June 2017


The new Republican health care bill hurts only the old, sick, and poor.  No prob.


Some of my favorite posts, or at least my favorite posts, have been those i described as Language Moments, all so far involving my own experiences.

One that i haven’t written about involved Gary’s girlfriend, who was the daughter of Hungarian Jews who’d immigrated to this country in the aftermath of WWII.  Although she was born in San Francisco, her first language was her parents’ Hungarian, but of course she learned English from playmates even before she started to school.  However, she continued to speak only Hungarian with her mother.

Then, shortly after her mother’s death, she decided to visit Hungary to get in touch with her roots.  Alas, the moment she stepped off the plane in Hungary, there was a great shock.  In spite of what she thought of as her fluent Hungarian, she had great difficulty communicating with the Hungarians because her vocabulary was woefully deficient.

The problem was that she and her mother had talked only about household matters, so she didn’t know the words for many of the most elementary aspects of travel.  Things like “bus stop”, “park bench”, or “tour guide”, and she had to talk around these words in elaborate circumlocutions.  And it was even worse when she visited historical sites and discovered that the only way she could really understand any commentary was to hang around on the fringes of tours conducted in English.

She returned thoroughly traumatized and ruefully remarked that her visit was mostly a crash course in Hungarian.

Well, i had lunch yesterday with my friend Ian, and he told me a delightful story about another child of Holocaust survivors, Poles who’d immigrated to a small town in Canada where there were no other Poles.  The parents had been so thoroughly traumatized that, even though their daughter’s first language was the Yiddish they were speaking at home, they told her it was Polish.

So it came as a great shock to her when, in her late teens she visited New York and went to a Polish neighborhood only to discover that she couldn’t understand a word they were saying, nor could they understand her.

And then, in another neighborhood, she walked into a sandwich shop where the people were not speaking English, but joy of joys, she could understand them perfectly.  Yep, a Jewish delicatessen.

And that’s how she discovered she was a Jew.

Meanwhile, an opiate in Petaluma, Papaver somniferum.

Papaver somniferum



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Barn Swallow Update

I’ve written a couple of posts about the barn swallows who’ve nested in the eaves of my patio, most recently back in April, but they’ve been providing so much entertainment recently that i need to add an update.

The drama began a few days ago when i went out onto my patio and nearly stepped on a young barn swallow huddled on my doormat barely moving.  Tried to scoop him up without getting my hands on him and get him back into the nest, but don’t have a ladder and can’t climb up there.  Watched him for a while, and the parents, who are totally tame around me and will let me get within reach of them without flying, are refusing to take care of their fallen kid.

So i leapt into the breach.  Gently picked him up, which he hardly resisted at all.  Decided what he needed most was water, so i put some into a little bowl and repeatedly dipped his beak into it.  After several tries, he started slightly opening and closing his beak, enough so that i figured some water was getting in.  An hour of so later i went out and he seemed much stronger,  sitting up better and looking more alert.  So i did the water torture again while the damn parents remained utterly indifferent to him and kept feeding the two remaining in the nest.

Kept going out there to check, and he seemed even more alert and chirped back at me when i gave him my little warble.  Tried sticking a tiny sliver of ham on a toothpick, but he wouldn’t open his mouth.  Tried that again later, to no avail.

Then tried again, and he finally caught on, opened his mouth, and engulfed the toothpick with ham bit.  Did it again later with a little sliver of roast pork.  And a couple of times later with some comté cheese.  Then dipped my finger in water and let a drop or two fall onto the beak, but he didn’t seem at all eager to take fluids.

Since it was going to get down to 47 at night, at dark i put him into a cardboard box and brought him inside for the night since he wouldn’t have the others to snuggle up to to keep warm.

Realizing that a diet of ham and cheese sandwiches is probably not good for him, i thought tomorrow i’d dig in my flowerbed for a worm to section up for him.

Took him outside in the morning, but he wouldn’t eat and was dead by noon.  I was heartbroken and trying to decide whether i’d poisoned him by feeding him ham and cheese or whether i’d starved him by not feeding him enough.  Then i looked up at the nest and noticed that there was only one chick left, so the loving parents had allowed one of his siblings to die also.  Which got me off the hook.  The good news is that the remaining chick is looking fat and healthy.

I interred the one who died on me at the foot of my potato plant, figuring i might as well get some use out of him since i didn’t quite have it in me to eat him.

