Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Catching Up

I guess I need to post a new blog, if for no other reason than to give JennyD more space to comment. Yes, I have suddenly had such an upsurge in Followers that what to say I wot not.  I know my Shaggers new and old know that 'wot' is a real word and not a mis-key, such a clever lot as they are.

As I said to OneGirl on her blog, a blog is a public forum and one has no control over the comments made.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  To Marge and JennyD who apologized for lengthy comments, more power to you!  I love long comments which are mini-blogs in themselves - I do it all the time on others' sites.  Hey, if it is TO me or ABOUT me or inspired by me, I just can't get enough.  Fear no more.

I am feeling concerned about this current entry - I learned long ago to write on a text editor and then cut and paste into my blog, since I have lost long and wondrous posts by trusting blog websites not to delete all ere I published.  But I do not wish to leave an entry inadvertently on this computer, since I am writing from my friend Emily's computer at her home in Northern California.  As I have said before, I do not share my blog with people I know, nor do I use real names.  This allows me to write things I don't care to have shared or picked over by my near and dear.  Nor need I worry that someone will be offended by a misreading (or even a correct reading) of things I write.  I have noticed that even such a canny lot as my Shaggers occasionally read something entirely different from what I thought I wrote - how much more likely for a reader who has exposed nerves and who still disagrees with me over whose pencil that was in third grade and who holds a grudge therefore, to do so. 

I came to California from Western NY on the train with my brother Luke and his girlfriend Carol.  It was all-in-all a nice trip.  Just as we were about to cross the Mississippi River, Carol went downstairs in the observation car to a tiny snackbar/booze bar for a teeny-weeny double vodka, and while she was there, Luke and I heard a man shouting therefrom.  When Carol returned, she told us that a middle-aged female conductor had observed a man stealing a number of items from a girl's purse and putting them into his own backpack.  The man defended himself against the charge (rather weakly, I thought) by saying, "Just because I look like a derelict doesn't mean I am a thief!"  As a defense, I do not think this will enter the annals alongside Clarence Darrow or Johnnie Cochran. 

The conductress glommed onto the man's backpack and told him he was not leaving with it, and the man struggled to pull it away from her, whereupon Angela, the lady behind the counter flew out like an avenging Fury and told the man to leave her colleague alone.  Angela is a lovely lady who looks about 35, and had told us she was 59.  We spent a fair amount of time talking with her.  She had been a magazine model when young (she had a beautiful face) and was quite an interesting lady, with a lively wit.  Between them, the conductress and Angela managed to keep hold of the backpack, and after the train crossed the Mississippi into Iowa it stopped athwart a main street in a tiny town for an hour while the local gendarmarie boarded and removed the faux derelict, blocking a queue of traffic and leaving the drivers therein to wonder what malign impulse had led them to drive down that particular street in the middle of the night.  Angela later told us that occasionally passengers are lulled into thinking that the quiet informality of a train makes it an easy target for the less-than-upright.  "Au contraire," she assured us (although those are my words, not hers), there are undercover agents from the ATF and DEA on board, among others.  Further, if one boards in Chicago with contraband and is caught in California, he can be (and might well be) charged in every state the train crossed.  Our naughty derelict, by prolonging his efforts through the crossing of the Mississippi had rendered himself liable to prosecution in both Illinois and Iowa. 

Our only other event out of the ordinary was having a freight that was in our way develop a flat wheel (!) and delay us two hours while the situation was remedied; happily this happened in the midst of spectacular Colorado scenery.  The fine folks at Amtrak schedule the California Zephyr so that we see the Rockies and Sierra Nevada by day and cross Utah and some of Nevada by night, which is just as it should be.  If you have two days (from Chicago) or three days (from NYC) and are in no hurry, do take the train.  Bring a blanket, for sure.  The meals are OK, and the rule is that you are seated with whomever has an open table.  We had uniformly interesting tablemates - a man from NASA, two women travelling to see an ailing father and grandfather, a young man with a new job in Colorado.  There was also a young seraphically handsome self-described ski-bum and snowboarder with whom I had a great chat about surfing and about books.  I started talking to him because I saw he was reading Gatsby - it turned out that it was his second time reading it - and I got another lesson on judging a book by its cover, so to speak.  And this man's cover was pretty darn awesome - he had a mass of blond curls and the face of a Pre-Raphaelite painting. 

