PRE-COLUMBIAN POOLSIDE CALIFORNIA (TWO)

Watching Anthony Bourdain the other night, it was clear that he not only ate everything his mom ever served, but everything anyone ever served him.  And, he has never backed away from cooking and serving people some of the crap he has eaten, even though he suspected that more than a few people have had to excuse themselves from the table. The more a cooked meal moves across a plate, slithers around a bowl, and gazes, with some concern, at the man-creature who is about to chew on it, the better Uncle Tony likes it.

Great, bold approach.  But lacking Bourdain’s millions of followers, I have often chickened out of telling the whole truth by using self-censorship.  For example, I try not to name some people, especially if they are relatives, or still alive.  More especially, if they can beat the hell out of me.  Cowardice being the better part of discretion, I try to look around.

Here’s the thing.  I have already written a light piece of fluff about the swimming pool culture I knew when growing up in Hemet, CA., way back when.  But I said nothing about swimsuits.  So, what’s the big deal about bathing suits?  Well, there is no big deal about them.  Just a little, ordinary deal, like a Donald Trump wet dream.  You could call this post Fluff Number Two.  I began the post with fluff (something that you, in your half-dozens have not responded to, for or against), and I am determined to finish this two-part series the same way:  Like Bourdain, true to myself.  Fluff all the way.  Fluff to the end.  Fluff on a stick, 50% nitrates and nitrites, and dangerous in the same way that boredom and death are part of the same contagion….

I might add that, at the end of this story, I will share the idea that Brigitte Bardot, even before Monroe, saved feminism, saved women, from the slow, endless grind of having very white, very old, very Christian, oldsters and elders, all males, with tons of female enablers, dictate the tenets of life and death to the female/other half of the world.  The whole fraidy-cat lot is still out there today, pounding the pavement and the pulpits with the same old bullshit about not-good-enough for heaven, but just fine as firewood down there in the hotter, lower reaches.  Like the same bunch behind the Amish bakers who put salt into the chocolate chip cookies they sell at Kenyon College.

Wrap your mind around this.  You are out there on a Southern California beach on a hot summer day.  It’s the Nineteenth Century, after the Civil War.  The beach is empty.  No closed-down nuclear power plants, no freeways, no cars, no coconut oil lotion, no nothing.  Do you go swimming?  Hit the surf?  No, because even if you wanted to strip down, you would not.  It would be indecent, God would know, and you would not only be hellbound, but jailbait to boot.  For doing nothing more than showing your body to nobody.

Let us read.  Los Angeles Times.  July 9, 2017

“At the turn of the 19th century, photographs show beach strollers beneath hats and umbrellas, dressed as if they were attending church.  If anyone dared a bathing suit, it was cut from flannel or thick cotton “mummy” cloth.  The suits were hardly revealing, but women on the beach were unrestrained by corsets and men went uncovered below the knee.  “Promiscuous lolling” on the sand, prudes complained to the Times, inevitably followed.

Nearly every city along the coast at first had a bathing suit ordinance that required full coverage for men as well as women.  The Long Beach City Council determined the legal distance between swimsuit and knee in 1916.  Santa Monica police were still arresting topless (male) sunbathers as late as 1929.  Laguna Beach hadn’t repealed its modesty law until 1940.”

The Times continued by explaining that there was no revolt in the streets against the restrictions.  No popular rising up of the masses.  In California, at least, it was health and good looks that drove the constantly evolving changes in style.  The wonders of sunshine; plus all the movies with the beautiful people showing what the world might look like if people would just strip down and get loose.  Look at Tarzan.  Look at Jane.  Even superstar chimpanzee, Cheetah, who lived his whole life au naturel, claimed he lived to be 80 because he left his swimsuit in the treehouse.

Not that the prudes have all disappeared, as if by magic.  No, the prudes, like the rest of us, can be slow movers when making their exit. Think of Howard Hughes and his attempts to make Jane Russell wear oil funnels beneath her sweaters.  Janet Leigh got the same treatment.

Which was OK with the Hollywood sex accountants who worked at all the studios to enforce the 1930s Hays Code, also known as the Motion Picture Production Code.  The original idea seems to have centered on hiding the male and female belly button, which was thought to be the very center of the sexual volcano destroying mankind.  By the time the Code petered out, so to speak, in the 1950s, it not only covered the belly button, but virtually all of society, by implication.  If eliminating “vulgarity” and “suggestiveness” were to be removed from the movies, then how about the schools and workplaces?  Even the home, where Lucy and Desi slept in single beds with a lamp table between them.  Lustful kissing?  The prudes said you had three seconds per kiss.  And no tongues!  Miscegenation?  Black people and white people in any kind of sexual encounter?  Inferences of sexual perversion?  Come on, now.

All this, and more, was covered by the Code, which is still creeping around out there.  Think not?  Have you seen the TV ad with the (white) couple lying in separate bathtubs, cloyingly holding hands, just waiting for the camera to stop rolling so they can jump each other? (More likely, today, one of the crew will bring over an animal, and they will pet the frickin’ dog, instead!).

