Sigurd Part IV

Signy went to Seggeir, privately, and said, “I think you shouldn’t kill my brothers right away, but you should put them in stocks. For my sake, please don’t kill them quite yet.”

Seggeir mocked her, “You are crazy! It is far worse for your proud brothers to be put in stocked that to be merely killed. I am happy to do what you ask; they should suffer more.”

Seggeir had a big tree trunk in the forest made into stocks that would fit all ten of the brothers at once. He clapped all of them in the stocks and left them there in the woods.

At night, they were still there, helpless. A huge hungry wolf found them, and ate one of them.

In the morning, Signy’s man told her what had happened. She was horrified and filled with grief, but there was nothing she could do. Every night, the wolf came back to eat another brother. At last, only Sigmund, her twin was left.

This time, Signy sent her man to Sigmund, with some honey. She told him to smear the honey all over Sigmund’s face and to put some in his mouth. This done, he went away and left Sigmund to his fate.

Naturally, the wolf came back again for her supper. But this time she smelled the honey. She licked it all off Sigmund’s face, and was beginning to lick the honey out of the inside of his mouth. Sigmund was ready for this, and when her tongue licked into his mouth, he bit down hard and wouldn’t let go.

The wolf jerked back in pain, and kicked at the tree to get away. The tree broke, freeing Sigmund. But he still wouldn’t let go! He clung onto the struggling wolf until her tongue ripped out, and she died.

Some people say that the wolf was Seggeir’s mother, who was a witch and could turn herself into other creatures. Could be. But Sigmund took care of her!

So now he is free! He ran into the woods and stayed there. Signy sent men to find out where he was, and when she found out, she went to him.

Together, they made him a cozy home in the ground in the woods. Sigmund stayed there for quite a while.

But King Seggeir thought he had killed the whole Volsung family. But Signy turned inside herself, plotting revenge.

She had two sons by Seggeir. When the oldest was ten, she sent him to see Sigmund, to see if he could help Sigmund take his revenge on Seggeir.
Sigmund received the boy, and talked with him for a while. Then he gave him a sack of flour and asked him to make bread while he went out to gather firewood.

This was just a test for the boy.

When Sigmund came back, he asked where the bread was. The boy said, “There was something in the bag, and I didn’t want to open in.”

Sigmund lost all respect for the boy, because he had no courage. He knew that the boy would be no help avenging their family.

When he saw Signy next, he told her that. Signy said, “Kill him them. I have no more use for him.” And Sigmund did.

When he next boy was old enough, the same thing happened to him.

Signy despaired of finding the proper man to help Sigmund take revenge upon Seggeir. She was sitting in her chamber, trying to decide what to do about it, when a sorceress of great skill came in to see her.

Signy saw her opportunity: “Change shapes with me!” The sorceress agreed. After all, Signy was the queen.

So they switched shapes, and the sorceress stayed in the palace. The king never knew it wasn’t Signy.

But Signy, in the shape of the sorceress, was off to the woods to see Sigmund. I’m only telling you what happened.

Signy went up to Sigmund’s door, “Please,” she said, “I am a poor woman, cold in the woods. Please let me in and give me shelter.”

Sigmund let her in and treated her well. He never had any idea that it was his sister. He fed her dinner and looked closely at her. She seemed like a fine woman to him. You can imagine what happened next. He asked her to sleep with him, and she did.

For three nights, they were together. Then Signy left to go back to the castle. She met with the sorceress and changed shapes again. No one ever knew.

But now she had a baby. He was the child of Sigmund. She named him Sinfjotli when he was born. As he grew up, he was strong and looked all Volsung. Well, he was.

Even before he was ten, Signy sent him to Sigmund. He went through the same bake-bread-while-I-gather-firewood scenario. When Sigmund came back, the bread was all ready for him.

Sigmund asked him if he had found anything in the flour. Sinfjotli replied, “I suspect there was something, but whatever it was, I just mixed it in with the bread.”

Sigmund was delighted with this response. He said, “You might not want to eat this bread for dinner tonight. You kneaded in the most poisonous snake into the bread.”

Sigmund ate the bread, though. He was tough enough to stand any poison. Sinfjotli could only stand external poison; he couldn’t eat it.


Once the sword was out of the tree, everyone could see it was finer and more beautiful than they had even thought. Everyone admired it.

