Hemingway Two

The Nick Adams Stories

Most writers about Hemingway conclude that The Nick Adams Stories, while fiction, are thinly disguised autobiography.  We touched briefly on some of those stories in the previous paper, and now have the opportunity of forming further insights into Hemingway by virtue of these stories.

It seems that the book of this title was recently published posthumously – in 1999 – if I read the copyright page correctly, and it contains stories previously published in Hemingway’s life, plus some stories and fragments, never published before at all.  And for the first time, all of these tales are arranged in the order of Nick’s chronological life (and hence of Hemingway’s) as well.

If you are reading the book, the new material is set in oblique type, a kind of italics, to differentiate it from the previously published content.  In chronological order the stories are as follow.  Italics identifies the new material.

Three Shots
Indian Camp
The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife
Ten Indians
The Indians Moved Away
The Light of the World
The Battler
The Killers
The Last Good Country
Crossing the Mississippi
Night Before Landing
Nick Sat Against the Wall . . .
Now I Lay Me
A Way You’ll Never Be
In Another Country
Big Two-Hearted River
The End of Something
The Three-Day Blow
Summer People
Wedding Day
On Writing
An Alpine Idyll
Cross-Country Snow
Fathers and Sons

“Three Shots” we commented on earlier, and rereading suggests one more thing, Hemingway’s fascination with the wild.  He doesn’t start his childhood stories with Twain-like tales of school mates and pranks.  Twain died in 1910, and so was alive when Hemingway was young.  It is probable that Hemingway read Huckleberry Finn in school or from the Oak Park library.

It is interesting to note that Hemingway is never humorous; sometimes he’s sarcastic, but never with the purpose of making the reader laugh – which is often the motivation of Twain.  So we start Hem off with the frightened youth in the Michigan forest; the first in a lengthening string of threatening situations, culminating with the bullfight, or bullets and bombs in war.

There is one story about Nick as a wounded soldier in the Italian army called Now I Lay Me, that contains many youthful memories.  Indeed, the title itself is the beginning of a child’s nightly prayer that is likely one that Hemingway, as a youngster, recited.  Also, the story might really belong with some other of the adolescent stuff – like The Last Good Country – and so I’d like to discuss it first.

Of course, Hemingway was wounded as an ambulance driver for the Italians in WWI, when he was a quite young adult, so one might expect the story to carry much truth.  Strangely, the story is mostly about Nick’s fear that his soul will leave his body if he goes to sleep in the dark.  So, Nick goes to great lengths not to fall asleep in the dark.  He has this fear because he felt as if this were happening to him when he was “blown-up” (and Hem was blown-up in his legs when he was wounded), but Nick struggled successfully to keep his soul in his body.

I have known men who quite seriously confided to me that “soul travel” has happened to them, sometimes called “out-of-body experience” or “astral planing.”  It hasn’t happened to me, but then I don’t think I have a soul like that.  For a wounded soldier, such a sensation certainly might be frightening, because once the soul leaves the body, the body may be dead, if, of course, the soul can not return, as many who report the phenomenon say it can and does.

Nick is only afraid of this happening to him if he goes to sleep in the dark.  If there is light, artificial or daylight, he feels he can prevent it, but not in the dark.  One wonders if such thoughts bothered Hemingway.  His whole lifework, one way or another, concerns fear – bravery and cowardice – and what to do about it.  Hemingway was raised Christian – protestant, but Christian – which implies a belief in an afterlife.

Before he married his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, a Catholic, he converted to Catholicism.  I don’t know how he squared his divorce from Hadley with the Church, but maybe his conversion made his first marriage null and void.  In spite of my eighteen years of Catholic education, I don’t know just how that works, but I can imagine that Hemingway was not sincere about it anyway, and I’ve never read anything after that to lead me to think he was very committed to Catholic orthodoxy.

In fact, there is one place in Death in the Afternoon where he says that the belief that humans have “immortal souls” is why severely injured bull-fighters are not put out of their misery like bulls and horses are.  Hemingway doesn’t seem to share that belief.  There may be other places in his fiction where this dilemma is considered, but I haven’t encountered it yet.

We must remember that Hemingway killed himself, in 1961, with his mouth covering the barrels of a shotgun (I have heard), so there would be a clear outcome to his action and no possibility of earthly survival.  He must have settled his mind about the matter of soul travel by then, and I suspect he didn’t expect an afterlife.  But many in our world do.  Hemingway’s father also committed suicide, as did his kid brother, Leicester, in 1982.

Most of Now I Lay Me deals with the ways in which Nick forces himself to stay awake in the dark.  These ways are entertaining, but not profound.  He fishes.  In memory he recalls in detail all the trout streams he has ever fished, how many worms he had, and what other bait he used.  He prays for every person he can remember, and in the remembrance relives his mother “cleaning the basement” and burning his father’s collection of Indian artifacts – arrowheads and stone tools – and other “saved” objects his father tries to rescue by raking them out of the fire.

One wonders if this is a memory of Hemingway’s or an invention.  We know from biographies that Hemingway’s relationship with his mother was strained in many ways, but especially by the way she treated his father – and tried to treat Ernest.  He and his father were the only males in the family of five females until his brother Leicester was born, fifteen years later.  That is really what the The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife is about, but more subtly.

In Now I Lay Me, Nick is a Lieutenant paired with “an orderly” assigned to him, who occupies the same room in an Italian home or hospital, and has trouble sleeping also, but not for the same reason.  Nick does not reveal his fear to the orderly, and they converse in the night, careful not to awaken their Italian hosts.

The orderly thinks that Nick should marry a wealthy Italian girl, because their culture prepares them so well for wifedom.  “A man ought to be married,” the orderly says.  “You’ll never regret it.  Every man ought to be married.”  Nick says he’ll think about it, but demurs because he doesn’t speak Italian that well.  He tries to remember every girl he ever knew, and imagine what kind of wife they would be.  Eventually, all the girls blurred together, so he returned to his trout-stream memories in order to keep his soul in his body.

We know Hemingway married four times, and was unfaithful to his wives when opportunity beckoned.  He liked marriage as a convenience, but never allowed himself to be dominated by a woman, like his father was.  In Death in the Afternoon, he reveals that he marries to keep himself out of the whorehouses, and to protect himself from disease.  Syphilis and gonorrhea at the time were very widespread, and penicillin wasn’t even discovered until 1928.  But he did allow himself some leeway when it came to beautiful women who threw themselves at him; as did Marlene Dietrich.

Hemingway’s four wives were Hadley Richardson (m. 1926-29, Paris), Pauline Pfeiffer (m. 1930-40, Key West), Martha Gellhorn (m. 1940-45, Europe), and Mary Welsh (m. 1946-61, Cuba and Idaho). [dates approximate, spelling correct]

Hem fathered three sons (no daughters), one by Hadley and two by Pfeiffer.  Hadley’s son John (called Jack, or Bumby) produced three daughters including Mariel, later appearing as a seductive teen-ager in Woody Allen’s film Manhattan, and Margaux, who committed suicide almost twentyfive years to the day after Ernest did.

So, we would have to conclude that Hemingway was a ladies man, and a marrying one at that.  He had many male friends, but there is no suggestion I know of that he was ever in doubt about his own heterosexuality.  That is part of his charm, for women, at least.  Add to that his stature, almost 6’1” and carrying for most of his life a weight above 200 lbs, he cut a very manly figure.

There is a passage in Death in the Afternoon where Hemingway discusses homosexuality among men.  Seems he didn’t think much of them.  The terminology then was “queers” and “fairies,” and Hem uses both.  In Spanish it is “maricone,” and he asks a female author, who is writing a book about El Greco, if she considered Greco a maricone.

“Why no,” she replies, “should I?”  Hemingway then compares El Greco to Goya and Velasquez, finding El Greco’s paintings the most feminine of the three.  Probably I would too.  Hem instructs her to just look at El Greco’s work.  Perhaps convinced, nevertheless she says “The book is done.”

Hemingway concludes this scene by writing, “Viva Goya.  Viva el Rey de los Maricones.”  Long live Goya, the King of the Queers?  Does that make sense?  Goya, the most masculine of the three, is still considered by Hem to be a “fairy?”  Maybe that is what he thought about all artists.

Let’s jump now to a peculiar Nick Adams story, called A Way You Will Never Be.  Well, what is this way you – the reader – will never be?  Maybe “the way” would be called PTSD today, or post-traumatic stress disorder.  When the story was written, that term did not exist yet, and maybe Hemingway didn’t expect that it, or something like it, ever would.

Here, Nick is recovering from his wounds by visiting a battalion to which he was once attached.  He is clearly bothered by his war experiences, in recurring dreams and in wakefulness.  Nick, an American helping the Italians, now finds his sanity questioned by his previous brothers-in-arms, and though he feels sane, he realizes how tough it is to shake a “crazy” rep once it gets applied to you.

His “duty” as it were, is to demonstrate to Italian troops what an American uniform looks like.  “Millions” of American troops are coming – by most accounts – but haven’t arrived yet.  This is what they will look like.  His uniform has been manufactured by an Italian tailor, and isn’t quite correct; and Nick is supposed to have cigarettes and chocolate to give away, but those goods are presently not available at the front.

He attracts a crowd of curious soldiers, but instead of instructing them about the uniform, he regales them with stories of catching grasshoppers to use for fishing bait, and informs them that American grasshoppers are called locusts in Europe.  Nick thinks this is okay, that he is not “crazy,” as some say, but it would be harder to find a crazier statement than this one, under the circumstances.

Now I have been crazy, and can attest that while crazy, one has certain defects of thought – appropriateness, logic, interpretation – that I could see after the fact as crazy, but I needed some time to come out from under.  Maybe this is what Hemingway means by “a way you will never be,” that is, shell shocked by the craziness of war.

