It’s cold outside, and my coat smells like a skunk farted on it.

I noticed the smell yesterday. I’ve been wearing the coat for months. It’s a nice warm wool blend coat, grey and tailored to just above my knee. Very cute.

But as I was waiting at the bus stop, I smelled it. The bus came right then, so I was distracted.

The smell came with me on the bus. Now, powerful smells on the bus are not such an extraordinary thing. With all the people riding, you learn to let these things pass.

The smell came with me to work. It was undeniable now.

WHAT was that smell coming from? I was wearing a cute vintage blazer. It’s vintage, maybe it smelled.

I sniffed it thoroughly. No, it didn’t seem to have a strong odor. The most I could detect was a slight dusty smell.

The smell I smelled had strong sheep tones. It had to be my jacket. I smelled and smelled and resmelled the collar. I couldn’t seem to find the source of the powerful stench that surrounded me when I wore it.

The only explanation I could think of, was that it was the kind of smell that faded with deeper sniffing. Like, you could really smell it when you weren’t paying close attention, but if you sniffed harder it lost the edge.

I decided that I would sponge the coat down with some ammonia. That would un-stench the coat nicely.

I checked every cupboard in my house. I have furniture polish, copper polish, Tilex, some cleaner a guy sold me door-to-door, PineSol and scrubbing baking soda. But no Ammonia. I swear I had a big yellow gallon of it. II must have thrown it away when I moved.

So now I am wearing the stinky coat again today. It’s cold outside! This close proximity has given me more opportunity to search for the source.

Eureka. The left front, starting under the armpit and moving forward. It’s not on the right side.

It’s unmistakable. I had been limiting my sniffs to the collar area, around my head. I didn’t think of the pits.

I suspect the cat may have played a part in this extreme centralization of stink.

Maybe not, though. It smelled much more sheepish than cattish.

Perhaps it was damp in that one area and some kind of sheep-stench bacteria set in.

Well, what’s to be done? I’ll be celebrating the New Year in a skunk-fart coat.


The holiday season is almost over, and it’s been wonderful. Presents, decorations, yummy food and all that.

And let us not forget: TIME WITH OUR FAMILY. I love my family so much. My mom and dad, and my brothers are really great people. They are intelligent and exuberant about all kinds of things.

But they still drive me crazy, and in ways that could only work between just us. No one else would be so irritated at that casual remark tossed off about my job, or choice of living arrangement.

I remember that I spent years in my early 20s convinced that my parents were supremely strange and inappropriate. I alone suffered under idiosyncrasies and impossible, illogical standards for behavior.

I’m sure you all can see what’s coming. I began to share my rants with other people, and discovered that this parent difficulty is nearly universal. Everyone is made crazy by their parents.

Some people are more softhearted than I am, and handle it more graciously. God will reward them, I am sure.

But in the meantime, I have a fantasy scenario that will solve the problem.

Let’s all switch! Take one step to the side, and take the parents of someone else.

Since most parents are benign and the irritating things they do only annoy their own children, the substitute children will be unaffected. The arsenal of time-honed barbs will bounce off the hide of the substitute. The oft-repeated jokes will have fresh ears, and become amusing once more. The weekly question about how to work email (yes, the same one) will not have built up into the spluttery incomprehensible answer now doled out on a weekly basis. The new child will simply answer. Perhaps even, from a new mouth, the answer will be retained.

The child-provided needs of the parents will be met much more efficiently and with better good will. I know I would take care of another person’s parents admirably.

As for my own….


I had a marvelous Christmas with my family!

This Christmas was the one where I got to be the hostess. I had been thinking about what to do, and what to cook, for a long time. My mother told me they were coming over since before Thanksgiving.

Notice, I say she told me they were coming. She did not ask. She told.

But after I got over being volunteered to host everyone I got kind of excited. I went and got a tree and decorated it, with red and white lights and green and red balls.

I thought a lot about what to cook. I have become very involved with cooking since my dad gave me pots for christmas last year.

So often the right tool can make all the difference. I didn’t have any pots. Hard to cook without pots. When I got the pots, it was like a dam burst. I could cook!

