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October 30, 2012

The Storm by Theodore Roethke

Against the stone breakwater,
Only an ominous lapping,
While the wind whines overhead,
Coming down from the mountain,
Whistling between the arbors, the winding terraces;
A thin whine of wires, a rattling and flapping of leaves,
And the small street-lamp swinging and slamming against
               the lamp pole.
Where have the people gone?
There is one light on the mountain.
Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell,
The waves not yet high, but even,
Coming closer and closer upon each other;
A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea,
Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot,
The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending,
Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness.
A time to go home!--
And a child's dirty shift billows upward out of an alley,
A cat runs from the wind as we do,
Between the whitening trees, up Santa Lucia,
Where the heavy door unlocks,
And our breath comes more easy,--
Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over
The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating
The walls, the slatted windows, driving
The last watcher indoors, moving the cardplayers closer
To their cards, their anisette.
We creep to our bed, and its straw mattress.
We wait; we listen.
The storm lulls off, then redoubles,
Bending the trees half-way down to the ground,
Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard,
Flattening the limber carnations.
A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb,
Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead.
The bulb goes on and off, weakly.
Water roars into the cistern.
We lie closer on the gritty pillow,
Breathing heavily, hoping--
For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater,
The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell,
The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses,
And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.


October 28, 2012

Four-Letter Horror

Before spouting off about something we don't know firsthand -- 'rape victims provoked their attackers' or 'deserved it', or 'it's God's will' (Satan's will?) -- let's just listen and learn:


October 26, 2012

A Little Gay Goes A Long Way

Watching baseball every night, I snoozed, schmoozed and mused. I admired my guys: viral, studly, naturally testosteroney men’s men. Heterosexuals (mostly). How come baseball players—I asked my sleepy ol’ self—always have a bunch of kids: four, six, eight? I don’t. Most people I know don’t. When the TV scans the players wives’ section then you get it: they’re a bunch of foxy babes, hot cheerleader types. And in the off-season, the boys make up for lost time. Nudge, nudge. Ummmm. Naw, way too pat.

Just because you’re married to a beautiful woman doesn’t mean you get a lot of great sex or have a lot of children. Get real. Okay, answer this then Mr. Smarty Pants, why do these guys seem to have more fun? And a healthier attitude towards fatherhood, husbandhood, loverhood, bodyhood?

Here’s my current theory (5 cents please): baseball players, a micro-society of only males, are constantly touching one another like apes. The handshake is no good without the pat on the butt. The pat on the butt is preferred to the pat on the back or head. The victor gets a group hug that can almost suffocate. The off-duty boys are often draped over the rail and over one another. The hugs are often long and strong, as if  hugging wives and girlfriends. And the group gropes have to get bouncy to be good. The hand-touching rituals can often become complex and personalized. In the clubhouse, the players shower together, touch some more, look long and hard at one another’s handsome bodies. Made even more handsome by artwork covering the skin. You know these men are handsome as hell.

These guys are practically more physical with each other than the crowd at a San Francisco gay bathhouse. Or, more to the point, any random bunch of heterosexuals on earth. I haven’t patted a guy on the butt in living memory. (Maybe I should start.) The last time I stood with naked men was in the high school showers forty years ago. At work say, I would not hug a male colleague or stand with my arms draped around him or go through our own private touching sequence. We’re all too inhibited. Too out of touch. Maybe we want to, but everyone would take it the wrong way. Way too gay?

No. That’s what I’m trying to say. The boys of summer have discovered that the male touch, the male friendship expressed physically is not gay at all. I bet it’s not even considered gay by the hidden ten percent who are. It’s that wholesome and positive male-to-male bonding behavior that the rest of us lost in our forest of neuroses. We envy it when we see it on TV, but we fear doing it in real life. So we collect our hang-ups and can’t get healthy sex figured out.

When the Giants won the series in 2010, Dave Righetti, in tears, kissed his pitchers one by one and told them how much he loved them. At the moment that was the perfect response. Perfect.

