My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Sunday, June 30

Heat Wave

Hot, hot, HOT! Instead of calling it The Valley of the Sun we should redesignate it The Valley of the Heat. We’ve never in our nineteen years here experienced a June as hot as this one has been. We can’t even fall back on that old Arizona platitude “But it’s a dry heat.” Doesn’t matter. One can’t do much of anything whether it’s dry or humid. Either way it’s unbearable. With all the climatic oddities this year has thus far brought us—tornadoes, flooding, blizzards, hurricanes, extreme drought, excessive heat—our science guys should be working on some way to control the weather. Like finding a way to straighten out the jet streams that now dip and rise and make for all kinds of odd scenarios. This latest shows us on the weather map a huge reverse sideways S across our nation, with the western half inside the top of the S, the eastern half in the other end of the S, extreme heat in the west, extreme rain in the east. Just pull that baby by its ends and straighten it out and stop all this nonsense.

Friday, June 28

Match Play

I just finished two novels by John Coyne, both about golf from the past, featuring Ben Hogan and Walter Hagen in The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan and The Caddie Who Played with Hickory. Both were pretty good and both just crammed with golf, shot by shot matches that served as the centers of both plots. I remember long ago trying to pedal my golf novel, Match Play, to New York publishers, having them all tell me it was too full of golf. And I tried to tell them that was the point, to give golf enthusiasts a novel about non-PGA golf. But none of them ever bought that argument. After the two Coyne books, I decided to go back and reread Match Play, to see how it held up after all these years. It held up very well. In fact, it was better than either of the Caddie books by Coyne. I may be biased, however. And one of the passages I’m most proud of was the valedictory speech made by the young Amy Forrest. I wish I’d somehow, sometime, somewhere, been able to deliver that very speech. Here it is. See what you think.

When it was her turn to speak, she climbed the steps to the stage, crossed to the podium, and then paused for a full thirty seconds just looking at the audience, smiling, waiting for everyone to become quiet. She seemed totally assured, totally in control. When she had everyone’s attention, even that of her fellow seniors, she very quietly began:

“Thank you.” A warm smile and another short pause. “Thank you. I wasn’t really waiting for anything in particular. I was just waiting . . . savoring the moment. Because, you see, I’m already aware how quickly life passes. I know I’m very young, and probably youthfully presumptuous to make such a statement . . . but I had great teachers . . . most of them dead, I’m afraid.” A smattering of puzzled laughter from the audience. “Some very good ones still living, I’m happy to report. I’ve learned this lesson about life’s brevity mainly from the things I’ve read, my dead but still very alive teachers. Nearly every writer worth his salt at one time or another has had something to say about how brief, like morning dew, is this thing called life. I’ve learned it in school, from teachers, live ones, who have warned me, scolded me, to make good use of my time, for time is precious. ‘Tempus fugit! Tempus fugit!’ they say, shaking their collective fingers at me. ‘Time flies! Carpe diem! Seize the day! Seize it before the day seizes you, because, God knows, it will seize you.’ ”

She paused for the Latin maxims to sink in.

“And I appreciate that lesson from them. I’ve learned that all too often we wish the time away, wish for moments in our lives to hurry up and get here, and too often we forget to live while we’re waiting for those moments. I’ve heard many of my fellow graduates saying for the last four years how they could hardly wait to get out of high school, to get out on their own and away from all the controls on their lives. You know—parents, teachers, mean old principals . . .” and a low chuckle with that last comment accompanied by warm laughter from the audience, an audience that was entirely with her now, listening to what she was saying. “Well, I’m here to tell you that that moment is here . . . and now . . . and you’d all better just slow it down and savor the moment . . . whether you’re graduating from high school as we are, or you’ve just received that hoped-for promotion, or you’ve just had a birthday or a newborn son or daughter, or you simply woke up this morning and found yourself alive and healthy. They’re all moments worth savoring.”

She went on to talk about how she hoped she and her fellow graduates all over the nation would be committed to improving the quality of life not only in our country, but everywhere in the world. She alluded to things that Mark Thorne, the salutatorian, had said, to things the congressman had said. She was obviously extemporizing, winging it, and it was wonderful. I don’t know three people who could do what she did, speak to a group of people with as much clarity, sincerity, and the skill to hold her thoughts together and communicate them to an audience that was actually listening to every word she said. A remarkable feat. And if I hadn’t realized it before, I certainly realized it then—Amy Forrest was a remarkable girl. No, a remarkable woman.