King Seggeir really wanted the sword. He said to Sigmund, “I’ll give you three times its weight in gold for that sword.”

I think this really shows that Seggeir was an idiot. Everyone in the hall knew that the sword was special, not something you just buy. Sigmund was meant to have it, and that’s why he was the only one who could pull it out.

Sigmund turned Seggeir down, “ You could have taken the sword from where it stood, no less than I did, if it were meant for you to carry it; but now that it has come first into my hands, you will never get it, even if you should offer me all the gold you own.”

Well. Seggeir did not like that answer one bit. He thought that Sigmund was being a snotty-nose punk and that he had no right to talk that way or even THINK that way about him, the mighty King Seggeir.

But he kept a straight face. He already knew how to lie. He didn’t say much more about it. But he decided he had to leave.

This was totally rude! Wedding feasts were supposed to go on for days and days. It gave everyone a chance to celebrate, and the family a chance to say goodbye to their daughter or sister. King Seggeir tried to cover up how rude he was being by saying, “You all must visit my kingdom soon. Everybody! Bring all your friends and servants and whoever you want! In three months, okay?”

Volsung and his family agreed to come, and Seggeir left with Signy.

Now this is where is gets sad. King Volsung and all his sons got ready and came when they promised, suspecting nothing. But when their boats reached King Seggeir’s kingdom it was dark.

Signy was waiting for them. She snuck up to see them, because she had to warn them.

She told her dad, “Seggeir has been waiting for you, but he has gathered together a huge army to fight with you and kill you. You must turn around at once. Gather up your armies and come back prepared to meet with him in battle! Otherwise, you will be trapped by his lies and surprise attack!”

But Volsung seemed to have a habit of not listening to his only daughter. He made light of the situation and got all heroic and fatalistic. This is exactly what he said:

“All peoples bear witness that unborn I spoke one word and made the vow that I would flee neither fire nor iron from fear, and so I have done until now. Why should I not fulfill that vow in my old age? Maidens will not taunt my sons during games by saying that they feared their deaths, for each man must at one time die. No one may escape dying that once, and it is my counsel that we not flee, but for our own part act the bravest. I have fought a hundred times, sometimes with a larger army and sometimes with a lesser on. Both ways I have had the victory, and it will not be reported that I either fled or asked for peace.”

Stubborn Volsung! He was being very brave, but I don’t think he was being very smart. In those days, our people felt like peace was another word for coward, or “not good enough to win.” He wouldn’t go back and regroup.

Signy was completely upset; she cried and said she wanted to stay with them and not go back to the wicked Seggeir. But her father told her that her duty was with her husband, no matter what happened with the battle.

She left, crying and distraught, to go back to her husband.

Volsung and all the brothers armed themselves and got ready for the war they knew would be happening. As soon as they stepped off the boat in the morning, they walked into Seggeir’s army.

Wow, they fought like the best, hacking and slashing their way through the ranks of the enemy. They had gone through the ranks eight times and were turning around to do it again, when Volsung fell. The brothers looked around, and realized that their father was down and the rest of their ranks were all down except for themselves, the ten sons of Volsung.

The odds were too great. Seggeir’s men captured them, and took them away bound in chains.

Signy heard about it pretty quickly. She was full of grief that her father was dead, but since her brothers were still alive, she wanted to do anything she could think of to help them.


Volsung grew up and was really good at everything people wanted him to do. He could hunt, and he could fight. When he was old enough, Hrimnir sent his daughter Hjold to marry him.

Hjold was the one who had dropped the apple for Odin on Hrimnir’s lap. She was a very special lady, not for just anybody. But Hrimnir could tell that Volsung was the right kind of man for her. They were married, and were incredibly close. They loved each other very much and told each other everything.

He had all kinds of treasure, and he had built a big hall to be his palace. The hall had a lot of marvelous things in it, but one of the most amazing was the big tree that grew in the middle of the hall. It was huge, with a strong trunk and branches that spread all throughout the roof. The tree would blossom beautifully; you can imagine how much they loved this tree and how proud they were. They called the tree Barnstock.

Volsung didn’t have the same only-child problems his grandfather and father had. He and Hjold had 11 kids, 10 boys and 1 girl. First off, they had twins. That was where the daughter came in; the twins were a boy and a girl named Sigmund and Signy. They really were the rulers of the roost among the kids. Everyone knew they were the handsomest and the best at whatever. They were really good friends too.