As the story opens, and elsewhere in his writing, he describes the dead men he sees on the battlefield, almost bursting with gas, covered with flies, and with their pockets all turned out by the victors, or by thieving civilians, looking for money.  The other papers – letters, photographs, notes – are scattered all around the bodies, of no interest now that their principal is dead.  Morte, in French, tote, in German.  Nonexistent, in English.  Or at least nonexistent unless you believe – as Hemingway may have, at that time – in a spiritual life after death.  My father had that, my mother too.  I don’t.  What more can I say?

Is that what A Way You’ll Never Be means?  Crazy, shell-shocked, PTSD?  The answer must be in the story.  Read it for yourself.

In The Light of the World, we seem to look in on two early experiences of Nick and his friend Tom, when they were seventeen and nineteen, according to Nick.  Probably Nick is the younger.  They enter a bar and order beer, for a nickel a glass.

The bar offers free pig’s feet to customers, but not for a nickel beer.  Nick puts a half dollar out, and Tom takes some pig’s feet, but immediately spits it out.  “Your goddam pig’s feet stink.”  He gripes.  “You punks stink yourself,” says the bartender.

I remember pig’s feet from my uncle’s bar, in Dayton Ohio in the late ‘30s.  Disgusting items floating in brine.  Maybe now I’d be willing to try some, but as a child – no.

To avoid a fight, Nick hauls Tom out of the bar and they walk in the cold to the train station, where there are a few people, including three whores, huge women in shimmering dresses, the largest a 350 pounder named Alice.  “Must be like getting on top of a hay mow,” a bystander says.  Funny line, but somehow not laughable in context.

The whores begin arguing about a man (not present) named Steve Ketchel, that both claim to have been loved by.  One whore attests:  “I knew him like you know nobody in the world, and I loved him like you love God, and his own father shot him down like a dog.”

Alice contradicts her, “No.  I knew him before that.  He was the only man I ever loved.  He said, ‘You’re a lovely piece, Alice,’ that’s exactly what he said.”

“It’s a lie,” the other whore said.  Alice and she wrangle about the “truth” of their memories until Nick and Tom decide to move on, but Nick reflects that Alice had “about the prettiest face I ever saw . . . but, my God, she was big.” Alice said “Good-by,” and Nick thinks, “she certainly has a nice voice,” before Tom pulls him away and they depart – end of story.

What in the hell is “the light of the world”?  Is it the experience of these two encounters illuminating the mind of young Nick about some of the persons and situations he will face in the world?  More than likely.  We have a venal, self interested, bar-keeper leery of two youngsters (punks, in his language), plus a trio of derailed women reminiscing about life, love, truth and loss.  Pretty good addition to the education of Nick Adams, if you ask me.

Well, here we are at the end of seven pages, and still have at least a half a book to go.  Think I will end it here, and get it posted for you blog followers, at up2pee.com and copied for those of you without computers.  Caio

Hemingway Notes

Asheville, NC – Nov. 5, 2013. A dateline. A placeline too. Hemingway knew plenty of those, he started his career as a reporter – for the Kansas City Star, I think it was – and he did his cub reporting in America, based on the style book of that paper. Then he went to Europe to drive an ambulance in WWI, was wounded, healed and returned to the U.S.

Still a reporter, he got on with the Toronto Star Weekly, at first from Paris, and later from other foreign places as world events pulled him hither and yon. I’m not sure if he ever reported for Toronto from stateside. Wikipedia might have that, and I confess that’s where I go for many facts I can’t remember (or never knew).

Wiki is a wonderful invention, and needs a little money now and then from those who appreciate it. I gave them a few bucks this year, in response to an emergency plea, and I got a personal thank you. So, I’ll donate again one of these days. I hope you will also.

The reason it matters – the writing IN Toronto, part – is that it was Hemingway’s work in Paris that is commonly credited with forming his “style” of supposedly succinct sentences because it cost $$$ in those days to send written words back to the paper by undersea cable. Correspondents learned to just send the essentials and let rewrite men at home flesh out the stories with logical verbiage. So, if that’s the way it appeared in the paper, who is to say whose “style” it is: Hemingway’s or the rewrite man’s.

I guess it is possible to find that old newspaper stuff somewhere; Google has it probably, or Getty. Some of it, no doubt, survives in Hemingway’s “Collected Works” volumes. I think I owned a few of those once, but they got lost in transit when I moved to Asheville. No matter. They exist somewhere, and they weren’t particularly valuable anyway. Not First Editions, just decent reading copies. That’s the important thing, isn’t it? Content vs. Rarity. Two different esthetics entirely.

Once I had a pretty good Hemingway collection: all of his short stories, most of his novels, and some of the rest, including biographies. Also, the most coveted book I ever owned was a genuine First 1st copy of The Sun Also Rises. I found it one year at the Arizona State Fair’s antique auction. The cover was beaten to death, and the dust jacket was non-existent, but I got it for one dollar, and the insides were the real deal.

My brother and sister-in-law invested in having the book rebound, which rescued a good deal of its value, and we gave it to one of their sons for his birthday or Xmas, because he’s a Hemingway fan too. Better he should have it than I, and none of my kids would have wanted it.

I guess I’m a Hemingway fan. I’ve read most of his work because I have wanted to, not because I was required to. Some people have said that I look like him too, at this portly, grey-bearded stage of my life; so I’m trying to emphasize that similarity. I’m copying his attire, and getting reading glasses like his. I’m styling my beard and my hair like his. Maybe it will get me laid. Dunno, but it can’t hurt. If I’ve gotta be fat, better like Hemingway than Santa Claus.

I also had the thrill of visiting Hemingway’s house in Key West, which was a special place for him. He had several special places in his life, but this was a gift to him from his father-in-law, Gus, father of Pauline Pfeiffer – Hem’s second wife. Her old man must have been rolling in dough, because he bought them a nice car, too, delivered by ship to Key West.

Hemingway was a successful writer by then, 1927, but not really rich yet. He wrote a lot of good work in Key West, and linked up with a bunch of his best drinking and fishing buddies there. Those were pretty good days for him and his cronies. Pauline put in a swimming pool at the Key West house, that cost Hem $20,000, a big sum at the time, and he groused about that.

The house was built on the highest lot on the island, 16 feet above sea level. It has a basement too, excavated to provide the stone from which the house is built. The basement was dug down to 14 feet, then refilled with rubble to a nine-foot depth.

You can see what it looks like at Hemingway House.com, or if you don’t, imagine an essentially square, two story, Spanish colonial with a central stairway – bedrooms upstairs. All around the second story is a porch, with an iron railing, so every resident can enter or leave their bedroom from an inside door, or by the outside door to the porch.

When I was there, I think about 1975, there was also a carriage house close by the main house. It’s original purpose was to house the horses and carriage, and provide living space above for the hostler, but by the time Hemingway lived there he drove a car. I was led to understand that Hemingway did his writing upstairs in the carriage house, writing in longhand standing at a podium. Many days he would only get a paragraph done, seldom a page, working early in the morning, before he started drinking.

The story I heard was that Hem liked to rise early, go from his bed to the porch, put a special plank across from the porch to the carriage house, walk across, pull the plank over after himself, then work uninterrupted until he was done for the day – usually well before noon. Then he would eat, or drink, or join his friends at the bar.

I swear I was in that carriage-house room and saw that podium. I saw the plank and think it was in place between the two buildings. I don’t know how we got in the upstairs at the carriage house, internal stairway I assume. I don’t remember walking the plank. Surely they wouldn’t let visitors do that, even back in the wild old seventies.

Point is: on the Hem House website there is no image of the carriage house, no mention either. Could they have torn it down? Was there an accident? A fire? I have no idea, but I was there. Ahh, tis a puzzlement!

One of the first things Hemingway wrote about in the Nick Adams stories is fear. Fear – one way or another – continues through all of his work, as something inside ourselves – male and female, but especially male – for us to overcome or control: the boxing, the bullfights, the big game hunting, the deep-water fishing. And finally, self-inflicted death, because no person can blow one’s own head off without fear. And he faced it down, personally and in his writing. That was a big part of his talent and his charm.

“How do you like me now, gentlemen?” he is reported to have often said, indicating a need for approval (and even adulation) from other men. From women he was mostly satisfied with sex and domesticity.

In the Nick Adams stories, we have Hemingway writing about a youngster, maybe even a child, who probably represents the boy and man Hemingway was and became. I am embarrassed to say I don’t know when Hem wrote any or all of these stories, but it seems they were first published in organized series after his death. Previously, I guess, he just wrote one story when he needed to sell something, and plucked it from memory as he saw fit. Most writers who can command money occasionally do the same.

But the first story would also seem to be the first in fact. It’s about a boy, not yet a teenager probably, off camping in the woods with his dad and uncle at a Michigan lake. Nick is not comfortable about being “alone” there. He wasn’t raised in the wild like an Indian boy would be, he was accustomed to the city, or at least a suburb.

Dad and Uncle George wanted to go out on the lake to do some night fishing, and left Nick in a tent. They gave him a rifle, and said that if he needed them to come back he should shoot the gun three times, and they would stop fishing and return. So, off they go; and Nick’s imagination gets the better of him. He learns the motivating power of unspecified fear.

Soon he shoots three times. Thus the name of that story: Three Shots.
The adults hurry back. In the story Uncle George is disgruntled. He says that Nick is too young for this type of outing, but Dad is okay with Nick’s anxiety. Dad is a doctor, and is astutely tuned to what his son needs and can handle.

It is a simple little story, but it presages several elements that become central to Hemingway’s work and his life. One is the importance of the gun. In this story perhaps it is not a very powerful weapon, but it is a rifle – generally conceded by men to be more “serious” than a handgun – and regardless of its stopping power, it’s threat as a protector is there, and it’s power to communicate is there (three shots brings help).

The long gun is never far away in Hemingway literature, or life, or death. In a later story, Dad makes sure a shotgun is cleaned and loaded, after a run-in with an Indian who owes him some service work which the Indian might not want to do. Dad is covert about this action, but it is a trait Hem adopts in his life – foresight and preparedness.

There is another gun story about Hemingway’s youth. Apparently in high school he formed a gun club among his friends – some of whom didn’t even own a gun – and took pictures of them out of doors, toting guns along a country road. I’ve seen the picture, and note that Hem was almost a head taller than any of the others. I don’t know what his adult height was, but I know he wasn’t a shrimp.