Back to the Hemet High School pool/Hemet municipal plunge.  Still the 1950s.  Coach is still checking for athlete’s foot, Webb is lifeguarding, and kids are still whacking popsicles against the freezer to cut them in half.   Over on the other side of the pool, the girls are talking, laughing, and rubbing on lots of suntan oil.

How is the Hays Code doing, as evidenced by the impact of the movies on Hemet youth? Well, it ain’t the 1930s, for sure, but it ain’t the 1960s, and beyond, either.  The boys can clearly get away with an exposed bellybutton, and their light fabric bathing suits are generally loose and comfortable.  Plenty of fresh air and exposure.  Plenty of room for a nice sunburn.

The girls….  It always seemed to me that the girls were wearing girdles.  It also seemed that most of them wore heavy compound one-piece items that must have been hell to get on and off.  There were probably two-piece bathing outfits, too, but if Ava Gardner was forced to wear a two-piece bikini that hid her bellybutton, well, then…what’s good for Ava must have been good enough for the girls of Hemet.  That is, after bikinis were accepted at all.  Who was the first Hemet female to wear a bikini to the pool or the beach?  No clue.  But it took guts.

Of course, the first two-piece English and American outfits were not the true bikinis, thongs or other styles that women like Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, the women of Rio, and others introduced to finally drag America into the more free-wheeling styles taken for granted today.  But I can just imagine the sense of freedom, the joy, and then the power a girl or a woman got when finally able to wear what she wanted.  And now, the rapidly growing ability to say it, and do it, even if some countries and congregations wish to make a U-turn and head that truck right on back.

And thank you, Ms. Bardot, for showing and telling it like it is.  As an observer of the human condition, I appreciate it.  But, BB not a feminist, not a revolutionary, from age 14, and her first Elle cover?  I may be a guy, but I’d be real careful about that one.

PRE-COLUMBIAN POOLSIDE CALIFORNIA

Or, more completely, “Pre-Columbian Poolside and Oceanside Habits and Mores Before the Destruction of the Late, Great Golden State of California by the Coming of the Golden Arches, Representing the Beginning of the Decay of The United States and Other Nether Reaches of the Universe.”

It takes a long time to return to my hometime.  It’s a quick trip, thought-wise, but filling in the details can be tough.  I think I know my ancient times.  I think I can still see clearly every detail of every day I ever lived, and as I approach middle age, with its accompanying late onset childhood, I know my memory will only improve.  Go ahead and test me.  Cufflinks?  I remember those things.  I still have a pair, worn only with my better tee-shirts.

For now, let’s consider kids in the California sunshine, back when we didn’t have the Beach Boys to explain a damn thing, including the pain of heartache, and the heartache of psoriasis.   Back when sunburn was an expectation, combated only by products designed to channel a painful sunburn into a deep tan.  Wear a shirt to the beach or the pool?  Get serious.  Guys did not wear shirts.  Guys disdained shirts.  Girls might wear shirts for skin protection, but guys would rather suffer than be smart.  Guys were guys, for god’s sake, and girls were girls.  Guys were dumb as mud, and often proud of it.

By the way, you might already know that there were two sets of guys:  male guys and female guys, but we were all guys.  So, on campus, it was “Hi, guys” to both persuasions.  But if I say that “guys were dumb as mud,” I am talking about the males.  Guy problems were more typically bitches and moans about a teacher or an assignment.  Guys did not say, “I’m upset.”  It would be more like, “I’m pissed off.”  Feelings of anger.  Words like “upset” were too fraught with more complex emotions, and a sign of excess intelligence.  Demonstrated intelligence?  Not so much a guy thing.

Moving on.  I see it all.  It’s the 1950s.  At the Hemet plunge, the only person who took care of his skin was the lifeguard.  He sat on the raised lifeguard stand, wearing nothing more than his swim trunks and what looked like a thick coat of white paint on his nose.  His name was Webb.  Webb was of my sister’s generation, an ancient generation lost in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when it disappeared, never to be seen again.  It is said that a few of these ghostly people were seen drinking beer at parties around town, but the only evidence offered as proof of its existence was a dusty bottle of Brew 102, which may have been lifted from the wonderful Modern Museum of Really Old Hemet History.

Now, where was Webb’s paint-job located?  It was on his nose, and only his nose.  And it was not paint, but zinc oxide, and he was just about the only person around the pool who wore it.  So, for sure, Webb’s nose suffered no sunburns.  However, and this is a biggie, the rest of Webb’s body was literally as brown as a berry, to borrow an old expression, thanks to a popular product known as suntan lotion or suntan oil.  More about this wonder product in a moment,  So, there he was, a body like Adonis, a whistle around his neck, a brown, totalitarian god, sitting on his high throne, blowing that goddamn whistle to keep the geeks and smartasses in line whenever one of us got too rambunctious while attempting to drown one of our buddies or dunking a girl.