After they had grown up, a neighboring king took interest in Signy. His name was Siggeir, and he was a very popular king. To Volsung and his sons, Siggeir seemed to be everything they could want for Signy. But Signy didn’t like him.

Back in those days, women didn’t really get to pick their own husband. Especially royalty. I mean, it’s like that now, too. Political alliances and all kinds of other considerations got it the way. Maybe that’s was Volsung was thinking about when he decided to let SIggeir marry Signy.

She was trying to be a good girl, and obey her father. She told him that she didn’t want to marry Siggeir, but that she would do what he said.

Naturally, Volsung said marry him.

But at the wedding supper, the strangest thing happened! This old man, in a shabby hooded cloak and no shoes walked into the hall carrying a sword. Weirdest of all, he only had ONE EYE. Volsung’s family and all the guests were so amazed, they completed forgot their manners and just stared at him.

This one-eyed man walked straight up to Barnstock and stabbed the sword into the tree all the way to the hilt. He announced, “He who draws the sword out of the trunk shall receive it from me as a gift, and he himself shall prove that he has never carried a better sword than this one.”

Then, he turned around, and walked straight out of the room. That is all they heard from him.

As you can imagine, everyone was stunned!

But as soon as they came to themselves, there was a mad dash for the sword. All the men tried to pull it out. Every last one of them, regardless of rank, pulled and tugged and kicked and yanked at the sword, trying to get it out of the tree.

Everyone could see that it was a really good sword. Plus, they all wanted to prove that they were the ones worthy of the challenge.
Finally, after everyone else had had a shot, Sigmund steps up and pulls out the sword.

As easy as that!

I’ll tell you more next time…


Every family has its stories. Maybe some of them are stories older siblings tell on younger siblings. My brother likes to tell the story of how I loved to shove rice krispies up my nose when I was in my high chair.
My mom likes to tell the story of how she fell in love with my dad. It was on their second date, and they were at the zoo. She said, “I don’t think I should say this so soon…But I think I am in love with you.”
My dad answered, “Me too.”

My dad has a story about his grandmother. Everyone knows this story. My frontierswoman grandmother, who was barely 5 feet tall, was outside one day with the baby. She was doing her regular chores, and then she noticed that there was a WOLF coming towards her child. Nobody was going to mess with her baby! She grabbed an axe and killed the wolf all by herself.

Imagine that!

It’s entered the family legends. There are lots of them. And it’s interesting, because no one that tells the story now was alive when the wolf was killed. But that’s okay, because it’s our family history.

I just read a little piece of my family history. It’s called Sigurd the Dragon Slayer. Yeah, I’ll call it family history, why not? My family comes from Nordic stock. We are every one of us Celtic-Anglo-Saxon-Germanic, big, tall, fair-haired and PALE. The original folks who told the story of Sigurd were Scandinavian, or Goths. I’m sure we were related somehow.

So I will claim kin, and tell you one of the family legends. It’s time you all heard it.

I have to start with a little background on Sigurd. He was supposed to be descended from Odin. But I have a few doubts about it. There might be some skeletons in the “descended from the gods” closet; I’ll let you hear the evidence and decide.

But even if he wasn’t Odin’s great-grandson, he still was quite a hero.

There was a man named Sigi, and HE was the son of Odin, so they say. Now, he had a servant or slave, what they called a thrall back then, named Bredi. Bredi was one of the best of men, really a great guy. He was strong and brave, far more than anyone expected a servant to be. Once, Sigi and Bredi were out hunting for deer. Sigi tried to capture and kill this stag, but he missed. Bredi kept chasing it though, and he caught it.

When Sigi caught up to Bredi, and saw that he’d caught the deer, he was jealous and mad. He lost it, and said, “how dare you, a slave, catch a deer when I cannot!”

He killed Bredi.

Now, back then, if you killed someone and admitted it, it was okay. I mean, they didn’t want people to go around KILLING each other, but if you owned up to it, they would let you make it right. They would let you off easier; you had to pay a man-price called “Were Gild” according to the value of the person. There were set amounts for how much the lives of different classes of people were worth. A slave was worth less than a king–I do remember that.

But Sigi was a coward. He hid Bredi in a snowdrift and took off.

Big no-no. If he were found out, he would be considered a murderer, and would have to be dealt with as such.

