End of Eras

Home stretch, as it were, of emptying our home. 27 years of stuff. Confusing thoughts and feelings about all this. But let’s not wallow in nostalgia! Or, at least, not just wallow in nostalgia…

First, the weather. As all 20 long-time readers may be aware, I’ve used this data set to track local rainfall for the last several years.

top of the page.

Our local flood control district has 32 automated rain gages set up across the county, and put up this web page with near real time automatic updates as shown. Over the past 4 or 5 years, I decided to use these numbers to get a more general idea of local rainfall, rather than just using the one local gage for Concord, CA, that seems to provide the go-to numbers for the press.

As discussed in previous posts, these numbers are both beautiful and flawed. Beautiful, in that they provide a real-world snapshot of rainfall over a couple of hundred square miles updated every 15 minutes. But, as a note on the page says:

The District does not warranty, guarantee, or certify the accuracy of the rainfall data. The data accuracy and availability can be compromised due to equipment failure, power loss, equipment defects, loss of calibration, or internet/radio communication equipment failure of equipment provided by others.

This disclaimer is on top of the inaccuracy built into the round numbers used as average annual rainfall totals per gage. Since accurate annual averages are of little use to the Flood Control District, it’s obvious they just took a guess and stuck with it. So, for example, the Ygnacio Valley Fire, Concord, station has an annual average of 17.00 inches. Exactly. They have been tracking rainfall at this station for 43 years; the annual average has not changed over the 5 or so years I have been watching it. And so on, for most of the gages.

Since the annual per gage averages are numbers I use in my fancy-pants spreadsheet to estimate total rainfall as a percentage of average, all my numbers have at least this built-in error. I also watch (this is all for my own weird obsessive amusement) how many stations hit or exceed their annual averages, and by how much. Thus, this year so far, as of this morning – and it happens to be raining at the moment, so this will change – 21 out of 32 stations have gotten at least 80% of their annual averages, while 16 have hit 90%, 7 reached 100% and 1 has even exceeded 125%.

This is where it gets stupid. Or stupider. The Mount Diablo Peak station has, in every year I’ve tracked it, had both the highest rainfall and the greatest amount and percentage over average. This year, it shows over 130% of annual average. There are several other stations that have, in terms of percentage of annual average, consistently run way ahead of the other stations. On the other hand, the Kregor Peak, Clayton, station shows under 50% of its annual average this year – and it is maybe a couple miles, and visible from, the Mount Diablo Peak station. And a number of other stations similarly have fallen ‘behind’ the overall averages each year I’ve watched them.

Such consistent inconsistencies call my whole project into doubt. I don’t blame the Flood Control District in the slightest – all they want to know is how much rain is falling how fast and where, so that they can warn people that the creek’s gonna rise. My whole project makes little sense in that context; the ‘errors’ I’m spotting, that throw my numbers into chaos, simply don’t matter much if at all to the Flood Control District.

Nail in the coffin: this year, 5 or 6 of the stations have failed more often than not to report any usable numbers. Either blank cells, or data that fails the sniff test. That Ygnacio Valley Fire, Concord, station mentioned above happens to be the one physically closest to our home. Today, it shows no rainfall at all for the last several days, while 4″ deep puddles have been forming on our patio. So, not believable.

In order to use the data in my fancy-pants spreadsheet, I have to clean it up by removing stations with bad data. Since not all stations are created equal – annual average rainfall varies from 11″ to 33.50″, in addition to the inconsistencies mentioned above – it matters which stations one removes. Removing any stations because you don’t like the data is bad science. I think we’ve reached a point where even I can’t convince myself my analysis proves anything.

That said, we’ve reached 92% of annual average rainfall! Woohoo!

Next, we had to tell our 94 year old neighbor of 27 years that we’re moving out. This old gentleman has watched our kids grow up, and has put up with our dumb former dog, and just been a great all-around neighbor. He’s the kind of guy who will keep an eye on the whole neighborhood in a friendly way, and even go have a talk with any neighbor who is maybe not being quite neighborly enough. Best neighbor we’ve ever had.

He was pretty emotional, as were we. In the last few years, his dearly beloved wife died, he had a fall and broke bones, and finally, after decades where he seemed to have hit about 60 and just stayed there, he is finally showing his age. He’s almost house-ridden these days, with trips to the doctor and daily walks with caregivers his only outside activates. This, for a man who was forever puttering in the garden and driving himself to church and so on. Please remember him in your prayers.

Next, had my pianos moved yesterday. The upright from the 1890s is sitting in storage; I bit the bullet and had my 1927 Steinway sent in for restringing. Too expensive! But now seemed the time. So, for the rest of my life, at least, there will be a truly fine piano to play in my home.

Finally, this same neighbor has 4 sons but no daughters. He fell hard for our younger daughter, who was born while we lived here. He got to see her grow up from infancy. She became, I think, the daughter he never had. Plus, she’s a cutie and the sweetest kid, and was always kind to him. Well, this daughter of ours, married just short of 4 months, is now expecting her first child. Due in November. Very hard to get my head around.

