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Saturday, January 31, 2004

It's been a while. I've noticed a small phenomenon happening, some of my links actually posting about what's on my mind--not saying what I would say, no, but saying what they have to say on the very subject which is on my mind. And yet these people have no way of knowing I even exist, let alone what's happening over here.

Today, it's about random thoughts again.

Before I start, open a parenthesis:

Open All Night has a great post (January 30) on opening/not opening his door to strangers/friends. I admit I've been there, all the way. Laughing Knees has a very moving post on being a stranger in America (January 20).

Some of my old links are not back on yet. I miss Leila, and Fatshadown, and Me, Myself and I. One of these days, I'll get my act together.

End of parenthesis.

The news that have had the focus of my attention these days are the stories about "intelligence" and "freedom of the press" on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Amurca, we have David Kay and Bush and Halliburton, and the War on Turr. David Kay has resigned, two junior executives at Halliburton have admitted they were taking kickbacks and have been slapped on the wrist, and Bush has assured us "They promised not to do it again". And the world goes on. (Reform Medicare, forbid the government to shop for cheaper drugs, drive seniors to private insurance, don't worry, go shopping downtown, keep the economy going with your tax savings. Everything's hunky-dory, right on target).

In the UK, the Brits had David Kelly (notice, another "David K"... Hum!) committing suicide, Blair demanded an apology from the BBC ("all their fault"), Gavyn Davies and Greg Dyke have resigned, and instead of all the parties involved going in for a little self-reflection, everybody is muddling on, business as usual. (Everything hunky-dory, right on target. Raise the education fees, muzzle the press, keep on going on).

Even though the style is different in each place, the message from those in power is the same: "What we do is what is right, natch. Don't bother your pretty little head worrying about whether it's the right thing or not, if we tell you more than three times it's the truth, it is the truth."

It is just like it was in The Hunting of the Snark:

"* * * The proof is complete.
If only I've stated it thrice."


Ah! But those elusive WMDs are the Snark in the fairy tale, you see. Remember how they looked for it?

They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care,
They pursued it with forks and hope,
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.


I fear in this case this particular WMD/Snark will also turn out to be a Boojum, and we shall all "softly and suddenly vanish away".

Maybe the whole script came from Condy through Laura, who loves children's books so much she probably has her very own copy of the Complete Works of Lewis Carroll.

And y'all thought it was Rove et al's readaptation of Eric Blair?

It is hard for me not feel cynical these days, reading about Nixon and Kissinger's involvement and responsibility in the Pol Pot horror show. And we all remember Madeleine Albright's "We think it's worth it", you know the line I mean...

* * * * *

I must needs change to another channel.

The Hajj is on (pilgrimmage to Mecca). Probably the most famous pilgrim this time around is an old Indian man, reportedly the oldest man in the world at 126. He is accompanied by two younger members of his family, as he is rather frail. As the story goes, he has also been blind for the past 50 years. His travelling expenses have been paid by someone who heard it was his life dream to go. He himself does not remember how long he has wanted to go.

Doesn't that little story just make you laugh at the idea that for most of us, we are still wondering what the heck life is all about?

I mean, just stick around for as long as you can, and then if your dream comes true, at least you will be able to say: "Maybe that's what it was all about, I just had to fulfill my dream."

I've added a link to Julie's Cafe. She's brand new to the blogosphere, and a Republican, for heavens' sakes. What's that old saying: "Some of my best friends are Republicans?" How does she do it, I wonder. Still, I'm adding her for now because she has grandiose dreams. I hope she never whittles them down, even though I also hope for her sake and her children's sakes that she will take a good look at where she is heading. Welcome Julie!

Yesterday, I had a Star Trek festival at Janna's. She'd gone visiting for the evening and she gave me her keys, so that I could watch TV if I wanted.

It was strange watching without her, without having to fill her in on what was happening, and actually giving my full attention to the advertisements. I missed her, but I also did enjoy my Star Trek festival very much.

Of course, the full flavor of watching with Janna can only be experienced in spy stories, police blotter stories, you know, "action" stories. She always spots the double agents, way, way ahead of the script. "I am the daughter of the KGB", she laughs. I myself always spot the killers, "I am the daughter of MI5", I laugh.

A typical joke: "How did she find the hairpin to open the lock?"

"The producer left it there for her... He always takes care of such things."

Suspension of disbelief. Watching TV trains us for world politics. We are ready to accept that everyone has a "spook handler" behind him. Sorry, change that to "spin master".

On the home front, I am still cooking. Being a displaced person, I don't have any ethnic specialty to boast of (unless beans on toast, roes on toast, Welsh rarebit, cucumber sandwiches, kippers et al qualify).

