Monthly Archives: December 2014

How My Pet Monkey Ruined New Years

2015 will be a good year.

Army Of Awesome People

As the new year approaches, I cannot help but think of a fateful New Year’s Eve past, spent by the fireplace with my pet monkey, Chip Dip.  For the longest time, we just sat quietly in our respective arm chairs, he in his smoking jacket and I in my robe, privately reflecting on the past, present and future, the fire crackling all the while.

“Tell me Chip Dip,” I said, finally breaking the silence, “do you have any goals for the new year?”

The monkey turned his head, glancing at me before returning his gaze to the dancing flames as he seemingly soaked in my question. Another moment passed before Chip Dip finally got up, strolled over to the fireplace and closed the flue.

“CHIP DIP!!!!!!!!!!!”  I shouted, “YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO KEEP THAT OPEN!!!”

I chased Chip Dip around the living room for 45 minutes until it finally filled with smoke and I passed out.

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sang froid

I came upon the word sang froid today . Sang froid ain’t an ever-day word in these parts , unless the populace is whispering stuff like that behind my back . That could be , but I don’t think so .

By luck , we had Shant and Monique over for dinner . They’re French-speakers , and so I asked them : Ever heard of sang froid ?  They were stumped at first . My English reading of the French expression didn’t say anything to them . They gave me blank looks . ” I think I’ve heard of it , ” said Monique ; but she couldn’t say what it meant .

And then Shant , who was born in Bagdad and speaks Armenian, Ariabic, English , French , and a little of a few other languages , caught on .  ” Oh , ” he said , ” you mean………..”  and then he pronounced the sang froid expression the way it was meant to be said , the way any educated Lingua Franca , pre- Lingo Anglo , cultured person would have pronounced it .ENGLAND sept 2014 201

I missed the French classes in high school . I took Spanish . I also had two years of Latin . There were Greek classes , too . Ancient Greek . I never took Greek . I speak about as much Spanish , now , as I do Latin , and just about as much French as I do ancient Greek . I know two words in Armenian , none in Arabic or Farsi or in  several other world languages . No Hindi or Swahili . I can order a beer in German . I understand very little , but some , Polish . It’s safe to say I don’t  know much   more language than I do know .

When I came upon sang froid in the LA Times I was a little surprised . Don’t newspapers write to about 6th-grade education level ? They do it so that the American populace will comprehend the stories on their pages . I’m fine with that . I don’t need a daily reading-comprehension challenge in the morning . But , then , I’m lazy .

Sticking sang froid in there one morning stirred me up , a little . I had to find out what the words mean . I had the feeling that I had come across sang froid sometime long long ago , but I had absolutely no idea what it might mean . It was part of a report about some events in France . Some French politician had told the people to have sang froid, after a string of recent tragedies .  I think that was it .

I opened up Merriam’s dictionary on the world-wide web . I got a meaning for sang froid . Snag Freud . Sang frog . Turns out sang means blood , Shant told me .  Froid : cold . Cold -blooded . That brings some meaning to the expression . That’s not what Merriam told me . Theirs was more literarily and obscure . Or , maybe, it’s just me .

I might consider that French politician’s advice . I won’t worry about exploring the syxtax , thorax , etomology , and demonology  of the terminology of sang froid . I’ll just be a lot more sang froidy if I come up against a word I don’t know .  After all , I don’t have the dictionary memorized and  there are tons of unknown-t0-me words out there . Hiding . I mean , of course , English words . I’ve already said : most of the world’s words I have no clue about .

The problem  , I think , is that sang  froid , a French expression , pretends to be an English word . Okay , I know , a good chunk of English was originally French ; but that was a very long time ago that that happened ;  way back in Saxon times .  I’d like to give sang froid back to the French . It’s not used much here in southern California , anyway , these days . It didn’t catch on , I guess . Let’s weed out the words not used and , if they belong somewhere else in the world , give them back . Have a word exchange , a lingo-repatriation . Not quite a prisoner -exchange , but along those lines .