Sigi took the long route home. When he got there, people asked where Bredi was. He tried to act innocent. Bredi wandered off, he told them. He acted like he was surprised Bredi wasn’t back yet.

But they smelled a fish. That didn’t sound right to the people, and they went looking for Bredi. Maybe they had already figured out Sigi’s character. I guess it doesn’t mean much to have Odin as your daddy—you can still be a lying good-for-nothing.

They found Bredi in the snowdrift. After that, Bredi was the word they used for snowdrift, and even glacier.

But it also meant that Sigi was in trouble. He ran. He knew that they would consider him a “wolf in hallowed places” if he stayed amongst them. He couldn’t be trusted.

Odin stepped in again. I guess he was trying to help out his son. They went traveling, and as the story goes, they took a trip so long it was amazing. I don’t know anything about where they went or what they did, but the next thing you know, Sigi is married to somebody. He seemed to think she was quite a catch, and for all I know she was. But I never caught her name. He had built himself up all kinds of treasure and gotten himself made king of somewhere. So this lady was his queen.

Sigi and his queen had a son; they named him Rerir. He was a good boy, by the standards of the day. He managed to fight hard, like the princes are supposed to do, get gold and a kingdom, and he married a worthy woman. I never caught her name either, but I do know they really loved each other, and were very happy.

The only problem was that they were having some trouble conceiving. They prayed to their gods, long and loud, because they really wanted to have a child. Well, Rerir was Odin’s grandson after all. Freya, Odin’s wife, heard their cries. Like a good wife, she reminded Odin to take care of the problem.

I don’t know what Freya thought of Odin’s relationship with Sigi. I mean, really. I am pretty darn sure Odin was fooling around when Sigi was “in process.” But Freya was nice about Rerir’s problem. She thought Rerir was a very good man, a warrior and all kinds of other good things. So she spoke to Odin about it.

Odin decided to enlist the help of a Valkyrie wish-maiden. I really don’t know that much about this woman, but she’s important later. The wish-maiden was the stepdaughter or something to the Giant Hremnir. Apparently, they needed Hremnir help with this.

Odin gave the wish-maiden an apple, a special apple. The wish maiden changed into a crow (a crow!) and kind of nonchalantly flew over to Hremnir with this special apple. She’s sitting up over Hremnir while he’s on the ceremonial mound outside his house. Hremnir is surveying his domain from the mound, and the wish-maiden-turned-crow drops the apple in his lap.

Hremnir is no fool, whatever you may have heard about giants. He sees the apple and knows right away what’s up. But I guess he’s okay with it, because he takes it and goes to see Rerir’s queen.

Now, this is the part of the story that makes me raise my eyebrows. They SAY that they just “shared the apple,” but that sounds a little euphemistic to me. I don’t KNOW what happened, and I am not saying what happened or what didn’t, but you can be the judge.

All we know for sure is that afterwards the queen was pregnant, and they were overjoyed. That special apple did the trick.

But back then kings were always off warring. It was part of the job, I guess, they had to keep up with the killing, or they would lose respect I guess. King and Peace didn’t really belong in the same sentence, at least not they way they made it sound. So, Rerir had to leave and go battle somebody while his queen was still pregnant.

Only this time, he actually gets killed. While he is in his old-style lingering death throes, the queen manages to get her pregnant body down to the battlefield and say goodbye.

“Isn’t there anything I can do? Let’s get you patched up, “ she says.

But Rerir is a hero in all senses of the word. “There is no point. If I knew that I was never going to die, that would be one thing. But this is something that comes to everyone. It is my time to die.”

The queen was beside herself with grief. She stayed with Rerir on the battlefield, as he passed away. He told her not to be too sad, that she was carrying a son and he would also be a great hero. Finally, he died.

Now, the queen was having some trouble with her pregnancy. She was apparently pretty strong and healthy, but the baby did not want to come out. She was pregnant for 6 years. You can imagine this was not an optimal situation. The child kept growing within her. Finally, she realized that she was going to die because of the child. She told a doctor that he should open her up and take the child, because she was going to die anyway. The child came out, and he was a boy.

He was huge! He had been growing all along inside her, but he was a big boy for being six. His whole life, he was larger than other men who were considered big.

But he was able to kiss his mother before she died. She named him Volsung.