I create my own myths from what's around, mindful that all ethnic dishes were all originally made from available ingredients. For instance, for a paella, you walked around your garden, plucking an onion, a pepper, a tomato, herbs, the odd snail or two, and you threw it together with the old leftover chicken, every time something was slightly different. Not for you the one-eighth of a smidgeon of dried mixed herbs of a recipe in a cookbook! So, every so often I get creative with the leftovers and the odd little things on my shelves, to see what happens. After all, mayonnaise was invented by a chef who wanted to make bechamel sauce, and he didn't have butter and milk and flour, and he did have olive oil and eggs, and voila! An army does not march on an empty stomach. In those days, if the General wasn't satisfied with what was put on the table, the chef had to commit suicide as a point of honor. Necessity is the mother of invention, and all that jazz.

Today, I had an unexpectedly delicious stovetop casserole of brown rice with one whole onion, half a zucchini, half a squash, one egg, and a small jar of Komatsu (enoki, oyster and rameko mushrooms, bamboo shoots and fungus), to which I added a small leftover piece of yogurt cheese, plus spices (paprika, pepper flakes) and a little olive oil. Deeeeeeelicious! I wish there were some leftovers for tomorrow.

I remember well in the RSBH in Margate (a hospital where I spent several months as a child), where the post-war rations were meager indeed, we would exchange recipes for hours at a time, of an evening. My favorite in those days was Hungarian goulash. The recipe, I mean, I had never actually tasted it. It needed too many coupons. It's funny how this "non-memory" is a "happy memory", with the passage of time. The only real Hungarian goulash I remember eating is the one I was served at Mount Sinai Hospital in 1974, the evening before an operation. To be frank, I don't care if I never have it again, but in 1954, the idea was absolutely wonderful.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

From his brimstone bed at break of day
A'walking the Devil is gone,
To look at his little snug farm of the World,
And see how his stock went on.

His coat was red and his breeches were blue
And there was a hole where his tail came through.


It's another day for flotsam and jetsam.

Too much watching of the State of the Union speech, the primaries, the debates, the night shows and their trite little jokes, the damage control attempts, the whole farcical, tactical brainwashing of the masses.

People praising Bush: "He's gonna take care of health care, he's gonna take care of the economy, he's taking care of jobs, immigration, security, he's fighting turr..." Huh? Is anybody awake in there, is anyone actually ALIVE in there? Do any of you have a contingency plan, what to do, where to go, if something dreadful happens again? Where will you meet your children? What will you do with your cat or your dog?

So much brouhaha about Howard Dean's RahaRahRah after Iowa, to encourage his very young staffers. For heavens' sakes, can't anybody see it in context? Is everyone so blind and incapable of gauging body language to be able to differentiate between anger and enthusiasm? Did the sound bite happen when you had your back towards the screen, reaching into the icebox for another cola? Or while you popped the wrapping on the family-size pretzel bag?

Did you really miss the extraordinary smile on Clark's face, as he waited quietly, patiently, for that nasty, cheeky little punchline: "When did you notice for the first time you were a Democrat?" Wasn't it clear to you, as it was to me, in that flash of his smile, that he could see what was coming, he was smart enough to see it coming, and he stood his ground: he actually burst out laughing! Who would be dumb enough to suppose there is any merit in never changing your mind about a wrong, entrenched opinion? Value in saying: "Yes, I was wrong, I now understand, I have changed my mind, I have learned my lesson."

"They" said afterwards Clark had been the loser in that debate. I may be wrong, but I disagree. He behaved like a winner to me.

The clear loser was Lieberman: "I'm gonna give every American free health coverage." Oh, yeah? Pray tell how. You should have read enough science fiction by now to know the old saying by heart: TINSTAAFL. There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

Unfortunately, Kusinich isn't far behind. To visualize him as an "American President" is about the same as to see a Fujimori as a natural president of Peru, plain incongruous. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and K would pull out of Iraq snap, snap! Never mind the civil war that would ensue. Civil war, of course, if par for the course, where his roots come from. He needs to focus more on reality, the reality of cause and effect, that is.

Another small thought about Dean. When he was with Diane Sawyer and asked about the differences between what he would do and what Bush is doing, he did not mention gay marriages, despite his record as being "pro" and the fact Bush had made reference to the subject in the most recent past of his State of the Union speech. Lapsus? Freudian slip? I dunno: I thought this was a subject that many people are totally exercised about, both for and against. Certainly, Dean did finally mention it in the debate which came later.

Basically, watching the Democrats I could wholeheartedly admit I am a Democrat at heart. With the clear exception of Lieberman, whom I would not trust any further than I could throw a grand piano lefthanded, I think they are all decent men, with hearts in the right place, men of compassion and courage. I am not sure whether any one of them has sufficient experience to unravel the evil coalitions, double dealings, hubs of deception and obfuscation, axes of greed and graft, etc., set in place by the Republicans, but I do believe if they could come together as a group and somehow pool their human resources, they could revitalize America. And save America.