My sweet boyfriend is not very much fun to cook for. He does not like vegetables, fruit, spices, or anything he has not eaten before. Basically, he likes to eat beef and candy.

I like candy just fine, butI don’t like beef very much. In fact, I like to cook things that involve a LOT of spices. Spices are the most fun part! And I love California’s fresh vegetables.So basically, I cook for one.

But my family likes to eat! We all love to eat, so I was excited to cook for them.

I fired up the family sourdough. If you don’t know about sourdough, you just don’t know. God made sourdough, and we are the grateful recipients of this gift.

I made sourdough rolls, small hard hearty knobs of good stick-to-your-ribs-through-a-blizzard bread. Yes! I have NO idea was evil things those folks in San Francisco do to their bread to make it fluffy and light. MY sourdough bread is something that you really chew.

I made a ham. I didn’t have pineapples or cloves, so I dumped some canned apples over it, and smeared brown sugar and salt on it. Then I remembered I had some clove oil, so I put some of it in a glass of water and dumped it over the ham.

That washed all the pretty brown sugar off. I was happily envisioning that sugar crusting and carmelizing all pretty. Now it was gone. Oh well.

I also made some Turnips and Mashed potatoes. My new specialty. MmM!

My stuffing was not stuffing. You can’t stuff a ham! But neither can you have a holiday dinner without stuffing. I went to THREE stores to shop for everything I wanted for Christmas, but I did not encounter bread cubes. Sheesh. SO I bought my own loaf of bread, toasted it, and left it out to get dry and stale. While it was staling, I sauteed an onion and some celery. I added lots of interesting spices: Basil, Oregano, Thyme, sage and salt and pepper. After it was mostly done, I remembered that I wanted to use some apple in there. I quickly chopped an apple and sauteed that too. MM! Then I chopped up a link of pesto chicken sausage and sauteed that in there, too. I left that in the fridge the night before. The day of the dinner, I took it out and put the bread in with in, and some precooked kasha, to add interest. I tossed it all, with a little water, and put in in a bread pan to cook.

I made a mostly whole-foods version of the green bean casserole. I didn’t want to use the french-fried onions. Fried was to be avoided. I did use Cream of Mushroom soup can, a half of one, but the rest was yummy frozen green beans and frozen mushroom, and some milk, and crackers. It turned out quite well, but I might have put some onions in. Onions are so good!

I also made the jello very early. We have a tradition of green jello with grated carrots in it. Nasty! We have vetoed this tradition after we were old enough to realize we could. We’ve compromised on Green jello with pinapple.

Well, I didn’t have any green jello. And I wasn’t going to the store AGAIN! Red jello would have to do. I made it and dumped in the pinapple.

Did you know that there is a trick to adding fruit to jello? I read about it right after I dumped the pineapple in. Apparently, you have to let it “set” for a little bit and then stir in the fruit. Otherwise, the fruit will just sit in high concentrations at the bottom.

My red jello had mysterious objects suspended in the bottom when it reached the table. If you looked from the side, you could see the pineapple chunks. But from the top it was murky and somewhat ominous. But my family are heroic eaters! They dove right in!

Well, that was pretty much what we had for dinner.

But the breakfast before was really really yummy. Sourdough pancakes! The taste of my homeland! Alaska sourdough pancakes are quite light and fluffy. Mmmm! Waffles are even better, but I don’t have a waffle iron anymore.

I made rhubarb and strawberry syrup, from frozen strawberries and rhubarb. Now, I am not surprised to find frozen strawberries. But rhubarb was quite a find! Rhubarb is also a taste of home. Rhubarb will grow in alaska. So will strawberries. So I cooked them with some sugar in a saucepan, and boiled and boiled it, until they were all melted into a mass of tartly sweet thick liquid. I had to watch it to keep it from boiling over while I flipped the pancakes. I was mostly successful.

The sourdough pancakes were coming along beautifully. I’m glad I made a double batch, because mom, dad and I ate every single one. The recipe calls for the sourdough started to be mixed with oil and eggs, and then you pour in soda. The soda reacts with the sourdough, fizzing it up. The result is an extremely airy and fluffly light pancake.