Her concluding remarks returned to her opening theme—savoring the moments of our lives. “. . . and everyone, it seems, comes eventually to the same conclusion about life, that there wasn’t time enough to do all the things we’d planned, or that we regret not having done all the things we wanted to, or that we’d spent—spent, what an appropriate way to describe it—that we’d spent our lives living what Thoreau called ‘lives of quiet desperation’ instead of what Omar Khayyam recommended, that we ‘make the most of what we yet may spend, before we too unto the dust descend.’ And Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard asks, ‘Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life’s made of.’

“But nearly all of those who write of or speak of their regrets, their conclusions about life and time and the brevity of the one and the swiftness of the other, nearly all are looking back at life, almost as though none of us can learn the obvious and universal lesson until it’s too late, as though we’re all too blind or too ignorant to learn from the words of others. Singers sing the message, telling us to ‘stop and smell the roses,’ urging us to ‘hold this moment fast, and live and love as hard as you know how, and make this moment last, because the best of times is now!’ ”

She looked out over the audience and paused for a moment, to let that last now sink in, and although I knew she couldn’t see me in the darkened auditorium, I felt she was looking at me and had been directing her words at me. And then she smiled and continued.

“And poets rhyme the message. Phillip James Bailey says, ‘We live in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart-throbs.’ Fitzgerald’s Omar Khayyam warns that ‘Time is slipping underneath our feet, unborn tomorrow, and dead yesterday, why fret about them if today be sweet.’ Longfellow tells us that ‘art is long, and time is fleeting, and our hearts, though stout and brave, still, like muffled drums, are beating funeral marches to the grave,’ a sentiment echoing Andrew Marvell, who over three hundred years ago with tongue in cheek said, ‘The grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace.’ And Robert Herrick advises me to gather my rosebuds while I may, because ‘Old Time is still a-flying, and this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying.’ ”

Then she paused again, for at least fifteen seconds, looking at various sections of the audience and smiling at each as though sharing some secret, a very nice bit of dramatic business that didn’t seem at all affected or planned.

“Yes. All of us here—parents full of pride for this moment in their children’s lives, relatives and friends here to share in this moment, teachers who have meant so much to us in preparing us for the moment, I and my fellow graduating seniors who have for so long wished for this moment—all of us should pay better attention to the lesson of those who have gone before us: Andrew Marvell and Longfellow and Ben Franklin and Omar Khayyam and nearly every other writer since time began. And all of those who may not have been writers but who have expressed or even felt the lesson. Let’s listen to what they said. Let’s listen with our hearts as well as our ears. Maybe we can’t halt time, maybe we can’t stretch it beyond its given length . . . but we can certainly make what little time we have more valuable. Let’s really stop and smell the roses. Let’s really love instead of hate. Let’s really savor the moment, . . . this moment, . . . because the best of times really is . . . now!” And her head was nodding as she held us for a moment longer, looking around the audience, smiling. And we sat in total silence.

“Thank you,” she said quietly, and left the podium to return to her seat in the audience.
* * *
If anyone is interested in reading Match Play, it’s available in hard copy at, or in e-book form at Granted, I’m as biased about the book’s merits as a proud father is biased about the good looks of his children. Too many publishers have called my child ugly. I hope you disagree.

Thursday, June 27

The Sea of Grass

The week went by soooo slowly, but we finally found the light at the end of the tunnel and made our escape Monday morning—more final goodbyes to sister-in-law Doris and brother Bob and his wife Linda, a final breakfast provided by Doris, a gas fill for the hundred mile drive to Bismarck, and several sighs of relief and regret as we drove one last time over the bridge across Lake Oahe and into the green hills and buttes to the west and north. I say “one last time” because I don’t think we’ll ever again return to our roots in South Dakota. Our roots no longer seem to be there, our old home town no longer our old home town. But we’ll see, which seems to be our new catch phrase. We’ll see.