He became a famous hero, and all his children were named after him. In fact, a famous poem, called the Volsungasaga was written about him and his family.

Yes, my family! We should be proud.

I’ll tell you more about him tomorrow. We haven’t gotten to the part about Sigurd yet.

Just wait.


…”in the multitude of middle-aged men who go about their vocations in a daily course determined for them much the the same way as the tie of their cravats, there is always a good number who once meant to shape their own deeds and alter the world a little. The story of their coming to be shapen after the average and fit to be packed by the gross, is hardly ever told even in their consciousness; for perhaps their ardour in generous unpaid toil cooled as imperceptibly as the ardour of other youthful loves, till one day their earlier self walked like a ghost in its old home and made the new furniture ghastly. Nothing in the world more subtle than the process of their gradual change! In the beginning they inhaled it unknowningly: you and I may have sent some of our breath towards infecting them, when we uttered our conforming falsities or drew our silly conclusions…”
George Eliot, from Middlemarch

I haven’t finished Middlemarch yet, but that passage stopped me cold. Eliot wrote it 130 years ago, and how true it remains! We all know those people “fit to be packed by the gross”, and I for one fear daily becoming one.

But the path lays so simply and easily in front of me, of us. The path from the bed to the closet full of work clothes, the path from the door to cubicle, then back to the prepackaged, demographically designed entertainment and commercial marketing

What disturbs me so much about the demographically designed entertainment is how ACCURATE they are! yes, I AM entertained by the same things that so many others of my age/sex/ethnicity/economic strata are!

And what better proof that I am fit to be packed by the gross?!?

I have, in the past, combat this by being scornful and suspicious of anything popular. If too many people liked something, I should not. Very simple. I can’t be like everyone else then.

Levi’s, Disneyland, popular film, music, television, all these things were to be dismissed, or if not, became guilty pleasures. Perhaps I could intellectualize a movie, if I liked it too much. “You see, Mulan is struggling with her gender identity and trying to come to terms with her own conception of herself!”

The major problem with this approach to life is it’s essential FALSENESS. It is reactionary rather than reasoned or real. It did not take into account the merit of the thing.

If I refused to like things that were popular, and tried to embrace things that were alternative, edgy, or avant garde for no better reason than because they were DIFFERENT, I am not seeking a higher path.

I realized that I must look closely at the thing in question. Be engaged in my life; and to evaluate and try to understand what I engage it. This is responsibility at work. THIS is greater individuality.

And yet, the earlier way was better defined. It is frightening to leave behind easy labels.

I was QUITE nervous to visit Disneyland. My boyfriend would not accept my dismissal of it being evil. He said, “you have not been there since you were five. How do you know it’s evil?”

So. I have been to Disneyland, and I guess it is not evil. It is a tool, and it can be USED for evil in the wrong hands. That’s all I will say about it for now.

Naturally, I do not have to live my life in Disneyland. I live my life between the lines from the bed to the closet and the door to the cubicle. In between the lines, and on the margins, I look for ways to creatively express my individuality. There are flashes of poetry on the meeting notes I have on the table, and I can find time to read Eliot on the bus.

But I strive to remain engaged. Does it have to be this way? In between and on the margins might be a little shabby for my individuality.

Is there another path? Surely, there are other ways to live. Millions of people have lived their lives in millions of other ways.

I have heard a story about a man who put into his margins what I have made the lines.

Sam Hamill, who I only know about because books from his publishing house have been nominated for an award, drew his own lines. He decided a life dedicated to poetry would be his. I am awestruck. He created a publishing house for poetry.

Poetry, that difficult and indescribably beautiful artform that humankind has been turning and returning to since words were formed:difficult, because we must let go of pre-established equational connections and form our minds to new synaptic leaps.

Hamill chose poetry over a pension. He decided that renewing his mind was more important than stability.

I am amazed, astounded and envious.

I heard on the radio (I have searched, but I can’t find it again…suffice it to say, it was an NPR station) the story of how he started Copper Canyon Press. He found an old 1907 printing press! He set the type by hand!

Later, he moved from Colorado to Washington, because he could get free rent there.

It is not like I haven’t heard of people moving around, and doing “irresponsible” things like that. I grew up with people who did not want to be packed by the gross.

Alaska. There are barely enough people to MAKE a gross there.