The wedding was not bad; although I did have to endure a Catholic Mass; the groom's family were quite convivial and I had a great time with his mother who was just a few years too young to have made the Hippie scene in San Francisco and who wanted to hear all about it - WELL!  And she didn't even seem sorry she asked!  There're manners for you!  Many of my siblings - Lucy, of course (mother of the bride), Luke, Liam, George and Jack - were at the wedding with their various offspring, so I had a pretty good time - best of all, Jack did NOT bring his dreadful girlfriend.  I had a date that didn't work out so well - although it was kind of fun and ended with a late meal at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Berkeley where I got to stammer a few remembered Arabic phrases to an interesting lady of Morrocan and Palestinian ancestry.  I then came to stay for a couple of weeks with my friend Emily - my best friend whom I have known since my surfing days in Hermosa Beach many years ago.  She went to a junior college briefly, back in the day, with Squeaky Fromme.  How's THAT for a name-drop? 

It is great being with Emily - some days we do nothing, and the town she lives in has a truly great used bookstore, as well as some nice places to eat.  Emily is a great reader and we love to talk for hours about books, the old days on the beach and everything in between.  We also have no trouble being quiet and doing separate things with no pressure to interact constantly.  Being with Emily is like being at home, only with someone to talk to, and with someone else doing the cooking.  Bliss, in short. 

I realize I am departing again from my effort NOT to make this a diary-type blog, but I do feel that I should aim for at least two entries a month, especially since I am swamped by a tsunami of new readers.  OK, a ripple.  But of such quality.  And I know, quality rather than quantity should be my motto when writing, but I fear I am not sufficiently miserable just now to plumb the recesses of memory for the makings of the better entries.  And I have come up with one or two ideas for alleviating my rather blah existence of late - I hope these last beyond the return to NY and actually get put into practice.  I should be home around the 15th, then there is only Christmas to get past and voila! - a new year.


  1. David, I adore you. Just adore you. I could sit here and read for hours and in fact that's what my other little tab that I have open is for -- yep, yours again. It's the Come To Mama entry. But lets go back to this current one. I'm not going to type a book (drats), but I will say that I felt like I was on the train and witnessing the entire thing. LOVED it. And then when you got to Emily, this really rang a bell with me. My dearest and oldest friend is a guy named Louis Briel that is a very accomplished artist (he has a number of sites and you'd love them, especially his blogspot where he does a short part of his bio called Ducknapper, fabulous, and then he's published 2 books now and they are to die for, lol; how's that for a plug). Anyway, you and Emily are like Lou and I, and I wouldn't trade him for anything in this world. I can remember a particular night when we were, uh, feeling no pain...and we decided to do a painting together. It was better than glorious. We named it The Waiting Game, and damn if it didn't sell for a pretty penny :D That was a great night.
    Oh lord, I left a blog here. Sorry. Really. It's just that you're very easy to be around. I'm stopping right this minute. LOVED your post, David :) xxx

  2. I haven't been on a train since 1953 when my sis and I rode the train from western Illinois to New Jersey to visit our sister and her husband who had just become parents. Quite an experience for two high school girls.
    Your train ride sounds like it was a lot of fun. And hey, I love to read too, so your friend is the best kind. One that can enjoy talking and also enjoy spending quiet time with you too.

  3. David, I've been reading for the longest time and loving every word, but I have to ask (since maybe I missed it), what happened to Tum? And whatever happened to the guy from the dating site? I am sitting here and trying to find the answers. Must have missed an entry somewhere, daggone it. I would give my eye teeth to introduce you and Lou but for lord knows what reason, he still keeps looking for that "kid" age that he'll never be again. He doesn't know what he's missin'.

  4. I've ridden two trains in my life; the Breckenridge Eagle at the zoo in San Antonio, and the Runaway Mine Train at Six Flags over Texas. I recommend both. I wouldn't go cross-country on either of them, and I'm not even sure I could squeeze into the tiny cars of the Breckenridge Eagle anymore - but when I was 4 it was the shiznit. JennyD, in what part of the country do you live? I had a friend from Illinois that said "daggone." I gave 'im fits because everybody in Texas knows it's DOGgone, not DAGgone. Ha!! Have you ever explained why David "Shag?" If so, I missed it. Everytime I see it I think of all the meanings for "shag" and "shaggers."