Meanwhile , I won’t wish you sang froid . That would be , I’m pretty sure , a little too cold-blooded . What the world needs now , probably , is the opposite . Entiende ? Rozumiem ?Ada's roses December 2014 004


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Merry Christmas

The inflatable snowman appeared across the street , suddenly . He’s a little worn ; but he’s there .snowman 002

Ed , who already had Christmas lights on the house next door , is now flying his Merry Christmas flag . Ed has a flag to fly for every holiday .x-MAS 005

Ed put up in his yard some kind of inflatable being , too. I’m not sure what it is . Possibly it’s a Star Wars storm trooper. I don’t know . But , whatever it is , it wears a Santa hat , so I guess it can’t be all bad . Shows Christmas spirit . I thought Ed’s son probably put the thing out on the yard , but no .  It was Ed who did it . Ed  asked Ada and I if we thought it might be inappropriate . Ed’s wife had objected , he said .x-MAS 004

Ada and I agreed that the odd decoration shows a unique Christmas spirit . That’s what we like about it , we told Ed .

To each his own , I say . Ever-body’s different .

Ada found the angel banner that was hiding somewhere in our garage . I put it to hang out front . x-MAS 047 x-MAS 048

I wish you angels when you need one . There’s probably one hanging around somewhere .

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all !


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christmas horns

L.A. 1930 fig.toward temple 1937One of my roommates ,way back when I was a college student ,  had an old  Volkswagon bus which I took out once into the wilds of Westwood . Westwood , where UCLA is , at that time  was an active place  . My roommate lent me his bus but warned me not to hit the horn .

I don’t hit the horn as a rule , but some jerk cut me off there in Westwood and , not thinking , I hit the horn . The horn beeped . That surprised me because I knew that his horn didn’t work . But then , immediately , the engine quit . The horn worked and the engine immediately quit . What ? And I was stuck .

” Make sure you don’t hit the horn ,” Don had said . ” It doesn’t work anyway , but it’s connected to the engine . Just don’t hit the horn. ”

” No , sure , no problem ,”  I said .   I was thinking : horn connected to the engine ? Huh ? You got to be kidding !  But , whatever  , I don’t ride the horn anyway .

” Don’t eat that apple , you two , ” comes to mind from my old bible studies . And don’t honk that horn .teens and car 1950s

I had to call my roommate ,  Don ,  from a phone booth .  The old VW bus  had stalled somewhere along a busy Westwood  street . I was ready to  answer his question about hitting the horn .  ”  Yeah , I know you told me not to . ”   Fait accompli . What’a ya gonna do !

Cars used to have real horns . Nowadays they have squeaky little beep beep horns like that little VW bus horn . I had to beep a guy today . Maybe that’s what triggered this post , these random memories .  The little beeps of modern horns won’t intimidate anyone . They’re like woosie little pleading squeaks : Excuse me , sir . Please sir , could you consider getting  out of the way ?  If you don’t mind . Beep.

Horns have lost their virility . Watered -down their identity . Weakened . Changed their role in society . Toned down ; softened ; become non-aggressive . Are roads  kinder now , though ,  more peaceful places as a result ?  Maybe so . Maybe not . You be the judge .

My 94 year old neighbor , another  Don , came up with a business idea a few weeks ago . It was on his mind for a couple of weeks . ” Horns .”  I felt like he wanted me to pick up the standard and run with it . After all , he’s ninety-four . He pitched the idea to me with hopeful old eyes that seemed to say :   How fast could I run ? I’m 94 . You’ll have to do it , Dan .

” Horns  , Don ? ” , I responded . Don explained his idea :  With more and  more cars on the roads the more times you’ll be cut off by reckless drivers , he said . A driver’s frustrations are bound to increase . The more need arises , then , for a loud  assertive horn , he said . There’s a market out there , he said .

Yeah .  Don doesn’t even drive anymore , thank God .

I had to honk at a guy today in Hollywood . He wouldn’t go out into the intersection as he waited to make his left turn . He hung way back behind the white line and left all that intersection space vacant . Our two cars could have fit out there , ready for the oncoming traffic to clear . If the light changed to yellow , we’d be able to make the turn . I beeped him . In Hollywood the traffic is horrendous and the left turn arrows don’t last long . You’ve got to squeeze out into that intersection just to get a turn in if you don’t want to be sitting  there waiting the rest of your life to make your turn .

So here’s a guy inexplicably waiting behind the white line . And I’m behind him . I’ll be here forever . Even his car won’t be able to turn by the time the light changes . What’s he thinking !

I honked my little weakling beepy horn  and the guy moved forward a little , enough for me to nose out into the intersection , too . What , he wanted  to be alone on the turn ?