Another element is the out-of-doors. Most of Hemingway’s settings are outside – hunting, fishing, roaming, watching bull fights, observing (or serving) in war. Hemingway is not a drawing-room author, like many of the novelists before him were. Hem is manly, always manly; sometimes embarrassingly so.
A third element is being (and becoming) a man. Being a man, meeting life like a man, learning that process, is always a gradient in Hemingway’s work, and the pressure is always on to move ahead. Sometimes it involves saving a woman, but always it faces the male protagonists with difficult or dangerous behavioral options.

Ernest Hemingway was named for his mother’s father – I think. It wasn’t a name chosen by his father. His father was named Clarence (Henry in the Nick Adams stories) and his mother dressed Ernest like a girl for several early years. A lot has been made of that, and maybe it shouldn’t be. It wasn’t unusual for that to happen back then.

Females cared for small children, and to them they were all babies. Hem had at least two older sisters, and a couple of younger ones too. Growing up was for him a pretty female environment. The easiest way to deal with dirty diapers is for tots to wear skirts. It was a rite of passage for boys to be allowed to wear pants, well after they were toilet trained. Now, I think, such a thing is practically unknown, as so much importance is immediately shown to identify the sex of an infant through the color and design of clothing.

Back then, and we’re talking end of the 19th Century, little white dresses did the job, most of them sewn by females in the family and handed down from child to child – girls and boys. Yet it is clear that Hem’s father Clarence was henpecked by his mother, and Hem himself resented and resisted his mother’s control.

This is reflected in another Nick Adams story, The Doctor and his Wife. Hemingway’s father was a doctor, and a good provider for his wife Grace and their children; but she was bossy and manipulative – characteristics Hemingway tried to avoid in his own wives.

In the story, the wife asks her husband to send their son Nick to her for some purpose, but when the doctor finds Nick – and tells him his mother wants to see him – Nick says he doesn’t want to see her, he wants to go with his father, and the father allows him to do so. That must be seen as a subtle way for the doctor to “get back” at his wife for all the prying and spying she has just shown the reader.

A couple of other things impressed me from the early Nick Adams stories. One was the important presence of Indians – Native Americans we call them now, with a certain reverence not given to them by our white pioneers. My own maternal grandfather was a “breed,” one-eighth Indian blood, who passed as a white man, and functioned as one; although looked at as an Indian, he did possess certain features that resembled some Indians: dark hair and eyes, high cheekbones, and a certain mien that most Indians share from ages past.

I come from Arizona, the state with the most Indian tribes, and presumably the most Indians, but they stay out of sight. After forty years there, I cannot say I had a single Indian acquaintance in Arizona, much less a friend. White attitudes have changed there towards Indians, but the reality apparently hasn’t. Like the doctor in Hemingway’s story, one deals with an Indian fairly and cordially, keeping in mind the deep hurt and wariness lurking in all of their hearts, that might spring forth destructively, especially “under the influence” of alcohol or whatever else they might have access to.

Things changed for some Indian vets after the Good War, but that doesn’t go far in Phoenix. I seldom think of myself as “part Indian,” but one of my mother’s sisters (1/16 Wampanoag-blood) capitalized on it. It would seem to have nothing to do with Hemingway, except for the scene in Indian Camp in which Nick witnessed the discovery of an Indian suicide – throat razor-cut ear to ear – that gave opportunity for Nick and his dad to discuss self-inflicted death. That means Hemingway was thinking about it at least from whenever he wrote about (or experienced!) the event. I have strong feelings about it myself, that might hew more towards the Indian idea than to a white one.

Something about that scene doesn’t ring true, which makes me think it probably is. Why clutter such a strong story with fictitious claptrap that isn’t true? Especially if you are Hemingway, with such a devotion to truth. But still, why would a youngish Indian husband do that on the occasion of his wife’s difficult birthing? Could it have been a reaction to the woman’s labor distress before the doctor got there? An expectation that she was going to die, and he wanted to join her? Many women did die giving birth in those days.

Nick asks his father why the Indian man did it, and the doctor replies, “I don’t know, Nick. He couldn’t stand things I guess.” What couldn’t he stand, her agony? The prospect of fatherhood? The guilt of being the cause of it all? The existential realization that this was what life is all about, and that is all there is to it – unending suffering? I don’t know, and Hemingway doesn’t explain; but the unsuccessful birth of his hero’s own child in “Farewell to Arms,” explores the experience once again.

Well, if I’m going to put this on my blog, I’d better stop here. Of course there is more to come. I’ve barely started with Nick Adams, and I wonder who cares anymore. Do young readers today (if there are any) relate to Hemingway’s thought? I hope so. Meanwhile, I know I still do, and look forward to cogitating about it in future postings. Thanks, Bill H.

Publishing a Blog

Greetings to you hardy souls who have been reading this blog.  I salute you.  And I apologize for the long delay between postings.  That is a fault I mean to correct; and this is a first effort in that direction.  It will seem to most of you that this is just a simple posting (as we bloggers have been instructed to call our individual additions to our blogs), but it is not.

This is the first posting I have written in and on the software provided by the folks who rent and manage the electronic “space” where the blog <up2pee.com> appears.  In the past, I have written my pieces on a PC running Windows XP and on Microsoft’s Word, a very good and extensively de-bugged word processing program.  I would then email the Word document to my bloguru for a quick scan and posting, i.e. publishing it out in the blogosphere, where you and the whole  world can read it.  Slick, but time consuming.

I draw your attention to the word bloguru, because it is a new word that I made up to designate the knowledgeable person I rely on to make sure my material is properly presented on the internet.  I hope the word will gain some currency in the language and survive the first 1,024 days it is out there.

And do you know why 1,024 is important?  Because that is One K, the number computers think is approximately 1,000, because computers count in binary language – ones and zeros.  Isn’t that wild!  All of this, all the stuff you see, all the language, pictures, designs, all the sports, all the voices and violence, are just complex iterations of ones and zeros.  Thank your lucky stars that you are not digital too – or maybe you are and we just don’t know it yet.

So, why does 1,024 equal One K?  I could show you, but trust me, it does.  I figure if bloguru (the word) is still alive in one thousand and twenty four days, it will be permanently established in human communications.  I first used bloguru in a posting in this blog on XX/XX/2013.  Find it and fill in the blanks, then count forward 1,024 days, and that will be bloguru’s birthday.  I’ll throw a party and y’all can come.  It might be on-line though, and the refreshments virtual, if that’s okay with you.

Now, where was I?  Lost my train of thought.  That used to happen a lot back when people used to think on a train.  Now there are no thinkers on trains any more, but I know a young hippie girl (I don’t think she’d mind being called a girl, or a hippie) who hops freight trains for her interstate transportation.  She has ROAD KILL tattooed on her knuckles.  Sez she eats it too, when she can find it.  I offered to get her some to cook for me and her, but she demurred because she is pregnant now, and soon to deliver.  True story of modern day Asheville, North Carolina.

Back to blogging.  This posting was composed on WordPress 3.6, I think.  As with much software in the world, the primary number (in this case 3) signifies the major revisions of the work, and the decimal extender (in this case 6) represents the sixth effort to clean up, correct, and add to the main work.  It’s only fair, and in the users” interest, to let them do so, because writing complex software is a difficult undertaking, the flaws in which really only show after the users have exercised it thru /// oops! we have just found a glitch.

A glitch – computerese for a spot in a program that doesn’t work correctly – is actually in my compact Webster’s as slang for “a mishap or error,” derived from the German glitsche .  Well, as an English word, it didn’t exist at one time, was introduced possibly by some German, caught on, was used in some circles that broadened like ripples on a pond after a stone is thrown in, and finally entered the language as a neologism, or new word.  Exactly the future I am hoping for my new word bloguru.

I’ll bet there is someone writing a blog, who is scouring the internet daily for neologisms, and I will absent myself briefly to explore this possibility, and return as soon as possible to our topic of interest.  Exkuooze me!

Awww, shucks.  Router’s down.  Connection’s lost.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t write.

WordPress informs me that it’s backing up this posting to my browser, just in case.  Meanwhile, I’ll tell you about the glitch (signified by /// above) which occurred yesterday evening.  That was Thursday, the 12th, so you know what that means: today is Friday, the 13th day of September, the first Friday the 13th we’ve had this year, but alas, not the only one.  We’ll have another in December (I know cuz I peeked), and I will have to write a piece about that for the MtnX paper.

Back to the glitch.  I was typing along, recording a sentence already formed in my mind, and got to the word “thru” when alakazam! my blogging words disappeared and I’m tossed to an unfamiliar screen that suggests I want to upgrade to version 3.6.1, and they give me a button to do that.  So I think, maybe I got bounced out of text mode so I can upgrade the program, and after I do that maybe the program will return me to text mode.  So I pushed the button.

Alarms!    A red bordered pop up box informs me that if I pursue this upgrade, any unsaved material in this file or that file, or here or there will be LOST, and I didn’t know where my unsaved text was, probably at risk, but I didn’t know where, or how to get back, and so I was stuck.  Worse than stuck, I was paralyzed, afraid to do anything for fear of losing what I had written up to the word “thru,” which text I wasn’t sure I could replicate adequately if I lost it.

So, what could I do?  Answer, I could call my bloguru for help on the phone.  So, I called Nat, but only got voice mail.  I called him at home, and his wife said he was out for the rest of the day, and wouldn’t return until morning.  There I was, home alone, with no help, feeling quite a bit frustrated, and victimized by what I like least about computing.  Nothing ever seems to work like it should, or at least like you expect it to.  Nothing is ever as easy as pie.

Obviously, I got beyond my problem.  Next morning my daughter came downstairs in her bathrobe, to wish me good morning.  Finding me hangdog, she asked what was wrong, and when I explained she sat in my chair, sized up the situation, punched a few keys, and there I was – back in my blog – text mode restored, nothing was lost.  Halelujah!  I should call her mother and thank her again for giving birth to that girl.  Woman, I mean.