South and North Dakota have never in our lifetimes been so green. Conrad Richter wrote a novel called The Sea of Grass, the title coming from the waist-deep grasses that once covered the prairie. The wind blew through these grasses making grassy waves as far as the eye could see. And the eye could see forever from one horizon to the other. Ole Rolvaag, in Giants in the Earth, wrote of the Norwegian settlers crossing this land in wagons, claiming their homesteads out in that vast grassy tan and green land. They had to trail a long piece of rope behind them to mark their path straight ahead instead of accidentally circling back to their beginnings. The prairie countryside now is remarkably close to that original sea of grass.

For nearly the entire trip north we listened to Nancy Sinatra on Sirius XM interviewing Doris Day, alternating versions of the same songs by Doris and Frank Sinatra. I’d forgotten what a great voice Doris Day had. I was surprised that she was still alive. In the interview she sounded lucid and ageless, sharing with Nancy memories of her early singing career and her later film career. We heard, among many others, her rendition of Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow,” maybe the best version I’ve ever heard. I’d forgotten her characteristic style, a near whisper on some phrasing, the faster than usual vibrato on held notes. Where have all the Doris Days gone? Now we have Beyonces and Rhianas, but they can’t hold a note or a candle to those voices from the Forties, Fifties, and Sixties. Or is that simply my age talking? Odd how music and musical styles can date themselves. I hear Sinatra from his Tommy Dorsey days—the choral backgrounds, the shrill violins, the muted trumpets—and it sounds so dated. Then I hear him from his second singing career, the years following his award winning role as Maggio in From Here to Eternity in 1953, and the voice is deeper, richer, smokier, more eternal, much less easy to pigeonhole in time. So, where have all the Sinatras gone? Gone to Michael BublĂ©, Harry Connick, and others who carry on the Sinatra tradition.

We had nearly eight hours waiting for our flight. Better eight hours sitting in the airport than trying to figure out what to do in Mobridge. So we sat and read, bought a sandwich and banana, listened to far too many loud cell phone talkers. Callers don’t make calls to inform; they now call to talk endlessly about nothing. Bores no longer need a corner to back victims into; now they can call and back one into a cell phone corner. My wife, when so trapped at home, will go to the front door, ring the bell, and bail out from a caller by using the fictitious visitor. “Oh, hey, gotta go. Someone’s at the door.” We had to listen to a young man nearly shouting joyously as he wandered back and forth and around and about . . . for over thirty minutes. A fat woman spoke into her phone with no noticeable conversational break . . . for twenty minutes. How do these people find people willing to remain in suspended animation during these calls? Maybe the listener simply puts the phone down and lets the caller speak to dead air.

Wednesday, June 26

South Dakota

More on big-belly meals. The next morning we breakfasted at the Grand Oasis, a restaurant near the motel where we were staying after four nights at the casino. Rosalie had a 3-egg cheese and mushroom omelet that covered her plate and I ordered a new item on the menu—eggs and hashbrowns with locally made German sausage. The eggs were standard, the hashbrowns about twice what I needed, and the sausage, two huge chunks of meat that no one could have managed to consume in one sitting. If you know what a ring of bologna is, just imagine this German sausage as a ring. I was served what would have been nearly half a ring. Whoa! From now on I’ll order from the children’s menu.

The relativity of time. The years go by increasingly swift, like a film in fast motion, and I can never believe how many years have flown by from someone’s birthday or the birth of a child or a grand niece or nephew. What seems like only a year or two turns out to be eight or ten. Not possible, I say. Quick time. Not so for our stay in South Dakota. In the past, whenever we’d return, usually for some class reunion and usually over the Fourth of July, almost from the first day I would be in a countdown mode looking for our departure. We were always there too long, each day a day merely to get through, marking time as though I had all the time in the world to watch each day crawl like a snail mired in molasses. Well, the days were even slower on this trip. After only three days we’d been there far too long and we could hardly wait to board that plane to take us home. It was all about relatives, and the time with them was relative.

We were there to help my brother Bob celebrate his ninetieth birthday. The festivities went well. His daughter Jackie had put together a twenty-three minute photo album with music, many shots of Bob and all his relatives (and there were a bunch) cascading across the screen from youth to old age. It was very nice. And we ate a bountiful dinner before the eating of birthday cake. Again, whew! He wasn’t asked to blow out ninety candles, thank goodness, or we’d have never gotten any cake. We got to see and converse with relatives we hadn’t seen in a long time and may never see again. Sad how the last chapter of one’s life is so filled with final goodbyes. Rosalie’s sister Phyllis is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s and probably won’t last much longer. I hope not. What she’s now enduring isn’t life. It’s a death not quite completed, but should be. If I were ever put in a place like the one she’s in, I’d find some way to escape—out an emergency exit into a South Dakota blizzard where I could lie down in a snowdrift, a snow pillow to soften my ascent (or possibly descent) into eternity. That’s the way I’d go. But by then I probably wouldn’t remember what I wanted to do. I really must keep that bottle of pills near at hand so I can use them just before someone takes me to the Golden Bridge Old Folks Home. Golden Bridge, my ass.

