Monthly Archives: October 2021

can I edge your lawn ?

Here it is Halloween and while I was sweeping up near the curb out front my mind wandered back several years to another Halloween when I lived in Hollywood . So I wiped the memory off a little bit after rescuing it from my mind’s murk and I want to relate the story here.

I had an old house in east Hollywood , not too far from where old Charlie Manson sent his evil flunkies to murder the LaBianca’s . I think Katy Perry fought a legal battle with some nuns over the same house a couple of years ago , but I could have got the properties mixed up . I think the nuns won and kept the house , but if you ask me tomorrow I might say I seem to recall that the singer won . Doesn’t matter . Doesn’t really even matter to Katy Perry , if you ask me . She can afford to make other plans . Don’t ask me about the nuns . Never argue with nuns ( they’re married to Jesus , after all ) .

My house had a nice little front porch , a wide front walk that led straight to the sidewalk , and two patches of lawn with a palm tree on each one .

One day a guy who lived a few doors up the street with his mother saw me and asked if I wanted him to edge my lawn . I didn’t really know him , but we had had a couple of short conversations over the years . I agreed to his out-of-the-blue suggestion and thought that he might do the deed the next day , but he didn’t . A few more days went by and I figured that he either had forgotten or had been in an alternate sense of reality when he had made the offer . A month went by with no lawn edging and I forgot about the whole thing .

And then came Halloween . I got home late from work , just as it was getting dark , and I was tired , and I had to get ready for trick-or-treaters , so I decided to clean up the sidewalk the next day . Evidently the guy had come along that day and edged the lawn along the sidewalk . Dirt had been kicked up all along the sidewalk . I went out the next day and swept it up .

A few days later the lawn-edging neighbor walked by while I sat on my porch . He made a point of stopping to yell insults at me and to chew me out for leaving all of that dirt out there on Halloween night so that the kids had to walk over it . Given , the neighbor is obviously mentally challenged , so I think I offered a heartless apology and left it at that . I didn’t explain to him how I had arrived home late , etc. I didn’t tell him that it might well have been his job to clean up after himself . I just thought : it takes all kinds , and I forgot about the whole thing .

And then , some days or weeks later I happened to be on the front porch again with a friend of mine when the same neighbor walked by . He stopped and asked politely if I wanted him to edge my lawn again .

I have to admit that I can put up with a lot , but there comes that final straw , and this was it . I cursed the guy out and told him with a few choice profanities to , basically , go away and do not ever ask me about the lawn again .

Now , at least in those days , I almost never cursed . My friend listened and was extremely shocked . ” Dan , he’s trying to be nice to you !” , he said , trying to mediate the situation . I’m sure he thought that I had suddenly gone off the deep end . That friend was a profanity user big time , as I remember , but I had momentarily out-done him, I guess . He’s probably still wondering what that moment in time was all about , what had come over me . After all , the neighbor was just trying to be nice .

The neighbor used to continue to walk past my house after that , but he never again stopped and never again asked me any questions with any more offers to do me any more favors . He had that much sense . He may to this day still be telling his friends ( I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have any , though , ) about his crazy neighbor . Fair enough .

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truth

I’ve been trying to keep up on the news . Most of my info comes from the internet these days .

Okay ! , I hear you say judgmentally , because so much utter crap comes along on the internet masquerading as fact and truth .

” You don’t have to believe me ,” my neighbor said to me after spinning some exceedingly weird tale and claiming that it was absolutely true . ” Google it !”

When I was dean in a couple of inner-city Los Angeles schools in charge of student discipline I got used to listening to lies . But children never lie , people used to say . Maybe they were never kids. They might have learned something if they’d showed up at my little office and listened to kids sent out of class for discipline problems .

Or is it just me ?

I had my own set of strategies to deal with kids’ lies ( and rarely , but sometimes , their parents’ lies . Oh , and even more rarely , but also sometimes , teachers’ lies ).