The girls usually flocked together, and they were always shrieking and laughing.  The boys played in constantly changing groups, practicing the arts of yelling and water-fighting.  The waterfighting trick was was to push water forward into the face of another with the palm of a hand, at very close range, as quickly and aggressively as possible.  Some guys were so adept at doing this that their watery weapons almost had an edge to them, and could sting if they hit the eyes.  The three-foot deep area of the pool was like a zoo, and a pack of hyenas could not have made more noise.  When a girl was being attacked, she would go under the water, laughing and shrieking, which gave her screams a gurgly sort of sound that was quite musical.  One guy was able to attain the same musical notes repeatedly, so we entitled the song, “Hannah’s Water Music.”

But Webb was like a Canadian Mounted Policeman.  Normal guys, social idiots by nature, and preoccupied to the core, could not tell when a damsel was in distress.  But Ranger Webb knew immediately when there was trouble.  All the kids knew that when the lifeguard blew the whistle, he meant business, and it seemed that every kid in the pool, or eating popsicles on the bench, stopped doing whatever they were doing to look up and look out.  As for the girl with the gurgly shriek, she would pop to the surface, panting and spitting up water, while Webb and Coach, the supervisor, sometimes banished a boy, always a boy, of course, from the pool.  Banishment was so embarrassing that this extreme action was rarely required.  I actually pointed a finger at a friend a time or two, but never at myself.

Naturally, the girls were all in love with Webb.  It’s funny.  I never once saw him away from the pool.  It strikes me that he may have lived at, or in, the plunge, like he was part-fish or something.  If this is so, then it explains why he did not need to undergo the kids’ ritual of emerging from the dank-darkness of the dressing room into the bright sunlight, while stepping into a foot bath to remove any microscopic remnants of the world outside the pool.  We’d be all excited and anxious to get into the water, while Coach delayed our progress.  “Come on, come on, come on, come on….”  This was never said out loud. but our antsiness was unmistakable.  Coach never smiled, and never treated our exit from the lockers as a game.

Another delay.  Out of the foot bath, we had to spread the toes of both feet while Coach looked for athlete’s foot, a disease the likes of which none of us had ever seen.  Then, boom, out and free as bird!  TWEEEEEEEEEEET!  Jesus, what now….  “No running on the deck, you guys!”  Webb’s first-warning.  There was rarely another one.

I see on my bottle of Coppertone Water Babies that it says “Sunscreen Lotion, with zinc oxide.”  In Pre-Columbian times, it was called “suntan lotion,”  or “oil,” and it’s primary task was to give you skin cancer.  Secondarily, it got you brown ASAP, but cancer was the key.  Actually, skin cancer came in two forms: with suntan lotion or without.  It should have been a no-brainer.  See, with the oil, you had the possibility of looking like Webb.  But, basically, guys didn’t give a shit.  The only diseases known to man in those ancient times were getting a goiter, usually contracted by older female Presbyterians, car wrecks, and old age.  Cancer did not exist, for all practical purposes.   After all, 4 out of 5 New York doctors preferred Camels.  No, if a person over 50 died, it was usually old age or an accident of some kind.  A goiter could be dealt with.

Older girls would get to the plunge, put on their bathing suits, slather on the oil, and then lie down on large white towels.  They would turn the stove on “high,” and cook themselves.  After a while, they got a girlfriend to oil their backs, and then they would lie on their bellies.  Some of them came close, but I don’t remember that any of them achieving the pure, thorough, George Hamilton brown of Webb, the Lifeguard.

Guys, of course, would steal glances over to where Barbara, Patty, the Johnson twins and countless others were being cooked by mother nature’s own oven.  But boys did not squish suntan lotion on themselves.  I never saw that, I never experienced that.  No, I was too manly, in my late elementary/early junior high years, to be caught lying around in the sun.  After all, I knew that if I kept moving, the sun’s rays could not keep up with me.  I was perfectly content to howl around the shallow end, looking like me, with ivory white chest, back and legs, contrasted with bronzed arms, face and neck, giving me at least a little wiggle room for the melanoma that was searching for me.

Why the color contrasts?  A fair question.  The standard uniform for a boy was this: Levis and a white tee-shirt.  Shorts?  Like those Madras things worn by old white men and college boys?  No.  All shorts in those days were geeky, godawful things.  Many still are.  Geeky shorts are almost a rite of passage into pre-comatose old age.  So when a kid wore Levis (not Wranglers or things called “blue jeans) and a tee-shirt, nothing got sunburned but the face, the neck and the arms.  Formal wear?  I will concede that one.   Formal wear, for those who dared, might mean a short-sleeve button shirt, hanging out.  Shoes?  A matter of choice.  Until Taylor tennis shoes came along, shoes were just things you wore when you could not go barefoot.

Golly, I wish I had known a little advice like this!

(To be continued)

COSMIC FORECAST!

This is what I have been waiting for.  It’s better than The Thing and Rocketship XM as a double feature at Martin’s Hemet!  Hot Damn.  And all thanks to a good friend who saw my Pisces potential as being something more than sitting on my fat ass and watching other old white people sitting on their fat asses, and dropping floppity-flop face-forward into the waiting jaws of death.  Like Ringo Starr, dying to get out of the auditorium to do some “paradin,” in Hard Day’s Night, I am up and out of here.  I love apricots.  I need me some ‘cots.  I am going to parade down to the farmer’s market and buy some frikkin’ cots.  I know it’s late in the season, but if the cots have rotted, then I am going for the plums, nectarines, or maybe a too-soft fig.  Regardless, I’m gone.