So, I understood the “free rent” allure. I knew family after family that moved there, bought a plot of virgin land for practically nothing, and meant to build their dream home, their special individual place for THEM and THEIR FAMILY to be unique.

So, in the three months of summer, they threw up an A-frame structure, and did their best to insulate it against the quickly approaching winter.

And for years afterwards, the pink fiberglass and bedsheets for walls became stained with use, and the path to the outhouse grew bare and hardened.

This sort of individuality was common and not admirable, in my mind. Sure, it could be called “the path less traveled.” I’m sure the (non-Alaskan) parents and extended families of the people who chose this life thought their children were the only ones in the world to live this way.

Well, I was FROM Alaska and not so easily impressed. These were the people who could be packed by the gross for me.

What purpose did this lifestyle serve? “Anti-materialism” or “anti-establishment” is only a negation. What is the positive contribution?

Hamill lived in his Washington home without the “basics”, in the same way as those crazy Alaskans. However, HE made a lasting contribution to the world.

I feel challenged.


I promised to share the story I wrote for my real-world journalistic debut. It made newsprint earlier this month, in the Highland Park News:

From Italy to the Internet: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop in Highland Park
By Murphy Horner

A small revolution has been bubbling up right here in Highland Park. At a time when large corporations and everywhere-you-look name brands are squeezing out all other options, John Nese has created a new business for his store on 5702 York Boulevard. He sells soda pop, and in a big way.

Galco’s Old World Market began over 100 years ago as an Italian grocery store. John Nese runs the store after his father Louis, who can still be found on the premises keeping an eye on things. Nese is proud of what his dad had done for the store. He tells stories of how his father started the first buying co-op to get better prices for their goods.

But things began to change for the next generation. The bigger supermarkets were taking over. They used their huge buying power to cut smaller businesses out of the market. Small shops could no longer get the discounts that supermarkets enjoyed. It was becoming very difficult for locally owned grocery stores anywhere to compete.

John Nese knew he would have to get creative to keep his store open. He noticed micro brewed beers were becoming popular. He liked the idea of the microbrewers. They were small businesses creating a product that emphasized quality, just like himself. But alcoholic drinks were only for people over 21. What about all the younger people or others who did not want alcohol?

In 1995 John decided to listen to his heart and do what felt good. In Nese’s own words, “What makes you feel good? Drinking a soda!” He began stocking hard-to-find sodas in his grocery store. As he tells it, the soda manufacturers were doubtful about whether the soda would sell. But he stocked them anyway, and even bought more varieties. He also began to seek out and buy candies from small candy companies. His philosophy at the time, in his own words, was “to go find little brands…and do what makes me feel good.”

He began to look for all the little brands that were around, and buy their products. After he had stocked 150 different kinds of sodas, people began to take notice. The Los Angeles Times came to Highland Park to see this new Soda Pop Stop and write a story. Apparently the story was so interesting, it was picked up by a news syndicate and published all over America, even running internationally.

Nese’s daughter contacted KCET’s program California’s Gold, and Galco’s Soda Pop Shop received a visit from the ever-enthusiastic Huell Howser. He filmed a show about John Nese’s store, which aired in 2000. A few months after, Sunset Magazine did a story about the Highland Park store that was now becoming a phenomenon.

Now that the word is out, customers are beginning to show up from all over the place. The Saturday I was there, I spoke with Kay and Bob Trevana. They were visiting California from Bloomington, Minnesota. Having seen the Soda Pop Stop on the Food Network, they came to check it out. Kay said, “It’s kind of amazing to see that there are that many pops out there.”