So here I am waiting for the love fest after the world series victory, signing off for now with an imaginary pat on the butt to you all,

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt: Was he talking about us?
Jeff: If he was, would that make us so gay we’re straight?
Mutt: Yeah. Post-Gay.
Jeff: Right on!
Mutt: Did you know that rust is edible? After all, it is a form of car-rot.
Jeff: Some river valleys are absolutely gorges.
Mutt: Did you know that Spanish bullfighters use Oil of Olé face cream to beat wrinkles?
Jeff: The Hand family consists of 10 electricians. Their motto is "Many Hands make light work."
Mutt: The Irish government is wealthy because its capital is always Dublin.
Jeff: The sheep rustler who broke out of jail is now on the lam.
Mutt: We ought to rename summer "pride" because pride cometh before the fall.
Jeff: When the Lord said, "Go forth, be fruitful and multiply!" he didn't necessarily have math teachers in mind.
Mutt: When the little boy was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he said "I needed help with my homework." The reason: "God helps those who help themselves."
Jeff: You can have too much of a good thing, but since most people think puns are not good things, they can't have too many of them!
Mutt: Some people say my puns are sleep-inducing, but I keep laudanum anyways.
Jeff: What are puns?
Mutt: Never heard of them.

October 16, 2012


Tough luck, dumb luck, hard luck, good and bad lucks, rotten luck, beginner’s luck, luck of the draw, stroke of luck, to luck out …

I am talking to Barney at Mazama Village near Crater Lake, and he gets excited like he’s discovered the secret in our conversation:

“Luck, that’s it! We’re here because of luck. We are lucky to get to do this. That’s the key word right there. The big why.”

I agree with Barney. We are privileged to walk this great trail, this beautiful earth. I told him that several of my friends were sick or had died recently so that I felt sad and lucky to have good health and express it by walking in the mountains. I don’t want to just sit around waiting for my turn to go south. I’m northward bound, deeper into the forest, where fear is a friend and luck is your password.

Then I met Scott (you know which one) at Timothy Lake just as he was giving up his historic trek, and he said, "Oh well, what counts is being out here, right? So many people at this moment stuck in traffic, and we get to be here on the trail in the middle of this." And he waved his arms around, and it wasn't corny at all.

If you see me this morning, you might think I’m on a zombie diet. I’ve been staying up all night almost every night to watch the baseball games live from the United States. This year I can not only get them on the computer but also on the tv, at least some of the games. I suppose I could watch the recording the next day, like I usually do, but it's the pennant, man! And after the Giants have done their best all the way to the end, I’ll go back and watch all the games I missed while I was in the mountains in August.

A few years ago all this was a dream. The only way to get a game was to go to Candlestick or tune into KNBR. And when I was young, after we moved away from San Francisco, we didn’t even get games on the radio. Only box scores in the newspaper. That made it pretty hard for a kid to be a fan.

Now what I mean by these two examples—the intense aliveness of hiking for weeks alone and the thrill of good baseball from clear around the world—is not that they are equals. When I leave the unnatural world for the natural, I’m quite happy to renounce silly old baseball. The mountains are real intense life (did I tell you I was the last one to see that guy alive?); the other’s just a game. But when I want some entertainment that’s not about the end of the world or killer monsters, disgraceful news and eco-disasters, I can check out a Giants game anytime. Even from out here on Danger Island. Uh oh, Chongo!

That makes me feel lucky. You plug in your own examples and feel it too.