The most interesting to me ,in a way , were the in-trouble students who wanted to profess their innocence but who really didn’t want to lie . Their protestations were usually quite dramatic and they inevitably would launch into them as if there were no tomorrow . These ones would spin a story that usually tried to hug the truth but mugged it instead. Maybe they wanted me to think that they were good little beings even though they knew that what they had done they shouldn’t have done . Or worse , maybe they were lying to themselves , persuading themselves that they really hadn’t done anything wrong .

I would first have them stop their in-progress tales . ” I don’t have time to listen to your story about what a good person you are , how there was a horrible misunderstanding , how your mother loves you , et cetera ,” I would say . ” I am very busy and I have several problems to deal with and lots of students to punish ,” I would say ,” so if we could just discuss what happened and how we should deal with it , it would save time .” I was calm . I needed their help .

The riled- up students would usually calm down and sit back in the chair . Then they would matter-of-factly give me the bare facts of the situation . And we would talk about it for a short time . ” Why would the teacher get so upset with that behavior ?” I might ask , and they would tell me. ” Oh , because you do this every day ,” I might conclude , and they would agree . ” So , what should we do about it ? ” I might ask , and we would usually arrive at an adequate solution . Or the student would sometimes answer , ” Because she /he ( the teacher who had sent her/him out ) has a lot of trouble -makers in that class ” , or they might say : ” Because I’m not learning anything in that class .”

Often the misbehaving student actually , underneath , wanted to learn ; didn’t want to waste time . Most people are good , or try to be . Their noble goals they pursued in the wrong manner , of course ; but often they would have noble goals . I tried to make them aware of that . Sometimes it worked .

Most people are good , but the message out there in the atmosphere tells us a different tale , and we quickly set up our defenses against what we see as a malicious world and we act accordingly . We see a lot of trouble-makers in the class , and we have the deep-down feeling that we’re not learning anything .

I’m glad that I’m out of that business now , though , especially with the decrepit state of the notion of truth these days .

I can’t really figure out how to deal with the tsunamis of nonsense sweeping over the country these days .

I was talking sense with a friend of mine yesterday out in the backyard . It was relaxing and a palpable relief sharing general views with someone who sees things as I do. Then he said , ” Of course they all look at us and think the same thing .”

No , it’s not thinking , I choose to think . It’s spewing the nonsense they’ve picked up from the internet and from others who have views that they share and that they choose to believe in , who have views that reflect theirs , distorted as they might be , like in a house of mirrors .

Ah , but what do I know ! Carry on !

Will Rogers said ,” I only know what I read in the papers .” (Papers ? Did he mean newspapers ? Uh oh ! )

But don’t take my word for it . Google it ! ( I only know what my true algorithm sends me .)

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halloween

I got another notification today that it is a friend of mine’s birthday . Do I want to wish him happy birthday wishes ? Facebook is asking . I would like to , but the guy died five or six years ago , so wouldn’t it just be a waste of time to offer him birthday wishes on FB ? I’m not sure how the afterlife works , so I have a slight urge to write a message to him despite his passing . Nice to see his picture , at any rate .

I have a final e-mail from another friend of mine . He passed away about five years ago too . He wrote a nice message , mentioned that his cat was sitting on a small Mexican blanket that I gave to him and his wife about forty years ago before they were married . I was surprised that they still had that blanket . To be honest , I don’t even remember giving it to them , but they told me a few years ago that they use it for picnics and always think of me when they do . They call it the Dan blanket . Nice .

No more picnics for this guy , sadly , but his last message to me sits somewhere in my computer , waiting for me , I guess , to make a decision about what to do with it . I won’t delete it , but what’s the sense of holding on to it ? Well , it’s a nice memory whenever I read it , but added to that is a slightly uneasy feeling that the words are somehow coming now from beyond the grave .