This is music to John Nese’s ears. He says, “The one thing I can do is offer the customer a lot of variety.” He works hard at bringing customers variety. By his calculations, if a customer tried out a new soda from his shop every day, it would be a year and a half before they would run out of new flavors.
But where does he find all these sodas? He listens to his customers. This business makes a huge point of asking the customers what they would like to buy. The proof is lined up on the shelves, in neat glass rows. Nese said, “Like the Manhattan Special. All of these things are from customers’ suggestions.”
The story of how Nese found the Manhattan Special (www.manhattanspecial.com) line of sodas is a classic example of how he runs his business. A number of New York City transplants had been requesting this coffee-flavored soda, so Nese called up the company to place an order. The woman who answered the phone was quite surprised. She wanted to know how the Los Angelino had even tasted the soda. When Nese answered that he had not tried it, she was having a hard time taking him seriously. Nese told her that he had a stack of requests from his customers who wanted Manhattan Special, and that was good enough for him.
She reluctantly agreed to let Nese place an order, but on one condition: he had to come get it. The Manhattan Special Company had been in business since 1895, and this is how they had always done it. If he was serious, he could pick it up himself.
Nese took up the challenge, arranged for a truck to go to Manhattan Special’s door and pick up the soda. He now stocks Manhattan Special in his store, and ships orders from his website (www.sodapopstop.com). His contact with the Manhattan Special Company must have had an affect on their policy, because now they also offer to ship orders to customers from their webpage.
Nese’s goal is bigger than just offering variety. He wants to sell high quality soda pop. In his experience, quality soda is bottled in glass and made with a cane sugar recipe. He feels strongly that the current use of corn syrup as a sweetener in soda is a bad thing. He explained that corn syrup is cheaper than sugar, but the quality of the soda suffers. He has gone to great lengths to get soda made with sugar.
It is hard job. He is a small business. Most of the manufacturers he buys soda from are small. He feels that maintaining high quality product is the best way for a small business to survive in a predatory market. He says, “Make a better product and the people will buy it.” Since he is in direct contact with the people who are buying the product, he has made a point of calling the manufacturers and demanding they use cane sugar and not corn syrup. He has to go all the way to Mexico for some of his sodas.
Customers who visited the store to buy milk and sugar 50 years ago would find it very different now. John Nese and Galco’s have come a long way. There is no milk or sugar on the shelves. But a lot remains the same. There is still a helpful person behind the counter. The owner still cares about the customers. And they still sell their famous blockbuster sandwiches. An Italian deli at the rear makes meat and cheese monstrosities that keep people coming back. Customers feel pretty good when they visit John Nese’s store. And that makes John feel good.



Another Radio Drama! Great stuff, that LA Theater works. This one was a “docudrama.” Love that word, it sounds so fake.

Of course, it is based on the House Unamerican Activities Committee hearings. Those hearings trouble me. I have been trying to get my head around them. The paranoia about communism seems excessive in retrospect. It was hard to believe that people really took it seriously.

But they really did. People lost their jobs because they knew people who were interested in a political viewpoint.

I can hardly think how this country, based on radical political ideals, would so trample on communism.
But it happened.

The play was based on real transcripts from the hearings: hence the “docu”mentary part of the docudrama.

There seemed to be a real emphasis on how bad it was to inform on other people. the consequences were pretty severe for the ones named as “members of the communist party.” They couldn’t get work.

It reminds me of the situation now, somewhat. I wonder how Muslim groups might be thinking and feeling now. I haven’t heard much about how those detained have been questioned. I suspect they too are asked to name the names of people they know. I might have to find out more about this, I am only speculating right now.

The part that made the most impact on me was the conclusion. James Earl Jones played the voice of Paul Robeson. Of course, Jones’s voice is marvelous. But the words that Robeson said were marvelous. He was so proud and magnificent, and the House committee members were scornful of him, because he was African American.

It made me want to find out more about Robeson.


Guilt “On the Waterfront”

Rented “On the Waterfront” this weekend. I had seen part of it on TV years and years ago, and always meant to go back and see the whole thing.

It’s funny to see Brando so young. And Eve Saint Marie, she is so beautiful.

I thought the ideology behind the movie was very interesting. It was from the 50s, and it was set in a poor neighborhood. The men trying to work on the docks were “ethnic”, which was how things were in the 50s. They don’t seem SO long ago, but class differentiation was much more distinct then.

The 60s made a difference.

These men and their families talked about getting “food on the table.” One recurring motif is how a dead man’s jacket is given to someone else who needs it. Jackets, clothing, basic needs were not taken for granted.

They were poor and hard-working. They also had no prospects for anything better. Edie’s (played by Saint Marie) father tells her that he worked and slaved and saved so that she could get out of there. She had been sent to a convent to study. She was sheltered, but she had seen enough to be grateful for it.

The men kept complaining about unloading bananas.

Bananas, now, are the cheapest fruit in the store. Not so in the 50s. I doubt that the average dockworker ever had the opportunity to eat a banana.

They were struggling to get potatoes. It was hard.