  5. shiznit? What's a shiznit, MizAngie? By the way, I'm in Va and here you'll hear dag as much as dog (gone), lol. I haven't been around long enough to know the story behind the "shag", but I can think of all sorts of answers. First there was the old shag haircut, then there's the shag dance which was always big here, and then there's the meaning of shag in the UK...uh, trying to think of a nice word for the meaning -- copulate, that's it, lol.
    And the winner is? Ok, David, your turn ;)

  6. Holy smoke, it just dawned on me where I know you. It was from JANE'S! I miss that gal. Don't know why she stopped blogging after so many yrs and it was all of a sudden. Did you ever hear anything? Man, Alpha and Omega must be grown by now.

  7. I'm afraid that as soon as you got to the beginning of the train trip, David, my mind was wandering back to my first trip on a train (the now-defunct Milwaukee Road). That was a lifetime ago, yet I can still hear the muffled sound of the wheels on the track underneath the car and feel the vibration through my feet. Some day I'll blog about it, but not here. 8)

    I was struck most by the comfortable fit between you and your friends and family members. You are a fortunate man, and your dear ones are lucky to enjoy such good times with you.

    What a collection of characters shared that trip with you! I imagine a lovely, quirky independant film based on the paragraphs you offered above. Who could we cast as the various travelers, and who could we possibly cast as you???

    And the scenes at the wedding? Only Nora Ephron could direct a film from those passages, including your wonderful friendship with Emily.

    Whatever you decide to share with us in the future--ether everyday or sublime--hope you will do so very soon.

    A small question: are you a film aficianado? Any favorites?

    Just curious...

  8. What a smorg of comments to which I must and will respond! (One of the things I realy try to do is avoid ending sentences with a preposition. It seems awkward at first, but to me, it actually does make the rereading seem to flow better, besides sometimes imparting a very mild humor - I hope). OK, here goes:

    JennyD (and you'll only get one entry here despite your multiplicity of comments): I wonder how many people have that one great friend. Emily and I are pretty opposite politically, too, which just goes to show. I guess our most outrageous time together was when she was M of Honor and I was an usher at Moondoggie's wedding and we got a good percentage of the champage available under our cumberbunds and followed a strolling violinist around singing "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" no matter what he played. Later that night she rescued me from drowning - both still in full dress.
    Tum died from Cancer in 1995, the same year my brother Gary died and just two months before my return from Saudi. A rough twelve months whose shadow lingers. As to Lou's preferences, the heart (or lower) wants what it wants, and usually whatever it is, is not in our best interests. But to settle for something different is usually worse.

    Shag is nothing fancy - It was my second try at telescoping "Shaughnessy", the first idea was taken. I hardly thought of the sexual innuendo, altho Spaces Live did - and for the entire time I was on there I had any comment I made on a British blog blocked. Took me forever to figure why and actually a former Shagger figured it out when I complained. As to Jane, I do not know, but several of my faves (the incomparable, kind MuseMonkey, and the GayDude) have died and had relatives kind enough to put a last post saying so. But others, like Gayle and Edgy Kay, just stop - in both cases there was some faltering that hinted at the way the wind was blowing. I think there is a lifespan for most bloggers of 2 - 4 years. One hopes something wonderful came to replace it.

    This comment was too long to post, so Beth, MizAngie and Marge - check out the next comment.

  9. Continued...

    Beth - We all remember our train rides, I guess. When a short spur nearby the Farm which connected the RR that ran thru the back of the Farm to the city announced it would cease to operate (I was maybe 5 or 6), my mother took all her then-existing kids on a ride to the city and back (about 15 miles each way) because, she said, every kid should ride on a train at least once.

    MizAngie - I highly recommend the train, for those who can view it as more than just transportation. There are issues - the bathrooms are tiny and I really wonder if a couple of the truly fat guys who were on the train could use them - they are a public venue , used over a period of days, and though they are kept pretty clean and supplied, they are not a real pleasure to spend time in. If the train is crowded and you do not get a sleeping room, your sleepp will be in a seat next to a seat mate, and a bit fitful. You MUST have a blanket in cool weather. We were lucky to be half full, so everyone got the full two man bench, but still it was always just a bit less roomy than one could wish. Apparently summer is the busy season, so go in the cold months. As to Shag, see above - while "Shag" was relatively innocent when I chose it, I definitely enjoyed the full possibility of "Shaggers" once I came up with it!