The very next day, the surviving chick jumped out of the nest before he could fly and sat around on the patio all afternoon while the parents buzzed him and performed low level acrobatics as if to demonstrate how easy flying is…but didn’t stuff any  food into the wide open, cheeping mouth.  I tried a couple of times sticking a morsel of comté on a toothpick and holding it out as i moved closer, but he fluttered/stumbled away.

I thought about grabbing him and chunking him out onto the lawn, but he’s probably safer inside my patio.  Well, except that he’s gonna starve.

The parents are so accustomed to me that they’ll do everything but perch on my outstretched finger, so i took advantage of that and sat down out there and had a dialog with them.  I explained slowly and clearly that if they didn’t start feeding their kid, when he got to the point he was so weak that he couldn’t run away, i was gonna grab him, pull his feathers out, skin him, eviscerate him, and eat him.  While they watched.  Went on to explain that, lest they think this was an idle threat, i just love sushi and carpaccio.  Alles klar?  Tasty looking little kid you got there.  I hope nothing happens to him.

That’s all it took, and in just a few minutes one fed him a bite!  Whew. And then they were both feeding him, so he’s not going to starve.

But he’s not out of the woods. Ummm, maybe i should say he’s not in the woods yet.  My fear is that a neighborhood cat, which has spotted him through the mesh at the bottom of the patio fence, will figure out how to get over the fence.  I may have dissuaded the cat, though, by chunking at him a clod that hit the mesh and showered him with debris.  Haven’t seen him since.

The next day, my little surrogate grandchild was hopping around the patio but mainly sitting on my doormat while his parents brought him food.  By now he’s so accustomed to me that he doesn’t move when i step over his head onto the concrete, and it has occurred to me that i ought to go to the market and get a bag of Purina Barn Swallow Chow and teach him to take food from my fingers.

barn swallow chick


Naw, he might like that better than bugs, and i’d be stuck feeding him for the rest of our lives.

So i left that to his parents, and whaddya know, the next day he started trying to fly, achieving by the end of the day an altitude of one foot, sufficient that he could perch on bottom ledge of the fence, where his parents continued to feed him.

barn swallow chick


And the next day, he was gone, over the fence to freedom.

And why do i keep calling him “him”? Easy. It’s a guy thing.  No girl chick would be foolhardy enough to jump out of the nest before she could fly.

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Not Just Me

I’ve been sitting around the house feeling sorry for myself lately owing to the excruciatingly slow progress in the approval of my application to move into some senior housing in San Francisco, but even more so because i’ve lost my inspiration for writing website material, so the last few months of posts have been forced and pallid.

Worse yet, i’m having more and more mental lapses and am increasingly worried that my mind is deteriorating faster than my body.

Like last Sunday when i took Sybil to the Marin Farmers’ Market and spotted some pickling cucumber starts that JoAnn wanted.  Chortling over my good luck at finding them so late, i selected three of the finest and very carefully nestled them into my shopping cart where they wouldn’t fall over.  At the next booth, i had bought some quark and smoked gouda from John at the Oakdale Cheese booth and was chatting with him about a new cheese he’s experimenting with when Sybil inquired, “Did you pay for those starts?”

Aieeeeeee!  So i snuck back and paid without their even noticing, thank God, that i’d made a detour between the shelf of starts and the cash register.  When i returned to Sybil, she handed me the cheese i’d paid for but left on the counter at the cheese stall.

That sort of thing. Over and over.

So i’m redoubling my efforts to do things to stimulate my mind and yesterday realized it would be a good thing for both of us if i called an old friend back in Texas.  We were quite close in high school and during our undergraduate years, but after i moved to California we didn’t contact each other often enough and about twenty years ago lost contact.  Then last year a mutual friend put us back together, and now he’s retired and i follow him on Facebook, but we hadn’t spoken.

The call was a delight, as he was happy to hear from me and we entertained each other by recalling hilarious events we’d participated in and witty lines the other had uttered.  The call was so entertaining that it ran on for over an hour until it finally got to be his bedtime.

But there was a problem.

As the call went on, it became obvious that his mind was slipping, as he’d forget a topic we’d already discussed and bring it up again.  And again.  I was too kind to bring this to his attention but found it deeply saddening to see so clearly that a dear old friend was going gaga.  Oh, how awful.

But then this morning i realized that i could well have been wrong about his repeating himself and that at very least i’d probably been doing the same thing while he was being equally kind.

Yeah, we have to prop each other up.

Meanwhile, some rich country humor:


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