America needs a real vision at this time. Too much SUVs altogether. Our grandchildren will have burnt up all the world's oil resources before they reach the age of retirement. They will also have inherited this toxic loads of: pollution, nuclear waste, deplenished natural resources, lack of drinking water, deforestation, rampant ecological disasters, cross-species mutations of new viruses and other avoidable health hazards; a widening gap between the haves and have-nots, entire countries made unsafe for agriculture and everyday living by the legacies of miscellaneous wars (depleted uranium, land mines, unexploded ordnance), etc.

There needs to be a real vision and determination to develop sustainable life: water purification, alternative sources of energy, such as solar, wind, hydro. Hydro should stop damming up rivers and look out to sea more.

There needs to be a vision to help everyone understand our interconnectedness, not one which exacerbates our points of dissent.

There needs to be a vision where we all "get it" that it is not normal that those people who happen to live where the mineral wealth lies under the earth are disposable, because we want access. I may be wrong, you tell me of one single place on earth where an oil-rich country has achieved a prosperous nation--as opposed to an oligarchy lording it over a dirt-poor, oppressed, ill-educated, so-called "Third World", people? Don't give me that pablum about their being "developing" nations. Nothing is being done to help them develop.

Is that all you can talk about, Nobbog? Oil? Well, no. What about, for a small instance, mango juice?

Haiti is one of the great producers of mangoes and mango juice and concentrate, which is used, for instance, in those delicious Tropicana blends that cost $1.50 or more for a small container.

Well, did you know that those Haitians who work the mango groves of Haiti make just enough pennies a day to subsist on sugar water?

Not as a cola drink, like our own children do, or some other soda, just plain sugared water, because those pennies are not sufficient to buy meat and potatoes, even in homeopathic portions.

It's obviously futile to wonder what kind of education or health care those sugar-water children have access to.

A few years ago, I had a urinary tract operation here in New York city, and my assigned nurse was a Haitian woman called Micheline. She was able to recite Boileau by the yard, and she and I got on so well and laughed so hard everyone in all the rooms around wanted to know what the hell was so funny. My roommate, Margaret, was enchanted by the sound. "Doesn't that French sound wonderful?" she asked her visiting Urologist. He pulled a face and said: "It's just another language." He snarled, "What's beautiful about it?"

"Well," I said, "I didn't like his choice of tie".

Margaret laughed, "His suit, too, brown, terrible choice, dreadful cut, bad fit."

"He also needs a haircut," I giggled, "Let's make him over."

Would it have cost him so very much to agree with her, to be happy for her that she was getting some sort of solace after what had just happened to her? Would it have been too much simply to ask her whether she understood French at all, or whether she just enjoyed the sound of it?

We need a vision where our joy might well up because we have helped someone else achieve what we take for granted. There is plenty for all. We should not live in a world where the only perspective is that one day, all too soon, our only option will be to sit on top of a slag heap, waving our one remaining flag in the hazy sunshine, looking out at a world of devastation, picked over by beggars and wild dogs.

Well, after this little rant, I must needs go back to the ironing board. Nice work for a cold day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Calloo, Callay, Oh! Joyous Day!

I'm back on the blog! Now I can post about:

"Le Nombrilisme", or "The Belly-Button Syndrome"

This is what blogging is all about, taking a good hard look at your belly button, checking it out for lint.

If what you are about is what your blog is about, it is vitally important to post regularly. You can't often find out how many people are reading your blog, and your friends may candidly tell you they never look at it at all, what with their bizzy, fascinating real lives, and you may not know who those strangers might be who do take a look, now and again, but after a while you can't help wondering, who, and when, and why. You become like a stage-struck actor, blinded by the footlights, peering into the mysterious black pit of the orchestra beyond, wondering: "Am I coming across?"

Because you have decided to blog, it becomes important to continue to be there for your fantasy audience, as if you had somehow made a promise to be there for them. It is like the little fox in the story of the little Prince, once you have started to tame it, you are obliged to show up, because the little fox is counting on your next visit. A post lost in transit through the blogosphere is not just a waste of typing time: it is the equivalent of standing up a guest. You invited them to drop in, and they did, only to find you absent, with enough discrepant evidence lying about all over the place to indicate an untoward event.... maybe you slipped on a patch of black ice and are being plastered up in some local emergency room, or maybe you got plastered and have a terrible hangover.

So, even if it's not the actual belly button you are staring at, you're looking straight at the lint in the same direction. "I lost my post", you explain, "I lost my template", you complain, "I couldn't sign on", you moan.