Well, you get the idea.  It’s tougher than it looks to publish a blog, and, like Gilda Radner said: “It’s always something.”

Bisbee Days

Nat, my bloguru, has gratuitously subtitled this blog as, My Life as DeWitt, which was done certainly in the expectation that there was no life of mine other than as DeWitt, and technically there hasn’t been, since I was named DeWitt by my parents as soon as I was born, and that has been my real first name ever since.

There is a story about my naming, yet untold here, that devotees of this blog will eventually read. However, it is pertinent and germane now to report that I was not always called DeWitt, though I am now almost exclusively addressed as DeWitt, or referred to as DeWitt. DeWitt is also my most used writing name (although there are others) and my sober name. Before that, I occasionally used a “drinking” name, but that you will have to pry out of me with a pointy stick.

There are pluses and minuses to the DeWitt moniker, that will be evaluated in a later posting, but it needs to be said that there were days before My Life as DeWitt, when I was known as Jim (sometimes Jimmy, or James), and times when I was referred to as Robby (by my hippie-era friends).

My middle name is James, an unmistakable tribute to my grandfather, James W. Blakley, and I was happy to honor him as a namesake with whom I shared (and still share) many tastes and talents – for example: women and alcohol and writing and humor. The Jim Robbeloth designator served me well during school years, and a little beyond.

I was married as a Jim Robbeloth, and my in-laws called me Jim. My classmates through college called me Jim, and they wonder at reunion time, who is this DeWitt guy impersonating Jim? Some of them are getting used to DeWitt now, the sober me, versus Jim, the drinking me they used to know.

And so it was, during college years, that Jim Robbeloth, had a series of summer adventures that included what I am calling my Bisbee Days. It must have been the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at Saint Mary’s College, California, because I had already exhibited some strong journalistic abilities by writing for the weekly school paper, and by contributing to the literary magazine. My family lived in Phoenix, Arizona, at least a thousand miles away from the school.

The year must have been 1955 (I know that’s ancient history for most of you; it’s a little distant even for me), but as summer approached my Phoenician father became aware of a job opening on the staff of the Bisbee Daily Review. This was an eight-page morning paper, owned and operated by the Phelps Dodge Corporation, that owned virtually every thing else in town as well. They were looking for a sports editor and reporter to fill out their slim staff of John McPhee, Editor in Chief, and Hugh Harrelson, Assistant Editor.
Those are their real names, as both are now deceased. Harrelson eventually rose to be the editor for several years of the famous Arizona Highways magazine.

Bisbee is a mining town in southeastern Arizona, about 30 miles south of Tombstone and three or four miles north of the Mexican border. I recommend reading the wikipedia article on it for general information, as I recently did, so I won’t need to repeat mere facts here unless they serve my purpose. I suppose more professional bloggers would give you a link to wikipedia, but I don’t know how to do that yet. I may learn in this process, you never know.

Dad called me at school and told me about the Review opening, and encouraged me to apply. I slapped a short resume together with some writing samples from The Collegian, and mailed them off to the Review, and waited – not long – for their reply. Lo and behold, they hired me, and gave me a starting date only a week away.

I was taking finals at the college, and found I needed to miss one in order to accomplish the hiring trip in time. It was Religion 101, or some such, taught by crusty old Brother Jerome. I implored him to let me take it early, or make it up next fall. He refused. So I made an executive decision; I left the campus without taking that final, and flunked the course. I didn’t care; it was only religion, one I hardly believed in any more, but it brought my grade-point average down considerably, knocking me out of contention for several academic awards at graduation time.

I think I rode with some other guys overnight to Phoenix, grabbed some clothes, and caught a Greyhound to Bisbee. I’d never been to Bisbee, but I do remember winding through the Mule Mountains on a road they called Tombstone Canyon. It was a real twister, actually first built for ox carts to haul copper ore over the mountains to the railhead near Tombstone. This was about in the 1870s and thereafter, when the West really was wild.

Copper was the big money mineral in Bisbee, and in other mountain towns of eastern AZ. But copper was always mixed with other valuables like turquoise and silver and gold. I read a stat once that they took almost as much gold out of the Copper Queen mine as from the vaunted Vulture gold mine near Wickenburg, but gold was always subordinate to the copper at Bisbee.

As the bus swayed around the turns I pondered changing my name. DeWitt James appealed to me, or Robert DeWitt. The Robbeloth part seemed to me then, as it still does today, a clumsy surname, difficult to hear correctly when spoken, hard to spell when written. I could, in the interest of simplicity, just leave it off. I even wrote a letter to my father suggesting that, and got back a blistering rejection of my notion. So, I didn’t ever do that, and I think I’m glad now I didn’t.

Gradually, the mountainous road began to reveal structures, small wooden-sided, tin-roofed, cabins mostly, perched precariously on the rocky hillsides, braced there by well-laid stone walls and foundations. Later I learned that these were the work of “Cousin Jacks,” immigrants from Cornwall, England, who were hereditary workers in stone and mines.

When the Copper Queen was hiring, some of its workers immediately recommended their “Cousin Jack,” from Cornwall, to do that tough and dangerous work, without much training. Mining pay was pretty good for a new foreigner, and they could always get a cheap piece of land to build on, or even get free, up the canyon. Soon the scattered cabins coalesced into a body of contiguous homes, some even with porches, which in turn gave way to a series of false-fronted businesses including restaurants, stores and rooming houses.

These were the heart of Bisbee in the nineteen fifties, Tombstone Canyon intersecting with Brewery Gulch near the culvert through which the monsoon waters swooshed during the big rains of summer, yet to come. The Phelps Dodge store was there, selling goods expensively on credit to its captive audience of workers. You could buy elsewhere if you had the money, but if you were a family whose husband blew his pay on booze – and there were plenty of those – you could always run a tab at Phelps Dodge, to be deducted from his pay the next month.

The whole town was really Phelps Dodge. I don’t know what all they owned besides the mine and the smelter, the store and the hotel, but probably most of the real estate, which was rented out to the workers. My guess is that the company owned a lot of the breweries and bars, or if they didn’t, they were missing a cash cow, and PD wasn’t noted for that. And, of course, they owned the newspaper, lock, stock and presses. So, that meant they owned me, at least in my journalistic persona, and paid me for that service, I seem to remember, $60 a week.

The post office was there at the convergence point, and the library, sharing a proper building, as I recall. Next door were the offices of the Bisbee Daily Review, occupying a two-story building, with a basement. A few steps up from the street to the main floor, internal stairs led up to the hot-lead linotype department, stairs down to the presses that rolled out about 5,000 copies of the Review each night.

Editorial was on the main floor, with John’s office towards the rear, Hugh’s in the middle, and my desk near the front. We also had some admin folks on the main floor, for circulation and ad sales. One in particular was Bernice, who liked to hang with us editorial types. She was, I think, a half-breed, Mexican-Indian woman in her twenties. She had a crush on Hugh. She just laughed when he picked her up and dropped her heavy bottom into one of our big trash cans if she got too friendly.

We usually worked to about two a.m., when the first copies of our labors rolled off the presses. We’d scoop up a handful and kite off to Naco (Sonora, Mexico), where the bars never closed. It was only four miles to the border, and at that hour there were no guards of either nation at their posts. Hugh, Bernice, and me. McPhee never came to Naco. He actually went home at a decent hour, like midnight. I don’t remember if he even drank. Maybe not. We usually drank and dissected the paper until dawn (about 5 a.m. in those summer months) when we would return to town and our respective beds.

My bed was in the converted garage of a Victorian home in the little town of Warren, Ariz. Many of the nicer homes for the white aristocrats of Bisbee were in Warren, which was mostly flat, and provided lots that could be landscaped and built upon in the fashion of eastern or mid-western America.

My “cottage” had been a carriage house, made into an in-law apartment, of one big sitting room, closet, bathroom and kitchen. The bed was a Murphy bed that folded up into the wall to make room for furniture, but since I was alone, and had few visitors, I left the bed down, probably unmade, from day to day. It wasn’t a place I spent much time in except asleep from about 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., when I woke and got ready to go to work.

Harrelson picked me up, I seem to remember, because I didn’t have a car then, and it was several uphill miles to the Review offices. One thing I clearly remember about the Warren digs, is that I used the freezer compartment as a safe for my excess cash. Out of my $60 a week I had to pay $60 a month for rent to the landlord. The rest accumulated in my freezer, so by the end of summer I had a wad of $20 bills in “cold” cash in there. My only sizable drain on that money was drinking in Naco. I thought I was rich!

I had duties and responsibilities, but I was greeeen, so new to real journalism. I made a lot of egregious mistakes. The worst of my errors were due to my ignorance of baseball. Refer to my “Charms of Baseball” posting for a glimpse of my knowledge of that sport as a youngster. Practically zero.

Someone – I think it was Hugh – took a Polaroid of me at my desk, my left hand pointedly poised with a pen (I was left-handed), typewriter visible behind. They sent this picture off to another syndicated daily paper, where the photo was rendered as a cartoon for a feature panel titled “Teenage Triumphs,” and claimed that I was the youngest sports editor for a daily paper in the USA. That might have been true, and my mother clipped and saved that cartoon for her scrapbook. I think I inherited that scrapbook, and will try to find the clip for you to see here.

I did report on some sports that summer, mostly local baseball. Bisbee had a minor league team, I’m struggling to remember the name of. Maybe it will come. Let’s see. Maybe they were the Copper Kings. I’m not sure, but the mine was called the Copper Queen, so that would make sense. I’ll research it tomorrow.

[Yes, that’s correct, in 1955 the minor league team in the area was the Bisbee-Douglas Copper Kings. Score 1 point for DeW’s memory bank. Douglas was another mineral dependent town along the U.S.-Mexico border, often considered a brother city to Bisbee.]

I was the photographer for most of the editorial needs. One afternoon in July, McPhee hollered, “We’ve got blood in the canyon! Grab the Polaroid, Jim, and ride up with the cops.” I did so, unsure of what he meant, but there was no mistaking his urgency. My photo bag was loaded with film, and I was ready.