The gravitational shift of having one granddaughter living 60 miles away was huge; adding a second grandchild makes it totally irresistible. When we move, we plan to be much nearer to both.

House is almost empty; the Insane Brick Project is about 50 bricks from completion; the house will look and be in better shape than it ever was while we lived here; POD in the front drive being loaded up; a storage unit packed to the roof. While a Friday departure date seems to have been a little optimistic, we should be gone gone by Monday. 30+ years in the area, 27 in the same parish. All over.

Moving: More Archeology

I suppose it goes without saying that if you pack up from a place you lived in for 27 years, you are going find things you’ve forgotten or didn’t even know you had. We’ve had a number of those moments so far, but this one, well, here you go:

When our son died, we received condolences from many people, so much so that I only got back to maybe half of them before I just couldn’t do it any more. Further, people who didn’t know us, but heard about his death from his school – Thomas Aquinas College – sent their condolences to the school, who then forwarded them on to us. So we have a sheaf of lovely and kind letters via the school.

Pretty sure I read them when they first arrived, but they had since fled my memory. My wife found them. Bishops, abbots, priests, members of religious orders sent their condolences and prayers. The Papal Nuncio to the United States sent us condolences, and said he would pray for the repose of our son’s soul.

Back in 2012, that Papal Nuncio was Archbishop Vigano.

Holy Saturday: My Ass is in a Ditch (Luke 14:5-6)

Being a little flippant on this, the day of the Great Silence, but that’s the truth. I’ve got 6 days to finish packing up and moving out of this house, and so hope to keep a prayer on my lips as I work like a dog to get it done. My beloved and our beloved son, as well as our daughters and son in law and one very dear friend have also put in some serious work, but we’ve run hard into the 80-20 (or is it 90-10?) Rule: packing up the last 20% is 80% of the work. This post will be brief, rushed, or both.

First up, Dante: in Canto IV of the Inferno, as they leave the Limbo of souls who earned no punishment but gained not Heaven, he asks Virgil one of the enduring questions of Christianity. Is there no hope for souls separated from Christ through no fault of their own? Unbaptized infants, virtuous pagans (like Virgil himself) and those to whom the Word has never been preached? Specifically, has no one from Limbo ever been saved?

Here there was no sound to be heard, except the sighing, that made the eternal air tremble, and it came from the sorrow of the vast and varied crowds of children, of women, and of men, free of torment. The good Master said to me: ‘You do not demand to know who these spirits are that you see. I want you to learn, before you go further, that they had no sin, yet, though they have worth, it is not sufficient, because they were not baptised, and baptism is the gateway to the faith that you believe in. Since they lived before Christianity, they did not worship God correctly, and I myself am one of them. For this defect, and for no other fault, we are lost, and we are only tormented, in that without hope we live in desire.’

When I heard this, great sadness gripped my heart, because I knew of people of great value, who must be suspended in that Limbo. Wishing to be certain in that faith that overcomes every error, I began: ‘Tell me my Master, tell me, sir, did anyone ever go from here, through his own merit or because of others’ merit, who afterwards was blessed?’

Dante, Inferno, Canto IV, From Poetry in Translation, translated by A. S. Kline

Virgil answers straight out of medieval mystery plays:

And he, understanding my veiled question, replied: ‘I was new to this state, when I saw a great one come here crowned with the sign of victory. He took from us the shade of Adam, our first parent, of his son Abel, and that of Noah, of Moses the lawgiver, and Abraham, the obedient Patriarch, King DavidJacob with his father Isaac, and his children, and Rachel, for whom he laboured so long, and many others, and made them blessed, and I wish you to know that no human souls were saved before these.

Ditto

Elsewhere in the Inferno, features of Hell are described as ruins: bridges over ditches, walls, the Gates of Hell itself has been blown off its hinges. This seems odd, given the inscription over the Gates:

THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE INFERNAL CITY:

THROUGH ME THE WAY TO ETERNAL SADNESS:

THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE LOST PEOPLE.

JUSTICE MOVED MY SUPREME MAKER:

I WAS SHAPED BY DIVINE POWER,

BY HIGHEST WISDOM, AND BY PRIMAL LOVE.

BEFORE ME, NOTHING WAS CREATED,

THAT IS NOT ETERNAL: AND ETERNAL I ENDURE.

FORSAKE ALL HOPE, ALL YOU THAT ENTER HERE.

Ditto

“…and eternal I endure.” One might expect, after Plato, that eternal things are unchanging and unchangeable, pretty much by definition. But no – in an Incarnational universe, even the Eternal is shown to change – out of love. Virgil explains that a great earthquake shook Hell on the day One came to save some souls out of Limbo, and damaged even Hell. Even in the wreckage of Hell, or perhaps especially in the wreckage of Hell, the God Who so Loved the world is revealed. He has entered time for our sake.

The Gates of Hell not prevailing.