Instead of fascinating the fantasy audience, you have crashed headlong from the blogosphere of brilliance to which you aspire into a dank, mishy-mashy bog of blogging about blogging. Thus starts a gloomy spiral of so-called diminishing returns.

What happened yesterday was that I recovered my blog by the simple trick of choosing a new template, and this raised a fresh breeze into the raggedy sails with which I sail my small leaky tub. I just only needed to put in my links once more, without a hard copy of the previous links to help me, and certainly without a convenient list of all the URLs.

It worked like in accounting, LILO, last in, last out, because I still have the little pieces of paper somewhere in, under, or on my desk. Long time favorites--well, could I remember how I had first linked even? Very iffy. I decided to Google the lot, for fun.

Calloo, Callay! Oh! Joyous Day!

It turns out I am almost famous, although it's not clear what for, or how this came about.

I Googled "Aunti Establishment".

Google came back and asked me "Did you mean to say anti establishment?

And then gave me: Aunti Establishment, in position No. 1, and my blog, in position No. 2.

Well, that was certainly worth a good laugh.

Huh... Was I singled out for my spelling?

Can't, surely, be my politics. Everyone knows I have the political acumen of a moose.

This segues nicely into Iowa. Gephard--out! Despite his saying having lunch with the KKK was a "mistake". Donald Duck is out--ze French say he was "slimed by the Clintons", I thought it might have been because his missus showed up to help. I mean, didn't she just say recently that if "he" went to the White House, "she" would just carry on with her doctoring? Clark was smeared from all around about his past leanings to the Republians, and his perceived waffling on Iraq. I suggest Edwards looks very good these days by comparison, because he's come in under everyone's radar so far, so no one is paying much attention to him. Will he still be smiling so warmlly when he develops serious momentum? As for that nice man, Kerry, he still looks way too dead to generate much enthusiasm, for or against him, as far as I am concerned.

Lieberman? Well, let me say just this about Lieberman. He doesn't belong with the Democrats anyway, he is a Republican under false pretenses. Apart from that, he looks like a ventriloquist's dummy--look at his mouth, the set of his jaw. I bet, what's more, he's like that dummy who hated his ventriloquist so much he ended up killing him and taking over his identity. You know the movie, it is famous, I can't remember the name.

I hear some of you protesting: "Well, Nobbog, according to what you are always telling us, doesn't Lieberman also have buddha nature?"

True, true. It is a potential in everyone. Potential, I emphasize.

Tell you what: Why don't y'all join me and chant with me for an hour or two, to awaken Lieberman's buddha nature, so he can wake up and drop out of the race, nice and quiet, all on his enlightened own?

Never underestimate the awakening power of buddha nature. Governor Pataki weighed in recently to prevent the sudden death of rent regulations in New York. I can vouch for it, this was no accident, no coincidence.

Governor Pataki has a buddha nature too? Who would have thunk it. Well... When we say "everyone", that means "everyone".

Monday, January 19, 2004

Well, I guess I'm not the Grinch after all, I'm the Glitch!

I was tweaking my links, adding a few good new ones, and I noticed an extra "/" on one of the URLs that botched that particular connection. I swear that's all I did, remove the extra "/". I can't imagine how many keystrokes I would have had to master simultaneously to remove practically half the template without noticing a thing, I swear I'm not that proficient.

Turns out this can be solved if I choose a new template. So, gone with the pea soup, on with the tomato veloute.

I must needs dig out my little pieces of paper to replace the beautiful links.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

It is a real pleasure to be able to get onto Blogger again and post normally. Thank you, Blogger! I hope this can continue.

I couldn't post at all yesterday, but I could cruise. I have added some new links. I had a really good time, reading the recent posts of my links.

Everyone gets Kudos for being out there, and no one more than Suzette, that indefatigable "search engine", who posts such wonderful entries, guaranteed to cheer you up.

I also have recently discovered A Family in Baghdad, through Salam Pax, and I am amazed at the posts made by "the mother", which she has to get translated into English by what appears to be a team of willing volunteers. During my recent absence from the blogosphere, I was at a large party somewhere on Long Island, where I met a young woman from Iraq, and I was able to tell her about blogging and so on. It was a great experience for me, as I found myself expressing outloud how important I consider these blogs that enable us to see strangers on the other side of the world as actually relevant to our own lives. I am filled with gratitude for all those people who take the trouble to let us all know what it is like to live in a world where a "good deal" at Walmart doesn't mean a thing at all, or if it does, it is that they immediately understand this "good deal" is at the expense of someone else's suffering.

In my own childhood, there was such a scarcity of food that it never occurred to any of us to say you didn't like something, apart from the fact it was not allowed anyway. "Children should be seen and not heard" was the motto where I came from. There was a time my mother sent me with a knife and a large canvas bag to collect weeds along the side of the road, which is the only thing we had to eat at that particular time. So I did not experience the familiar old story of the kid who won't eat what's on his plate, and whose mother says: "Think of all the starving children in China....", and who just wants to say: "Why don't you just send this slop over to that starving kid in China, I don't want it..."

