Monthly Archives: November 2015


Things go wrong . Like the oven giving up the ghost the day before Thanksgiving . Ada and I had eleven people coming to dinner .

Things work out . Luckily our neighbor Marie offered her oven . She was going to her daughter’s for Thanksgiving dinner . Usually she hosts her family , but this year she only had to cook some sweet potatoes, she told us ,  and then the oven was ours .

We were up in the mountains the next day watching snow flakes swirl and fall . My cousin wanted to go see where Christopher Dorner , the murderous rogue cop , had died . She said that the cabin where the police finally cornered him was in Seven Oaks . I was driving , so we hopped into the car and drove through the snow to Seven Oaks , which was about eight miles away . reindeer ( SA-kuva archive )[photo from SA-Kuva archive]

I said that I have always heard that Dorner was cornered and killed in Barton Flats . My cousin had heard Seven Oaks . She got on her smart phone and asked Google , or whomever , for information .

Phones don’t like to give specific information when the snow is falling , I suspect ; maybe they hate to give bad news on such  magical days . Phones have feelings , too , maybe , and like to stay in a positive mood , despite questions about horrible events .

It may be a metaphysical thing , may have to do with what physicists call time’s arrow . The world moves along with or without you despite your random requests to revisit tragedy .

We were just curious , of course . Meant no harm . Merely wanted to be educated about the local history of our mountain , but the phone wasn’t cooperating .

The next day I struck up a conversation with Dave , who lives across the road . Dave rides his motorcycle around the area and has been living up on the mountain long enough to know the place pretty well .

” Dorner cabin , ” he said . ” I wouldn’t let my cats live in that place .   ” Hadn’t been lived in for twenty years , ” he said . ” Trees were growing up through the bottom of the pool , if that tells you anything , ” he said . ”  It’s torn down now because of the crowds of people coming to see it ,” he said .

” Like us ,” I said .

” Pool’s still there , though , ” he said , and when he said that I knew just where the cabin had been , down on Glass Road near Seven Oaks . I’d driven past a few times . My cousin’s info had been absolutely correct .

” We heard it was in Barton Flats . ”

” It’s considered part of Barton Flats , ” Dave said . ” Same mail delivery , but it’s actually in  Seven Oaks . “snow 1

We thanked Dave for the information .

” The owner of the cabin ( which was burned down during the shootout ) is suing for $ 450,000 ,” my cousin told Dave .

” They’ll give her ten thousand and tell her to go away ,” he said . ” She’s using a picture of the place from the 1950s , ” he said , and then he laughed. ” Before that shootout happened raccoons wouldn’t even have wanted to live there ” , he said .

We had had two people from Myanmar ( Burma ) to Thanksgiving dinner . One of them was exiled by the repressive government but hoped to go back . Hoped for a change in the government .

Another guy at the Thanksgiving table had been born and raised in Baghdad . His girlfriend , sitting next to him at the table , is from Paris . The woman reading her poetry across the table from them is a Holocaust survivor . She was in Auschwitz .

The table was loaded with food , of course , for the Thanksgiving celebration . My sister reminded us all , on this day , not to forget the native peoples . Everyone at the table , each in turn , told what he or she was thankful for . No one had to Google that information . eifel  tower



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I heard that old John Cleese , of Monty Python fame , has made several ads to promote philosophy . I like John Cleese . Ada and I went to see him in  a Culver City theater last year . He’s a hundred and two or three or more  but still going strong .

I couldn’t do ads for philosophy . It just wouldn’t be right . I understand philosophy just about as well as I understand poetry , which is to say not at all . Sorry , Poetry , but you’ll have to go on without me .

I went to see Charles Bukowski in Venice , CA , back in the late 70s   at the urging of my friend Joe , writer and poet , teacher of literature , etc. Bukowski was known as The Drunken Poet . He’d be drinking throughout his shows as he read his poetry and cursed and insulted his audience and continued until he eventually passed out . At that point the show was over . Joe , the poet , doesn’t remember the Bukowski show . Now Bukowski’s a big deal , but maybe not so much back then .