Oh my goodness! When we sat down with our sweet pancake, and poured the mashy rubarb syrup on it, I took and bite and when to heaven! I knew it was going to be good, but I had undersestimated myself! Screw maple syrup! Rhubarb is the way to go. I’m making that again.

I was full of sourdough and rhubarb-flavored christmas cheer when I set about making the above-described christmas dinner.

There were, of course, cookies as well. I had been avoiding making cookies. I try to be good! but my Aunt Pat had circumvented my good intentions! God bless her! She had sent a little box of goodies with my dad for all of us to share.

SHe had shortbread and some cinnamony mexican shortbread cookies in the shape of logs. There was homemade caramels, and Russian Tea cakes. Pecan sandies which were nice and chewy, and a few things I am forgetting.

But I do not forget the toffee. I love toffee. She had made lovely chunks of rich toffee with almonds in it, and covered in melty dark chocolate that was rolled in walnuts from their own tree.

Know how I know they were walnuts from their own tree? Aunt Pat always sends things with walnuts from their own tree. Walnuts are good! But Aunt Pat’s walnuts goodies come with the inevitable bits of shell shrapnel. I learned young to crunch lightly.

Then there is also the traditional shrimp crap. That’s what we’ve called it recently, to my mother’s utter horror! “Don’t call it ‘ crap’!”

Of course we say it with fondness! It is a highly favored dish. Basically, you take a large plate and smear cream cheese on it. Then, in a separate dish, you take a bunh of ketchup and a little horseradish and a can of chopped shrimp and stir it all together.

I learned by trying it, it’s best to DRAIN the can of shrimp. Word to the wise.

But you stir the drained shrimp and ketchup and horseradish into a red muck. Then you drop in on top of the cream cheese and smear it around.
THen you take ritz crackers, and lay then in an attractive circle around the plate.

YUM! you dip the crackers in the cheese and shrimp and eat away. Sometimes we would have to make it twice.

This year, I was talked into buying jumbo shrimp by a sneaky sample-offering guy at the store.

So I did everything the same, but I didn’t put shrimp in the ketchup. I lay the big shrimp around the plate in an attractive pattern, and put the crackers on a bowl nearby.

We didn’t finish the plate this year. But maybe that’s because half the family was elsewhere, and because everyone was full of rhubarb pancakes. I don’t know.

But perhaps next year I will not mess with a winner.

I have not described the Christmas EVE dinner. That has a specific history which deserves it’s own place. I will get to that later.


Merry Christmas, Everyone!

(LUKE 2:1)
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David,Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.


I encourage you all to be like the shepherds, who go to “see this thing which is come to pass” rather than the people who only heard and wondered.

sf stories

This was obviously Cross-Posted on Blogcritics. But I didn’t want my own blog to miss out

Blogcritics is a beautiful thing. And I don’t care if it’s self-promotion, it deserves to be said. It’s a wonderful thing to have a collection of interesting people giving their own opinions and publishing them in a place that others can get to.

It’s hard to find fresh and unfettered points of view sometimes.

Except on the internet! The internet is full of that sort of thing.

If you know where to look.

I know we are supposed to point to when we recommend a book. It’s kind of cheating, but I want to recommend a book.

San Francisco Stories by Derek Powazek is a really good collection of stories. Derek caught the mood of foggy, laid-back, soul-searching San Francisco.

If you love the City by the Bay, or even just the idea of it, get the book!

I know you San Francisco-philes would love the feeling of getting an off-the-beaten-track book as well.

Derek started this thing as a website, I don’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but it touched me and I kept coming back.

I don’t live in the bay area anymore, but I went back there recently and found out he’d made a book.

GO, web-boy, GO!

So check it out. It’s worth a look.

the culture of tolkien

Readers, I am so excited about The Lord of The Rings movie coming out!

I was talking to a friend at work, and I mentioned some of the background mythology for this story. He wanted more information about it. Well, I started to write an email, and I couldn’t stop. It’s more of a blog post. Here you are:

Beowulf is one of the oldest books in ancient English (Anglo Saxon) still around. Originally, literacy in the British Isles was concentrated in Latin, since Latin was the language of their ruling elite, the Romans.