I’m back.  But before telling you my harrowing tale of looking for just-right apricots, without squishing the seeds onto the display, let me give you the charge I dealt with on this fine morning:

“you are so ready to feel your way through the day, Pisces, with so much Air Sign energy in play the last few days.  Today you get a refreshing break with the Cancer Moon in your fifth house of pleasures and entertainment.  You are ready to have some fun with life today, whether that is in your work life or love life.  Use nostalgia to step up your game in either area, and don’t be afraid to be creative and fun inspired today.  When you win, you win today.”  (Not too sure about the last sentence, but since astrology is not my game, I will think the sentence means something to someone, as I drift along on my raft of ignorance.)

What do you think?  Cool, huh?  So, after my hot, full-grain cereal with pineapple chunks in natural pineapple juice, served a la can, like the French, for breakfast, I popped my knee into place, took a couple of Ibuprofen, put on my look-like-a-ranger hat, and beat it down the steps.  Outside, I banged a right and headed for the open-air market, looking to get a refreshing break from that damn Cancer Moon in my fifth house of pleasures and entertainment.  I passed several houses of pleasures and entertainment, but didn’t feel creative and fun inspired until I got to the antique store, where Miles and Coltrane were working hard at “So What,” on an LP played at the front of the store.  God, shoot me now, you bastards, but let me go with Miles.  Ba dun ta da ta da ta da, Duh Duh…. Daaa dun dun dun, Duh Duh….

Trying to pop my arthritic thumbs and fingers, lookin’ cool with my Jonesy Rollup down around my ears, plastic sack ready to grab some fruit.  I headed away from Miles, and snuck around the world’s largest, most persistent pest, Christina, the person with so many sexual orientations and ornaments that even National Geographic was afraid to photograph her and the bells and whistles in her hair, nose, lips and ears.  I was furtive.  She didn’t see me until some kid blew a penny whistle, but by then I was hidden behind a pile of fruit.  What a chicken, but I felt an obligation to be creative and fun inspired, and Cancer was already chasing me out of the fifth house, into the sixth.  I had a charge to accomplish and was becoming too preoccupied to focus.

I then headed down the main drag, inspecting the this and that, considering a cabbage, contemplating a row of turnips.  And then I saw it…a bin of cots.  Two bucks a pound.  I didn’t like the look of ’em.  I took a sample or two, but you know how that goes:  the clerk gets a good apple or apricot, and cuts it, but you sense that, well, somehow, they were not up to snuff.  Which reminded me of Hemet apricots, and not just because Hemet was 600 miles south.  I mean to say that this was an inferior fruit.  The gal working the stand said the fruit was from Brentwood, out in the Central Valley.  What was I expecting, for godsakes? Hemet’s best?  The Cadillac of Cots?  Nothing wrong with the Valley, of course, but…the Valley?  Sinking deeper into the earth during a drought, as the big wells take all the water, then swelling up like a sponge in the record rains?  In those times, the farmers dream of deep snow in the Sierras, record crops, Trump keeping his hands off the Mexican labor, and a gallon of Gallo red.  But the apricots?  Large tasteless things laced with the essence of old boot.

I only bought three pounds.

Heading down the waterfront to Florida, I humped up a large hill broken up into three city blocks, and finally achieved The Leaf Cafe, where I got a cafe au lait for 2.95.  Sitting at a sidewalk table, I overhead part of a conversation between two guys in their twenties.  Like an old radio show, broken up by static, I heard bits and pieces that went like this:

“I would love to be in your brotherhood.”

“I know a lot more about construction and contracting than my boss, but I have to watch myself and pretend he knows more, while I have to listen and pretend that I’m learning something.”

“I know, but you better play the game or you’ll be out on your ass.  It is a lot easier to get a job while you have a job.”

“I know.”

“Shit, sometimes I think I am going nuts.  I want to leave her and the kids and get on a raft and just float away.  I love my family and all that, but there is lots of water right in front of my house and I could put everything in a backpack, cut loose, and just float out…maybe up or down the coast.

“I know.”

The construction guy who was looking for a raft, stood up.  The other guy went over to him and they hugged.  The construction guy crossed the street, got into a pickup with a rack, and drove away without looking back.  The other guy put on a slick black leather jacket, brushed back his mullet, put on an expensive helmet, walked over to a huge, beautiful new Indian, with a flat-black paint job, and rode quietly and efficiently down the street.

It was getting late.  If I was going to use nostalgia to step up my game, and be creative and fun inspired, I had better hurry.  Otherwise, it will be a night of news and Central Valley apricots.

WHAT HAPPENED TO IT?

What happened to it?

America.

The democracy experiment with all those angry, wandering, involuntary, indifferent, ignorant, sometimes treasonous civil warriors, and often blown-to-pieces participants and bystanders—–

Whoops.