You may wonder what relevance I think this has to what is happening in Iraq these days. Well, it's this.

People on all sides are wondering why the Iraqis have not been allowed to decide their fate for themselves. This is my very own theory:

Statistics say that---some 60% of Iraqis are below the age of 15. That is, they are minors, they are children. And children don't have rights. Grownups decide everything for them. That is why we are not considering their wishes in planning the future of their country.

Does this put a fresh light on everything that is happening?


This is just my very own theory, of course. I am not an expert on anything.

If you apply that theory, the next one is that the Iraqi grownups are somehow all polluted by the past, the Baath, the Saddam regime, the WMD's, the sanctions, the wars, the factions, the communists, whatever your personal hobgobblin bent might be. And, therefore, they are not valid interlocutaries, they deserve to be disenfranchised. Just wave them aside, and take the opinion field unimpeded by any of their protestations.

Does that seem to fit the bill?

Well, nobody wants to face the fact that every human being has his weaknesses, can behave in ways that are less than admirable for no other reason than that they are weak, hungry, in pain, out of hope, or whatever. Nobody wants to face what was allowed to happen in Iraq, or Afghanistan, in the past, what we fostered and allowed to fester in our bumbling, well-meaning but entirely self-serving way.

It's like--people who judge those who steal, who are so sure they would never steal, no matter what the temptation, and I say to them:

Just imagine it is war time, you are a mother alone with two small children, one babe in arms and the other a toddler who doesn't want to walk any more. You are running for safety, all alone in a deserted countryside, and both your kids are crying with hunger. You come across a large container of milk, which has recently been filled by a farmer who has milked his cows in the field right next to the road where you are walking, and whether you have any money on you or not, there is noone to ask permission, no one to pay, tell me truly, would you really not help yourself to some of that milk which is in that container, waiting to be picked up by the cooperative, that milk that will calm your children's hunger, stop their crying, and give all three of you the strength to carry on one more day?

Tell me now you are so sure you would never, ever steal, no matter what. That is just one aspect of what determines one's reality.

Then, tell me you would have the courage to stand up to torture, no matter what. Tell me you would never join some party just to be able to feed your family and hold onto a job. Tell me you are absolutely sure you are some stainless steel, impregnable battle ship, a teflon warrior without a chink in his armor.

If what determines your reality is whether the remote control is within reach, to zap from one channel to another, while your other hand is reaching for the six-pack and the munchies, how likely are you to have a fair picture of what it is like to be living anywhere in Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Chechnia, Algeria, on and on, what about Bam, Iran? The Sudan, Liberia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, come on, name the place you honor with your focus of attention on a regular basis.

We can just look through a chink in the wall, maybe, but you know that once your eye looks through that chink, it can see clearly for quite a ways. As we open ourselves to the pain of others and come to realize it is not separate from our own pain, we share the burden in some mystical way, and even though we have not withdrawn any of the war apparatus from those lands, or cleared the mines, or turned on the electricity and the water spiggots, at least we are not living in a fool's paradise which denies this terrible parallel universe of excruciating anguish.

We may also glimpse the truth that what we are imposing on others, who appear to live so far from us, will come home to live among us, as it already is, in our wounded, our sick, our suicidal children who have lost hope too. Not to mention all those problems that are being ignored right here, such as education, health services, jobs, the environment, the climate changes, etc.

One last thing about children: they do not come into this world with a blank slate, just look into the eyes of a baby, how wise he appears, even before he can vocalize. Who has not had the experience of a bright child who "dumbed down" around puberty, in reaction to his specific environment? Who has not known a child who suddenly had to start wearing glasses, because he no longer wanted to face his reality barefaced? No, really, I'm serious.

There was a child psychiatrist in France called Francoise Nollot (I've got the name wrong, maybe, it sounds like that), she used to talk to babes as if they were grown ups. Her friends would laugh at her and say: "Come on, Francoise, be serious will you. This is just a baby. Do you really think he can understand what you are saying?" And she would answer: "Yes, of course, they understand everything, they are just not able to respond yet." Her experiences are extraordinary and her influence years after her death is still valid today.

As human beings, we all live in our consciousness and our world progresses or regresses according to our ability to communicate.

Thank you, Bloggers All!

Saturday, January 17, 2004

This is not being done on the very date it says: I was unable to sign on to blogger. I am cheating on the date, because I want to see if it works in a logical way. We''ll see.

Here goes:

Off to a slow start this morning. I finally cleared the answering machine. There were a few real messages among the junk, digital garbage, and I have been apologizing to the entire world for being incommunicado--all five of them. Hum! This is not healthy.