Today is often referred to as the Great Silence, for here on earth we recall the lull in Incarnational activity: The world slept in darkness until Christ came, then was riled, enraged, and murderous until Christ had been entombed, then fell silent while Christ descended into Hell. Now, all the noise and insanity of the world is caused by the Prince of this world again fighting vainly against the New Heaven and the New Earth. The battle rages even though the outcome is known. We are the lowliest foot soldiers in this battle of Principalities and Powers, but we all have our parts to play. About as weak and small a person imaginable, a peasant Jewish teenage mother, in her holy humility has crushed the serpent’s head, after all. We also must do our parts.

Now, back to packing up.

A Moving Experience

Move out day is now set: April 22. Therefore, we have exactly 2 weeks to finish getting a 2900 sq’ house, 6 bedroom house we’ve lived in for for 27 years packed up and moved out.

“OK. This is it.”

Resources include me, an overweight 64 year old man who used to be a moving commando, of the ‘just grab the couch, pick it up, take it down the stairs, and put it in the microbus’ type. Not so, anymore, but I’m still somewhat useful. My poor, longsuffering wife and our 18 year old son complete the core; our daughters and their husbands, and some friends and volunteers drop by when they can.

We’re doing well. The occasional time capsule, especially where it concerns our late son, can slow things down. Wednesday, we took his old chest of drawers and put it into storage. It was still full of his clothes. Neither my wife nor I was up to going through it when he died, and so there it is. Probably be there when we die.

Put 4 guitars, two amps, a drum kit, and some mic stands into storage. The reality is that I’ll pick up an old nylon string sitting on a stand in the living room put there for just such occasions and pick out some chords once in a while, and that’s it – the semi-hollow body, the old Strat knock-off, and a cheap steel string just haven’t got much use over the last decade or so.

This one. Bought used for $135 in 1986. Not much of a guitar, but I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

Now for the pianos: my 1920s Steinway M, my baby, is going into storage soon; I also have a nice old huge heavy upright from around 1900 I had fixed up 25 years ago. It’s a good piano, my daughter wants to put it in her apartment. Then there’s the old Rhodes Suitcase I bough new in 1977. Still got it. Sounds good, looks terrible, and is just a freaking boat anchor. 1977 me, a strapping 19 year old, could just pick it up one section at a time, and just move it. Those days are long gone. I’ll throw it up on Craigslist, hope somebody wants it. My vintage 2000 Alesis synth was trying to die over a decade ago – cutting out, navigation lights dead – so it’s going into recycling.

I have a lot more musical toys to deal with. About 50 year’s worth. Anybody want a cassette 4-track recorder? Still works, last I checked, about 20 years ago…

Further update as events warrant.

Wait! Finished the largest remaining part of the Soon-to-be-ended Endless Brick Project:

Still need to put the dirt back in; came out OK.
From the street. Not my best work, but OK.

And the fruit trees are setting fruit, the irises are blooming:

Flying at Half-mask & Other Oddities; Updates

So, despite the numbers – cases, deaths, hospitalizations – being as bad or worse than they were this time last year or, indeed, at the end of April of 2020, it has been decreed that we can stop with the COVID nonsense, for the most part. Simply dropping all the MANIFESTLY USELESS restrictions and mandates would invite people to point and laugh, so we must phase them out, making sure all the little people know that Our Betters can reinstate them without notice at any time in the future.

MANIFESTLY USELESS, I say, if we’re talking about reducing the spread and the severity of this particular disease. Follow the logic, please, and note that we’re using the numbers generated by the people behind the panic mongering: IF steps taken WORKED, THEN there would be FEWER cases, hospitalizations, and deaths ONCE THOSE STEPS WERE TAKEN. Do not pass go unless you understand this! Sure, any number of Just So stories can be and were generated as needed to explain WHY the damn virus just kept spreading and coming back and killing people despite all the absolutely essential and effective steps that were taken, but there comes a point – summer, 2020 was that point, if you’re taking notes – when, if any of these steps worked at all, we should have seen the spread of the virus crawl to a halt. But ‘we’ didn’t. So, Our Betters kept layering on the restrictions and requirements. We had to wait for a ‘vaccine’ before allowing people to take the horrible risk of going to church, say, or attending a class. So, we got ‘vaccines’ – never mind that the CDC had to change the definition of what a vaccine is in order to shoehorn in the experimental gene therapy Pfizer and Moderna were pushing; never mind that none, as in zero, therapies using this gene therapy had ever gotten past the testing phase in over a decade of testing and billions spent trying to get them approved. Never mind that all the safeguards and testing requirements – you know, the steps and procedures that take typically about 10 years to perform? – were waived. Never mind that – logic, again! – if you test anything for 3 months, all you can possibly know is that what you’re testing is safe and effective for 3 months! Anything that happens after 3 months is simply unknown. Never mind that these ‘vaccines’ were introduced as the solution to COVID in an atmosphere of total panic and fear, then quickly walked back with another bunch of Just So stories when they failed to perform. Your ‘vaccines’ didn’t work for you, because somebody else didn’t get the jab. Then boosters became required, then boosters to the boosters, the concept of ‘fully vaccinated’ became current to shift blame for the fact that the vaccinated were still getting sick and dying away from the makers of the ‘vaccine’ and onto those who were not ‘fully vaccinated’.

