowers. Adi put it in the chip-carved box where she kept her handkerchiefs and her most precious possessions. From that time on, a tinted picture-portrait of Manolo in his uniform sat in pride of place on the cabinet radio and Mama kept a candle burning before it always, a candle dedicated to Saint Peter, who had the particular care of sailors.

A winter Sunday morning, when the breeze from the north promised chilly nights, and the frost in the shade had not yet melted in the sunshine; Papa came to fetch Mama and Adi and the other children after morning Mass. Adi sensed that there was something wrong, even before Papi spoke. There was a particular grim expression on Papi’s face, a hush among the congregation scattering to their houses after Mass, a silence broken only by the tinny sound of the radio in Papi’s car.

“The Japanese have dropped bombs on the harbor, and our bases in Hawaii,” Papi said. “The war has begun, whether we wish it or no.”

“What of Manolo?” Mama demanded, her hands to her mouth in shock and horror. “Where is he? Is he safe?”

“I have no idea,” Papi replied, his eyes shadowed with fear. Adi said nothing. She was sixteen now, almost grown. She met Papi’s gaze with a silent nod of understanding.

Two days later a card came in the mail, from Manolo – on which Mama fell on with tears of joy. “You see!” she exclaimed. “He is safe – this letter is from him! All will be well, you will see!”

“Mama, the letter is postmarked the week before last,” Adi said, to Mama’s unheeding ears. A week later, a parcel bound in brown paper arrived, addressed in Manolo’s handwriting.

“Christmas presents!” Mama exclaimed, “From Manolo, of course. You see, he is safe – it is only rumors that he is missing, that telegram was mistaken.”

That Christmas and many Christmases afterwards were not happy occasions for Adi’s family – they were not happy until Adi married and had children of her own, to bury the memory of that first wartime Christmas.

“Yes, Mama,” Adi agreed with a heavy heart and a show of cheer, for the telegraph office messenger boy had brought that small envelope at mid-December. The telegram from the war office was followed in short order by Father Bertram, then the priest at St. Margaret and St. Anthony, who had seen the messenger boy’s bicycle pass the priest’s residence while Father Bertram was pruning the pyracantha hedge around the tiny garden. Everyone knew that telegrams meant bad news, now that the war had well and truly come to them, but Father Bertram’s intended consolation and comfort were misplaced, for Mama was not distressed in the least.

“In the government telegram, it says only that he is missing,” Mama insisted, over and over again. “Missing – not dead. In my heart, I know that Manolo is safe.” In the end, Father Bertram was the most sorely grieved of them all. He departed shaking his head and saying to Adi,

“Your poor dear mother – I can only think that the enormity of your loss has affected the balance of her mind.” Father Bertram’s Spanish was very bad, afflicted as he was with a very strong accent, reflecting many years as a missionary in the Argentine, so Adi was not entirely certain of what Father Bertram meant. She only smiled uncertainly. No, Mama had merely decided that Manolo was safe, and doing what he needed to be doing for the war effort, and would not hear any word to the contrary. Never mind that Manolo’s ship – the great battleship Arizona, whose engines Manolo had tended lovingly – had blown up with a roar that could have been heard half-way across the Pacific. There were pictures of the battleship, half-capsized in billowing clouds of black smoke in the weekly English newsmagazine. Poof! Like that, a candle blown out in a single breath and a thousand and a half lives snuffed out with it. It made Adi’s heart ache to think of this, and she wept, but not where Mama could see.

She did not even cry when Cousin Nando, and Cousin Jesus Gonzales and a half-dozen of the other teenage cousins came to Adi after Mass on Christmas Day, 1941, announcing that they had all sworn a blood-oath to avenge Manolo. Cousin Jesus had already had his orders to report to the Army, but the other boys were intent on volunteering for the Army, the Navy, the Marines even.

“So … we meant to ask you as Manny’ sister – if you would give us all a token,” Jesus Gonzales affirmed solemnly. “We pledge to avenge him by killing a dozen Japs each. Our solemnest promise, Adi!”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Adi snorted. Yes, of course she was angry at the Japanese – for killing her gentle brother Manolo, who only lived to get grease all over his hands and work on his engines until they were tuned and vibrated like the beating of a human heart. And they had attacked without warning, without a declaration of war, which to Adi’s understanding, was sneaky and unfair. But Jesus Gonzales, who was dark-eyed, lean, and handsome like a movie star, looked at her soulfully and begged again, until she relented.