Of course, what is, these days?

After announcing our determination to colonize the Moon and send a manned mission to Mars, NASA has scotched a simple repair mission to just fix the Hubble Space Telescope. How fiscally responsible can you get before your example sends everyone out on a private guilt trip which will paralyze the entire economy? I mean, those seven astronauts died just because they were cutting spending on security checks, then they went and spent all that dough on the investigation, does any of this reflect a healthy attitude to reality? A healthy sense of priorities?

I have a brown rice casserole dish slow-cooking for lunch, and here is today's effort for the blogosphere.

"La Semaine de Suzette"

I think I have told y'all about my mother's violent death in 1944. At the time, my father was in the R.A.F. in England, doing secret things which I only found out about some thirty years after the end of World War II, when he was finally released from the thing called "the Official Secrets Act".

My father was notified of my mother's death through the offices of the Red Cross in Switzerland, who conveyed the news to the Red Cross in the U.S.A., who relayed it to the Red Cross in England. By the time my father caught up with the fact he had become widowed, he also was notified his two children were "disappeared", location unknown.

The Allied landings in Normandy had taken place by then, but the R.A.F. were not on the ground, and the only way my father could get to France at that time was to somehow wangle getting transferred into the army. He had tracked us down by early December 1944, and brought us back with him to Paris, where the army had assigned him, or the R.A.F. had seconded him, or whaterver the appropriate term might be, to the Psychological Warfare Department. This morphed into a stint in charge of the Film Section at the British Embassy in Paris some time after the war, which he left eventually to start his own business.

We spent the last months of the war in the apartment of an old friend of my mother's, near the Porte de Saint Cloud in Paris, and one of my mother's surviving sisters took care of us.

The summer of 1946 was spent away from home in some sort of summer camp outside Paris, where the boys and girls were separated, so that both my brother and I found ourselves, shell-shocked and suffering from severe post-traumatic stress, totally isolated and miserable. I remember so clearly I can feel it and smell the smells in the woods, and I remember clearly the day I decided I couldn't take it any more, and I decided to run away. I was just seven years old, don't ask me what I intended to do with myself or where I was headed to, all I knew was I wanted OUT, anything would be preferable to staying in the place of unkindness I had landed in.

As I walked through the woods on my way to who kows where, I unexpectedly came across my little brother, whom I had not seen all summer, just standing there by himself, all frozen and stiff, crying.

In those days, we small kids would be wearing sort of overalls or aprons, like little short dresses with long sleeves, which were worn over our regular clothes to keep them clean; they were usually made out of cotton gingham or madras checks, with pockets, and they usually buttoned asymetrically down one side, left for girls, right for boys, all the way from neckline to hemline.

As soon as I recognized little Alain, I became aware of two great wet rivulets of tears clearing a clean path through the dirt on his two chubby little cheeks, and the great globs of snot dripping from his nose, and the great heaving sobs shaking his little frame, the snuffelling, his little dimpled hands screwed into stiff fists on each side of his body, shoulders raised up around his ears in protection, and the final, awful detail: his apron, his sarraut, his overall, was buttoned out of kilt, that is, the buttonholes and buttons had been mismatched, it was clear he was uncared for.

As I put my arms around him to hug him and comfort him, and rebuttoned his apron correctly and wiped his face clean, it was clear to me I should not run away, but that I should stay behind and somehow arrange it that I should be able to keep an eye out for little Alain, even though the boys and girls were kept separate. It was only because of this fortuitous meeting in the woods that my father found both of us present when he happened to come to pick us up later that day! In the normal nature of things, of course, we never told him.

The winter of '46-'47 was a very nasty one in Europe. We lived in a house in Sevres, a suburb of Paris, with the same aunt and a small dog, and our father made more or less regular visits as he continued to work for PWD. I don't remember much about this period, except the cold and the cat-sized rats, and the moments of great joy when our father made a surprise appearance and played with us, and shot the rats with a beebe gun.

Where life began to have meaning for me was during the summer of 1947. My father rented a small house at the seashore at a place called Cabourg, and we stayed there all summer with our Aunt Marthe, and our father made periodic showings for the odd weekend.

Because of his work at PWD, my father was closely connected with all sorts of people in the film industry, some of whom had rented seaside houses in an affluent neighborhood, more appropriate for "famous" people, that is Deauville, not so far from Cabourg, both places enjoying the very rigorous same climate, weather to you and me, and the summer of 1947 was a long, cold, wet one... gales galore. These are shores with vast differences between high and low tides. When the tide was out, inumerable tidal pools would shimmer into the distance where you could just see the waves break along the sand, this would have been most interesting, if the weather had been good, for one thing, and if it had not been so soon after the end of the war, for another, when all these tidal pools and stretches of wet sand were filled with all kinds of unexploded ordnance and stranded mines. Noone was allowed to bathe at low tide, and demining teams came down to explode all sorts of things on a regular basis, if they could find the stuff ahead of curious kids who exploded them all on their own, trying to work out how they functioned..