As one wag put it: if I got my dog vaccinated against rabies three times in one year, and he still caught rabies, I’d have some questions.

Now, we’re having a little war in Ukraine to distract us from all this – and Hunter’s laptop, assorted election fraud court cases, the farce of the January 6 ‘insurrection’, and an inconvenient number of younger, healthier people dropping dead after getting jabbed. (Note: confirmation bias works both ways, but if every 90 year old nursing home patient and overdose druggie death can be counted as Coof Doom, then by what reasoning do we dismiss all post-jab deaths as just one of those things? How about a real study of both sets of claims?)

Here, for example, is a chart of deaths attributed to COVID in Israel, one of the most heavily jabbed nations of earth, with almost every adult jabbed, double-jabbed, boosted, and boosted again:

After they started jabbing people, deaths went up. Then, we have the Just So story valley in April 2021 – see, it’s Just So that it took a few months for enough people to get jabbed for the wonderful, wonderful vax to be effective on the population! Never mind that airborne viral infections fall every damn spring and have for as long as they’ve been tracked – no! This fall is due to our wonder drugs and the sheeplike compliance of all good citizens!

Then, when the end of summer uptick happens, another story is generated. Pandemic of the unvaxxed! Then finally, once the winter flu season kicks in, and deaths are worse than ever, worse than they are anywhere that remained unvaxxed, we say – ?

It’s crazy-making. On a small local scale, I’ve been noting two phenomena. First, the number of ‘voluntarily’ masked people has fallen, but there is a persistent minority that still wears a mask outside in the sun or alone in their cars. We may be nearing some sort of sanity minimum, where the hard core of those still masked up are certifiably insane. At the sparsely-attended 6:30 morning mass I go to in Lent, there are maybe 3 or 4 masked up people out of 14-20 mass-goers; out shopping, the percentage seems a little higher.

I occasionally see the school children at mass. They are still majority masked up, although many take the liberties I’ll describe next. The damage has been done; logic and evidence, never a strong suit for your average American, are dead and buried under an avalanche of panic and group-think.

The second phenomenon is more amusing: chin masking. We’ve all seen, I suppose, the skip-the-nose masking, common from the start of the masking fiasco. You wear a mask, but below your nose. You want to comply, maybe, but you’d also like to breath, so you go with the totally irrational and ineffective even in theory mask below the nose.

Now, I’m seeing an even more amusing use of masks – the chin mask. This is a mask worn in such a way as to cover neither the nose nor the mouth. It covers the chin. Those schoolkids mentioned above, when they aren’t fiddling with their masks, tend to do something like chin masking or skip the nose masking. Since mom isn’t around to panic, and the rule is that you don’t have to mask, so the teachers aren’t enforcing it, kids, especially the younger ones, tend to take it as the game it is. This would be a healthy challenge to authority and testing of limit, if it weren’t for the guilt-tripping and fear mongering these kids are no doubt routinely subjected to, often by their moms.

So the damage has been done. A generation has been tortured, lied to, forced to comply, taught to fear and dismiss any counterarguments. May God have mercy on us!

Next, MIL is back in the hospital – 3rd time in 2022. This time, she woke up with pain and reduced strength in her right side. While these are typical stroke symptoms, they also, as in this case, sometimes result for seizures. I didn’t know that. Preliminary tests show no stroke; MRIs are to be run today, which supposedly are more sensitive to these sorts of things. She’s 84, very demented, weak but otherwise physically doing OK – until now.

Of course, this is happening as we’re packing up to move and getting the house fixed up. The Eternal Brick Project of Doom is almost done – pics as events warrant.

Prayers for both my MIL and for our move would be appreciated.

Do something today! Practice agency! You are not a helpless cog!

Quick Update: Fixin’ to Move, Music, etc.

1.Still crazy busy. The realtor says: you want anything the prospective home buyer is likely to touch to work. Seems reasonable. Trying to fix everything that a prospective home buyer is likely to lay hands on is proving expensive and time consuming – go figure. We’ve lived, sometimes for more than a decade, with:

  • doors with glitchy nobs, like there is a trick to getting them to open and close;
  • a downstairs shower that is broken – have been stashing the cat food, kitty litter and back-up TP in it for so long, we’d almost forgotten it was there. Do have two working showers, but
  • other showers have tricky ‘features’ as well, like one which drips if you turn it ALL the way off, but doesn’t if you turn it ALMOST all the way off, and another which has lost the relationship between the ‘H’ and ‘C’ settings and the actual water temperature.
  • broken light fixtures

And so on. And. of course, a plethora of broken stuff, including

  • cracked windows
  • broken cabinet doors
  • ratty blinds
  • wobbly banisters
  • warped baseboards

And on and on. PLUS – the Endless Brick Project of Doom. On which I’ve made huge progress with the help of my youngest son, younger daughter and her husband. Pics to follow soon. I even added a project, because of course I did:

There was no step by the south side door. So I built one – out of bricks.
Came out OK.
Had some Mexican tiles lying around, so I sort of decided I stick ’em places. Looks kind of cute.