Maybe my old neighbor Don is right , in  a way . Sometimes a real loud and  aggressive  horn would come in handy .  Shouldn’t we have loud horns ? Does that come under the Second Amendment rights somehow ? Or , is it First Amendment ? Eighth  ?

People told me after the Westwood experience all those many years ago that , yeah , Volkswagons are like that . Their horns are connected weirdly to their engines .  Well , no one told me that before I honked . But , I admit , I had been warned not to honk .

A lot of things in life don’t make a lot of sense , if you ask me .

Los Angeles folks tend not to honk much .  Not , anyway , since  car horns have been so emasculated , feminized , wimpisized , and cars have been stuck with horns that are mere satirical shadows of what they might have been , of what they once were . Ah , but things change !

That old Volkswagon horn was wimpy , too , now that I think of it . I suppose it wasn’t much of a loss , after all , when that little beepy horn  wouldn’t work  . I wish I had taken my roommate’s admonition more to heart , though .  Maybe I could have kept myself from hitting the horn .  After all , it  took me a few extra hours to get home when the engine quit . Well , we all have our little mini Adam and Eve moments , I guess, when we’re thrown out of Paradise for some spontaneousy stupid move . Eh ?santa in desert

Anyway , it’s Christmas . I’ve never heard  that Santa’s sleigh has a horn . No need , no doubt . He comes upon no intersections crammed with questionable drivers making bonehead moves . Santa doesn’t have to wait at busy intersections , watching traffic , waiting . He’d never get all the presents delivered if he did . I’m pretty sure that Santa never  suffers  such  frustrations as  dealing with lousy drivers on traffic-clogged roadways  or worries about  the histories and mysteries of car horns  . That’s , probably , one of the things that makes him jolly .

Happy Christmas horns , everyone ! ( French horns, and cornets , and little toy toot toots…….)Cabin Dec. 2014 angelus oaks 059



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lights , action , Santa

I’m not sure what happened this year on our street . I put up Christmas lights and Ed, next door, did too and a  little while after that Don and Marie had someone put theirs up .  One more house across the street has some , too . But the rest of the street is dark . I mean , really dark .

Even that plastic inflatable Santa ( or is it a snowman ? ) that the family across the street always puts out on their front lawn is missing . No little sleigh either . Maybe he’ll show up later .  I doubt it , though .

My Christmas lights follow the rain gutters along the edge of our roof . I used to have icicle- type lights dripping , but hey , this is So Cal , after all . This is L.A.  We haven’t seen snow down here in the basin since I was a kid .  Icicles ? Snow on the roof and/or the front lawn ?  Who’s kidding who ?man 1923 florida

I added a few lengths of lights , too , maybe just to counter -balance the rest of the street . It all came out a little funky , slightly weird .  It has the  air of  chaos about it , a crazy look , an oddly formless configuration .  But , well , Ada didn’t object , and, as I always say :  it is what it is .  It’s unique , at least .

I’d never set up a lighted wire reindeer , maybe with a head that bobs slowly up and down . I’d never buy one of those pumps and put an inflatable Santa on the roof , or on the lawn . I don’t mind watching yours for a while  ; but , I’ll leave those pre-made projects up to you . Good luck !

Two streets east of mine is 5th Street in Monrovia. They , all along 5th , customarily , go all out at Christmas . The whole place is lit up and Christmas decorations and lights crowd the lawns . Plastic or wood Santas kneel at the feet of  mangers  where  plaster babies  Jesus rest . Nutcracker soldiers guard the fringes of the lawns . Reindeers hover , of course , and snowmen and elves and angels ; and,  for some reason,  brown bears do too . Well , bears  do wander Monrovia occasionally , so I suppose that’s the reason . Rather an  un-Christmasy  idea , but it makes sense .camel

I haven’t checked for wise men , but maybe I should . I’ll look tonight after dark . Maybe those dark -bearded Middle Eastern guys are intimidated this year , wary , and thought it wiser to keep a low profile . I’ll let you know .

Usually on 5th Street there is one , or maybe there are  two  houses that don’t decorate . But , this year , I noticed ,   there are several dark houses . What happened ?  No Christmas spirit ? Could Fox News have been right that  there has been a War on Christmas ? Have the Forces of Darkness taken over ?