Tuesday, June 25

Flight & Fatties

I realize how few people who follow this blog would be interested in hearing about our trip to South Dakota. But there are a few things I have to say if even to myself.

First, a comment about air travel as opposed to ground travel. Flying is almost too complicated these days. In the past, pre-9/11 days, one could get to the airport, check luggage at the terminal entrance, find the right gate, sit a bit, and then board the plane. All a process requiring at most half an hour to an hour. Now, one has to arrive at least two hours ahead of departure, standing in a line for thirty or forty minutes to check in luggage, then another ten or twenty minutes to go through a security check sans shoes, belt, everything in the pockets, then an hour or so waiting to board the plane. Whew! Then a heavy sigh as one sits too near a seat companion and waits for takeoff. But first, nearly all passengers cramming ponderous carry-on luggage into overhead compartments, then a helium-voiced attendant shrilling incomprehensible pre-flight instructions at a rate of 1,000 wpm. No longer any free amenities as in the old days; now you pay, through the nose—$2 for water or soda, $3 to $5 for assorted snacks, $5 for beer or wine, $7 for cocktails. And $6 if you want a pillow and blanket. It all seems so complicated now. I think I’d almost rather spend three days in a car than fly to my destination. The old days of flying were better, but the new days require a necessary security thanks to all the terrorists who would prefer to kill as many of us infidels as they can.

We got to Bismarck, ND, at 7:30, then stood in line for half an hour waiting for our luggage and an Enterprise rental car. And finally, finally, we were on our way south into South Dakota. But first, naturally, we had to stop at a Perkins restaurant not far from the airport. This is a Perkins we had visited many times coming from and going to the airport, and we should have remembered the size of the portions. But we didn’t. Rosalie ordered a cheeseburger and fries and I a Reuben melt and fries. Her cheeseburger was huge, with lettuce, tomato, onion, and enough fries for three or four NFL linebackers. My Reuben was huge, with enough fries for three or four NFL offensive linemen. Why do too many restaurants now serve meals that are at least 40% too much for normal people? Maybe that’s why we now have too many abnormally large people, too many big-bellied, big-butted girls and boys, too many roly-poly men and women all galumphing around the country.

To be continued.

Sunday, June 16

Fathers' Day 2013

Happy Fathers’ Day, all you fathers who may be reading this. I’m spending my day watching U.S. Open coverage, hoping either Phil Mickelson or Steve Stricker can pull it out. But, oh, the pain of watching Tiger play like a pussy cat. His short game is just awful, bad chipping, bad putting (36 putts on Saturday). And Merion is acting more like a tiger than Tiger is. What an interestingly awful layout. Anyone within six or seven shots of Phil can win it because at any time a double, triple, or quadruple bogey, or even something like Sergio’s ten yesterday, could pop up in a leader’s round. All us hackers like to watch tour players suffer in Opens. But part of me hates to see what the USGA sometimes does to make it such a painful tournament.

Tomorrow I’m going on a week-long hiatus from the blogs. We’re flying to South Dakota for a family get-together. And it will be a week of temps in the seventies instead of our triple digits here in Arizona. But a week away from Squeakie and Charlie is long enough. Going back to our home country is always good, but coming back to this home is even better.
So, so long, dear readers. I’ll see you in a week.

How about a little father humor?
Jon: What’s the difference between a high-hit baseball and a maggot’s father?
Tom: What?
Jon: One’s a pop fly. The other’s a fly pop

Four men are in the hospital waiting room because their wives are having babies. A nurse goes up to the first guy and says, “Congratulations! You’re the father of twins.”
“That’s odd,” answers the man. “I work for the Minnesota Twins!”
A nurse says to the second guy, “Congratulations! You’re the father of triplets!”
“That’s weird,” answers the second man. “I work for the 3M company!”
A nurse tells the third man, “Congratulations! You’re the father of quadruplets!”
“That’s strange,” he answers. “I work for the Four Seasons hotel!”
The last man is groaning and banging his head against the wall. “What’s wrong?” the others ask.
“I work for 7 Up!”

