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from our balloon

one from the archives

cartoon wood burning stove

cartoon devil and greek warrior.pngcartoon from our ballooncartoon devil in long coatIMG_3077


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important things

On a main Szczecin street that leads to the castle near the river is a bright little coffee place . Ada and I were sitting in there yesterday with a couple of friends sipping our teas and coffees and shooting the breeze . Ada has known this couple since she was working in Poland before she came to America . I met them back in 1992 on my first trip to Poland . Michal met me at the train station and I stayed with him , his wife Roma , and their young son in their tiny but cozy apartment for a few days . Ada was back in Los Angeles but I was wandering for awhile around a bit of Europe. I stayed with the mother of a Danish friend of mine in Humleboek , Denmark , for a night or two and then went to Switzerland to visit a musician friend of mine , an American guy from New York , who lived in Switzerland at the time .

I had lost his address and couldn’t get him on the phone when I was in Denmark . His manager told me by phone that he thought my friend was in Spain . I decided to haul off to Switerland anyway . I told my Danish host that I was sure that I’d find him . He played in Montreux so I’d go there . She poo pooed the idea , called me a ” silly American ” , said she’d been to Montreux and so she knew that I had no chance of finding him without more information . After I got a pension room in Montreux I walked the main drag , saw the Western Saloon , went in and saw a publicity poster behind the bar of my friend and asked a waitress a few questions about him . You see, he was playing country western stuff at that time , so the Western Saloon was a good bet . And I was lucky , of course . I sent my Danish friend’s mother in Humleboek a photo of my friend and me from somewhere in Switzerland .

Okay . So now we should get back to Poland and the little coffee place .

I don’t know how the topic ever came up in our conversation , but the former ship’s officer mentioned a nail clipper of his that he had lent to another officer aboard ship . At the end of the cruise he asked the man to return it . It happened to be a good one and he treasured it . The other officer said that he no longer had it , but that he would buy him another one . My friend told him to shove it up ………well, you know . He wanted that one back , not just any nail clipper .

I understood exactly what my friend meant . Haven’t you ever had something , maybe of little actual value but that was in some special way important to you ? I’ve had some things like that .

One was a heavy corduroy jacket of mine. My mother had gone shopping with me and she bought it for me as a high school graduation gift , I think . I liked it . After some time , though , I went to a college party and forgot the jacket at the party . When I went back the next day the jacket was gone . No trace .

Over the next few months , people told me to buy another jacket . The thing was , though , that I had a strong feeling that I’d get my jacket back , so I didn’t go out and get another jacket . In Los Angeles area that kind of a stategy is possible ; it usually doesn’t get cold enough to need more than a sweater . So I waited . Had a vague feeling about my cordurouy jacket .

I was working at the time cleaning a couple of student apartment buildings near UCLA . One day I was upstairs in one of them , broom in hand , daydreaming a little and looking out the window . I saw a guy coming toward the building , walking down Gayley Avenue . He was about my size , maybe a little bigger , and I had the feeling that the jacket he was wearing was mine .

I hurried downstairs . I’m not sure what my plan was . As I got to the lobby area near the mailboxes the guy stepped off the sidewalk and climbed the few steps up into the lobby . He began looking at the mail boxes . I approached him.

” Nice jacket ,” I said . He thanked me . ” Can I see it ? ” I asked , and he took it off and handed it to me .

I know ; that sounds unlikely ; but it’s exactly what happened . I checked the jacket to verify that it was indeed mine . There had been a small repair on the inside of mine . Ah ! The repair was there !

I took a small pack of saltines out of one of the pockets and handed it to him . “What are you doing ? ” he said .

” This is my jacket ,” I told him . At that point he could have beaten the crud out of me and taken the jacket back ; but he didn’t .

” I’ve had it for six months ,” he said .

” That’s when I lost it ,” I said , and he immediatly and completely capitulated . So , not only did I get my cordurouy jacket back as I had the strange feeling that I would , but the guy who had it more or less walked it over and delivered it to me . No lie .

Now , I never got my special rolling pin back , but that’s another story .

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First , I need to pass along some interesting information . Well , it’s interesting to me ; and I have blogger pal , ECD ( East Coast Dan ) who might also be interested . Not that it’s a piece of vital intel , not that it’s even a bit of useful info ; but I think he’d be interested anyhow . Maybe no one else ; but I should put this out now that I’m thinking of it ; otherwise I’ll forget to mention it .