None of this repair/replace/finish work compares in magnitude to the sort/clean/pack work. Can’t even think about it. That’s coming up soon.

2. Turned 64 on St. Joseph’s Day. Threw myself a pizza party, invited some friends and our younger daughter’s in-laws. Big family, in both senses – a good sized batch of kids, and dad’s a about 6’5″ and built like the former college offensive lineman he is; a couple of his teenage sons tower over 6’2″ me. Nice folks, we had a blast. Our youngest son took over the pizza making duties so I could socialize more, and did a great job. Torch-passing ahoy!

64 seems old in a way 63 or even 60 did not. This, despite my being in better physical shape this year than the last several. Lost 35 lbs so far; got another 65-70 to go. I’m feeling the obligation to get healthy and stay alive to help my kids and grandkids in any way possible. Granddaughter #1 is a little over 4 months old, and a real sweetheart. I expect more will be on the way, given our kids love of kids.

3. Realistically, if I can get into shape and lose the weight, I might have another 10 years of more demanding physical projects in me. This is good, as we hope to buy a ‘hobby farm,’ which sounds like a LOT of back-breaking work, if one is to make it work as one hopes. Big garden, big orchard, some chickens, maybe a pig. Youngest daughter wants a milk cow – fine, if she takes care of it. I want a hobbit-hole style root cellar, with a walk-in fridge and freezer space in the back. Because I’m insane, why do you ask? Then get some solar power to make sure it stays cold….

Then, God willing, I might have as much as another 10 years to work on less strenuous hobbies. My mom and dad made it to 87 and 88, respectively; my mom had her complete mental faculties to the day she died. Dad, not so much. So, best case, music and writing can continue for another 20 years.

The take-away: do it now. Don’t stop. Push. Get it done. And thank the Lord for every single day.

4. On the writing front, I’ve begun to pack all my education and history references up into boxes to be moved to our next abode, almost certainly a rental. No plans to do any writing until we get at least a little settled.

Musically, however, I’ve been greatly inspired by the almost 40 year old music I dug up while packing. It’s both inspiring and depressing – I think I have some real talent which, instead of being developed over the last 4 decades, has moldered. So, now, as an old man, I’m trying to rekindle the fire. All I really want is to give it one big try, finish a small set of compositions, and send them off to some real musicians for feedback and – a guy has got to dream – perhaps performance. It either works or it doesn’t, but I owe it to myself to give it a shot.

So, I’ve been working on some pieces, usually in the morning after breakfast before I get going on home projects, and in the evening after I’ve cleaned up the day’s work. So far,so good. We’ll see.

Further bulletins as events warrant. Both Severain and Briggs have been on fire lately, but I have little time to comment. And I still want to comment on the comments made here lo, these weeks ago now. Maybe after the move?

Flashbacks: Packing Up To Move Edition

Yesterday, in preparation for putting our house on the market, put the first minivan load of boxes into storage. 90% books. Many of these boxes had gotten packed up 17 years ago when we moved out of our house for the remodel/addition in 2005. They were then rifled through at various times over the years as kids heading off to college looked for particular books. (Mom and dad both did Great Books, one of the advantages of which is that you’re not spending stupid money on disposable textbooks but are instead buying enduring classics – that your kids and grandkids can then use when they go off to a Great Books school.) So old, tattered, torn open boxes of books. This is in addition to the 20 or so bookcases worth of books we did unpack. Sigh.

Had to rebox them into sturdier boxes. The great risk here is in looking at any of this. A yawning rabbit hole with a serious gravity gradient.

I mostly resisted, but I’m only human. The worst find in this respect: a box (one of several, I fear) of cassette tapes and CDs. I was in a number of rock bands over the years; I also wrote some songs. These activities seem to spawn any number of tapes and CDs. This box also contained a Discman (with MEGA BASS!) that, it turns out, a couple fresh batteries brought back to life!

So, here I am, standing outside the side door of the garage at a makeshift table of an old door on two sawhorses, with 20+ year old tapes and CDs spread before me, with a Discman and some old cheap headphones. I made the quick decision to ignore the tapes – had no handy way to play them back, and what would be the point? So I just sorted through and threw out empty cases (how one ends up with empty cases but not loose tapes is a mystery). Started putting unlabeled or mysteriously labeled CDs in the Discman.

Threw out a bunch that were bank. I don’t know if I even have a device to burn them anymore. Kept the unopened packages just in case, not sure why. Then found some huge set of carefully labeled boxes which at first I couldn’t identify or remember. Turns out a friend from way back had recorded a whole bunch of live performances of various bands he was in – and I was in a bunch of them as well, so I guess he gave me a set. (The last band I was in with him is also the only band I’ve ever gotten fired from. Boring story – skip it.)

Anyway, I put the first disc on, not knowing or remembering exactly what was on it. Turns out I had performed at the local Walnut Festival (don’t laugh – actually pretty nice paying gig) with a band I don’t remember – as in, AT ALL. The frontman seemed to have been a harmonica player. I have no memory of this. I don’t ever remember playing in a band with a harmonica player.* I had to listen for a while to make sure it was me. The piano sounded like me; eventually, the band did Feelin’ Alright, which is, I suppose, is my signature song. I sing and play. So, I was there, I played and sang.