Although the Brits had their own language and writing (known as runes), they mostly relayed their cultural stories through word of mouth (oral tradition). Beowulf is only one of these stories, and it is highly treasured because it is one of the very few peeks we have into the culture of the Anglo-Saxons (MY people-transparently white child that I am).

I know of two main reasons why more stories didn’t survive:
one, the advent of Christianity created an unfavorable environment for stories about pagan deities. The British Isles, and especially Ireland, really embraced Christianity when it arrived. Some of the stories were christianized, and deities and legendary heroes got cleaned up into “saints.”

Beowulf has some christianizing in it too.

But the second reason is because of the Norman invasion.In the 11th century, I think, the French came in and enslaved (enserfed?) all the Anglo-Saxons. The Roman empire had long been dead, although Latin was still the Lingua Franca. But Anglo-Saxon writing and speech was what ordinary people used to communicate. When the French took over, they insisted that everyone speak French. Servants only spoke English to each other. And naturally, they had limited time to chew the fat. The complicated grammatical structure of Anglo-Saxon got mushed into a quicker, less nuanced speech. Anglo-Saxon wasn’t really taught; if a person went to be educated, they learned Latin or French. The Anglo-Saxon words that survive in English today are servants words. Swine for a live pig, but the Norman Pork for the meat (the only part that the Lord of the manor would see). Interestingly, all the cuss words survive.

Some of that Norman/Anglo-Saxon antagonism is played on in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. You’ve seen it, I imagine.

But English was saved, as a language, when Chaucer decided to write his “Canterbury Tales” in English. His patrons were Norman nobility, and there was a current of thought at the time which said that nothing poetic could come from this servant language. But the Canterbury Tales were written entirely in English, and this bold statement on the part of Chaucer encouraged many others to attempt the same. Shakespeare would never have written the way he did if not for Chaucer.

Of course, after Shakespeare all kinds of things happened. He was part of the renaissance, then the Age of Reason (aka the age of revolutions: American, French) happened. Then the Romantic period followed that, reacting to the cold idealization of reason. The Romantic period focused on the beauty of nature, and the transformative power of love and higher emotions. Nature elicited those emotions, so nature (with or without the concept of the Christian God, which had suffered some blows during that “reason” period), nature was raised as a saving mercy. The beauty of nature was a place of refuge and a reminder of the beauty of life, a sort of reassurance that good things endure. Thoreau, who wrote Walden, was on the tail end of the American Romantic period.

But then the INDUSTRIAL AGE began. English and American capitalists started raping and pillaging NATURE for fun and profit. Actually, all kinds of capitalists were doing it, not just the English-speaking ones.

Also, around this time, Darwin and other naturalists starting coming up with plausible theories that did away with the need for a benevolent deity. “Survival of the Fittest” was a philosophy that knocked the stuffing out of the idea of nature as a beautiful restorative refuge. Nature wanted to kill you, so that it could eat you. And if you couldn’t thrive, it was probably just as well that you died. One less weak genetic contributor.

How horrifying! You can imagine the slow, sick realization of all these things. The Victorian English ended up focusing primarily on appearances. Keeping a stiff upper lip, doing your duty for your country, and not upsetting society. America also had strong middle-class bourgeois tendencies. Certainly, we were happy to keep any new immigrant class “in their proper place”, often using the new Darwinistic philosophies to justify the mistreatment of other nationalities and the prejudicial racist treatment of African-Americans. “Nature” had made things hard, and the dominant culture took their dominant status as their natural (god-given?) right.

It was the “enlightened” and “modern” way of thinking. Do your duty, do the right thing for no other reason that that it was right. Until World War one happened. Then the “right thing” led to all kinds of wrong things. Thousands and thousands of good people, young upstanding soldiers died fighting for the meaningless cause of a few miles, a few feet of dirt.

The soldiers got really close to nature then. Sitting for months in their foxholes, seeing nothing but dirt, mud, excrement and the bodies of their mates decomposing nearby.