    Marge - I know just what you mean about wandering mentally to your own experiences. That is part of the fun of reading - sometime I get so lost in my own thoughts when I read something, that I really stop getting any sense from the written material. As to the fit with family (you are right about the friends), I probably don't convey the actual difficulty of being with them. there seem to be two versions of every one - the one I was a boy with, and whom I fantasize are still there within the current adults - which is the one that comes across in writing, I think, and then there is the real people who are far less good of a fit. I mentioned that Carol was going down for her double vodka, and that is an issue with her - it wasn't her first, and never is. I just decided not to go there. All of my brothers are alcoholic, as (probably) am I, but one by one 3 of us have climbed on the wagon. All of us also suffer from clinical depression - with Rob being bipolar (and not just a little bit), as was my Dad, of whose exploits you may have read long ago on Spaces Live, if you saw my stuff there. Dad was -uh - colorful. My brother Liam, the one I get along best with, has a song about Dad called "Telephoning Khrushchev". Enough, perhaps, said? I love Nora Ephron, by the way.

    I love the films that I love, but I am not sure I am a true aficianado. hands down, the film that changed my life was "Lawrence of Arabia". My top 10 include Ordinary people (the girl whom the lead befriended at the mental hospital was so spot-on she took my breath away, this was the first time i could stand Donald Sutherland - he was great, and if Mary T Moore never did anything else, her portrayal of the grief-stricken mother with the frozen heart would have etched her into my heart forever. Brokeback can make me teary just to think of it - Heath L was beyond perfect. Cabaret and Nashville are also in my top ten. I will see most anything with Christina Ricci or Christine Lahti. Right now I am finding the truly great film work in the non-Network channels - The Wire, United States of Tara, Hung, Breaking Bad, Six Feet Under, etc. Not movies, exactly, but awesome.
    And you could be kind and cast Paul Rudd as me, or you could be accurate and go with someone far less fetching and a whole lot older.

  10. Gosh, what a pleasure to come over here and see all the comments and replies. It really is like sitting in your living room and hearing it all but seeing it all through that 3rd eye we have in our heads. Better than delightful, almost an addiction.
    David, I am SO sorry to hear about Tum. Since I didn't know it before and only found out this very moment, it's like the loss happened today. Just so, so sorry. Reading back and seeing him in my mind with you -- what great characters. And Emily? Oh yeah, I can see her, too. You and Emily are just like Lou and I. Great, isn't it :D
    Thanks for answering all those questions, and I promise to try and be good from now on and not type so much. (don't ask how many have heard that blatant lie before; best laid plans, you know).

  11. Okay. I'm probably dating myself with this comment, but -- I knew I had heard the name before, but I had to google Squeaky Fromme. That was before I really paid a lot of attention to anything other than bicycles and Barbies.

    As for trains, when Finola and Deirdre were little (before we had Maeve) we took the train to Boston and had a sleeper car. The girls loved how the seat made into bunks. I'll have to keep your suggestion in mind. However, for my next cross-country trip I want to drive either the Oregon Trail or the Lewis and Clark route.

    When you were in SF, did you go to, oh what's the name, that really famous bookstore that my husband has to visit everytime he's there? Is it City Lights or something like that?

  12. JennyD - I never specifically wrote a blog about the last years of Tum - I probably should. I have a lot of stuff on my old SpacesLive blog and I sort of assume everyone knows all that has gone before, but of course they don't. Tum was the only man I ever met who I could say was truly wise. I don't recall him having to apologize or feel bad about anything he said to anyone ever.

    Gael - Better to date yourself, than to have no dates at all! Poor Squeaky - forgotten already. I have been to City Lights - I went when I lived there, but I did not go this time, nor have I been for many years. Wish I had thought of it - but I was with young people who had no real idea of why they might find Haight Street interesting, so I was far too broken in spirit to think of City Lights. I'd go with the Lewis and Clark thing, I think. Doesn't that go thru Montana? One of the 7 or so states I've never seen.