Have the Chinese instituted an embargo on Christmas decorations and no one told me ? Isn’t that where most of the Santas and reindeer come from, after all  ? Shouldn’t the American government have started rationing Christmas lights and giant Santa sleighs already  ? How long can Americans make their inflatable snowmen last ? Are we not being told the truth ?

Can it all be blamed on President Obama ?    His weak response to North Korea ?  How dare he criticize Sony for not standing up to terrorism ! Shouldn’t we do a George W. on that corrupt Asian dictatorship ?  On the other hand , though , Sony is a Japanese corporation . Maybe Japan should step up to the bat on this one . We could have Santa , the real Santa , drop ” The Interview” DVDs all over North Korea . That’d  no  doubt punish the North Koreans  sufficiently for being such jerks .

But I digress .

Christmas started this year even before Thanksgiving . Santas were in the stores even then . Black Friday seemed even to almost have been a straggler .   Hordes of shoppers apparently forsook Thanksgiving to save a few bucks . Were they buying Christmas presents ?  I heard the local news  media make that claim .  I can’t think of anyone I know who went out that day to shop , though , so I won’t hold my breath for that giantly wide-screened  TV .

I guess , mainly , I’m just waiting for the after-Christmas sales . That’s when the real bargains come along .  Don’t tell the Black Fridays shoppers that , though . Let them find out for themselves .  What will I expect to get then for bargain -basement prices ? Should I tell you ? O.K. : Christmas decorations ! But please keep it under your hat .  These days , no information is safe .




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time and time again

I confess . I do not believe in time .  —– Nabokov


   At Virgil Middle School the bells sounded at odd times . Instead of 10:30 , for example , the bell would sound at 10:32 . No bell ever sounded at the hour , or at the half hour , or at the quarter hour . Always 10:32 , or 11:36 , or 3:14 . Better have a clock handy . The reason for this was that the state of California requires specific number of minutes taught in each subject per year and , so , the school system divides it all up and fits it into a schedule . A silly schedule , I think , but , a schedule . 

We all live on a schedule , I suppose . Some of us fit our minutes in one way , some of us in another .clock gothic wall 

    I’ve been thinking about time , lately . Big subject . Endless . There’s not enough time to cover the subject adequately . 

     My 94 year-old neighbor , Don , says he’s lived long enough . He says maybe he should have gone to Doctor Kevorkian instead of his regular doctor . But , Don’s mother lived to be 100 . I know that because I asked Don about it as soon as he mentioned Kevorkian . I guessed that Don’s  family probably have long life spans . I figured they did .  ” Just barely 100 ,” he told me . My guess held water . ( Held water ? ) I think Don has got some more time to go . 

     I had a neighbor , once , named Max. Max was an old guy who used to hobble slowly along  the city sidewalk a mile or more to a synagogue  every day and then back again . One day I was walking  Max across the street and I asked him how old he was . 

  ” I’m ninety-eight , ” Max said . 

  ” You gonna live to be a hundred ? ” I asked . It wasn’t rude , I hope . Just asking . 

  ” I hope not , ”  Max said . 

    He did , though , I think . A year or so later his daughter took him away from his apartment . No more living on his own for Max , I guess . That was thirty years ago or so . I think Max is gone now . I hope so . He’d hope so , too . 

I went to a restaurant that serves  ‘ Breakfast at Any Time ‘ .  So I ordered French toast during the  Renaissance . ——–Steven Wright queen of hearts

I saved two minutes yesterday . I have them in a clean glass bottle . Tight lid . Some day I’ll take them out and use them when I need a couple extra minutes . Maybe the school district should have done that , and then changed their   10:32 bell to 10:30 . But , I guess it doesn’t really matter . A bell schedule is a bell schedule . You can quote me on that . 

It takes a long time to become young . —— Pablo Picasso

       I’ll admit that I haven’t  dived into this  ‘time’  subject very deeply . Just a few amorphous rambling thoughts showed up . I’m sorry if I’ve wasted your time . I haven’t spent much time analyzing it all yet . I need to save some more time , put several more saved minutes into  my little bottle ,  so I will have enough time some day soon  to spend on the subject of time .