When it was all over, not much had changed but their attitudes. The “modern” way of thinking now meant utter disillusionment. It is no accident that the era was called “The Depression.” God was irrelevant, nature meaningless, and hope was scarce.

It was during this period of time that J.R.R. Tolkein conceived the story of Middle Earth.
You thought I was never gonna take it back around, didn’t you?

Now, most of what _I_ know about concerns the cultures that speak English–America and England. To have the full picture, I will eventually have to learn more about Germany. Because the Germans were REALLY the ones who pursued heroic legends and folks tales. They started it much sooner than the English did. Remember the Brother’s Grimm fairy tales? Now that people have started to study fairy tales more extensively, we have found that they are STUNNINGLY similar across cultures. I think I read that almost every culture has a Cinderella story, which is my personal favorite.

But the German stories were very close to English stories. We actually are a Germanic people, sharing a culture with the folks over there in what’s now called Germany. Wagner also took a well-known Norse legend and made it into his Ring Cycle.

Did I say “ring”? Why, yes I did! It’s the same ring from essentially the same story that Tolkien was ripping off of.

But let me focus on Tolkien again. He was a Medieval scholar at Oxford, and he was probably one of the weirdest guys there. He hung out with C.S. Lewis, of Narnia fame, while he was there. I”ve been to the pub in Oxford where they all hung out. They would have a pint and read their writing to each other. Tolkien was obsessed with the Medieval legends; he has also published a version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated for the Middle English. He knew all the stories live he was living in them.

I think he tried to live in them. I have read that he wrote the Lord of The Rings series in a made-up language (elfin, maybe?) and then TRANSLATED it into modern English.


But it is my opinion that he was trying to escape into another world. This one wasn’t offering much, and he wanted to retreat into a place where heroism and courage and honor still counted.

You notice, I”m sure, that one of the characteristics of a “fantasy novel” is that it takes place before any industrialism. About the most technological they get is a windmill.

And Tolkien was the one in the English language that created the foundation of a complicated fantasy world.His universe is extremely fleshed out. He is as obsessed as you want to be. And many of his fans today are quite obsessed.

But see, he wrote these books in a particular place in time.They were moderately popular in his time, because people felt an affinity for the world that he had created. The novels are complicated. They begin in the middle, the way life does. The characters do something that will have an effect beyond the scope of the novel. They have done something lasting and meaningful. Their heroism is not wasted or twisted into evil ends, as was the heroism of the WWI soldiers.

Basically, Tolkien was calling on the power of myth, the myths that had evolved and been honed through generations of wise and intuitive storytellers. He knew the myths of his culture forward and back; and he dramatized them anew for modern sensibilities.

Society was sick and needed to hear a story. The story they needed was essentially the one we needed all along. Moses, Homer, and wise clan leaders told the stories. Tolkien put it in the language modern readers could understand, with the structure we were used to now. We didn’t use poetic chants…We use dialogue and description.

We don’t use campfires so much. We use ink and paper.

As I said, the Lord of the Ring was moderately popular when Tolkien first published it. But it wasn’t until the hippies rediscovered it that it went platinum, so to speak.

The hippies were sick of the old ways, and they BELIEVED in a new order. Frodo’s heroism was possible for them, they knew it! Hope was everywhere, and so were the Hobbit books.

This is also when the fantasy book market opened up.

NOW, with all that intro
(I am nothing if not thorough)
I would like to propose some of the original myth stories to be read by a fan of fantasy.

Sigurd the Dragon Slayer
Tales of King Arthur
All fairy tales
the Grimm fairy tales
fairy tales of any culture, particularly of the culture you are from
(if you are an American mutt like me, go for ALL the cultures that are in your mix)
The Iliad & The Odyssey
the Aenid (although, that’s an artificial myth, just like Tolkien’s)
Greek Drama (yeah, like Oedipus Rex)

All these are a little difficult to engage, because they are not told in the way we are used to. We are accustomed to being entertained in certain set ways, for plots to move in certain patterns. These stories pre-date those templates.