The police radio crackled with sounds, but the siren was on and I couldn’t understand anything. “What’s going on?” I asked the uniformed driver. “Accident,” he replied, “some soldiers from Fort Huachuca,” (pronounced wah-CHEW-kah). It took about ten minutes to get there, with the cop car taking the turns on two wheels.

Fort Huachuca was a training base for the Signal Corps, as it was then called. Many of the soldiers took their leave time in Bisbee, the closest civilization except for Fry, Arizona, down on the flat land, and you can imagine why they called it Fry.

You’d be wrong , of course, Fry was a guy’s name. The residents later renamed Fry to be – Sierra Vista – meaning you can see the mountains, while not being in them. Bisbee was in them, much nicer. The average July temp is about 85 F. in Bisbee; around 100 F. in Fry. Sometimes the soldiers were late getting back to the Fort from leave, and took the mountain turns a little too fast.

Such was the case that day. As I recall it was the beginning of “safety week,” but I didn’t know that at the time. We came upon a gruesome scene; only one car involved. It had missed a curve, gone off the road onto a relatively broad and open slope, then rolled over several times, winding up upside down, a couple of hundred feet off the road.

The five passengers were all dead. One of them hanging out the back window, had been flung against the ground several times as the car rolled, and was a bloody mess. The other four had been expelled from the vehicle through open doors, and lay scattered around the path of destruction. This was in the days before seat belts were standard, and this older vehicle had none.

The dead were wearing civilian clothes, but they were Huachuca soldiers, all right. The cops got busy collecting their I.D.s, after making sure no one was alive, but they all were clearly dead: no moaning or groaning, no movement or twitching of limbs. I had about five packs of black and white Polaroid film, and I think I shot it all, going from one corpse to the other, getting every angle I could, and leaving the prints to develop on the hood and seats of the cop car.

I still remember some of the images, not as photos but as scenes in my viewfinder. It was weird, I wasn’t bothered at all by the deaths, or by the crazy positions of the bodies, or by the blood – of which there was ample. I was just busy: taking pictures, tending to the accumulating prints, dodging the working police, and later the medics who rode in on several emergency vehicles. I didn’t take any pictures of the responders, only the dead bodies, and the wrecked car.

On the ride back to town, I wondered if I would be able to sleep that night, but I did. Slept like a baby, and never had nightmares or PTSD flashbacks in all the years to this date. Well, I didn’t know those guys alive, didn’t see the event; they were just like wax dummies by the time I got there. I didn’t really have time to think about the awful reality of what had happened, about the young lives cut short, about their grieving families, who didn’t even know they were dead yet. I was just doing a job.

But McPhee was happy. He plastered the next day’s front page with four or five of my best shots, as illustrations for a feature about “auto safety week,” written by Harrelson. I don’t know if I got a photo credit or not, probably did, but at least McPhee knew I wasn’t squeamish, and I became Mr. Foto for as long as I was there.

There was another foto story worth telling. I think it’s already in this blog, in the posting about why I’m a Republican. But it’s a good story, so I’ll tell it again. At that time, summer of 1955, politicians were afoot on the hustings, campaigning for offices in the November elections.

Arizona’s state Governor was William McFarlane, then at the end of his last term thereof. He could not be Governor again. But he could be Senator, and renew that prestigious post every six years for as long as the people reelected him.

It seemed like a shoo-in, McFarlane was a reasonably popular Democrat, in a state that usually went Democratic (in those days), and his opponent was only a personable World War II vet, a raw beginner in Republican political circles. Besides, he was a Jew, generally thought to be a detriment in running for office in Arizona. You remember him: Barry Goldwater.

Well, I was expecting to be a Democrat, my family were all Democrats. I guess I was 18, because I know I was a teenager, and a 21-year-old I surely was not. This would be my first election .

McFarlane campaigned in Bisbee, and visiting the Review was part of his schedule of activities. We (and he) wanted a picture in the paper of him in our offices, with some of the staff. By then, of course, I was Mr. Foto there. McFarlane was nervous about the picture. You see, he was a fat man – I mean President Taft fat. He wanted to hide as much of his girth behind our engraving machine as he could, and he did just that.

I snapped the pictures, and they came out all right. His belly was pretty much hidden from view; but it made me think politically. If he’s so vain he hides his fat from view, what else might he be hiding? I decided then and there to vote for Goldwater, who didn’t seem to be hiding anything. He was physically fit, and a direct kind of guy. What you saw was what you got, and he turned out to be that kind of Senator for the next thirty years. McFarlane retired to wherever all the old, fat, pols go.

True story. I registered, and voted, as a proud Goldwater Republican, and never changed party, although I sometimes voted for Democrats, like Carter and Clinton and yes, Obama – the second time. The first time I just had to vote for McCain. Jesus! He spent five fucking years in a Hanoi prisoner-of-war camp! I figured he deserved to be President, at least for four.

What else happened that summer? I guess I almost fell in love. I’d never been in love, so I couldn’t tell if I was in love or not. Now I know that if can’t tell, you’re not. But then I was a callow youth. I mistook lust for love. There was a girl who lived in Warren, named Ann, the daughter of the librarian and the Postmaster, a year or two younger than I was.

She was sultry. Webster’s first meaning for sultry is “hot and moist” (weather, that is), but it suited Ann just right. She also qualified for the second meaning: “suggesting passion or lust.” And she was interested in ME. Oh my, I’d never been targeted before by a girl, and it was thrilling.

Of course, in Bisbee that summer, I guess I was something of a prize. I was educated, intelligent, had a job (and good prospects beyond Bisbee), some spending money, and was better looking to a young woman than I knew I was. I had a nice head of dark hair, and I wasn’t fat (then), and I was urbane – compared to the local boys.

And unknown to me, her parents encouraged her to vamp me. Eighteen is an age when many young people pair up for marriage, and I think they were hoping we would. Webster doesn’t have a suitable definition for “vamp,” but to me it means “put oneself out there in an attractive way.” I think that was a meaning for “vamp” back in the Twenties, and certainly it was what I was feeling from Ann at that time.

We dated a bit, in a chaste way. She only lived a few blocks from my little home in the carriage house. I was a virgin then, and so, I suppose, was she. We “made out” clumsily on a couple of occasions, but I know she would never come into my place. We did have access to her house mid-day when her parents were both working, but she always had ways of not being sexually available to me when I got horny.

It’s hard to know what my life would have been like if I’d screwed her. Very different, I’m sure, than it did turn out. There was an occasion I remember, when she and I joined Hugh and Bernice on a picnic in the Chiricahua mountains – the same mountains that the infamous Apache leader Geronimo hid out in a hundred years earlier.

We laid our food out on a blanket in a shady clearing, and drank a little too much wine. Both couples were enjoying each other, and it might have gotten serious, but Hugh was no way going to fuck Bernice, and I was too modest to “do it” in company, and I guess Ann knew that. But it was close, for me anyway.

Our summer romance came to a close when I had to go back to school, but I remember the pull she had on me as the Greyhound left her behind, waving from the sidewalk. We were going to write letters, and I think there were a few, but I had a girl I liked better in Oakland, and Ann and I eventually came to nothing.

I was supposed to be the Sports Editor at the Review, but I had never learned which teams were in which league, National or American. The stories I chose to print were okay, they were written by the AP or UP and sent to us “by wire.” But my headlines were occasionally crazy, pitting a National team against an American league opponent.

Letters from reader fans berserk over goofs like “Cubs whip Orioles 3-2” lambasted me constantly. At first I wasn’t even aware that there were two leagues and there wouldn’t be the possibility of that headline being correct until the champion of one league were the Cubs, who played the champion of the other, who were the Orioles, in a World Series. In other words – never.

The importance of the World Series was magnified by the fact that there were no other teams anywhere in the known universe that could beat the champs. Except perhaps a team of black players from the Negro league, but no one even imagined that.

Well, that’s about 4,000 words. A good sized posting, and although there are more tales about Bisbee, those are the main ones from that summer. I have also written about the Bisbee Massacre, that took place in 1883. That story is more than a posting for a blog, and is only tangentially related to me. It runs about 50,000 words, and maybe considerably longer if I include all the references. I may put a condensed version of it here eventually, if I can’t sell it somewhere else.

Dinosaur Eggs & Bele Chere

Dinosaurs did lay eggs.  Paleontologists have found clutches of them fossilized among the bones of their parents in western America and other places in the world.  You can find them displayed in many museums, some as large as a bowling ball, in the traditional egg shape, which probably has some protective benefit when deposited in or on the Earth.

I don’t much care about the science of it – other than my curiosity about dinosaur sex, for it seems there would have had to have been sex involved, even for such ancient and fearsome creatures.  Galapagos turtles manage to do it, and Komodo dragons too; so nature provides.

I am partial to Dawkins’ idea that it is the genes that matter, that dinosaurs and turtles and people are only packaging that provides for the perpetuation of the genes.  When a species dies, the real tragedy is the loss of the genes, but they deserve their death because they could not evolve a life form to carry them into the future.

In this live situation, I adopt dinosaur eggs as a metaphorical notion for things that are perhaps not as important as other items in this blog, but that call out to me for some short treatment because they occurred in the 20th Century.

For instance, it is a family legend that my grandfather, James W. Blakley, knew Wilbur and Orville Wright.  They weren’t friends exactly, but the Wright brothers ran a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, and it is tempting to think of Bappy (family name for my grandfather) stopping in there to examine their merchandise.  Bappy never owned a bike that I know of, nor did his daughters or wife, but it is a possibility.

Just so, is the case with any and all of us, rubbing shoulders with greatness, completely unaware of what it may be.  Just another human, Uncle Unk at the market.  Mr. Hulot on holiday.  Jonas Salk at the movies.  So it will be with these dinosaur eggs: little stories that seem to mean nothing – but you never know.

That was our motto at the Greenpeace art sale in 1978; “you never know.”  You never know who is walking in your door.  You never know what they may buy; you never know what they may steal.  You never know what they may give.