I took a philosophy class at UCLA . The class members discussed a chair, at the urging of the professor ,  for several hours . What you hear always is about contemplating your navel ; but what they really contemplate , in real life , is a chair . Philosophers contemplate chairs to death , evidently . Is the chair there ? How do we know that ? Let’s spend the next few hours discussing that in order to come up with an answer . When we get the answer , how do we know the answer is an answer ? Let’s discuss that . As you might imagine , I was really in to this —NOT .bad advicd

Logic is a part of philosophy , too .  I’ve never been very logical . I think I might have been  frightened by Logic when I was an infant . Maybe that’s it.  . I know that I was frightened by mathematics , but that’s another story . I like to believe I’m logical . Sometimes , no doubt , I am . It may be a statistical phenomenon , a random chance . I don’t know . The left side of my brain overtakes the right side ; or is it the other way around ?

I suspect that I nursed a case of autism from the early days  on . My first grade teacher suggested , evidently , to my parents that they consider psychological help for me . According to my mother , my father , an MD ( and a PhD ) wasn’t about to take the medical diagosis by a schoolteacher seriously . In those days , I think,  a lot of us kids we merely ” going through a phase ” instead of being seriously messed up .

I could write poetry to express my plight , if I were a poet , but I ain’t . I could philosophize , of course ; but with no decent grasp of philosophy I might just end up jabbering non-sensically about this or that .

Heh !Api and LACMA Oct. 2015 054

I appreciate poets , though , and , for that matter , philosophers . Well , in a distant sort of way , anyway . Everyone has a function . Without poetry where would we be ? Without philosophy who would know whether the chair is there or not ?  I know , I know , I’m being facetious and unfair . I’m compensating for a serious lack of this and that . .

If I were more of an intellectual I’d be getting angrier and angrier at the drift in this country , and the world , towards fear and intolerance , history-ignorance , zenophobia and mean-ness , hate speech and narrow-mindedness .shakespeareSometimes an attention deficit comes in handy .

I’m looking out for public service announcements about the value of poetry . John Cleese ? No. Then , who ?  Does it matter ? This may be a metaphysical issue beyond immediate concern . George Bernard Shaw 1905






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count your blessings

When the phone rings in my house it’s a salesman nine times out of ten . Maybe ninety-nine times out of a hundred . Well , more realistically , somewhere in between —– maybe forty-nine times out of fifty . Thirty-nine out of forty ?

The one this morning was a robot voice . I thought it was a real man for a few seconds . They’ve  really got the voice right , the cues pretty good . It started with :

” It has come to our attention that you have recently inquired about Social Security benefits . ”

No , not really . I haven’t . But go on .

” Is this Daniel  ? ”

“Yes . ”

carved indian face

” Good . ” (short pause ) .  This was my clue. The sound of  ‘good’ sounded just a little bit canned .

” Is this bigger than a bread box ? ” I said .

(short pause )   ” No. ”

” Does it take place in California ? ”

(short pause ) ” No. ”

At this point I walked close to Ada so that she could listen . She likes engaging these phone solicitors in endless conversation.

” Are there kangaroos involved ? ” I asked .

” I’m sorry , I didn’t quite get that , ” said the human-sounding robot . ” Could you repeat that . ”

” Are there kangaroos involved ? ”

Evidently , these robots don’t mind idiotic questions . It takes them a few seconds to find a response , but they have responses programmed for any eventuality , I guess .

My imagination was suddenly taxed , though . Could I come up with endless stupid questions to be answered politely by the robot voice ? How long could this go on ? four men depression era

Eventually the robot hung up on me . Maybe they’re under a time constraint . Business is business , after all , and time is money . depression photo man and truck.jpg

I was considering not posting something for Thanksgiving . I usually don’t do topical stuff . I leave that to others , who do so much better with those occasions than I could do .  But , this Thanksgiving I decided to violate my custom and give a little bit of Thanksgiving advice : COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS  ! You could have been a robot voice having to put up with some silly jerk asking endless and  annoying questions , getting nowhere ; but there you are having to put up with it , being robotically calm  , patient , and professional . We should be thankful for what we have . Others are worse off.








