FEBRUARY 2, 2020



So anyway. Seems we are counting down to an election as well as an impeachment trial that will produce unfortunately predictable results. At last report it was Monkey see, Monkey do in that the GOP Senate closed ranks to protect one of their own despite all clear evidence that the Trump is a vile criminal who broke the law and placed personal gain over national interest.

More important news: we have it hot over the wire that Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, which means that Spring shall arrive -- according to legend -- 6 weeks earlier, and for some people back East and in the middle of the Country Spring cannot come a minute too soon.

Around here we had a windstorm Sunday, but because of the general sogginess of things no planned outages were announced by PGE. Nevertheless, now is a good time to put in your order for a power generator.

You may want to also reduce the frozen supplies of things like Grandma's Hot Dish. We are still finding those white boxes containing Juanita's Improved Minnesota Hot Dish that featured jalapenos in the oddest of places. Eugene Gallipagus found one tucked under the arm of the statue of the Unknown Conquistador during the last Poodleshoot. The strange thing is that even after several years have passed, the stuff always appears unchanged and just as appetizing as the day it was made in Juanita's kitchen as a good faith gesture toward the Norwegians who had come southwest in search of their missing pastor quite a while ago. She made a lot of it in barrels, but it does not appear any of it made it back to Minnesota aboard trains or whatever convoy Lutherans prefer.

Juanita never learned that adding jalapenos to Hot Dish was considered an abomination by people who keep Velveeta and Campbells cream of mushroom soup and Lay's potato chips in business. These were honest Midwesterners gifted with unfailing politeness and they never would have dreamed of insulting a gifthorse. So they all said something like, "Thank you so very much. I have just had lunch by Mountain Time and so I will bring this back to my room and have it later for dinner or bring it home to Bear Lake on our return."

So that is how so many containers of Juanita's Hot Dish Modified v.2.0 wound up in so many places. To add to this confusion, the Minnesota delegation elected to send a case of lutefisk to Juanita as a "gesture of thanks", including a note that said "this is what we eat all the time."

Juanita sent off a response to an email and thanked the Midwesterners for a delightful contribution to their cuisine, which puzzled Karl Krepsbach for a number of weeks. The Mexicana took the shipment and realizedno human being could possibly eat this stuff unalloyed, so she enlisted her friend from Portugal, Mrs. Almeida, to convert the salt cod to Portugal's native dish, Bacalhau -- a stew steeped in spices and tomato sauce that completely obliterated the objectionable qualities of fish which had been buried in the ground and soaked in lye solution for months.

The Editor found a small white box of this fabled improved hot dish down by the bus stop and was reviewing its dubious contents that seemed as well preserved as the 5 pound blocks of cheese provided by the Reagan administration during its tenure of the Oval Office as a sort of sop for its misadventures at the time despite having never been refrigerated. He took it back to the offices and set it on the mantel above the unusable fireplace beneath the oar given him in advance by the Staff as an advance portion of a boat that would eventually be assembled, bit by bit. This would take time, but Island-Life has existed for 20 years. The Staff figured it would take another 20 years to accumulate all the parts to make an entire boat, and the Editor mused as he gazed upon the oar that by that time he would be a shade stepping aboard.

Martini, ever industrious, had already begun construction of such a vessel in the side yard where stones, gophers and skunks made gardening unfeasible. His plan was to construct no simple dory, but a 40 footer sloop to replace the lost Indomitable.

In addition to this project Martini had the new Household garden deer and rodent defenses to improve as well as an expanded Habitot environment that ran the length of the house for Festus and friends, plus all the House projects meant to turn a former horse barn into a domicile for some 15 people.

Martini knew a thing or two about making do with found materials, but Mr. Whingy down a few houses in the flats did not. Mr. Whingy thought he would save a few bucks by welding some exterior water pipe, using rented equipment and trying to mate copper with galvanized, and only succeeded in setting the hedges on fire, which called the fire department out to douse his experiment and earn a fine for lighting a fire on a Save the Air Day.