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I guess it’s got me thinking a little about Samhain , the Irish origin of Halloween . As far as I know , that’s the day of the year in Irish lore when the world of the living and the world of the dead are closest in proximity . There are inevitable crossovers . The reason for disguising oneself as a demon or a ghost or some form of goblin is so that the world of the dead thinks you’re one of them and you thereby avoid being taken into that other world , because they like to grab hapless unsuspecting mortals to take into their world . That’s how I heard it , anyhow .

I’m not sure what happens when you’re dressed as Barbie or some Disney cartoon , or a sexy nurse or Superman . However I’m not sure that the old rules apply . I imagine the world of the dead has given up our crazy world for dead long ago anyway .

My mother always dressed us boys on Halloween as hoboes . We wore old clothes and my dad’s worn out suit coats and mom burned a cork and rubbed the resulting soot on our faces . Evidently that was enough to discourage the world of the dead raiders from taking any of us . Maybe I got the century wrong , though , and the old Samhain rules no longer applied to us then anyhow . We were only after the candy , anyway .

Also in Irish lore is the idea of transitions from the animal world to the human world . Seems to me I heard about a shape-shifting story of a beautiful young woman who was shape-shifted into a swan . You could see it was the same being because the woman wore a distinctive golden necklace and , of course , so did the swan , which is , after all , a weird idiosyncrasy for a bird . It so happened that the creature was a woman only one day a year . Yeah , on Samhain .

Pity the poor young guy ( yes, of course there was one ) who met her on Samhain and fell in love with her . Well , he figured out why she so suddenly disappeared when he saw the swan wearing the gold necklace and he eventually learned , as I remember the tale , to deal with it . One day a year of bliss is better than none at all —– or , something like that . As my Danish friend Ivan says because his wife has been away in Australia for awhile now : ” It’s so hard to be alone ; and so easy .”

Now I can’t figure out how the beautiful woman didn’t get kidnapped by the world of the dead during her only day in human form . Seems like she would have made an attractive target . Did she dress up in old rags , or a ghost or goblin costume to avoid capture ? There things get a bit foggy .

No , I’m not going to delete my friend’s final message about his cat sitting on the Dan blanket , and I’m not going to write a Facebook happy birthday greeting to the other friend . I somehow doubt they have Facebook in heaven , or let’s say at least , in the world of the dead ; but who knows .

I think I’ll just wear old clothes on Halloween in remembrance of days long ago , remember old souls now passed , and call it a day . I have several old corks saved , but I think I’ll skip the soot-on-the-face thing .

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horizon

I drifted across

a sea of groaning barking seals

belching

into their sea-sick bags

on the boat

eyes down in defeat

and retching rolling barfing

desperate hollow souls.

Follow the horizon , my friend said,

not the rolling sea or rocking boat .

The horizon is steady

and it stays there still holding

the wretching world guts in line .

I have to leave you

holding the bag

to face the wind and spray

and watch the horizon

holding steady

though always

away

and elusive.

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beer

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images

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skull rock

There are several good hiking trails around Los Angeles , and Ada decided that we need to explore some of them . Good idea .

I chose the first one to kick off our new routine of one hike a week . It’s a popular hiking spot nowadays , but when I was a kid and lived a half-mile or so from there , it wasn’t . Just off of Sunset Blvd. in Pacific Palisades is an area that we always knew as the Presbyterian Conference Grounds . A few rustic stone buildings sat at the mouth of Temescal Canyon . Palisades High School was built in the 1960s just across Sunset from the Conference Grounds in what was a wild place when I was young , with a stream running through it to the ocean . We used to wander around there after school , hunting for frogs , catching lizards , and just being kids .

There was one trail in those days beyond the Conference Grounds that led uphill , past the upper parts of the stream , and past the scattered buildings . High up on the trail was a place of great intrigue and trepidation to us kids , Skull Rock . I was up there once when I was about eleven with a group of friends . Skull Rock was a large rock outcropping shaped somewhat like a human skull . Rumor had it that the height of bravery was to hike up to Skull Rock and spend the night up there . Some kid had slept in the mouth of the skull , it was said . He was a legend , whomever he was and whether or not he ever existed .