So keep your eyes and ears open.

In Asheville this weekend past the city put on Bele Chere – meaning “beautiful place.”  Asheville has been doing this festival for 35 years, but the word is that this is the last one – at least the last to be done by the city – because the city can’t afford it any more.

I went, because I wanted to experience it before it ended, and I thoroughly enjoyed the bit I saw on Friday afternoon and evening.  I think I’m going to put my piece called “Notes and Impressions” here as a Dinosaur Egg, especially appropriate if this is indeed the last one.


Bele Chere: Notes & Imps

Notes and Impressions:  Fri afternoon, weather good, warm but not too hot, a little humid.  Free pizza, small slices but eight varieties; I try two.  Triangle Park.  Kids run in mister. Athenian food tent, spanicopita (spinach pie) $3.  B&W Juggler attracts crowd.  Christian proselytizer harangues crowd over PA.  Meg fm Chris.Sci.Monitor takes down sign and closes shop.  Music fm somewhere.  Stop in “Frock” store to sit and org my notes.

Lots of people, mostly white but some black, esp those who live downtown, such as Curtis, sitting on bench looking spiffy in matching blue basketball shorts and Nike shirt with new white cap.  Many vendors, lots of clothes and jewelry.  Incense smells like hippie commune; it’s Nag Champa, bot some for $2.  Hula hoop girls very sexy buskers, esp one w/ fishnet stockings. 

Fri nite.  Park in private lot of friend.  Still light, got to hike to party.  Kids sell water and soda $1 to raise money for religious trip later in year.  Diane’s birthday party at Eleven Grove St. draws crowd.  Free pizza closed.  Buy Greek gyro sand w/ lamb and tsaziki – yum! But $8.  Roller girls solicit interest in roller derby season, (they are not very big with skates off).  Next derby match is Aug. 24 at WNC Ag Ctr. (Izat in AVL?)  B&W Juggler counts his take – looks substantial – and stuffs it in pocket of his equipment bag.  Does a little demo show for me.

Wander up street to parking garage, scope it out as place from which to listen to music.  Lady cop at entrance, looking good, I thank her for service to the community.  My pen runs out of ink; try to remember this stuff. 

Wanda Jackson, queen of rockabilly, on stage at end of street.  Big crowd.  Good sound.  Some girl dancing her head off amid people, stops and walks away, just an ordinary reveler again.  Another girl has tattoo on her bicep, looks homemade, picture of a garden w/ rows of crops and pix of veggies grown there. “Permanent Tat?”  She nods yes – oh well, it’s her arm.

Wanda takes a break.  Fully dark now, but streets lit up w/ electricity.  Flow w/ crowd to other music stage on Coxe, Mountain Heart playing bluegrass.  Big group of musicians have a big crowd going, play chicken song fm “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” followed by “Sweet Home Alabama.”  Ferocious playing of strings – guitars, banjo, fiddle, bass, keyboard, something else.  Loud and fast, glad we’re back a ways.

Walk back to car about 10p, hope to return tomorrow.  Didn’t see half of it.  Why “they” want to put an end to this party, I don’t know. 

Dinosaur Club

This article today announces my intention of forming the Dinosaur Club, a group of people born in the 20th Century, and who feel more attached to that Century than to the 21st; who prefer to read books and news on paper, and listen to music on records, tapes or CD’s rather than over earpieces from “the cloud,” and write longhand on yellow pads rather than on computers, read paper maps instead of using Garmin guidance, and send letters rather than e-mails, and shoot film cameras rather than digital, and make love in person rather than online, etc.

You know who you are and I solicit your membership.  Sign up below, or send your request to 21A, Castle Street, Asheville, N.C., 28803.  We’ll get you signed up.   My ex-roomy is a dinosaur, although he thinks he is not, and he has a business of producing logo-ed patches, pins and clothing, and will provide us with various handsome items at a reasonable price, as needed, I’m sure.

We’ll have a founder’s meeting sometime soon, but I want to preempt any attempt to form such a club otherwise, and declare my ignorance of such a club, if any yet exists.  I suggest the logo of a gray (or silver) brontosaurus, facing left, with the surrounding circle inscribed “20th Century Survivors – Dinosaur Club.”

If you qualify for membership and have a more clever idea for a name or a logo, let me know.  Maybe we will accept your idea democratically (big 20th Century method of deciding what to do), or wish you well to “do your own thing” (big 21st Century method).

I have long felt like a dinosaur: big bodied, small-minded, voracious in appetites, clumping along while things are changing, confident that they can’t change enough to make me and my beliefs obsolete, because I (and my forebears) have lived this way for millions of years, and seen plenty of attempts by mere mammals to change things; still, nothing really changes, and probably won’t, regardless of mounting evidence that things really do change in important ways we dinosaurs just choose to ignore.

Hey, “Nothing Really Changes” could be a slogan for us, maybe on the back of our caps, sort of arching around that semicircular area where the sizing device is attached.  I like Velcro for that, rather than those plastic strips, but both are probably 20th Century items; so it’s a fielder’s choice.  Wow, “fielder’s choice,’ a baseball term, may well be a 20th Century phrase, unless it’s earlier than that.

Could be you know; but it couldn’t be older than baseball itself, which was a 19th Century invention – I think.  Now I could google it, and have the answer in seconds, but I’m not going to, because googling is a 21st Century way of finding things out, and I honestly have never googled anything at all in my life, and I will preserve my 20th Century-ness by deciding here and now NOT TO GOOGLE, and so retain eligibility for officership in the Dinosaur Club, should foundership be insufficiently satisfying in the long run.

So now I’m going to write in longhand, on a clean yellow pad, the heading DINOSAUR CLUB, plus a task to look up Baseball on paper, to find the date it was officially started, and when – if it can be determined – the first time “fielder’s choice” entered our language in print.  Some lucky dinosaurs have the occupational duty of determining things like that, and I envy them.  Maybe my friend, Bill H., will undertake to do this, because he is clearly a dinosaur too, and an advisor to my blog.  Will you help me with this interesting research without googling it, Bill?

Very well, googling is officially out for membership in the Dinosaur Club; that is a major distinction many 20th Century birthers will hesitate to meet.  Of course, they could renounce googling, which is almost as good as never having done it, once they have reached the point in life where the joy of googling has receded into the gloom of TMI (Too Much Information, is what TMI means, my daughter tells me).

My daughter was born in the 20th Century, but she’s clearly not a dinosaur.  She’s got a puter, and an iPhone4, and a hybrid car, and a Bluetooth in her ear, and a visible tat.  No, she’s a 21st Century woman, by choice; and God bless her.  It’s nice sometimes to have the confidence such a person exudes that permeates the confusion of reality.  This is after all, the 21st Century, and we dinosaurs must live in it, although we may wish we did not, and long for the old ways and days; but meanwhile we owe our very existence to advances in medicine, government, transportation, communication, science, etc.

Yes, I want to join the Dinosaur Club. Simply fill in the contact form below and add the following information in the text box below please.


City & State: ______________________

ZIP & Phone: _____________________

Email: __________________________

Website or Blog:____________________

6 × = 18


7/7/77 – My Lucky Day and Sequellae

7/7/77 was a Lucky Day for me, because, as I recall, I jumped out of an eleventh floor window of the Federal Bldg. in San Francisco and landed on my feet.  Like a cat would.  At least I thought it was 7/7/77, or have long pretended that it was.  I think it actually was, because I would have needed the cloak of all those sevens to magically protect me while making such a precipitous leap.

And today is 7/7/2013; thirtysix years later if I did my math correctly.  Math, why do we call it math, when simple arithmetic is all that it is.  Math implies so much more, and sounds like we’ve mastered something we haven’t, like calculus.  I’m still alive, though, but possibly couldn’t have been; or wouldn’t have been, at least, so content with the eventual outcome, if things had gone differently with the leap and its sequellae.

Lovely word, sequellae – I think it’s Latin, let’s check.  Mmmm.  I think I’m spelling it right, but it’s not in my paperback dictionary (of only 50,000 or so common words).  Shame.  Robyn would google it on her phone, but she’s still asleep, at 5:43 a.m., and I wouldn’t awaken her for such a search at this hour.

And I’m not googling anything on this computer, {cause it would probly take all day and mite not let me bak into Word}, to write this up for “Up to Pee,” my self-assigned task for this magical anniversary.  I’m using {brackets} to indicate text that I purposely misspell or butcher, so you don’t have to write to tell me that, although you can if you want.  This is the free blogosphere.

But sequellae has the Latin plural – ae – and the sequel part means something that follows after as an outcome of something that has gone before.  I’m sure a lexicographer could define it more succinctly, but this is enough for us to proceed with the day.

So, it is correct to use sequellae, and identify “the leap” as its prequel, because were it not for “the leap” probably none of the events of the ensuing 36 years would have happened.  I would have had a completely different life I can vaguely perceive the outline of; and that life wouldn’t have been too bad, probably, maybe even better, but who knows?  By then I felt I didn’t want that future.  I wanted something freer, more exhilarating, and she “musta hav beeg teets” [for those of you who don’t know it, this last bit is the punch line from the “Pope Gets Laid” joke].

So, it’s already 6 a.m. here.  Time to test my blood sugar, and take my morning pills, and perform a few other minutia of my morning routine.  So we will draw the shower liner of love across the realities of life, and return as soon as possible to “the leap.”

And here we are; back as promised, only an hour later, but back.  That’s how it goes with realities.  Everything takes twice as long as it should, AND costs twice as much (or more) than you expected, but due to the time-travel feature of 7/7/77, it seems only a second and didn’t cost a penny.  But you are wrong, it took forever and cost everything; it’s all a magic trick, an illusion – so enjoy it, that’s all, if you can.

“What in the hell are you talking about here, DeWitt?” Manny complains.  “Did you jump, or what?  You are 500 words into this piece and haven’t done anything yet.  Why are we still reading this?”