Thursday, June 13

The Cat House

Cats, cats, and more cats. As you can tell, we're fond of cats, even Garfield. Especially Garfield. You'd think we'd have dogs, since I call this blog "Doggy-Dog World." Instead, we have two cats (or they have us), Squeakie, the aging and shrinking calico who's still boss of the house, and Charlie, our young tuxedo cat who thinks he owns every nook and cranny in our house. Squeakie knows better.
There she is with those big soulful eyes.
And here's Charlie in one of his hidey holes. He's just licking his chaps when he thinks he'll take over from Squeakie. Squeakie says, "Think again, Chuck."

And finally, another cat collage.

Wednesday, June 12

Tonys & Into the Woods

How do you spell “talent?” Tonys. How do you spell “spectacle?” Tonys. How do you spell “class?” Tonys. Or you might spell them all with “Neil Patrick Harris.” Last Sunday’s Tony Awards Show was talented, spectacular, and classy, better by a wide margin than the Academy Awards Show. And if the Oscars producers don’t beg Neil Patrick Harris to host their next show, they’re making a big mistake. Even the acceptance speeches (with only a few exceptions) were classy and relatively short. I wasn’t quite sure what Cicely Tyson was doing when she was led to the stage to accept her award. She seemed to be either drunk, high, or in serious need of some ginkgo biloba. What a strange acceptance speech she gave. Cyndi Lauper, who won for writing the music to Kinky Boots (which also won for best new musical), gave a heartwarming acceptance, thanking all of Broadway for taking her into their family. The only time the speeches reminded me too much of the Oscars was when forty or fifty people would troop to the stage to accept one award, with speeches that went far too long by far too many people trying for their fifteen seconds of fame. And then you have Neil Patrick Harris, one of the most talented, funny, classy guys on Broadway or the tube. His opening number with a cast of what seemed to be hundreds was spectacular. And how he ever pulled off the closing number is beyond me. The lyrics included nearly all of the show’s winners. How did someone write it in such a short time? How did Harris and the others learn the lyrics in such a short time? I don’t know. But I also wonder how he managed to get to the back of the theatre when he supposedly escaped from a magic box on stage. He must have run like Superman. The highlighted musical numbers from nominated shows were, as usual, wonderful, especially the one from Pippin, with dancers and acrobats spinning around all over the place while singing the lyrics to “Magic to Do.” Talk about magical.

And while I’m on the subject of Broadway musicals, last night we went to the Arizona Broadway Theatre to see our local rendering of Into the Woods, book by James Lapine, music by—who else?—Stephen Sondheim. Into the Woods is perhaps my favorite musical. Before I retired, I used a video of it to teach my English students about staging, set design, and theatrical tricks of the stage trade. The set design of Woods in one of the most complicated ever, and I wondered how our ABT would be able to handle the triple sets and story lines of the opening number—Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the Baker and His Wife—handle the setting in the woods with characters from the seven different story lines all crisscrossing in and out and around the large tree in the center, handle the foot-crunching noises of the giants that came down Jack’s beanstalk, create the many costumes and props needed (Milky the cow, the Witch’s magic cane, the horse that carried Cinderella to the castle for her wedding;, the scrim used for grandmother’s house with the wolf gobbling up both Granny and Red Riding Hood). All of it—the staging, the set design, the lighting, the costumes, the props—were done as professionally and as well as the original Broadway production. And the voices were all excellent, requiring ten actors with big voices to handle Sondheim’s near-operatic score. Wow! I think I’d like to see it again. And again.