I made it up to Skull Rock once with a group of friends when I was about eleven . It probably was a summer day . We slogged up and then back down before dark , always with an eye out for frogs and lizards , avoiding the possibility of poison oak and rattlers . I don’t know if my parents had given me permission or not to head up there . When I think of it , I can’t imagine my father ever okaying it , unless we were accompanied by the local scoutmaster or the pastor of our church. My mother may have been aware of and granted permission for the journey , but I kind of doubt it . We probably said that we were playing baseball at the park for the day . Anyway , I remember thinking that the rock didn’t look much like a skull to me . Otherwise , I don’t much remember the hike .

Nowadays there are a couple of trails in Temescal Canyon that go through and beyond what may still be Presbyterian conference grounds . There are several more buildings now , some numbered cabins lined up that were not there all those many years ago . It is all part of a State Park now , and the trails have become popular and crowded . Ada and I went on a weekday to avoid crowds and the trail was nevertheless packed with other hikers . Parking , by the way , cost twelve dollars and there is plenty of it . We , of course , parked across Sunset on the road for free . Twelve dollars ? Come on !

I asked an older man with a cane who was slowly coming down a path some questions about the area . He looked to me like he would be familiar with the place , a regular visitor . Yeah , he knew the trails and the area . He knew Skull Rock , too . He gave me complicated directions to follow the main trail , then across the bridge veer to the right off the main trail . He tried unsuccessfully to show me a map on his phone .

We met two other younger hikers coming down the trail and I asked each of them about Skull Rock. They were both familiar with the place and gave me similar directions as had the older man. So Ada and I had a goal , to get to Skull Rock.

It’s a long way up . I was sweating like a little piggy , and I somehow remembered all of a sudden that hike when I was eleven , too , being a personal struggle to keep going . For an old man and a kid it’s a long way up and a hard slog . People in their twenties passed us at a fast clip , a couple of them running . An iron bridge that Ada and I crossed over along the way that spanned a particularly deep ravine wasn’t there when I was young . We kids would have had to climb down and then back up . Ah , memories !

We had to force ourselves to reach Skull Rock , but we made it . From a distance the rock does indeed look like a skull . Up close , not so much . I told a young guy who had half-jogged up there and was now looking the place over that this was my second time at Skull Rock . I could have doubled his age , subtracted that number from 2021 , and still have come up short of the time when I was last up here .

Maybe I had no business being up at Skull Rock , too much to ask of an old geezer . Maybe I shouldn’t have been up there when I was a kid , either . Another man , a more adventurous soul , might make a plan in his old age to finally stay up there for the night , to sleep in the mouth of the skull . Not me .

By the way , the mouth of the skull is all graffitied up . Some ( expletive ) went to the trouble of carrying a can of black spray paint up there in order to fulfill the twisted need to deface part of the wilderness . I always wonder about the mentality of people who do that .

I told the young guy who was up there at the same time that we were about the childhood dare about sleeping in the mouth of the skull . He smiled at me politely and said something about that being a scary idea what with all of the wild beasts around and such . He was probably just wondering how an old dinosaur like me had even made it up there in the first place . My childhood to him is ancient history .

Hiking down was a lot easier than hiking up . We took another look for the dry waterfall that had been mentioned by the first man with the cane and that had also been marked along the trail on a post with an arrow and a .4 . We didn’t see it . I told Ada it was a bit like the old Maine farmer’s advice to ” turn right when you come to the old red schoolhouse that burned down ten years ago ……….”. There was no waterfall since there was no water in the stream . Ada and I each had our own idea of where the waterfall probably was and may well be again someday . We’ll have to wait until it rains for me to prove to her that I’m right . Until then , Ada is right . Happy wife , happy life .

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