Oh, you are still reading?   If you are, good; because this is the crux of the piece; the crux of my life really.  If you think that not fucking Eleni was a big decision, jumping off the Federal Bldg was eleven times greater; and I’ve got to work it so you grok it.

Grok is a word that separates the geeks from the nerds.  It means understanding beyond understanding.  It means internalizing the meaning of something so deeply you’ll never forget it.  Grok was invented by Robert Heinlein, a scifi writer, in his book “Stranger in a Strange Land.”  If a body knows “grok” you know he (or she, there were a few shes who grokked grok) is a kindred spirit of a certain mentality that existed in mid-fifties America.

Grok is a shibboleth word; and what is a shibboleth?  Shibboleth is a Hebrew word that the Ephraimites couldn’t pronounce, so the Jews used it as a password to identify those enemies trying to sneak into ancient Israel.  Nowadays the word itself means such a password in any language.  And Grok is such a word, short and powerful, that lets you into the cellar, where all the fun happens.

So I thought.  Somewhere, someone was having fun, and I wasn’t.  I’d already spent a couple of decades living life somebody else’s way, and it wasn’t enough for me.  I guess that’s the best way to put it, not enough.  It wasn’t horrible, and there were things I liked about it.  It was easy, for one thing; and profitable for another.  Respectable as hell, when you needed that.  Excellent travel opportunities; I wrote my own tickets.

Also, I could get pretty drunk on occasion, and loaded on others, without serious consequences.  What was it I was doing?  A Federal job, that’s what; and not just a job, a good Federal job.  I was already a GS-13 at age 41, and moving up.  There are only two higher grades in the Federal Civil Service, my boss’s level and my boss’s boss.

My boss’s boss was the Director of the San Francisco Regional Office of the U.S. Civil Service Commission, which occupied the eleventh floor of the big Federal Bldg in the Civic Center of San Francisco.  My private office there looked down on City Hall, where Diane Feinstein stood on the steps to announce that Mayor Moscone and Councilman Harvey Milk had just been murdered by former Councilman Dan White.  Surreal.

Many days I gazed down from that window, imagining what fun those ant people down there were having while I was up here “busy” with the toils of bureaucracy.   My job at that time was Occupational Safety & Health Representative for the S.F. Region, which meant I was in charge of monitoring and reporting on the progress of all the other Federal agencies’ health-related activities in Arizona, Nevada, California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands.  I exercised a similar role over State agency programs in this huge area if those programs used Federal funds to do it (and most of them did).

If it was a new program, like Alcoholism Awareness or Drug Abuse Prevention, I usually had to go to each agency to help them set it up, and train their personnel, and sometimes help deal with a difficult case or two.  I traveled all over the place, not only in the Region, but sometimes to other Regions to help the Health Reps there, or to Washington D.C., to meet with our national ADA staff, and receive training, or attend industry conferences anywhere.

I excelled in this role.  First of all, I could write well, and produced knowledgeable, readable reports that satisfied my bosses and could be passed up the line.  What they didn’t know, was that I was an alcoholic and a drug user, periodically sober (and sometimes not), who knew both sides of the fence and could use that information for the benefit of the government and the employees who might be similarly afflicted.

I was pretty skilled at hiding my misbehavior, and everyone seemed to be happy with me.  I was in and out of AA, sometimes going to meetings and getting royally fucked up in the same 24-hour period, then lying convincingly about it to whomever needed to be assured of my competency at work or in AA.

At times I had booze in the trunk of government cars and acid in the glove box.  Once I drove a U.S. Govt. motor pool car to a brothel near Carson City, for a little late pussy, and the place emptied out.  They thought they were being raided.  I know it sounds improbable, but I was a lone operator.  I saw my boss, maybe once or twice a month.  He thought I was doing a terrific job, and I did my best to keep him thinking that way.

So, what’s with this jumping out of the window business?  Well, it’s a simile.  I didn’t actually jump out of the window.  I quit my job.  Just flat quit.  Didn’t want to do it any more.  Stupidest thing I ever did, I’m sure.  I walked into my boss’s boss’s office one fine July morning – the seventh – of the year 1977, and took that magic moment to resign, that “lucky” day.

My boss’s boss (his name was Yanek) was concerned.  He didn’t like me all that much; wasn’t the guy who had hired me, but he did exhibit some concern for my sanity.  Here I was, turning over a fine apple cart, stocked with finely stacked apples.  If I resigned, I probably would not be able to take it back tomorrow.  Things like that were final; and to quit without notice or logical reason on the spur of the moment – well it just wasn’t done!

But I did it.  I quit.  Maybe some day I can reconstruct why.  Not today, though, I’m tired.  It’s already 5:30 p.m.  I’ve been at this off and on all day, my Lucky Day.  I only want to add one more detail about what I did after I jumped.

I left the building and looked for a hooker.  Civic Center teemed with daytime hookers.  I didn’t have to look far before I found a slim young one.  She was working the corner of Turk and Polk streets a few blocks away from the Rodeway Inn.  She wore a really short version of bib overalls over a frilly white blouse, and heels of course.  I wish I could remember her name.  I told her I wanted some action, and she agreed to provide it.

She could do it at the Rodeway, she said.  She had a deal with the desk clerk.  I should go in and rent room 224 ($25 for a couple of hours).  He would know what that meant, and give me the key.  She would join me there in a few minutes, using a service door off of Polk Street to avoid going in through the lobby.

And she did.  She was very athletic, a little more active and lithe than I was used to, but she was fun, and I paid her an extra hundred to stick around and play another round or two after the first explosion.  We spent most of the rest of the day there, ordered pizza from room service, and in fact I rented her again a few times later, that maybe I’ll tell you about in another posting.  Maybe her name is in one of my old address books, I’ll look.

I Found Her!!!

Well, well, what have we here?  I’m still unpacking.  I’ve been unpacking since about ’77, when I moved out of Marview (dear Marview, such a pity, the dearest box I ever came in) and into the apartment on Fell St., across from Golden Gate Park, which had blessings of its own, and hazards too.  And I’ve been packing and unpacking ever since, never quite getting to the bottom of it all, always stumbling over cardboard boxes, partly empty (or partly full, depending on your attitude towards life).

This morning I am looking for my blank “blood sugar diaries” that I call Lily’s because they used to be published by Lilly Pharmaceuticals, and I keep a daily record in them of my fasting blood sugar in the mornings along with other medical info (mostly pills, what and when) each day.  Now they are published by Sanofi Aventis, whatever that is.  I don’t even want to find out.  Just give me my Junior Mints!  I want Junior Mints!  Me and Jimmy want Junior Mints!

Each diary is good for about three months, and I’m running out of formatted space in the one I’m using, only about a week left, ten days to be precise, including hoy.  I know I packed a supply of Lily’s when I left Phoenix, but I can’t rem exactly where now.

Press PAUSE so I can explain two shortenings I just used.  Hoy is the Spanish word for Today, which I like better cuz (formerly because) it is shorter and snappier and generally understood in the vicinity I recently came from.  It might not be so well understood here in Asheville, cuz while there are Hispanics here they are no way as numerous as in AZ generally and Phx in particular.  Rem, as a verb, is obvious.  We’re talking memory here, and there is no other meaning to obfuscate this grossly shorter form of remember.  I’ve been using Rem this way in private writing for years and am surprised that it hasn’t caught on more generally.

Press PLAY to continue.  Okay, I was hunting my Lily’s.  They were in the Medical box, but the Medical box is no more; opened to disgorge its load of pills and docs, among them my Lily’s which could be anywhere by now, but still packed away, cus I know I wouldn’t have thrown them away or destroyed them.  That’s not saying something disastrous couldn’t have happened to them.  They look too important for that, but you never know, when you are a vagabond, what gets thrown away on your behalf.

Vagabond.  Great word, two up from another great vag word I love (about which see Carolina Moon piece in this blog).  Am I a vagabond?  Sort of.  Moving from place to place?  I suppose so.  Shiftless?  Well, a little maybe.  But worthless, no.  I am worth it, cuz I work it.  Ask any 12 Stepper.

So, I choose a small box that calls to me.  It contains a miscellany of things, but oh, no Lily’s in here.  But what’s this battered up, folded and creased oversized paper in here?  I open it up and SURPRISE!  It is the message Robin left me seven years ago, that she FOUND HER!!!

Hortense the cat has been found, after about a week, missing in action.  Robyn left Hortense, housecat par excellance, with a cat loving friend, Maxine, so that Robyn could go out of town for a day or two.  Hortense couldn’t stand the change, and escaped from Maxine’s asap, and into a strange neighborhood full of danger for an innocent housecat.

Frankly, although I helped with the search, I thought it was probly curtains for Hortense.  We didn’t even have a vicinity.  Robyn posted signs on telephones and cruised up and down possible streets, calling for Hortense.  Nothing.

But Robyn would not give up.  Day after day, evening after evening, Robyn was out on the hustings, hunting that lonesome kitty.  I had given up on Hortense by then, betting the odds, against her recovery.

Then one night Robyn returned exhilarated.  “I found her!!!” she crowed, and indeed she had.  Hortense immediately regained her rightful stature in the household, as if nothing at all untoward had taken place.  Well, no, I guess I wasn’t home at the time, and Robyn had written and drawn this message to me, almost exactly seven years ago:  June 30, 2006.

This episode demonstrated to me, the persistence of love for her cats in her character.  She didn’t get it from me; must have been from her mom, who is an inveterate animal person.  Nope, I never had a pet of my own, not even a goldfish, and I still haven’t; but I do respect and admire that bond that other people do have with their dogs and cats and horses, etc.  For me, it’s Lions and Tigers and Bears.  Hooray!  In very strong cages, at a zoo, please.

All of a sudden, a knock on my door announces Robyn and Leo, ready to go to the hospital for some pretty serious elective surgery.  So soon?  I had not remembered it was today.  Robyn would be in hosp all day, and maybe tomorrow.  I hugged her and kissed her and wished her the best.  I promised her a present she would love when she got home, and you know what it is: I’m going to frame this Hortense picture so she can hang it in her cat house upstairs

P.S.  Still haven’t found my Lily’s.