Tuesday, June 11

Mark Murphy & Kurt Elling

I haven't written anything about music in a long time. So, now it's time again. I'm a long ago jazz fan, going all the way back to Stan Kenton in the middle of the last century, whose band sent me crashing on my way. And all the early jazz vocalists, like Sarah Vaughan and Ella (I don't even have to give her last nema) and Carmen MacRae and a host of others. Notice that I haven't mentioned any male jass vocalitsts? Frank (I don't even have to give his last name) doesn't count, since he's not really a jazz singer, even though what he does is better than anything anyone else has ever done. And I guess I was a fan of the Velvet Fog, Mel Torme, but only with one ear. Then I found Mark Murphy a decade or so ago. I don't remember how I found him, maybe YouTube or Amazon or browsing at the now defunct Borders. Or maybe he, like magic, found me. Mark Murphy isn't a singer any but jazz fanatics would know. He was always better known and listened to in Europe than here. And anyone who doesn't care for scat wouldn't care for him, because he's the male Ella when it comes to improv scat. He has about a four-octave range, and he takes us and a song up and down and around and around till it comes out here. Just listen to what he does with "Speak Low" when he was a youngster of eighty.

And then I found Kurt Elling. I found him through Rene Fleming, the opera soprano, who once said that Elling was one of her favorite singers. The Murphy influence on Elling is obvious when you listen to them side by side. Listen to his version of "My Foolish Heart. Listen carefully to the central portion about the moon being a moth. Wow. And notice what the piano player does during that moth segment, playing keys with his left hand, plucking piano strings with his right. Wow.

And if, after listening to these two, you aren't a captive Murphy and Elling fan, then you can just shake your head and wonder what in hell I was talking about.

Saturday, June 8

Two Biggies

The Big Wedding was more appropriately a medium wedding, not tiny (bad) but not very big (good) either. Robert DeNiro was his usual gray-bearded rapscallion, divorced from Diane Keaton and bedding Susan Sarandon. And Diane Keaton was her usual master of the stumbling doubletalk, looking a bit weathered but still lovely enough to be DeNiro’s foil. I remember her from way back when she first appeared on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. She could hardly utter a sensible sentence as she stuttered and giggled and let out an occasional pig-snort laugh. She’s come a long way since then. The Big Wedding involved rather predictable complications wherein the groom’s mother, visiting from Columbia for the wedding, wouldn’t tolerate divorced parents. So, naturally, DeNiro and Keaton had to pose as a happily married couple. What always strikes me as misleading about such movies is the false impression of wealth here. Foreign viewers must assume that all Americans have oodles of money and huge, opulent homes. Like I said, The Big Wedding was pretty much just another wedding.
This leads me to another biggie, Showtime’s series The Big C with Laura Linney playing a middle-aged teacher with stage-4 melanoma. Now, there’s a black humor premise one wouldn’t think would work. But it does. The depth of the story lines and the richness of the characters remind me of Ray Romano’s Men of a Certain Age, a series that got dumped before its time. Cathy Jamison (Linney) confronts the bad news and does everything she can to overcome it. At first, she doesn’t tell anyone about the cancer, but a neighbor across the street, Marlene (Phyllis Somerville), knows when her dog smells it on Cathy. And then she finally tells her ex-husband Paul (Oliver Platt), her bipolar brother Sam (John Benjamin Hickey), and her son Adam (Gabriel Basso). Another plot line involves Andrea Jackson, played wonderfully by Gaboury Sidbe, a seriously overweight black girl whom Cathy takes under her wing to help her lose weight and survive the perils of the teen years. We love what we’ve seen so far in the first two seasons and can hardly wait to see the rest. The show has all the sexual elements of so much of modern television and films—nudity, on-screen fornication, masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, and language that would have curled my mother’s hair. My wife and I grew up in conservative South Dakota back when one didn’t talk about such sexual acts, didn’t even know about them, didn’t use anything but occasional four-letter words and that only in the company of one’s closest friends (and never in mixed company). How far we’ve come since then. I remember once giving my sister the finger and she slapped me so hard I spun like a top. “Don’t you ever do that again!” she screamed at me. “Don’t you know what that means?” I knew it was some sort of derisive insult but I didn’t know exactly. Back when I was a teenager too many years ago, using the F-word was unthinkable, and I never heard the MF-word until I joined the army in 1952. Oh, how my ears burned when I heard it. How could anyone say such a thing about any mother? For many years, Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, one of the most moral books I’ve ever read, was banned in high schools because of that one “Fuck” Phoebe saw on a wall in New York. My idea of the naked female body was developed by that Spanish stamp portraying The Naked Maja I once owned until my mother quietly removed it from my collection and did away with it. And Marilyn Monroe’s famous nude pinup I got somewhere in Korea and had hanging near my cot. And then the linguistic and moral restrictions began to lift and lift from mid-20th century to the present. As I said, we’ve come a long way, all the way to a series like The Big C, which seems not to have any restrictions at all. And we’re all the better for it.