No big deal, really: swimming at high tide was just terribly unpleasant anyway, all that freezing summer, you rarely wanted to go in at all, you wantted to come out as soon as the grownups allowed you to, all purple and goosebumped, when they ripped off your sandy-wet woollen jersey swimming suit, rubbed you raw with a sandy-wet towel, and changed you into a sandy-dry woollen jersey swimming suit, where you shivered and itched until the grownups decided it was enough misery for one day, and you could finally change back into your regular clothes and go home to the cold, miserable, unheated summer rental house, which had no smidgeon of "home" about it, but where no one stopped you from hunkering down on the cold porch with the book you finally could pick up again..

During the cold winter before this raw summer, I had developped an avid reading habit. To be frank, real life held very little attraction for me during this entire period: I was still missing my mother and my grandmother too much. I took no comfort from Aunt Marthe: I was far too aware of the fact that from May to December of 1944, I had been abandoned to strangers who ill-treated me terribly, and to the thought which carried the weight of reality as I perceived it, that I was the only person who had survived the bombing. So that the discoverey, or revelation, in December, that both Aunt Marthe and Alain had also survived, and that she had taken Alain with her, left me with an abysmally deep mystery, why had no one ever come to check out how I was doing? Why hadn't anyone thought it important to come give me one hug and let me know I was not alone in the world, someone, somewhere loved me and we would one day be reunited?

I thought it was all my fault and that I was not loveable. It didn't exactly make me feel like reaching out.

Anyway, discovering the world of literature was the perfect solace: I loved reading, and when I stepped into a book the world became perfect, nothing was impossible, all pain became tolerable, nay, nonexistent, and I lacked for nothing.

Among my father's famous friends, in Deauville, was Leo Lax, who was known in his day for "Special Effects". As I remember it, he had a daughter about my age, maybe just a year or two older, I think I remember her name was Valerie. We didn't meet enough to become real friends, we were just both of us tagalongs with the grownups who met for their own pleasure, but she had a lot of books that I had not read, and she lent them to me, and I was happy and grateful.

I read a lot of books that summer published by the Bibliotheque Rose (the "Pink Library" for young girls, provided by Aunt Marthe) and the Bibliotheque Verte (the "Green Library" for young boys and girls somewhat older, provided by Valerie Lax). I remember my fascination for Edmond Rostand's "Le Roi de la Montagne" (The King of the Mountain), and all the Comtesse de Segur stories, I could not get enough of them.

In those early post-war days, I suppose paper was still fairly rare everywhere in Europe, so that books, newspapers and magazines were always in relatively short supply. But still during that time of hardship one weekly magazine was launched for girls, and it was called "La Semaine de Suzette", Suzette's Weekly. It came out on Wednesdays and the rythm of my life swung on a joyous pendulum, from Wednesday to Wednesday.

I don't believe anything in my life has ever matched the sense of happy expectancy I associate with obtaining the new issue of La Semade de Suzette each week. Even today, the mere mention of the name brings a huge grin to my face and a warm feeling of pleasure into my heart.

Things were not very sophisticated in those early days of recovery, and La Semaine de Suzette was not a glossy-covered, bound affair, filled with advertisements. In fact, I don't remember any advertisements at all.

La Semaine de Suzette was printed on several large sheets of regular newsprint, no photos, just line drawings, black and white only; these large sheets were folded into four and you started out by cutting the pages yourself, if you wanted to handle your copy by turning the pages over. Naturally, Aunt Marthe would not let you use the sharp kitchen knife, she only allowed you access to a very unsharp, almost butterknife blunt knife, after which she berated you for a scruffy cut that was less than perfect. The knife? You say... A bad workman always blames his tools. You learnt to make a sharp crease with the back of your thumbnail, and to work out how to cut mutiple folds one at a time, carefully, patiently, so that you never tore an ugly gash across a part of the text. This difficulty of access to the contents built a head of steam on the excitement of opening a new issue.

When you had properly cut your magazine, the next decision to be made was: which sequel to read first. La Semaine de Suzette operated on the simple formula of several parallel cliffhangers! Then also, every week there would be a new, stand alone story of one sort or another.

In that childhood of mine, La Semaine de Suzette always satisfied, never disappointed. I truly believe it is the reason I grew up halfway normal. I also remember it had a serial about children a little older than myself, teenagers old enough to have experienced the German occupation with a great deal more awareness than mine, and this serial story fascinated me even more than the ones which told more familiar tales appropriate to my age group, as they enabled me to process and reevaluate some of my own experiences, which I would otherwise not have been able to assimilate, since there was no one around me at the time with whom I could have discussed what were for me events of tremendous significance, carrying unimaginable pain and regrets.