Hey.

Yes, you.

No, not me.  Not true.  Wrong guy.  I don’t remember a thing.  I don’t recall.  Not my fault.  I wasn’t born yet.  I did not choose white.  Mohammad Ali, my man.  Malcolm X…swear to god my hero.  Diversity is my middle name.  Right.  Porter is my middle name, but that part of my family were working stiffs.  Get it?  Porter?  Hauling stuff?  Working, not yachting?

Besides, I like Tracy K. Smith.

Really.

Whaddaya  mean, who?

Poet, Poet Laureate, Princeton, passionate search for god?

(Other self speaks.  Just free me from another story of the downtrodden, the misbegotten, the beaters and the beaten, the treasonous South, Hitler’s moustache, stolen from Charlie Chaplin without permission.  So many stories.  It’s fatiguing.  I’m like those dogs over there, panting in the shade.)

(Maybe I’ll pretend to be an engineer.)

I’m an engineer.  I was once given the task of directing the waters of the Antarctic icecap to the other side of the ice just to maintain the earth’s rotation.

Come on, for Chrissakes.

(Sister Clementine crosses herself when I knock the chalk statue of Mary off her holy perch in front of the class, scattering mom’s crown of roses all over the linoleum floor…and me watching a tomato slice hit the deck as it slides out of my sandwich, with Miracle Whip, on white, before we all repaired to the old wooden church, which preceded our present stucco mission-style with the tile roof, to watch a Catholic classic, “The Fighting Sullivans,” all of whom died in WWII, and were lifted by Jesus, or a close associate, into heaven as the black-and-white sun sets over the Pacific.)

Damn.

I have recently past, as is often said

when people die but are somehow for inexplicable reasons still with us.

That’s me.

Loaded to the gunwales with the past.  Writing for the sake of completely (make that somewhat) undefined values, and bailing out the goddamn boat with a tin can that is too small for the job.

And me with a bum knee.

If I get struck dead tonight read this and you’ll know why.  Sister Clementine said that takingthelord’snameinvainmeantgoingtohell, and me not even Catholic.  Doomed.  What’s with that?  Anyway, I went to sleep that night, just guessing the name in vain part, saying goddamn over and over.  I woke up on South Santa Fe Street, as usual, and thought hell was not all that bad.  When I saw Gerald, I told him my story and said he was the one that god was looking for.  It was not me.  I didn’t even get to choose my own skin color.

Gerald got worried, and almost threw his prize steelie at me.

Sister Clementine was not amused.

See what I mean?

And now left pumping bile into the cracks and crevices of the mind, where allure and wonderful and questionable habits once roamed.

With religion pumped into youthful brains, weighed with ancient instruments by a careless father and son, by the pound, like a sack of sugar.

And reinforced by such incredible admonitions as would stun a dragon settling in for a meal of fresh baked Algeria, with a bit of Palestine for dessert, neither of whom had the grace to thank their lords and masters for the slaughters and defeats visited upon them by the powers of the day.

Whoops.

Sorry.

I almost took off on a boring journey down the River Styx, or the Missouri in flood, or something.

Right.  Dropping like flies.

They’re dropping like flies.  Never say, “We’re dropping like flies.”  See, if you say “they” are dropping like flies, and not “we,” you will live.  Us v. them, get it?  In any case, if they drop like flies, and stay in the world instead of squirming like a worm into the old cold hard earth, it can become problematical.

When this happens, we can become the very ones being stared at and talked about by younger versions of our very similar beings.  You may see them, insiders on the push, pushing back in civilized tones and ways as they approach edges of their own.

Always saying they are dropping like flies, as I do.

Watch out for the others.  They may be them, looking askance at us, slightly cross-eyed, not quite staring, so as to avoid being noticed, wondering, wondering, until one fine day, someone sees a wobble in a walk.

Sounds like a we is about to become a less-than-useful they, them, or even a “who?”

Sounds like yet another old turkey is about to get it where the chicken got the axe.

See Tracy K. Smith, the way she grew up.  Foundational.  Elemental.  Part of her drive.  Of that old-timey black Southern culture.  Seeing the dark corners in the circle of life.  OK, she is young, anyway, but she keeps hanging around by saying they, but being We, so as to not to curse herself while avoiding the nasty garbage dumpsters lurking around every turn.

She must be especially careful to avoid Charlton Heston, among the last of the original, centuries old Dumpster Bouncers group, with his cold, dead hands.  If she should carelessly bounce into Heston’s Dumpster, off she goes, with no consideration for talent, youth or any of it.  Still, Tracy is pro-we, if not exactly anti-they, and is many poems away from dropping like a fly or even contemplating the softness of that thud.

But, if you are seeking a good Dumpster Bouncer, I read on a bathroom wall that you can contact Charlton Heston at HOllywood 5-3269.  If you learn that Charlton has past, consider calling the West Wing of the White House, a place with a special near-future past of its very own.  Dumpsters are inspected daily by inexperienced non-professionals. Available for multiple services.  Rates change moment-to-moment.