Happy trials and good luck, Martin


Mutt: Did you see that obscene photo the boss put up? Like his post was merely an excuse to objectify a woman’s body.
Jeff: Yeah, I object.
Mutt: Me too, so sexist I didn’t look.
Jeff: Me neither.
Mutt: She did ask me if I wanted to get lucky though.
Jeff: Yeah, me too. I said that I had already been lucky yesterday at the track.
Mutt: Yesterday I read a story about a pony on the pampas called "Little Horse on the Prairie".
Jeff: You can read?
Mutt: Did you know … hands are like bells, especially when they're wrung?
Jeff: I always say: addition in a dark Chinese restaurant is "dim sum".
Mutt: Really, you always say that?
Jeff: Sure. And an expert farmer is outstanding in her field.
Mutt: Oh, nice gender-inclusive touch. Check this out: cannibals like to meat people.
Jeff: Camels live in Camelfornia.
Mutt: An economist: A discount fog.
Jeff: Come again? How about the bear that was hit by an 18-wheeler and splattered all over the place? They said it was a grizzly accident.
Mutt: How about the time the wind stopped blowing in Chicago and everyone fell down.
Jeff: How about if you plug a pizza in the socket and get a pizza delight.
Mutt: Okay, but in San Francisco fog will never be mist.
Jeff: Ha. Look out. Never give your uncle an anteater.
Mutt: Wasn’t going to. And, just for your information, I can read too. I read recently a history of electronics of Biblical proportions: Solomon and Toshiba!
Jeff: Oowah. You know what I call one who does magic tricks with bandages? A wizard of gauze.
Mutt: Oh brother, that’s weak. Here’s the topper: If life is like a bowl of cherries, what's the raisin for living?
Jeff: Okay, what is it?
Mutt: Shut up.
Jeff: What?

October 12, 2012

Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

On behalf of all my fellow citizens of the European Union, I would like to thank you for this prestigious award. I am only one person out of a total of around 500 million, which is only about 7 percent of the world population, so for you to single out our small group as worthy of such a great honor as this year’s Nobel Prize for Peace is truly humbling.

Personally, I was not always a European Union member. I visited quaint little Europe first in 1975 and again in 1979, but the second time I stayed. Now I proudly carry the passport of the European Union through the check point at the airport or sometimes I carry my U.S. passport, depending on which line is shorter. In any case, being a member of the European Union has been, frankly, a convenience.

Sixty years of peace – an achievement worthy of celebration. Okay, let’s not count the wars in Ex-Yugoslavia, the Ex-Soviet Union, terrorist attacks or other unpleasantries. All those bodies are such bad p.r. Let’s focus on our pacific international relations with our European brothers and sisters. Naturally we all hate one another, but we have found that a large-scale war fought in our countries is a very bad thing. That’s why we support the fighting of wars as far away from us as possible. We are not savages nor are we elitists. And please stop sending all those dark-skinned people here. Unless they're tourists.

We also have the problem of where to put all our garbage and fortunately there’s the third world to take care of that. Including nuclear waste and other toxins which are really quite a nuisance. But all we have to do is pay, like we pay our maids, who all come from those countries too, and any problem can disappear magically so that we can live in peace and wealth.

Perhaps having a strong stable continental economy—uh oh, we’re on the brink of disaster again—not only provides a high standard of living to protect, but also lets us somehow buy peace. I don’t know. I don’t know anything about politics or economics. I just know that we will never support another war in our great lands, even while we arm other countries and let them have at it.

Anyway, I talked to some friends today, and we all agree. We are very grateful for this prize because we feel we deserve it because we are the most peaceful people on earth.

Happy trials,  Martin


Mutt: Good day, Sir Jeffery, how’s be-eth it hangin’?
Jeff: Sorry, can’t talk to you right now. I’m studying for a test.
Mutt: Oh great, I’ll help you.
Jeff: No, please don’t.
Mutt: Where is Venice located?
Jeff: Um.
Mutt: Buzz! In Venice-zuela. Why are meteorologists always nervous?
Jeff: Do we have to …
Mutt: Their future is always up in the air.
Jeff: Right.
Mutt: Why are there no floods in Paris? Here, I’ll give you this one. Because the water is always 'eau.
Jeff: Okay, so why did the blonde throw butter out a window? Because she wanted to see a butterfly.
Mutt: I think that’s incorrect. In any case, why do ambassadors never get sick? Give up? Diplomatic immunity.
Jeff: This is very helpful.
Mutt: Why do people who throw away feather pillows get depressed?
Jeff: Can we …
Mutt: They’re down is in the dumps.
Jeff: That stinks.
Mutt: Why isn't whispering permitted in class?
Jeff: Please.
Mutt: Because it's not aloud.
Jeff: Alright, I’ve got one and then that’s it. Why don't sharks eat divorce lawyers?
Mutt: Oh I know this, no I don’t.
Jeff: Professional courtesy.
Mutt: You lost me.
Jeff: That’s life.
Mutt: What’s life? …