La Semaine de Suzette was my secret garden and my fortress.

As they remember it, it rained all summer in Normandy for everyone except me. Despite the memory of the cold bathings on that mined, windswept beach, it never rained on me: I had the best time of my life and I mainly remember that weather and that miserably cold climate because everyone else has told me so often what it was like that I have finally adopted the opinion of the majority.

In my inner heart, it glows forever with the tremendous sunshine of La Semaine de Suzette.




Friday, January 16, 2004

Raed (via Salam Pax) posted the following, concerning the dilemna of the U.S. staying in/leaving Iraq:

"There is an Arabic proverb saying: 'One hundred wise men are not enough to find the stone that the freak threw in the well'.

You threw the stone... you find it."


I don't really think for a moment anyone is trying to solve the problem. "It" has now grown a life of its own.
I have attempted to blog several times, things ain't normal. Therefore, the typist is done typing for today. I just can't stomach this repetitive, useless typing.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

The mutual possession of the Ten Worlds is as difficult to believe as fire existing in a stone or flowers within a tree. Yet under the right conditions such phenomena actually occur and can be believed. To believe that Buddhahood exists within Humanity is the most difficult thing of all--as difficult as believing that fire exists in water or water in fire."

Today was the fourth anniversary of Jose's death. He was a gentle soul, but the circumstances of his life appeared so bleak to him that he could not accept any encouragement from anyone else: his beloved wife was leaving him, taking with her the apple of his eye, his baby daughter, and in a second of despair and overwhelming rage he shot just one bullet into his heart.

He didn't get many breaks in life, and those he did get did not make the grade. He was born to a family swamped in drugs and unceasing violence. His own mother used to beat him with a lead pipe and broke his bones on several occasions. The older members of his sad little tribe wanted him to assist them in their drug-dealing activities. The only way he found to escape this low life was to join the U.S. army. This became a refuge for him, where he could live a clean life, where he supported others and felt supported in return, where he belonged.

He had bad back problems, however, possibly from his many childhood beatings, which the army surgeons could not fix, and eventually the army chose to discharge him, because he was no longer sufficiently able-bodied or useful. Unfortunately, his army experience had not educated him for anything other than a security guard position, and his physical condition limited the scope of opportunities open to him to some sort of desk duty job. By now, he was newly married, with one child and another on the way. He and his wife came to the conclusion it would be best for him to go to night school, so that he might get the necessary education to get a real job, and in the meantime she would support the family. Jose thus became "dad at home" with the baby, saving the cost of a fulltime babysitter, doing the cleaning and cooking. It appeared almost ideal, as it meant the kid was always being taken care of by one of her parents.

What went wrong? The wife fell out of love, she started to resent being the only breadwinner, she hated her job, she wanted a more exciting life, she felt trapped, she resented her husband's "diamond in the rough" state, she started wishing she had got herself someone more advanced, socially and economically, she started wishing she could keep the child and lose the husband, she started resenting his lack of education, she started abusing him verbally, "Get in the car, you ***hole!", she screamed at him, that kind of thing.

Then she packed and left, without a word.

Just packed up, stuffed all her gear and the baby into her car and drove off.

She probably hadn't even reached the highway before he went into his car, and shot himself one single bullet into the heart, where he hurt the most, with his old army gun, in the driver's seat. Nowhere for him to go...

Jose was a sweet, sweet soul. He had a tremendous potential that no one in his intimate circle recognized. It was his karmic burden not to evoke in any human being close to him the desire to help him see for himself how worthy his life was of being lived to the fullest.

For weeks, nay months before he killed himself, I spent hours on the phone with Jose discussing his situation. He never appeared suicidal to me (and I have a lifetime experience of suicidal people, my brother was suicidal for years), he sounded just like someone experiencing great anguish with courage and determination. I would have described him as a saddle-sore rider who just needed a leg-up to get back into the saddle in order to ride our the hard times.

I believe that when his wife left with the baby, it looked to him as if the sunshine had been eclipsed forever from his life and he just could not bear the idea of living forever in the dark.

I believe that if he had had a close friend to whom he could have reached out to, that dreadful morning, to whom he could have blazed his pain, his rage and his powerlessness, he would not have killed himself.

As I remember Jose's death, I am reminded of the thousands upon thousands of human beings who are experiencing a similar loss these days, everywhere and every day, whether through natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods, or through manmade disasters caused by our greed, anger and stupidity, leading to war, famine and plague.

Sometimes I am just like the Grinch, and my heart feels two sizes too small to absorb all this pain.

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