“WHAT A DAY THIS HAS BEEN….”

Time to get the hell out of here.  What else can they say about that stumblebum in the White house?  Got to walk.  Time for walkin’ not stoppin’.

Must prep.  Let’s see left knee.  Couple of Ibuprofen, taken internally.  Other way does not work at all.  Knee bared to the indoor elements.

Put on fine surgical gloves.  Avoid garden gloves, which stiffen up and cannot be washed.

Start with a slather of olive oil and, uh, that Italian vinegar.  Balsamic.  How could you forget that one?  Jesus H. Christ.  Balsamic.

Write it down.

What’s his name?  That FBI guy taking over the Russian investigation?  Damn.  German name.  Kaiser Wilhelm?

Where was I?  OK.  Rub that oil and vinegar stuff onto the knee from the top down and not the bottom up. Massage that thing (refers to left knee) with some energy.  Put a measure of KC Masterpiece onto a palm, rub palms together, rub into knee with salt and fine ground pepper until it disappears.

No, no.  Not the knee until it disappears, but the salt and pepper mix.

Clever man.

Considers the body to be an automobile.

Contemplates disappearance of left knee, both thumbs, and other mechanical parts of motor and front end.

Alignment and balance.  Brakes.  Timing belt probably thinking about falling apart in the middle of a busy freeway.

Mind drifting.  Thinking of new dark glasses endorsed by Brad Pitt, whoever he is. Married to that Armenian girl with the big ass?  That one?

Better write it down.

Add touch of Sriracha hot sauce.

No Sriracha hot sauce.  Got to get some.  Can do without Dijon and even Tabasco, but no Sriracha means trouble.

Better write it down.

Next time Remember to take off gloves before rubbing eyes.

Write that one down for sure.

Where did the shower go?

Add dollop of Cramer Red Hot Maximum Strength Warming Analgesic Pain Relieving Cream from jar opened two days ago after last used in 1956 in the Hemet High School boys locker room as a means of relieving the pain of having to wear a t-shirt under the practice uniform for a month in a contest to stink out everyone in the place.  I beat Brent and Jerry by a couple of stinks, and a caution from coach.  The Red Hot is still red hot and will work wonders on today’s left knee.

Rub and rub and rub some more.

Wow, what a smell.  Cooked roadkill.  It crosses my mind to cut me off some fresh left knee and put bread in the toaster.

But I am now a vegetarian and my willpower will only collapse for a couple of corn dogs.

A shawarma from Al-Borge in Beirut before the butchering began.  When my knee was young and my spark plugs still fired.

I put some tonic into just a bit of gin.  Will swallow as a whole group, using any remnants as a sealant for cooked, hot oatmeal placed in a plastic sack and laid on top of the knee. Must leave alone for some minutes while watching MSNBC’s what’s-her-face have another whack at the terrific, wonderful way that our very own fearless local ignorant Mussolini bulled his way past that dude from Montenegro…head tilted up, jaw set just so.

I need to write down the name of what’s-her-face.

Remove oatmeal and put in bowl.  Put sweetener, honey, almond slices, raisins, peach slices, touch of dill pickle juice, and some other things on the oatmeal.  Microwave, and eat.

 

Yeah.  Got to walk.

It seems the Ibuprofen has kicked in nicely, and here I am, walking at the waterfront.

At the exact location of a perfect day.

No clouds. Wind out of the southwest, blowing across the water.

I could have worn a t-shirt like those kids over there on the grass.  Look at ’em run.

I try to picture myself running like that.

It is not a pretty picture.

And then the couple showed up, walking rapidly down the sidewalk towards me.

They walked past me as I stood there waiting for the foot-traffic to clear

They were in their late fifties.

He had played left guard in high school, but was not recruited.

He wore shorts and a grunge shirt.

He was taller than she, but he looked shorter.  He had a chunky build, with fat, hairy calves.  She was slim and wore slim pants and a fitted workout shirt.

She gave a damn about things, and he…not so much.

They were a married couple dying of great familiarity.

If I walked that fast, my fresh new coating of natural knee pad materials would fall off.

There were dogs in the area and they would attack if my knee pad fell off and broke on the sidewalk.

My knee exposed to the elements, the hounds of hell would rush at me from the direction of every dog owner and chew on me, snacking their way to the new and improved bone marrow set on the table before them.

So, preoccupied, yes, but I was able to watch the walking couple as a secret sociology project…observing surreptitiously from a distance.

They walked at exactly the same speed.

The gentleman unable or unwilling to close the gap of 20 feet separating them.

The lady never turning around to check on the progress of Big Calves.

Always knowing where he was.

Twenty feet behind.

Once or twice he attempted ever so subtly to catch up by walking faster.

But she, without a ripple of a hint, kept those white walking shoes pumping.

Pumping just a tad faster, and he… unable to make up any ground.

A game!

Then came a right turn, and in a Monaco Grand Prix move, he cut the turn and headed cross-country across a lawn while she went straight until she had to make her turn on the sidewalk.

Without looking she noted his maneuver.