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snow und ice

Hail was falling in the mountains this weekend . It wasn’t a soft snow , not wind-swept drifting flakes dropping gently  earthward .  Hailstones clattered harshly on the metal chimney and vent covers on the roof .snow 1

I began thinking of the German lady who was my mean boss at the Town Talk Cafe .That’s how my mind works . Little bits from my memory  percolate up from time to time .  Anyway , that cafe job was my first real job , not counting mowing lawns and doing all sorts of odd jobs around the neighborhood . I mean , the Town Talk Cafe was a real live brick-and-mortar business .

I worked after school and Saturdays washing dishes . There were three or four tables in the place , but most of the customers sat at the counter and ordered coffee and donuts . On a good day a few people would order  hamburgers or a bowl of chili .

The German lady would yell at me for any little thing . She yelled that the apron I wore had dirt on it , that I had bent the handle of the little brush used for cleaning water glasses , that I had  put too much bleach in the rinse water . In a gutteral German accent . But  I put up with it and did my work for $1.20/hour  because it was a real job . I got a real paycheck every two weeks .

Meanwhile , overnight , the hail covered the mountaintop like a soft white snowy comforter . It looked soft and inviting and was beautiful , but it was hard and slippery and treacherous. I watched a white pickup truck race past and it never slid . That it didn’t slip or spin out didn’t make the driver any less of a fool , in my opinion .snow 2

One day the German lady brought a prospective customer back to the kitchen to show him around , a prospective customer to buy the place . He was a middle aged guy in a three-piece suit . The German lady walked him over to introduce him to me .

” And dis is my son Denny , ” she said to him . She meant the words to sift down like softly-settling  snow , but they struck  me hard , like hard-packed ice , slippery as could be .cafe sign

The weeks of being chewed out for everything under the sun flashed before my eyes as I watched her now playing the role of Little Miss Sunshine in the hope of selling the joint . She was all smiles and tender tones . I slowly took off my apron , with its dirty front , and  handed it to the boss . Then I turned to face the man .

” Sir , ” I said . ” I’m not her son and my name is not Denny .” The German lady  didn’t know how to respond with the three-piece suit man standing there . ” And I don’t work here any more , ”  I said .   I then turned and went out the rear door of the Town Talk Cafe and walked home .

It was a Saturday morning . My father was surprised to see me . I told him I’d quit .

Up at the mountain cabin with Ada and me was a young woman from Lichtenstein . She had told the story of her brother having been fired from a job . Ada told her story of quitting a job . The German lady popped into my mind . I feel a little sorry for anyone who’s never been fired from a job .three in snow

Snow provokes responses that reach right back  into childhood. —–Andy Goldsmith 






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uncertain , etc.

uncertain city sign e. texas

2 mice cartoon

guy taking bath stands

Los Angeles flood of 1938 (15) (1)

car early and wrecked
swinging bear


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hugh brown (2)

Well , I feel like writing a bit more about old Mr. Brown , the old codger who lived downtown LA , next to the 110 freeway . His old house , which he had designed himself , by the way , was torn down soon after he died . I don’t know if the State of California got all of his stuff or not . Maybe .

By the time I knew him the old place was shabby and worn. There were unpainted wooden steps up to the second floor where his living room and kitchen were .  The house was a simple design . Maybe it could be classified as in the streamline moderne style . Maybe. I’m not an architecture expert , however . Maybe it was a bit pre-moderne .  Now , of course , at any rate,  in the end , it’s post whatever it was . It’s gone and forgotten .

I know that old Mr. Brown had at least $80,000 in various banks , in T-bills . Those were the only statements I saw during a day that week that  I was over at his place . There may well have been several more that had come or were coming to the house . And he owned at least a few houses around  downtown LA . A couple of his properties were in south LA . Property tax bills began coming in . What else did he own ? He was clearly , as they used to say , loaded .

As they say in Poland , however  ,  coffins have no pockets .

He lived as a miser, that crochety old man  . I thought he was a poor old guy , barely scraping by , just eeking out a living on a quiet but questionable  edge of the city ; but I was wrong . He was an honest -to-god , dyed in the wool miser . A good one , too , I think . Api and LACMA Oct. 2015 076

He sold me a table once . It was covered by a half-inch of dust and had been lying in a quiet corner of his basement . I had spotted it and was interested . We bargained . I was cool ; disinterested .