I don’t even have the excuse of doing drugs. And it’s not like I played out so much that playing the Walnut Festival would be utterly forgettable. One of my fondest memories is playing that festival the first time – they had a team to set up your equipment and sound check and all that, first time I actually felt like wow, I’m in like a *band* band! But this other time? Total blank. The reality: my total earning from playing out has not covered the cost of my equipment. Totally a pay-to-play dude. Hey, it was fun!

Then there were backup tapes and CDs for songs I wrote or worked on, with the unmixed parts. I don’t have the equipment to play them back on. Well, somewhere out there is a old 4-track cassette recorder, so, if it works, in theory, I could play those back. I won’t live long enough, but I didn’t throw them away.

Spent an ill-advised hour or two on that box. Most were not that bad. One place I failed: I have hundreds of old SciFi magazines. I couldn’t pull the trigger. Instead, I used them to fill in in boxes so that they, the boxes, were very full and survive stacking without damaging the boxes or the books in them.

Then there was the box of music, as in, written music, and personal notes. That was the wow box for me. Among other things, it contained:

  • Complete mimeographed sets of the lyrics to the first high school play I was ever in, called Cruisin’, written by our drama teacher, a Mr. Anthony. He anticipated the 50s revival by exactly one year. Great tunes.
  • A piece I wrote for a junior college music class, voice and piano. The teacher, Dr. Williametta Spencer, liked it.
  • Pieces I was working on with a voice teacher at Whittier College, circa 1978. These are tied to what in retrospect was a monumental decision on my part: he offered me one of the leads in a Gilbert and Sullivan production, and it was tempting, but I was all set to head back to New Mexico to finish up at St. John’s. So, if I had accepted, I would have spent another year pursuing music, and who knows what might have happened? Instead, I went back to New Mexico, worked for the Church for a couple year upon graduation, and met my future wife. A mystery.
  • A partial setting of the text Domine, non sum dignus, written around 1983. I was taking composition lessons from Suzanne McClain in Santa Fe at the time. I had written a piece – a Kyrie – for her Santa Fe Women’s Ensemble, and this was the next thing I was working on. It is a setting of only about half the text – I ran into a wall trying to get it finished – but I really liked the part I had written. This was around the time she assigned me to write a string quartet after the style of Mozart – I remember not having any idea what that was like, and going to the library to listen to some. Not sure what her point was in assigning that to me, but I ended up heading down to Albuquerque right around then to study art and piano, so that was end of that.
  • Two brief diaries. For crying out loud! One from college, one from my art school trip to Italy. I don’t think I could stand to read them now. Needless to say, I have no memory of writing them.
  • Finally, a scathing (and never sent) letter to my dad. I didn’t remember how upset I was with him circa mid 1990s. Reading that was not pleasant.

And a boatload of other stuff.

On a happier(?) note: found some mix CDs I’d burned. Lot of Keith Jarrett, lots of 60s and 70s pop – and some Tonio K. Apropos of nothing, here is one of my favorite songs of his, the always topical Funky Western Civilization:

*Not entirely accurate, as *I* was the harmonica p0layer in several bands for a few songs, like Long Train Running, where the skill requirements are low and the harmonica solo indispensable. Still have a box of harmonicas in all the good keys, somewhere.

Weekend Jetsam

Jettisoning some stuff, to get in the groove for the upcoming move. Unfortunately, we’re not out at sea, where our jetsam won’t simply sink to the bottom and eventually get subducted to finally bet spewed forth from some volcano somewhere. Nope, just blogging.

Turns out, the interwebs are full of non-copywritten pictures of flotsam, but not so jetsam. So, here are some guys who might be thinking of jettisoning some jetsam. Maybe. This whole blogging thing is an exercise in imagination!

First, thanks for the prayers and good wishes for my mother-in-law. The medical profession has determined that she has something like epilepsy – a tendency toward seizures. Evidently, old people who have had a number of strokes are at increased risk for seizures as well. They kept her in the hospital a couple nights to make sure they’ve got the seizures under control, and released her this afternoon. All the inspecting and testing shows some underlying issues of which we were unaware, but nothing unusual for an 84 year old. So, should be back to normal, such as it is, later today.

Second, I’ve not but glanced at the comments here for the last couple days. I’ll get around to commenting on the comments in the next couple days.

Third, that lovely rain year we were having back in 2021 screeched to a halt in 2022. After getting 80% of our local annual season average by the end of December, the 2nd average rainiest month – January – had no rain this year; the rainiest average month – February – is shaping up to have no rain as well. On average, we get over 1/3 of our seasonal rainfall over January and February, but to quote myself:

So, we can stop worrying about the drought for now? Well – no. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for the rain and snow to just – stop. A near or completely dry month or two or three, even the peak months, happens regularly. It would be a little unusual if, after a very rainy first half of the season, we got a very dry second half – but hardly unprecedented.