He walked up to her right shoulder,

looking her way.

He said something.

She turned and glanced at the man.

After another 10 feet and she turned her head again, looking straight at the man.

The drama took on new depth.

Did she just speak?

At the next turn, to the left, I looked over the tiny Inlet of Reeds, Logs and Rats.

And there they were, on the other side of the inlet, maneuvering through some other walkers.  Now she was about 15 feet ahead of her companion.

Both walked at the same speed.

Soon they disappeared along the Quai des Saumons Morts.

When I stopped to look at the rapidly disappearing maybe-couple, a women also stopped near me.

One of their yipping dogs walked over to my wounded knee, sniffed, and began to bark.

He tried to pee right on the damn thing while I was searching for rats in the mud in the reeds below the walkway.

Dogs.  I don’t trust their judgment.

Still, I may need to change my medically imperfect knee-relief formula.

And I need to write it down.

It was a perfect day, the breeze continued out of the southwest and I began to sing,
“What a day this has been, what a rare mood I’m in….”

LEAF CAFE

I was sitting at Leaf Cafe, corner Florida and Marin.

Sitting in the lap of a cushioned metal chair.

Sacks of fruit resting in a corner on the next chair, all together in peaceful repose.  Fully relaxed, the whole diverse lot.  Peaches, Ripe plums, and not-so-ripe apricots.

Hi she said.  Cafe au lait, right?  So yes, I sez, and that pie-sized chocolate chip cookie.

Feeling my oats alright.  Happy as a swallow now permitted to return to Capistrano by the local developers after the tourists arrived all pissed off that whadoyamean no goddamn swallows?  Back in the wagon kids.  Let’s go to Carlsbad and get some goddamn shrimp….  (That guy was a priest?  My ass he was a priest.  My sister could be a priest if she wanted to if that queer can).  Al, no talking that way in front of the kids.  Goddamn.

I’m back in my chair, fully focussed on nothing at all except for Lebron James saying that it’s tough to be black in America.

The right dropping their loads on another whining black guy complaining again about life in America when all they have to do is get back on the boat to Africa or wherever they came from.

But James nailed it and I hope he kicks ass tonight….

I am very happy being just another white guy not having to undergo the black experience.

Given my weaknesses the black experience would have thrown my lighted, guided roads and angles all over the damn place and me being so lazy would I have shot my way out of Malcolm X angers like James Stewart in Winchester 73?

Yes, especially after having lived the white life knowing that my now black ass was doomed to permanent second class status.

Second class status?

But well, now, see?  Never having to live that nightmare I can now continue my cautiously optimistic path toward the rest of my life without having to worry about anything more than

….But how about you?  You think the mythical gods out there or the one myth eventually settled on by the structures made you white?

I’m thinking this as a black family in a new Mercedes comes to a stop across the street.

Let me pause to silently curse those I have known who said things like…

would still say things like the woman is a prostitute they sell drugs the guy is her pimp and the kids are their bastard children or they care for them for money. Those people happy to be in another part of the town or the state or the country.

And thinking to their shrinking selves that the only white prostitutes and pimps are bad people in Frank Sinatra movies and horror films.

God this coffee and that cookie….  Excuse me while I cookie monster the whole freakin’ thing.

Just came from the downtown car show and hey there is that ugly ’52 Chev pickup with the smooth V-8.

Primer paint only and the driver looks over as if to say wanna race?

Sheeeeeee-it!  My, my, my.  Crossing the street is one cool teenage dude.

A USC baseball cap

USC warmup pants

A USC jacket

I say, hey, does that jacket say USC on it?  Do you go to school there?  He is very happy and literally bops on over.

Nope, but I love the place and can’t wait for the season to start.

Damn.  You have made my day.  Anyone ever threaten your life for wearing USC in these parts?

Uh, no.  Not for the SC stuff….

Right.

Have a nice day he says as he walks sort of skips down the sidewalk.

Nice sunny day,  too.  There was a black guy shot dead in Vallejo last night.  Do I know for sure he was black?  No, I don’t.

Just a guy shot in Vallejo last night.

Hell of a cookie.

THE MAN IN THE NYLON STOCKING MASK AND THEN IN A STRANGE NEW MASK*

*From an idea by John Lincoln Parssinen

More and more Americans have come to the conclusion that there is even less to Jared Kushner than first suspected.  People have begun to gossip that Kushner, son-in-law of Donald Trump, has no soul and only trace amounts of spirit and character.  But suspicions have begun to mount that he also seems to have no face.  Scientists once thought Kushner’s lack of facial characteristics were nothing more than poor photography.  Others said that the face might be the result of a strange, unsubstantiated coincidence of bad luck and forgotten accidents.  Still others thought there was a family curse involving a rare disease known as “melon head,” with all facial parts more or less disappearing, and the head becoming as smooth as a watermelon’s patootie.