Tuesday, June 4

Bad Weather

All the bad weather news of late—tornadoes like avenging devils swooping down on our nation’s midsection, especially Oklahoma, fires in California, torrential rains and flooding in the upper Midwest, hurricane season about to begin its devastating ugliness. All we now need is a series of earthquakes and a plague of locusts and we’d have it all. Meanwhile, we in Arizona look at the news, the weather channel people telling us and showing us this destruction and loss of life, and we say a silent prayer that we aren’t subject to these weather aberrations. We have occasional flash floods through which a few idiots try to drive but only the occasional idiot ever dies. We have towering dust storms, haboobs, through which a few idiots try to drive, but only the occasional idiot ever dies. These dust storms are more a nuisance than a hazard, with all the home pools (of which there are many) filling to the brim with sand and grit. We have devastating fires in the pine forests to the north, mostly destroying residences but few people. But we have no tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, mud slides, blizzards, flooding,no plague of locusts, and only a few bothersome insects. People will say we have killer heat in the summer. Heat, yes. Killer heat, no. And one does not have to shovel heat.

Sunday, June 2

Sunday Rambling

I went to breakfast this morning, to Carrie’s because I knew it would be less crowded than the Hole in One. Rosalie didn’t go. She only goes to keep me company and I assured her I was not alone even though alone. I always had my friend, whatever book I was then reading, in this case Kate Atkinson’s short story collection Not the End of the World. She has become one of my very best friends.

I sat at a small table along the wall separating the waitress run and the dining room. Carrie’s is a pleasant little restaurant in a U-shaped shopping area across the street from the Hole in One, with assorted artifacts from the Thirties and Forties residing on a high shelf along the walls—canisters of ancient coffee, empty boxes of saltine crackers and CheeseIts, oil lamps and tiny dolls and porcelain cats and dogs. Beneath the upper shelf were a dozen Norman Rockwell reproductions—the cop and the runaway boy sitting at a lunch counter, the triple self-portrait of Rockwell leaning out to see himself in a mirror as he painted himself (I wonder if any of our mirror images would be more dexter than sisister, as Rockwell's pipe now seems to be in the dexter side of his mouth), three baseball umpires checking the amount of rainfall, the apprehensive boy in the dentist’s chair, the grandfather and grandson fishing in the old mill stream. Where would the Saturday Evening Post have been without Rockwell? Where would Rockwell have been without the SEP? I think theirs was a mutual success story. Unfortunately, I was seated too near a tall old man and his grandson (and not the Rockwell pair). The man must have been a bit deaf, as are many of our seniors here in Sun City West, because he kept up a steady barrage of over-loud questions for the grandson, a boy of four or five. He (the grandfather) was wearing shorts (what else?) and a vary-colored shirt and his legs were knobby and varicosed and ugly. Why not wear long pants when one’s legs are as ugly as his? I certainly do. My legs, from ankle to knee are so ugly that no one but I and Rosalie and assorted doctors and the cats ever see them. I wouldn’t want anyone to see them and wonder why I didn’t wear long pants. The cats no long arch their backs and his when they see my legs. My legs are blackened from the psoriasis, still psoriatic scaly but less so than a year ago, and stitched all over from various surgical scars, with two deep depressions from my ill-advised radiation treatments, the main one the silver dollar-sized wound I treated for three years, like a meteor crater near my shin bone. As I said—ugly.

I ordered eggs over medium, fried potatoes, ham, and a biscuit, all of which was about twice as much as I needed. I wonder how in my pre-denture past I was able to eat all the food I was served when out to dine. I’ve since found that almost every restaurant serves dishes that are nearly twice as much as a diner needs, a fact that partly explains our rising obesity in this country. And yet we all seem to oink it all down for fear of not getting our money’s worth, or of hearing that parental voice when we were young, “Just think of all the little boys and girls starving in Africa or India. You must clean up your plates.” And clean them up we did. Can’t let the rest of the world think we’re throwing good food away. Can’t let all those starving children think we’re wasting food. Maybe we should take half of all the food we try to consume and ship it to all those starving children. But I’m sure we’d find some way to screw up that kind of charity.

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