When talking about ships and sealing wax and whether pigs have wings, we cannot forget our intrepid fisherman, Pedro. Pedro was out on the fishing lanes in his boat El Borracho Perdido with his trusty Second Mate Ferryboat, when he heard the special radio broadcast over Sirius from his favorite televangelist Pastor Rotschue. The pastor had been disgraced and ejected from PBS by an overzealous Me-Too movement action but had rebounded back after a number of months to keep his hand in and promote Lutheran values, modest living, and sane actions of thought and deed. It certainly is an object lesson if people generally would proceed as a Minnesottan over glatt-eis in the dead of winter, carefully and thoughtfully, instead of plunging ahead with all the horses loose from the bridle and the carriage careening around the blind corners to result in any sort of damaged success or catastrophe.

In any case, the Pastor talked about Bliss as if he were already in heaven. That state certainly is foreign to the Catholic Pedro and most certainly to most certain Lutherans on earth to the best of his knowledge.

A writer may experience Bliss, but should seldom write about it. Milton, a writer more admired than read, found out as did Dante, that the really juicy stuff is found in despair and suffering and bad guys being bad. Take this from Paradise Lost when Satan speaks to his damned crew after losing the battle for Heaven

What though the field be lost?
All is not lost; the unconquerable Will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome?
That Glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deifie his power,
Who from the terrour of this Arm so late
Doubted his Empire, that were low indeed...

This is great stuff! This is our Bad Boy clad in a leather jacket and chains giving a great speech. When we get to Paradise Regained, not even the stuffiest don of the Department references one single line. All the dons have fallen asleep during the reading with their brandy snifters unfinished. The Archangel Gabriel has gotten boring, boring, boring, just by being happy as a nitwit poodle in verse.

And then Dante finds he loses his way in the middle course of his life and is led by hand through all the circles of hell with all sorts of adventures and meeting colorful characters along the way. After descending the river of piss streaming from Satan Virgil then leads our hero up the mount of Purgatory, getting more and more tedious along the way until we get to a tendentious account of a blissful heaven that few ever complete on account of the ennui of happiness and the overly elegant language that stresses the nerves.

Nobody wants to read about happiness. Most people lead lives of quiet desperation and discomfort. We want to read about the bitter cold of Minnesotta and Nordic stoicism, Stanley Kowalski howling "Stella!" up the stairs, and we want to see the undertaker pleading to the bad Godfather in the movie because that stuff is vastly more entertaining than lives presented like edenic car ads where everyone is beautiful, neat and perfect and entirely unlike ourselves. Reading about Bliss is like an adolescent devouring a Playboy magazine pictorial. Beautiful enough, but far from any realization in this life. You have not an icecube's chance in hell in even meeting that woman in the pictures young man, so get over it and take out the garbage after shoveling the snow from the driveway.

Then again when Andre was about to begin one of his concerts with the Monkey Spankers someone called out, "Play some happy songs!"

"Sorry homey," Andre said. "We don't know no happy songs." And people got that because punk is not about being happy with your poodledog.

As Richard Thompson has said, you do not want to play more than three "wrist-slashers" in a row or you risk losing your audience. We would say Mr. Thompson does know a thing or two about performance.

When Denby had finished one of his sets, someone said, "Why do you always depress us?"

Therein lies the rub. You need to be true but you also need to play to the field. Denby learned after that episode to include Jackson Brown and Dylan in his sessions.

An artist has many choices. Pastor Rotschue has described the Bliss that perhaps some of us may attain in the afterlife. So have Milton and Dante. Let the rest of us struggle on in this Vale of Tears without depressing anybody else.

With Pedro home and snug in his bed, the sun set on the San Geronimo Valley, Martini stood back in the cooling light and said to himself, "Today we live in these mist covered mountains, but one day we shall return to our homes down below."

The sound of the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary and wended its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slid over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais following the old, forgotten railbeds that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White's Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with faint gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog to an unknown destination.