One bright observer (correctly, as it turns out) thought Kushner looked like he was wearing several nylon stockings pulled tightly over his head.  Most agreed that this was a silly idea, unless the presidential aide planned to rob a bank or hold up a Wall Street brokerage.  Ha ha ha…the Trump enthusiasts said.  Why would a Trump want to rob a bank or hold up Wall Street?  What was there to gain by doing something like that?  And yet, the word “gain” did have a meaning that the president understood, and he thought the idea had merit, until something or other happened in either North Korea or….  Or…. Hmmmmm.

Furthermore, just how would Kushner go about putting nylons on his head?  (Hired assets blushed when they found out).  In any case, all observers began to look more closely at the videos and the live shots of Kushner, complaining that there was nothing to see, other than blinking little button eyes, a zipper attached to his mouth, and small, fine hands and ears.

[“It is very difficult to take facelessness seriously,” complained a whiner named Jack Jones, of AP.  “There is no particular tone or modulation in his voice, particularly when the zipper that seals his mouth is closed, which it always is unless he is with wealthy, influential people he does not know in places he has never seen.  There is something about the eyes.  Buttons most of the time, but with remnants of life at other times.  I think the guy is telling us to follow some kind of bouncing ball while he concentrates on lifting our wallets.”]

Last April, to Hollywood’s surprise, Kushner tried to hire a former public relations head at Blumberg Pictures, named Raffaello, to become his own public relations director.  The young presidential advisor, a carrier of a hundred political portfolios, wanted a face with real features, such as relief and angles, and also a featured personality to match.  He wanted a little color in his life.  A little crazy fun, to show the woman he had met at a street dance that he could be her little bundle of joy!

Raffaello had specialized in graphic horror films that often featured a man wearing a nylon stocking mask.  Without much consideration, he took the job.  He knew that if he could give an accurate portrayal of Steve Bannon’s true nature as the scary skeletal figure on Saturday Night Live, then creating some facial features for Jared Kushner would be a cinch.  Raffaello hit on green as the color of Trump, and he would develop a green mask that carried all messages.  Ivanka would love it.  Besides, bathing in money was becoming a bore.  She, too, craved excitement.

So Kushner moved Raffaello into the White House to be part of the Office of American Innovation, a “non-partisan” group designed to assist American businesses and businessmen compete globally, including Russia .  In fact, Kushner had known Raffaello since 2015.  Even then,  Raffaello could get Kushner to move up and down the halls and in and out of offices without being recognized.  And not just because Kushner was another faceless man with tiny hands and tiny feet wearing fancy shoes.  No.  It was something infinitely better!  Like Superman, Kushner was motivated.  He wanted to go from being his naturally nerdy self to becoming, yes, a green-colored, very fast, very ugly, mean, hard-ass, money-grubbing, secret-sharing, son of a bitch who could now go forward into all sorts of trouble in the name of (careful now) but NOT with the permission of the President of the United States.  Soon, Raffaello and his boss created a variety of green disguises, with plenty of facial features, all based on the color of money and the dependable greed of mankind.

One of Kushner’s present jobs is to meet business magnates at places like the back door of Trump Tower, the delivery door at the White House, city streets, magazine stands, dumpsters, the Kremlin, and other rat holes.  The Pentagon, Capitol Hill, and CIA Headquarters are also used, “for a change of scene.”  The idea, of course, is to make deals by bringing plutocrats into the “incredible, terrific, wonderful possibilities of being part of a place just doors away from the Treasury of the United States.”  And, for very few bags of twenties, accidently left over there in that corner, “the president and I might give you a personal tour of the place where the thousand-dollar bills are printed, and where you can hold and sniff bundles of fresh, new bills while listening to the sound of the plastic-wrap machines.  Why, it’s almost like sex!”

Few fat old white Republicans, and even a smattering of fat old white Democrats, can resist that wonderful Trump family charm.  Many foreign visitors are also given long-term visas for family and friends…all for being so terrific.

A cheap pause for dinner.  Is Kushner just a dirty young man, with aspirations of growing into dirty old manhood, like Donald?  Will faceless Jared learn the ancient art of the lie, projected directly into the face of friend and foe, alike, and accepted like gospel truth?  Will Melania continue to reject the fat-fingered hand play of Donald, a theatrical performance done before millions of people?  Will she cave to his advances?  Will she divorce old buffalo-breath before the people give him the boot?  I have no idea about any of this, and Fox ain’t talking these days.

But here is what I do know.  Or almost know.  Yes, Jared has new hawk-like facial features.  Raffaello, the genius of both the visible and the invisible costume, regardless of size, shape, personality, or motive, is busier every day.  For some reason, his Russian clientele is growing rapidly.  He has released several new videos, two of which are previewed below.  The first shows Jared taking the name of a popular star as he demonstrates the incredible power of his newest masks.  The second reveals how he met and wooed the lovely Ivanka at a lively street dance.

Please remember that Jared can now choose to go for the green, while dressed in green, or to go for it as the incredibly boring, bumbling, and amateurish nerd we see just hanging around the White House scene, slavishly lapping up his father-in-law’s goofy compliments.  If you tune in today or tomorrow (better make it soon), this is the Jared you will likely see.  Still, he loves his new outfits, and looks forward to trying them on whenever he can.