Those self-serve registers have popped up in Poland as well as in the US and , I imagine , most everwhere else too . They seem to be spreading in Szczecin , where I now am . Another time for a discussion of the evils or benefits of this self-serve system . I know people who like ’em and people who hate ’em . Worth an intelligent discussion — so I will leave it alone .

So here’s the thing in Sczcecin : A guy can buy liquor at the self-serve register here .

Can’t do that in California . There have been plenty of times when I changed my mind at the last minute and decided not to buy the beer in the market because the customer lines were just too long . Not worth the wait. Most often the self-serve places were open with no one waiting ; but you can’t buy beer at those registers in the US . My stepson was scrutinized even when he tried to buy a bottle of margarita mix at a self-serve spot in Ralph’s Market in Arcadia . The clerk decided after some investigation that he could buy it at the self-serve register after all since it in fact contains no alcohol . The incident , although mildly noteworthy , wasn’t too traumatic and no one that I know of needed psychological therapy afterward ; no problem that a margarita or two wouldn’t fix .

So , how about that ! In Poland alcohol can be purchased at the self-serve register . Don’t tell the teenagers of my generation that ! The world could have been headed for certain disaster . Like , what ? , like we would’ve been on the eve of destruction ?

I should admit at this point that , beyond that first point spoken of above , there is in fact no second point , or third , etc. I should mention it because you’ll find out at any rate anyhow . Sorry about that if you had been expecting something else . But , you know , life is short , so let’s get on with it !


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st. clements school was once here

A rehash of an old story . St. Clements was on Hampton Drive . The new LA major , Karen Bass , is finding indoor places to house the hoards who have set up tents to live on Hampton especially to get them out of the recent rains . And on we go .


Terry , the principal , tried to save the little school once . He called the Archdiocese and asked for money . Someone had told him that the parishioners of the parish , over the last sixty years , had raised money to build a new church . Most of the money had been collected in the twenties and thirties when the neighborhood was still posh . It was right on the edge of Abbott Kinney’s Venice by the Sea .

The amusement aspect of Venice went out of style , though , and the neighborhood went down fast . Eventually most of the Venice canals would be filled in and asphalted over and the little vacation cottages would begin to go to seed and people with money would go somewhere else .

” How much money are we talking about ?” I asked Terry . He told me two…

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Today we met a couple of friends to explore the PRL museum in the city . PRL is an acronym I’ve never heard of before a few days ago . Now I find out it’s been around all the time . There’s even a PRL museum in Szczecin now . Everyone but me , evidently , are already aware of the acronym. Have been forever . I just , after coming to Poland for over 30 years , ain’t never hoid of PRL before a few days ago . Not very observant , I guess . Well , that’s true , of course . Nothing new there . ( Unless they’re all trying to gaslight me . )

Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa

Now , aren’t you sorry you asked ? Oh , you didn’t . Yeah , that’s right , of course Sorry . But here we go , nevertheless : onward and upward . Feel free to bail at any moment.

Ada and the two friends we met for the museum visit all grew up in the PRL . The museum displayed lots of artifacts from those days in Poland . It was , in a way , a re-visit to some of their childhood : school books , kitchen things , furniture typical of the time , decorative items . Ada visualized her aunt’s things , dishes , furniture , glassware , as she looked around since some of the artifacts on display were so similar to the things that her aunt owned , and that her mother had , that Ada and I have here and there in our home , things brought from Poland . Our friend saw a class photo of an elementary school class that she , at first , thought was her class . No , though , it wasn’t . So they each had a nostalgic trip back to their childhoods .

When I began this post I had intended to explain what PRL means , to provide something of an erudite explanation of the term . I consulted Google , but Google was evidently in a foul mood that day , and wasn’t in the mood to help me out . I began reading the Wikipedia writeup under PRL . The first several paragraphs sunk me immediately into the convoluted Polish political history after WWII . No , I think there was something about the 1920s and 1930s in there also . I didn’t see Pilsudski’s name . I know some Polish history . I was waiting for Pilsudski to show up . No . Those introductory paragraphs threw me deeply into the post 1944 Polish government . Workers’ party . 1952 . I wasn’t patient enough for the lesson at that moment .