And – that’s what’s happening this year. I’ve had to start watering the lawn, and lost a bunch of outdoor potted plants due to letting them dry out, because it’s been bone dry all of 2022 so far, and I don’t usually need to water them during the winter…

Last, our California politicians have lost what little minds they ever had, and, while most states have gotten onto the Narrative 2.0 bandwagon and are pumping the brakes on the insanity, we’re full speed ahead on Narrative 1.0: We’re All Gonna Die! State legislators are now attempting to pass laws to enforce vaccines from the womb on everybody by law. I don’t know why they don’t simply outlaw the virus directly, since they clearly believe they have unlimited and magical powers, now that 15 days to flatten the curve has lasted 2 years, and the cases and attributed deaths went up once nearly everybody was jabbed…

Missouri is looking better by the hour.

Interlude

For the past month, almost, I’ve been ill. Timing is very bad. First, I want to dump this house before the bubble bursts, then get something with land so I can grow food. I like growing things, and I like independence, and I like not starving. So: now the rush. Find a rental house in the area we want to live, sell this house, and then see what happens over the next year.

Stress levels are high, yet, except for the last couple days, my energy level has been low. Vicious cycle.

Yet, I’m not too worried. Here we go with the mysticism: When it comes right down to it, I’m not a believer, really, or a man of faith. I don’t ‘believe’ in God any more than I ‘believe’ in my wife and children, because I’ve had direct experience of Him. Not claiming any virtue here, far from it. Three or four things have happened to me in my life that might be called miracles or visions or, perhaps best, mystical experiences. I could sooner believe my wife is an illusion and that I live in the Matrix than doubt the existence and love of God.

Note the irony: I’d like to think myself as about as clear-headed a skeptic as you’re likely to come across. I’m the guy who reflexively doubts the study, the findings, the ‘evidence’ because I know, partly through bitter personal experience, how easy it is to fool people. To fool myself. Therefore, the first thing that comes to mind whenever I here anything surprising, let alone miraculous, is the million ways it could be wrong.

And to very clear, I don’t expect (and I don’t think God expects) anyone besides me to be convinced by my experiences. That’s just not the way it works. Further, I most emphatically reject any notion that having had these experiences makes me good or holy or any better than anyone else – far from it. Others can sin much more innocently, so to speak, than I. I have no excuse anymore, and haven’t for a decade or more now. May God have mercy on my soul!

Long preface. Here’s the thing: once in a while, I really pray. Not mumbling the words or going through the motions, which, if I’m honest, makes up 99.9%+ of my so-called prayer life. Once in a great while, the reality of my nothingness hits me, the overwhelming obligations I’m under as husband, father, grandfather, father-in-law, and friend. And my sinfulness – not checking items off on the ‘not-to-do-list’ (although there’s plenty of checkmarks on that list!) but feeling some small fraction of the weight of my lack of love and gratitude to God.

And I pray. Sometimes only for a few seconds before the world crowds in on me again and I lose focus. But in those moments, the clear, repeated message I get is: God has got this. He is working his will out right now. He will make everything come out gloriously well. Please note that there’s not the slightest hint that we – I, my loved ones, everyone – won’t have to suffer and be brave, maybe even die. Rather, that, apart from doing our best to surrender to God’s will, there’s nothing else to be done here, and forces much, much greater than us pitiful humans are fighting it out.

And we win, in the sense that the water boy on the victorious side in the battle can be said to have won. The important part is for us – for me – to remember we’re just water boys. What victory will look like is simply unimaginable for us.

I’ve come to suspect that what we’re seeing now IS God’s mercy. That, without His mercy – and the legions of angles who even now are surrounding and protecting us – things would be much, much worse.

In the mean time, some quotes and thoughts. Starting off with some Lewis, as this passage about a religious experience of Jane Studduck suggests to me that Lewis himself had had a similar experience. I don’t expect any two are exactly alike, but the experience itself is probably as well-captured as is possible:

Jane had gone into the garden to think…. Then, at one particular corner of the gooseberry patch, the change came.

What awaited her there was serious to the degree of sorrow and beyond. There was no form nor sound. The mould under the bushes, the moss on the path, and the little brick border were not visibly changed. But they were changed. A boundary had been crossed. She had come into a world, or into a Person, or into the presence of a Person. Something expectant, patient, inexorable, met her with no veil or protection between…

Words take too long. To be aware of all this and to know that it had already gone made one single experience. It was revealed only in its departure. The largest thing that had ever happened to her had, apparently, found room for itself in a moment of time too short to be called time at all. Her hand closed on nothing but a memory, and as it closed, without an instant’s pause, the voices of those who have not joy rose howling and chattering from every corner of her being.

But her defenses had been captured, and these counterattacks were unsuccessful.

Lewis, That Hideous Strength, CH XIV

(And now for something completely different…)

A trial lawyer never calls a witness to the stand unless he is sure what that witness will say. Similarly, no large funders fund a study unless they are sure what that study will say.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

Upton Sinclair

Paul says that we honor and dignify the less presentable parts of the body by clothing them. Those who insist on the dignity and deference they assume due them by virtue of their PhD or JD or M.Ed and so on are identifying thereby with certain parts of the body. Thus, it is understandable that we peons often call them by the vernacular terms for those body parts.