But they are worth the trouble of reading. You will find that they stay on your mind in ways you didn’t expect. And they don’t go away. The images stay, working as metaphors that give you handles on life’s confusing moments.

That’s what they are supposed to do.

And for learning more about myths, as a topic, I cannot more highly recommend Joseph Campbell.

the myth and science of santa

My friend Tantek had some stuff to say about Mythology and Science.

The story of the Priest scientifically explaining that Santa could not possibly deliver all the toys in one evening is pretty ironic. Imagine! I’m sure the priest wanted to scientifically disprove Santa’s existence in order to move the emphasis back to the TRUE reason for Christmas, which is the arrival of the omnipotent GOD in the form of a human baby concieved by a woman who had never engaged in sex.

Scientifically, it is impossible for Santa to exist!
Science is a wonderful thing. I love Science, and I know people who love it even more. It is SO NICE to have proof, and be absolutely sure. If you are wondering about something, just throw some science at it, and out pops the answer.

Well…sometimes. When you are wondering what temperature water boils at, science is your tool. When you are trying to figure out how many CD’s you can fit in the bookshelves you just inherited from your grandma, get out a measuring tape and a little science in the form of math, you have it.

But when you want to know how the world came into existence, science can’t give you an absolute answer.

In order to use science, you have to be able to repeat the experiment. And we have not been able to create another world like the one we are in now.

Yet, here we are. The question remains. At that point, we have to lay down the tool of science and take up another: mythology.

Myths are humanity’s way to address those portions of our experience that lay mostly beyond our reach.
Because there are so many things that we encounter in life, which we know intuitively to be much larger than the fragment we have experienced. We know that we are only encountering a small percent of what the whole entails.

Such as…
Love. We have all encountered some of it, but we know that there is so much more to this experience of love that we cannot have in our lifetime.

or Courage

and especially Truth

These are things we know, but have difficulty grasping and expressing.

And if we cannot even express the problem, the facts of the matter, how on earth are we going to find a way to design and implement a repeatable experiment?
Science cannot exist in this realm.

Not as we now understand scientific method.

But we have found other ways of giving shape to the unknown. We tell stories.
Important stories. Stories that are so important, we can’t even say or fully know their importance even as we impart them.

Mythology gives structure and shape to higher things. It is invaluable. It gives us hope and courage to look for answers to any question we can concieve.

And if we did not have the courage to feed our curiousity, science would not have been developed.

It is a worthy thing to attempt large questions. It is wise to use the best tool. But it looks foolish to try to force the inappropriate tool when the correct tool lies within reach.

Science and Myth are not inherently in conflict. You just have to use them wisely.

fools of gotham

Some friends and I were wondering the other day, “How did New York City get to be called Gotham?”

We were in San Francisco, looking at some statues scattered all around. It reminded us of the Batman movies, where the city was filled with spooky gothic architecture and art.
“This looks like Gotham City,” someone said.
“Yeah, but we’re in San Francisco. Gotham is supposed to be New York.”
“I wonder why they call it Gotham?”

That was the extent of it. But today I ran across something on a website

For you people like me who wonder about things, here’s their story:

The Wise Men of Gotham [were], in English legend, wise fools, villagers of Gotham, Nottinghamshire, Eng. The story is that, threatened by a visit from King John (reigned 1199-1216), they decided to feign stupidity and avoid the expense entailed by the residence of the court. Royal messengers found them engaged in ridiculous tasks, such as trying to drown an eel and joining hands around a thorn bush to shut in a cuckoo. Hence, the king determined to stay elsewhere. The “foles of Gotham” are mentioned in the 15th-century Wakefield plays. Merrie Tales of the Mad-Men of Gottam, a collection of their jests, was published in the 16th century.
© Copyright 1994-1999 Encyclopædia Britannica

How Gotham Came to Be a Reference to New York City
Washington Irving applied the name to New York in an issue of a humorous magazine named Salmagundi. The name, by Washington Irving’s time, had long been associated with stupidity, even though the original story was actually about a kind of twisted cleverness. Washington Irving thought this just the name to give to a city which he believed was inhabited by fools.
© Copyright 1996-2000 Michael B. Quinn from World Wide Words

Park Your Car in Harvard Yard

Park Your Car in Harvard Yard by Israel Horovitz, produced by LA theater works

This was labelled as a COMEDY, which is completely incorrect. According to classical definitions, comedy ends in a marriage. Tragedy ends in death. Well, this ended in death.