“Give me a moment.”

She went into her parent’s house – the house in the oldest part of town, into her room, and took out the chip-carved box with her most precious small things in it, considering a sacrifice of the map of the Hawaiian Islands and the pictures of a tower and exotic flowers, and blue waves crashing on a white-sand shore, the scarf which had been a gift from Manolo. No, not that. She took instead another of her handkerchiefs, a pretty white cotton gauze handkerchief, printed with little blue flowers and green leaves, and the sewing shears from Mama’s sewing basket.

Out on the front porch, she met the cousins – dark-eyed romantic Jesus, hot-tempered Nando, and the others. “My token, that which you have asked for,” Adi said, as she crunched the scissor blades through the crisp-starched handkerchief; producing a dozen smaller squares, and struggled for something to say as she put them into the hands of that boy or this, thinking that this was absurdly like something from the old legends, or the movies on a flickering silver screen. She struggled for the right words. “Not in hate … Manolo didn’t hate, for he didn’t want to be remembered that way. But for the right, for justice and freedom, and for our people. For Manolo …” she lost the thread of her thoughts entirely, for Jesus and Nando reverently kissed the scraps of handkerchief as they were handed to them, and so did the other boys.

“Write to me?” Asked Jesus, at the last. “Promise, Adi!”

They all went off, in the following weeks, all with their small cheap suitcases packed, taking the weekly bus that was the only public transport then from Luna City to the wider world, and to the duty and colors which called them. Cousin Nando became a pilot, Jesus a cook with the Army, the others to service mundane or heroic as chance and temperament let them. Adi Gonzales was certain that every one of them took that little square of cotton handkerchief, printed with blue flowers.

Jesus Gonzales certainly did, for it was one of those small things which she found at the end in sorting out his things, after half a century of faithful marriage; a cotton scrap, discolored with age, so fragile that it practically fell apart in her hand as she took it out from his wallet.

But Mama … no, Mama never took it to heart that Manolo was gone from the world of the living. Against all evidence to the contrary – the telegram from the government, that Manolo never came home again, she insisted that he was alive and well, doing his patriotic duty for the war, still working in the engine-room of the battleship Arizona. Mama was first to the telephone – the telephone that was almost the first in Luna City in the household of Gonzales or Gonzalez, certain every time that it was Manolo calling, long-distance. The war dragged on, and even when it ended – and the next began – Mama smilingly assured Adi and the family, their friends that Manolo was fine and happy in his work. For she had seen him frequently – or his likeness, in pictures of sailors on one ship or another, on shore leave, or in the newsreels show in the theater in Karnesville. Mama did not allow the star on the flag which hung in the front window of their house to change from white to gold, and there was a wrapped gift under the tree for Manolo for many Christmas mornings to come. Now and again, Mama said that she had talked to someone who had seen Manolo. In her later years, Mama even insisted that she had spoken with Manolo, on the telephone. Even in her final illness, she had opened her eyes one afternoon, and said to Adi – perfectly clear –

“There is nothing to worry about, mi hija. Manolo has left insurance, to take care of us all.”

Some years after both Mama and Papi passed away, Adi’s first cousin Roman and his wife celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary with a trip to Hawaii. Roman and Conchita went to the Arizona Memorial, and surreptitiously left a bouquet of fragrant white plumeria flowers floating on the water – water still streaked with oil leaking from Manolo’s ship, iridescent streaks which the locals said were the tears of the ship, crying for her lost crew. Roman and Conchita also went to the Punchbowl Cemetery – they brought back pictures. Adi is certain that Manolo is buried there, among the unknowns from the Arizona. After all this time, it hardly matters, really. But she likes to think of him, the strong young sailor in his white uniform, with his hands and fingernails from which the oil and grime of working engines would never quite be cleaned. She likes to think of him, walking among the palm trees and the plumeria and frangipani scenting the tropic air, the blue water and white foam, crashing on a sugar-white strand.

Now and again, Adeliza Gonzales-Gonzalez, who has not been called ‘Adi’ in years thinks she has seen Manolo, in a magazine picture accompanying some story to do with the Navy, or a sailor half-glimpsed in a television newscast. She is very careful not to say anything about this, of course.