The king told him that for some years, ever since his queen’s death, he had been losing heart over the wickedness of his people. He had tried hard to make them good, but they got worse and worse. Evil teachers, unknown to him, had crept into the schools; there was a general decay of truth and right principle at least in the city; and as that set the example to the nation, it must spread.

George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie – published in 1883!

Give G.K. the second-to-last word:

Now, when society is in a rather futile fuss about the subjection of women, will no one say how much every man owes to the tyranny and privilege of women, to the fact that they alone rule education until education becomes futile: for a boy is only sent to be taught at school when it is too late to teach him anything. The real thing has been done already, and thank God it is nearly always done by women. 

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, CH 9

Is the world is small? Large? when Koreans yodel and play jazz piano like bosses on YouTube.

Three Quotations and a Link and an UPDATE

Off in a bit to begin the ceremonies – rehearsal, rehearsal dinner today, then wedding and reception tomorrow – demarking the handing off of Younger Daughter to her husband.

UPDATE: Logistics are a bit – interesting for this wedding. The church is a little over an hour away, near where Younger Daughter lives; the hall where the reception will be is about 20 minutes from there. BUT: the team doing the catering is my middle son (bride’s older brother) and his lovely wife of all of 6 months. They both have years of experience in food service, so it’s not as crazy as it seems. Issue: our nice kitchen has been volunteered for all the food prep – an hour and a half away from the hall. The hall also has a nice kitchen. The proprietors of the hall generously allowed us access starting at 3:00 today for a reception that start around noon tomorrow. But (almost) everybody involved is in the wedding itself, so we need to do as much set up between 3:00 and 4:40 (5:00 start of the rehearsal, a 20 minute drive away). Then, morning of, do the final cooking of the hot stuff so that it comes out warm around noon.

Future son-in-law knows a big Catholic family, the patriarch of which also knows my middle son and his wife – two of his daughters worked with them in the kitchens at Thomas Aquinas College. So, as we’re prepping here like mad, son gets a call from the matriarch of the above large family asking: how many of my kids do you want me to send over to help? So three daughters, two of whom have worked with and for my son, will be meeting the posse at the reception hall at 3:00 to help with set up and prep. Pretty darn cool. One friend of a friend also volunteered to get the cooking started morning of the wedding.

So, it’s working out. I rented a house for tonight in the neighborhood of the church, so we all can crash after the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, and the finishing touches on the reception hall, and mom can support the bride without a 1:30 (at least – there’s snow on the mountains, skiers will be jamming the road Saturday morning) drive. Again, we are grateful and blessed.

So, quotations – first up: Eddie Burke, because why not?

Where trade and manufactures are wanting to a people, an the spirit of nobility and religion remains, sentiment supplies, and not always ill supplies their place; but if commerce and the arts should be lost in an experiment to try how well a state may stand without these old fundamental principles, what sort of a thing must be a nation of gross, stupid, ferocious, and at the same time, poor and sordid barbarians, destitute of religion, honor, or manly pride, possessing nothing at present, and hoping for nothing hereafter? I wish you may not be going fast, and by the shortest cut, to that horrible and disgustful situation. Already there appears a poverty of conception, a coarseness and vulgarity in all the proceedings of the assembly and of all their instructors. Their liberty is not liberal. Their science is presumptuous ignorance. Their humanity is savage and brutal.

Reflections on the Revolution in France

And

All circumstances taken together, the French revolution is the most astonishing that has hitherto happened in the world. The most wonderful things are brought about in many instances by means the most absurd and ridiculous; in the most ridiculous modes; and apparently, by the most contemptible instruments. Every thing seems out of nature in this strange chaos of levity and ferocity, and of all sorts of crimes jumbled together with all sorts of follies.
In viewing this tragi-comic scene, the most opposite passions necessarily succeed, and sometimes mix with each other in the mind; alternate contempt and indignation; alternate laughter and tears; alternate scorn and horror.

Ditto
Ready, Eddy?

The consistently incisive and depressingly accurate analysis of Clarissa, who grew up under the Soviet Union and teaches at Woke State someplace, commenting on the thought processes of the Supreme Court considered as a bunch of aging Boomers:

Sotomayor has already asked how “a human spewing virus is different from a machine spewing sparks.” As one’s brain ossifies with age, one begins to perceive the world through analogy. Everything gets referred back to one’s past experience. Everything is “just like.” Accepting that anything can be genuinely new means facing that one is outdated, possibly even mortal. And no, not every old person is like that. There are rare but important exceptions. For the most part, though, this is exactly how it works. If you don’t subject your brain to rigorous daily training in processing new information from new sources, you will become that sad old fart who “justlikes” every conversation into the ground.

And her further thoughts. Sigh. I’m so sick of her being right.

Finally, a slightly more amusing quotation:

“Let no one wear a mask, otherwise he will do ill; and if he has one, let him burn it.”

St. Philip Neri

Probably check in again next week. Until then, party hardy.