But the point of the story was union corruption. That’s a tricky topic. Unions were created to stop corporate or “boss” corruption. But then, Unions became corrupt, and they began to exploit the workers. Almost like, where the bosses left off, the unions took up.

But it was hard to get unions going! They establishment of unions took a lot of work.

Also, I realized as I was watching it, Unions were considered socialist…Red..Communist! So how was this movie part of the whole McCarthy environment of the time?

Come to find out, the director Elia Kazan was brought before the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Twice. He Named Names on the second visit.

There were a lot of people that were blacklisted because of him. He didn’t feel too good about that.

The scene from the movie, where the priest stands over the dead body of the one man who had courage to name names about the corrupt union bosses springs to mind.

It was very preachy. The clergyman gave a very rousing sermon about what was right, and how you HAD to speak out to stop the bad guys. The laborers were throwing things at him, even, and he kept going.

He was SO righteous!

And all throughout the movie, the theme of informing and being a “stool pigeon” or a “canary” was repeated and repeated.

He even had real pigeons playing a prominent role.

One thing I noticed from the movie, too, was the lack of a real answer. Sure, they broke the back of the union boss. But what then? None of those guys were really capable of taking over. The viewer didn’t really have a sense that everything would be “happily ever after.”

You can see how Kazan had re-cast his own story, making himself a hero informant, making the world safe against unscrupulous bosses. I’m sure it scratched a sore itch for him, making this kind of movie.

But it didn’t really show any answers. Right then, I don’t think people had any.


It’s monday, and I stayed up late last night catching up on all my house chores.

So I am very groggy this morning.

I am considering whether or not ambition is evil.

One of the reasons I am thinking aobut this is because an old friend of mine recently started working at an Indian Casino.
Times are hard; he is a uber computer geek, but he can’t find work. So he got what he could.
He said, “it’s amazing to think about. I don’t want to be here any longer than I have to, but many of the workers here are completely pleased to have the job, and say things about how stable it is, and how great it is.”

It occurred to me that Indian culture is not expansionist. They are not like McDonald’s and Starbucks, they don’t necessisarily feel the need for more more bigger bigger all the time.
You might call that lack of ambition.
Or you might call it enjoying what life has to offer.
Food, clothing, the ability to appreciate your family and friends-that’s really something.

What does ambition get you?
More money, less time to spend it.
Maybe not even more money. Depends on your ambition. I’ve known enough start-ups to know it doesn’t always bring more money.

The angel of light (aka Lucifer) had ambition. Didn’t do him much good.

Don’t get me wrong. My ambition to do more and learn more has served me well, it’s brought me a lot of good things.

But when is enough enough?
How much do I need? When should I stop?

In the Garden of Eden, what use was ambition? Maybe Adam and Eve spend a hard day working on the hedges…So that they could appreciate them the next day? That means they took the next day off.

It is easy on a monday to think that having to get up and work all day is evil.


I don’t know how profound I am going to be, but I just felt like blogging.

This week, I have put my foot down and GONE HOME as early as I can. I still put in 8,9,10 hour days, but I am really trying to avoid the 12 hour days.

I am experiencing life without sleep deprivation. I recommend it.
Previously, things which I knew where simple tasks had seemed insurmountable.
I knew something was wrong, and I had to figure out a way to get back to normal.

Sleep was a very big part of the solution.

So, all week I have been quite cheerful and productive.

BTW of nothing, I just noticed that I have someone FROM RUSSIA! who has visited my site.
Hello hello and welcome!

Russia’s academy of science is where my visitor came from.

I’ve had a lot of international visitors (how do they find me? I have no idea!)
but never anyone from that special country.

Since we all lived there for years (some of us more than others) my dad has been really digging in and trying to learn the GRAMMAR.

scary stuff.

He had his birthday yesterday (happy birthday again, dad!) and was amusing himself with the fact that he is now 64, just like the Beatles song.
He and mom sang the song together. I think that’s marvelous.

I’d get him a beatles CD, but I am almost sure he would never listen to it. He would much prefer a documentary video.

Anyway, Dad and I decided we should practice our Russian skills and become pen pals. That way we could practice writing and reading, and have something fun in the mailbox every once in a while.

I am going to have to find my RUS_ENG dictionary. I think one is in the bookshelf, but the good one is missing.

Well, like I said, not profound, but I am feeling pleased with life and thought I would burble on my blog for a while.