” No , I’m not really looking for a table , ” I said .

” Fifteen bucks ,” he said .

It was a solid oak , octagonal dining table with a leaf underneath that swung up . The legs needed to be re-attached and glued , but that was easily done . It had been made in Los Angeles in the 1920’s and it was a wonderful table .  I kept it for several years and then,  because I needed the money , I  sold it for $ 90 to Rock Hudson’s agent , who bought it for Rock , he said . Rock didn’t have much time to enjoy it though , if it indeed ever got to him , because a few months later Rock Hudson was dead .

At the end of our individual sojourns we are all equal , the rich and the poor , the movie stars , the cops and the robbers , the Reagonites and  the Tea-Party folk ,  the Communists and the socialists , the capitalists and the hoboes , the highland Dutch and the lowland Dutch , the middle-of-the-roaders  and , of course , the Irish .girls holland early

st pat 1 sham


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hugh brown

He had been a lawyer and he had owned a mining company. In the old days , when street cars roamed the streets of L.A. When letters were addressed only to the person and the hometown and cost  two or three cents to mail . When mail was delivered in the morning and in the afternoon . When ancient half-blind and half-crazy old men were young , spry , and ambitious . And handsome  too , perhaps . Who knows ?

I read to old half-blind , half-crazy  Mr. Brown . The cantankerous old coot who built his house — right downtown — on what he said was a goldmine of a mineral deposit . Maybe he meant oil . Oil I would believe . Old Mr. Doheny knew it , too , and pumped the oil up like mad from the downtown LA ground in earlier days .  LA unified went to build a new and state-of-the-art high school across the road from Mr. Brown’s in the 1980s but  they hadn’t checked the leftover underground gasses and oil-field leftovers and the whole school project fell apart . Can’t have a school when poisonous gas might erupt from the ground at any time .

Old Mr. Brown lived right next to the 110 Freeway . He had a home-made billboard which faced the freeway and he’d spray-paint political messages for all the downtown commuters to read in an unsteady old-man script . Reagan Is Right . Love It or Leave It .Get the Commies Out . 

Brown was a right winger , but he had a photo of himself sharing a piano stool with Harry S. Truman that stood framed on top of an  old piano .  The S stood for nothing , by the way , but Harry thought it sounded better for an up-and-coming young guy to have a middle initial . . Oh , Hugh Brown also wrote music . I guess I didn’t tell you that yet .  He had a few of his pieces published .two men near train (old)

He dictated a long letter , once , to an old friend of his in Scottsdale , Arizona . How’s business ? How is the wife ? But he gave me no address .

” You need a street , Mr. Brown . What’s the number and the street ? ”

He turned cranky , all of a sudden . One of his cranky moods .

” Just Scottsdale , Arizona , ” he growled . ” Everyone in town knows him ! ”

” When’s the last time you were in Scottsdale , Arizona , Mr; Brown ? ” , I asked. And then it came , of course , the answer that revealed his growing dementia .

” 1914 “.  Sure . 1914.

” It’s changed since then , ” I said , but he insisted we send it , anyway . Everyone in town knows him . I thought the long-ago friend from 1914  had probably been dead for decades , anyway , but I sent the letter . It came back , of course , a few days later , marked  ” no known address ” .

I read to the old coot because he was near-blind . I caught him once with a spray can of insecticide , his face about as close as a person could get to a wall without being part of the paint or the wallpaper . ” I think I see one , ” he said , as if the great hunter had spotted his prey off on the far horizon . The wall was completely covered with black ants . Covered . But , Mr. Brown thought he’d seen one . Maybe he had , after all . Maybe he had .

I felt sorry for the old miser . He was all alone . His friends and relatives had died off , I suppose , if he indeed had any friends . Perhaps not . He was a cantankerous old beast as an old man . Maybe he’d always been an S.O.B. and gone it alone all along .

I used to walk him down to LA’s Central Market and he’d buy a few cheap vegetables . Poor old man , I used to think , until his property tax bills began arriving at the house , and his several T-bill bank statements ;  but , that’s another story .


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