It all started when my dog started getting free rollover minutes. ——Jay Londonclock grd 2

     Maybe it doesn’t work that way , though . Maybe time can’t be saved . We have all these great and wonderful time-saving devices . What do we do with the time saved, though  ? We schedule other things . Then we sometimes wish that we had the old more carefree times back again . I’ll rethink this ‘time saved’  notion . I’ll open my bottle , check to see if the minutes are still any good . If they are , I’ll let you know . I’ll have some more  time , so I’ll  do that . 

How did it get so late so soon ? It’s night before it’s afternoon . December is here before it’s June . My goodness how the time has flewn ! How did it get so late so soon ? —-Dr. Seuss

clock 22



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The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once . —-Einstein


art pattern    I was reading a blog post today at No Facilities about …….about ……….    I was reading a blog post today . I’m not sure what it was about , but it brought to mind a variety of things : the old ‘good old days’ idea that things used to be better ;  Southern expressions ; technology developed to a point of near uselessness .  It was thought-provoking . It inspired me  to discuss time today . Stay with me , if you have a few minutes .

When I was a kid  we  “went out to play”  after school , as in (mother ) : ” Go out and play !”  We had to be back home for dinner , and dinner was at 6:00 . Don’t be late ! I don’t remember ever being late . But between about 3:00 and 6:00 we kids were on our own . “Playing”.

Sometimes we played Little League Baseball . Sometimes we organized impromptu  football or basketball games ,  or kickball games with all the neighborhood kids on the street near the Dolans’  house .  A little kid named R. J. Royce Chesum the Third lived in a house across the street from the Dolan house . I wonder what ever happened to R. J. Royce Chesum the Third . I wonder what ever happened to Mike Dolan , too .  Last I heard he was , I think , selling insurance .house robert bruno lubbock texas 1946

None of us had watches in those days . That gets to the point of this post . How did we judge time ?  How did we know it was 6  o’clock ?  Time didn’t matter at all until about 6 o’clock . Dinner .

My mother , in the earlier years , had a dinner bell that she would ring .  Maybe she only used it once , or maybe she used it for years ; I don’t remember ,  but I remember that bell . Our play range  had to have been smaller to remain within bell range , although the bell was pretty loud . Old Mrs. Ludke must have loved that bell , now that I think of it . Mrs. Ludke lived two doors down , and she didn’t like noise . She came out , no kidding , with a can of 3-in-one oil and oiled the kids’ tricycles so the wheels wouldn’t squeak so loudly . She would say that she  didn’t mind the noise , but it bothered her husband . I’m not sure that I ever saw her husband. He was always inside the house . Maybe he was a figment of ………….

Bells aside now , how does a kid tell time ?  We kids must have been able to do it , in the old days , without watches . Nowadays kids don’t generally have watches either , but they know the time if need be . They consult their smart phones . Easy .

In my case , there was sometimes an early warning system : Mr. Dolan would come home from work about 5:30 . The Dolan kids had a standing order that their  homework needed to be done by dinner time , which was soon after he got home .  When Mr. Dolan’s car turned the corner up the hill the Dolan kids would race into their house , hoping not to be spotted by their father . I’m sure that their  arithmetic problems or spelling words were spread out on the table by the time Daddy  opened the front door . Mike was probably making a show of helping his younger brother and sister with their work . Maybe Mike  was developing  a little initial sales talk as he  persuaded his father that all was well . Early practice for selling insurance later on ?

At other time , when we played in the canyons , for example , I think now that we must have just guessed at the time , knew the time pretty well from the look of the sky , the feel of the changes in the air , from natural clues . We told time from familiarity with the day , as farmers are able to . We used to could do that . Maybe . How else did we get home in time for dinner ?

When I began teaching , a colleague of mine , Joe , argued passionately for the elimination of school bells . No need to regiment children , he said .  ” Don’t you have an alarm clock that gets you up in the morning ? ” the principal asked , in rebuttal to the no-bells argument .  My friend said , no , no he didn’t . And that was true . But ,  Joe  lived near an oil refinery and , he told me later ,  the factory whistle woke him up every morning precisely at 7:05 .

I don’t like to go out , nowadays , without a watch on my wrist . As I think of that now , I am a little sad and disgusted . Joe was right . Why should we have to regiment our lives down to the minute ? Life as a kid was better with it’s lack of watches .

Well , maybe the school bells , even then , taught us regimentation and ruined our natural freedoms  after all !  We, most of us ,  ended up such slaves to schedules ! Damn bells ! ( Not yours , Mom. )ENGLAND sept 2014 201




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