Outside Man

My arrangements with Robyn here in Asheville are fluid and changing, but essentially go back to a commitment she made to me some decades ago, that when I attained a certain age (or need) she would “take care of” me, as I had “taken care of” my dad when he needed it.

It dawns on me now that I am about the same age as my dad was when he had a debilitating stroke in 1987, an event that brought me from San Francisco, where I had lived and worked for 20 years, to Phoenix, where I was destined to spend an additional few decades helping him live a comfortable and fulfilling life (until his death in 2000, at the age of 89) and beyond into a sort of loner existence in Phoenix that ended this summer (of 2013) with the sale of my home there and move here to AVL, as the locals abbreviate it.

My relationship to my dad prior to 1987 had been cordial – for the most part – and certainly not as dysfunctional as many father-son relationships are.  I came to Phoenix to help him in an hour of need, that I converted into 13 years of caretaker duties to him and pleasant living for myself.  I wrote an almost book length description of what that was like, titled “The Holiday Season,” which is not available electronically but I have a few print copies not yet complete enough for a book.  I may condense some of that for this blog, or excerpt it, but cant go into it here, or I’ll never get out of it.

So, I’m the same age as my dad was when I started to take care of him, but I’m in much better shape, in spite of my diabetic obesity, mostly because I quit drinking alcohol in 1992 (mentioned earlier).  Dad did not ever quit drinking.  He didn’t think he had to; and probably didn’t.  He was a maintenance drinker.  He tried to keep a little buzz going, 24 hours a day.

Now and then he’d have a couple of extra stiff ones for special occasions, and become noticeably impaired; but he wasn’t a nasty drunk, and he wasn’t driving (I was), so he pretty much got away with it.  Because I kept records on his alcohol intake, primarily for medical purposes, towards the end of his life I calculated I had poured him about 50,000 ounces of vodka over the years, into airplane-sized little booze bottles he used to fix his Diet Rite and vodka cocktails.  I told him that, and asked him if he thought he was an alcoholic.

“No,” he said.  This from a man who had to have an alcohol drip in surgery to keep him from going into withdrawal.  His doctor even prescribed it in hospital for him as “beverage 80 proof alcohol at a rate of 1 oz per hour on demand.”  The hospitals kept his bottle of Smirnoff under lock and key for the purpose.  He only had one problem with that.  A white hat and stockings starched nurse from New England wouldn’t comply with the order.  She thought that beverage alcohol was sinful, and she wouldn’t serve it to him, even with doctors orders.  She only lasted one shift on his floor.  Next day she was gone, never to be seen again, at least by us.  Maybe they put her in pediatrics.  Probably no drunks down there.

I can write these things now because Dad is dead.  It’s kind of funny, really, but while it was happening it was sometimes worrisome.  He wasn’t my kind of drinker.  If I could drink the way he did, I’d probably still be drinking.  Oh, well; I couldn’t and didn’t.  And now I don’t drink at all.  Not for 21+ years, and it’s okay.  Matter of fact, it’s better than okay.  It’s unbelievable.  How I could go from daily drunkenness to this state of mind is a minor miracle, and I appreciate it.

So.  Part of my arrangement with Robyn is that I will assume responsibility for outside tasks and chores, taken as a group to describe the role of Outside Man (OM for short), at a rate of an hour each day, some days more, some days less.  I was/am to identify the qualifying tasks, and record the time spent.  It should amount to about 30 hours a month, and at a nominal $10 per hour value, I would thereby contribute about $300 a month in labor to the maintenance of the establishment, in lieu of cash.

I’m big on time, and short on cash.  We have since expanded the OM tasks to include anything I do to enhance the stay of guests here.  Robyn regularly rents two rooms to people seeking short term lodgings (i.e. tourists, though not all are tourists, some are in AVL for other reasons, but that does not concern us).  She also accepts pets traveling with owners.  So far the pets have been dogs.  Hooray!  No monkeys or snakes yet.

Well, this has been a rich bit of info so far.  Perhaps you can see where I’m going with it.  Part of my job of Outside Man is to make up a list of OM tasks or duties, with a time element attached to each, much like a mechanic would do in a garage.  I did make up such a list in May on yellow pad – my medium of choice at the time – but I never brought it over to the computer, where a more skilled practitioner could work it up in Excell, and press a button for the monthly result.

That would be my hope.  Truly it would.  But I never learned how to do a spread sheet on a computer.  I have Windows XP Office on board my laptop, plus the Office XP for Dummies book that I had the prescience to bring with me and I know that I can learn it.  I also know that I am scared to death of it.  Like I said, I’m a word guy, not a numbers guy, and there is a difference.

I also know there is a steep learning curve with anything dealing with computers.  We used to have a facetious rule in our editorial office that anything done on or with a computer never works like it is supposed to, and always takes twice as long as expected to work around the thing that doesn’t work right.  And look what has happened!

I have churned out 1050 words right here; plenty for a respectable blog posting for youse guys hoy.  I therefore bid you a fond adieu, and promise to reappear somewhere, someday; NO WHINING hat slightly askew, and a bemused smile on my face indicating ongoing recovery from Excellitis.



After the Intro, May 16, 2013

For those of you who are following this, and there are a few I know who do, you will recall that in the near past I was writing on yellow lined paper pads, before we got my computer unboxed from its UPS carton.  That was the best packed of all my boxes, and arrived in great shape at the local UPS store to await my arrival.  They charged me a modest fee to hold it for pickup, but it was worth it.

This is in contrast to the U.S. Postal Service, that chewed up several of my boxes of books, and “lost” several more.  I’m still chasing one of the “lost” boxes.  They know where it is now.  It is in the dead letter center in Atlanta, but they can’t get it to me because it is in “undeliverable” condition.  I don’t know what that means.  I really don’t care about the box, as long as I get the books.

I am now aware that I am missing my entire AA library, several large format history books (one titled “The Last Two Million Years” was a favorite resource of mine), an assortment of mythology books, and some special books I needed for my “First Edition” book business in Phoenix.  I know what these books look like, so if they have spilled out, I could identify them by sight.

But that isn’t something the Post Office is likely to allow.  For some reason, materials at the dead letter center are not available for identification by their owners.  Nobody gets to see that stuff, not even other Postal workers.   Honest, Hem, they, you, nobody can even call the dead letter center, because there is no phone there; or if there is, the number is closely guarded and limited to a circle that does not include Postal employees of a city like Asheville.

Don’t ask me what’s going on.  It doesn’t make any sense.  You would think that they would want to reunite senders with the sent items,  but there seems to be some impenetrable barrier to accomplishing this.  Maybe there are too many scammers out there, who would take advantage of access to claim stuff that does not belong to them.  Or maybe there is so much stuff in the dead letter center, that they don’t have enough personnel to control the crowds that would want to visit.  It’s got to be something logical that is not obvious to the outsider.

But I am going to find out.  I used to work for the Gummint, so I know how it works.  Individually, Postal workers are – by and large – friendly, helpful and intelligent.  They process the mail, and if they do that successfully for thirty or forty years, they get to retire with a pretty nice package – so they don’t want to jeopardize that by going too fully to bat for some disgruntled customer who needs or wants to bend some rule or regulation to make his Postal experience  more satisfying or complete.

So, I’ve just about given up on the bottom-up routine.  One more try tomorrow, and if that gets no results, I’m shifting into top-down mode.  Pressure from the top, that always worked when my feet were in the stirrups.  I’ll describe the situation as factually and succinctly as possible and write to the Director of the Dead Letter Center, requesting a personal visit to identify my Missing Tomes.

I will cc that letter with a copy to the Postmaster General, and a copy to Senator John McCain, MY Senator, and remind him of my loyal voting record as a lifelong Goldwater Republican, who cast my very first vote for Barry when he ran against McFarlane in ’58, I think it was, and even voted for McCain himself for President against Obama, when a lot of my GOP buddies abandoned ship after he picked that dingbat from Alaska as a running mate.

When the Director of the Dead Letter Center gets some of that McCain heat on him, I’ll bet I get I get some definitive action.  In my not so limited experience, there is nothing that greases the wheels of the Federal bureaucracy like the personal interest of a senior, important, Senator in the plight of a constituent.  Let’s see if it works.

As a post script as to why I voted for Goldwater against McFarlane, who at the time was Governor of the State of Arizona, running for Senator at the end of his term in office.  I knew McFarlane, and thought I was a Democrat.  My family was Democrat, so why shouldn’t I be?  I happened to be a young member of the editorial staff of the Bisbee Daily Review, a mining town in the southern part of Arizona.

McFarlane was coming Bisbee to stump for his candidacy.  When he visited our offices, as he sensibly would have, he and we wanted a picture.  Our quarters were cramped and we’d be taking a Polaroid, so we wouldn’t have to send film out for processing.   We’d just slap the Polaroid on our Fairchild engraving machine and have a front page picture of the Governor in the next morning’s paper.

That was all fine, except the Gov wanted to squeeze in behind the Fairchild machine for the picture because he didn’t want to show how fat his belly was.  I sympathize with him now, as a fat man myself, but he was, as many politicians of his era were – truly fat.  Fifty, sixty inches?  I don’t know.  Something like that.  Taft fat, if you know that president’s BMI.  Well, the Gov finally got the shot that he wanted, and it did appear next morning.  But the experience totally Republicanized me.  How Vain!  I thought.  It had never occurred to me that a prominent man like he could be so false as to hide his gut behind a machine.

I would vote for Goldwater!  I did, and never re-registered as a Democrat.  I kind of liked to pull out my Republican party registration card after arguing a Demo point of view against Repubs in the ensuing years.  Until Obama, that is.  In Arizona the white vitriol against Obama was so vicious, that  to support him in the wrong company seemed truly dangerous.  I really liked him as a change from Bush.  Okay, so now you know.  I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing.   A dissembler.  Yes, that the right word, I just looked it up: to conceal the truth of one’s feelings or motives; to operate under false pretenses.  That’s me, all right.  Oh yeah.

Maybe I’m worse than McFarlane!