Stalin .

Although Poland was never part of the Soviet Union , Stalin had his influence there . An older man who was Ada’s scout leader when she was young told me years ago that Stalin had ordered Szczecin , Ada’s home city , to send materials to Moscow , machinery and other things in order to rebuild Moscow after WWII . Szczecin was way down on the list of rebuilding , even though much of the city had been destroyed during the war . This former scout leader was part of the management of the shipyard in Szczecin at the time . He said that whatever Moscow ordered to be sent from the shipyard they would load onto trains to ship out , but that the Poles always found a way to sabotage the stuff . The equipment would go out on time but vital parts were clandestinely left out , or somehow surreptiously broken , so that when the machinery arrived in Moscow it wouldn’t work , couldn’t be made to work . My observation is that the revitalizing and renewal of the city of Szczecin never really began until about fifteen or twenty years ago . It is a different place from the place I saw when I first visited here in 1991 . Night and Day .

So , on we go with the PRL explanation . I would have loved for the Wikileaks , sorry ! , Wikipedia article to have told me right up front a beginning and an end date of the PRL . It was , basically , the era of time during which Ada was born and raised in Szczecin . Had it begun in 1944 ? 1952 ? I sunk so far down into the political weeds trying to understand the Wikipedia story that I eventually gave up . I read several paragraphs , then tried to skim several more , then began reading the next few . Trying to comprehend. Now that I’m thinking of it , I am somewhat reminded of my experience trying to comprehend 10th grade chemistry . So I gave up . Never understood chemistry no matter how much I tried and I think this was more or less the same kind of experience.

I had some trouble sleeping last night . My uncharateristically restive mind began feverishly churning up my entire childhood , with vivid detail , stirring up a multitude of memories , some of them obscure , as my tired old bod lay listlessly half-asleep , helplessly waiting . Oh , if I were to start a museum that put on display the era of my childhood , my heartless mind proposed , what would I have on display ?

I’d start with the two plastic models of ships that my brother Tom and I ordered using two box tops from some breakfast cereal and fifty cents . I got a model of the USS Missouri , the Might Mo . It was sleek . Tom got some WWII heavy cruiser , about the same size as mine . I liked mine better . I think Tom did too . We went over to the local Hobby Shop to buy glue to put the thing together . I’d put a photo of the Hobby Shop in there , too . I’d include at least one of those 5 cent balsa wood gliders that we used to buy there .There was a 15 cent balsa wood glider , too , but the cheaper ones flew better anyway , and you could buy three of them for the price of the bigger glider . I’d put one of those heavy aluminum ice trays in my museum , too . The kind that had the lever to release the cubes . The kind that I got my tongue stuck to when I tried to ( not being a world-renowned genius ) lick the bottom of it once . Well , to my credit I have to say that I did that only once . My mom had to come to the rescue . My tongue remembered the agony of that mistake . Well , these were the kinds of things my for some reason suddenly frenetic mind was reviewing last night , bringing ruthlessly to my attention , instead of letting me sleep .

I have to give up this effort to discuss PRL . To post about the PRL . PRL. PRL. PRL . Blame it on short attention span , I guess.

I can see the jar of mosquito larva on a living room shelf swimming around when I was small . Well , not so much swimming as contracting , tightening up and then immediately loosening . I had brought them into the house thinking that they were tadpoles — odd tadpoles , but tadpoles . Even then I wondered why the tadpoles ( not ! ) that I had caught in the canyon stream had such wierd and uncharacteristic jerky movements . For days swarms of mosquitos mysteriously were showing up inside the house as my tadpole supply mysteriously diminished . Ah , but eventually I figured it out ! Well , they looked the same to me at the time . I can put two and two together . It may take awhile , but I can do it . I don’t know how one would display that bit of lore in a museum , however , but it might make a worthy exhibit .

My advice : go to a museum to revisit the old days and feel the tug of nostalgia for childhood days . Don’t lie half-awake thinking about the old days for most of the night . That’s more of a drag. Just saying .

Oh , and I’d put an Oscar Myer weiner whistle in my museum , too . And a yo-yo . And a Mr. Potato head , the one where you had to use a real potato , and…………………………


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