You make the call.

Perhaps we’ve progressed beyond classical definitions, and find death the funniest thing we’ve ever heard?

Probably not. But there were a few funny moments in this play. Mostly not, though.

It’s set in Massachusetts, a place that makes me think of my friend Christy. She lived there for a year. That’s the east coast, the OLD part of America. They have a sense of the social class that we don’t have as well defined here.

Imagine! Your family being in one area for generations, and all of them doing the same sort of work. Dock work, maybe. Or some kind of unskilled manual labor. Having the same few miles that you know. And not knowing at all how to get past them.

I don’t respect those sorts of boundaries, I consider them a dare most of the time. As in, “I can’t? Who says I can’t? I’ll show you!”

Anyway, the high school teacher that everyone was afraid of, for years and years, is finally on his deathbed. He needs someone to help him. And this woman comes to be his housekeeper until he dies.

She is his former student, only she doesn’t tell him that right away. Some part of her hopes he will remember, but knows bitterly that he will not.

They have more things binding them together, being in the same place for so long, than you would expect.

He is full of rage and regret at how his life turned out.
She is too. And she actually blames him for a lot of it. Her ticket out was education, but he flunked her and slammed that door.

I’m mad at him too, for her. He should have been a better teacher, and tried to help them learn. He should not have held the bar so high and mocked his students when they could not pass it.

I think he was trying to illustrate dramatically how SUPERIOR he was to them.

But she should have kicked harder against her lot, if she really didn’t like it.

At the end, though, they were both in the same neighborhood, they both endured the same cold winters.

How different are we, really?
These two were quite similar.

He was trying to die, which is a difficult thing. She was trying to live, which can be much harder at some times than at others.


Here I am, in a beautiful hotel in my former neighborhood. It was so strange, to leave from an airport that I have never seen before and arrive in an airport that is so incredibly familiar.

Taking trips, plane trips, were so out of the question when I was small. I had been on a plane once, when I was five. But the rest of the time, planes were as far away as the moon. No money, no open door, no flight path.

So, when I got older, flights were very possible. I am nervous in airports, but I LOVE to fly.

And I was excited to leave from Burbank, to find out what this new airport was. It is kind of disappointing. San Francisco airport, the one that I know, that I have memories and stories in, is much nicer.

And here I am, in the shadow of the Transamerica pyramid, in this beautiful, amazing, creative, energetic, sexy city that I love so much.

It’s not MY city anymore. I’ve never lived here. But I lived for seven years in the San Francisco Bay Area…The Bay Area…That means that San Francisco is mine.

Well, the first few years were full of unhappy memories. But the last few years were the best in my life.

It is hard to think that I am not part of here anymore. Here is very much a part of me.

I live in Los Angeles now. And I really do live in Los Angeles…I live and work right in the middle of the city of Los Angeles. I am part of the city.

But this city is not really part of me. I don’t have so many stories here. I am still trying to grok this huge sprawling city. I am bewildered and intimidated by the highways and the styles. I am trying to understand what I should be afraid of; who I should be afraid of.

Everyone says there are things to be afraid of here. “Haven’t you HEARD of Compton? Don’t you know about Watts? And East L.A.?”

I think it’s sad that I have to learn to fear like that. But I do know that I, one person, cannot change decades of segregation by ignoring it. I have to be smart.

It takes a while to get used to a new place. I’ve moved enough to remember that. I have more experience, and I know that.

LA seems like it has a lot to offer. I have more to offer too.

I’m glad to be out of the bay area. There were too many bruises on the map, even though I had shining moments and places.

I’m happy to be in a place that I can make my own, now that I have more of my own to make with. It just feels empty until then.

I guess I’ve moved from a place I’ve grown out of into a place I haven’t grown into yet.