The winter cut

Years back I bought two baby banana trees, each about 18 inches tall.

An old friend who now lives in a place called Jocotepec told me:  Those things will get away from you.

He was from Florida, so he knew.

But banana trees lend an exuberant, tropical air to any home, so I ignored him and planted them in two separate spots.  Later, I took an offspring of one of the originals and planted it in a third spot.

Time passed.

Note that I mentioned an offspring.  Babies are what banana trees do best.

They are bunnies.

I now have three monster stands of banana trees which, in the wet summertime, deliver as expected.  Tropical and exuberant.

Then winter comes.

The merest hint of a freeze turns tropical and exuberant into brown and dead.  So the more numerous and taller your banana trees, the bigger mess you have on your hands in winter.

I have no gardener, and some of the banana trees exceed 20 feet in height.  But something must be done because earlier this week we had two overnight freezes, and the banana trees reacted accordingly.

Something must be done, and it’s not just the banana trees.  The datura reacts to freeze almost as poorly as the bananas do, and I have two sizable datura bushes that recently bloomed.

So it’s time for The Winter Cut.  This is a gradual process because the work is much, and the man is old and lazy.

I have initiated a new procedure.  Each day I whack a little, and I wheelbarrow it to the back patio, out of sight, and I toss the detritus into a pile, a pile which will become a mountain.

When the mountain approaches Himalayan proportions, I’ll find a fellow with a truck, and I will pay him to take it to the municipal dump.

Lesson learned:  Listen to old men who live in Jocotepec.

Three weddings

I‘ve been married three times.  It’s made life interesting.  Some folks marry young and keep the same spouse for a lifetime.

There are both advantages and drawbacks to that.

There are advantages and drawbacks to divorce too.

The main advantage to divorce is that it makes life interesting.  The primary drawback is that — for a time — you are living in Hell.

Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane:

1.  First wedding.  Took place in my parents’  living room on Audubon Street in New Orleans in 1965.  Our honeymoon voyage was on a borrowed motorcycle around the neighborhood.

I had just turned 22, and the bride was 19, a teenager.

Attending were my parents,  her mother (her father had not been told, a story for another day), the motorcycle owner (a friend named Lon Reed) and the preacher, a Unitarian.  There may have been one or two others.

No rice was tossed.

It lasted a bit over five years.  I was the one who bolted.  Divorces are easier on the person who bolts, harder on the person left behind, the boltee.

We had two children.  A daughter, now 45, is married and lives in Athens, Georgia.  A son was born prematurely and died of pulmonary complications.

2.  Second wedding. Took place at the Unitarian Church on Fannin Street in Houston, Texas.  There was no honeymoon because we did it on the bride’s lunch break from work.  We had already been living together for seven years.

I was 41, and she was nearly 39.  We had both been married once before.  Attending were us two and the preacher, alone in the church at midday.

No rice was tossed.

We lasted another decade.  She was the one who bolted, making me the boltee, which is how I know it’s harder on the person left behind.  The following seven years were like wandering through the wilderness.

3.  Third wedding.  This brings us to the photo above, which is the entryway to the inner patio where the wedding took place in 2002 in a developing nation.

I was 57, and she was 41.  I had, of course, been married twice, but she had never wed, a virgin in the matrimonial sense.

Quite a few people attended the ceremony.  The patio was packed.  A judge tied the legal knot.  I was done with Unitarians.  A guitarist sang, and we danced.

A great time was had by all, but there was no rice.

We drove to Guanajuato, Mexico, my first-ever honeymoon.

We will celebrate our 10th anniversary next April.  Neither of us will bolt.  If you get married often enough, you finally get it right.

Three weddings.  No funerals.  Not yet.

Morning ice

As Beethoven played Ode to Joy on the living room stereo, I stepped out to the yard this morning …

… and found the birdbath a solid block of ice.

The first real freeze of the season.  The tail of November, which ain’t too bad. Last year it began the first week of this same month, which was bad.

Back in the house, I made the switch.  I took off the summer-autumn morning coat of orange checks, put it in the closet, and pulled out the winter morning coat that will serve till Springtime.

It’s denim with a nice cozy lining.

And so we begin again.  The yard plants will half die.  We will exhale morning vapor.  The portable gas heaters will glow red.  A fireplace blaze now and then, but that’s more for show.

We’ve slept under the goose-down comforter for a couple weeks already, but now it will be essential.  And I recently bought 12 pairs of mostly wool socks, a heavenly new offering at CostCo.

The cycle of  life atop a 7,200-foot mountain in a developing nation.

American twilight — 3

The internet is the best and worst thing that’s ever happened to the United States of America.

While it’s revolutionized countless aspects of life, mostly for the better, especially in the streamlining of commerce, it has also made us nastier.

And that one negative issue may cancel out all the positives.

In no period in recent history has the population been so angry with itself.  The economy has lots to do with that, sure, but the internet has made it so easy to curse ourselves out.

Go to any news story on the internet — Huffpost, Fox News, Yahoo,  CNN, Daily Beast, anywhere, left-wing or right-wing — and read the comments.

Hundreds of thousands of people every day hurl the vilest of epithets at those who hold counter opinions.  This degrades the public consciousness.

It is epic, this new civic discourse.

Young people are growing up in this environment, thinking it acceptable.

The daily flood of curses is facilitated by anonymity.  It’s much easier to name-call if your mugshot and identity are not attached to them, and they rarely are.

You will hear that this is “free speech” which makes it okay.

It’s not okay.

Free speech is the right to voice counter opinions.  Telling someone he is an asshole is not free speech.  It is rudeness.

And when a society has enough citizens calling one another assholes on a daily basis, that society will self-destruct.

The internet has made this so simple to do, and it’s being done.

* * * *

(Note: This is the third in an occasional series about the ongoing collapse of the United States of America.)

Olmec and leaves

It dawned almost clear this final Sunday of November.  Been dawning quite foggy recently.  It rained a couple of times in the past few days, which it decidedly should not be doing now, but the Republicans have ruined the climate.  What can you do?

And they freed the slaves too, but so what?

I raked these leaves yesterday, and I’ll be burning them in the yard later.  It gives off a sweet smell of autumn and lost dreams.

My lovely wife and I sat a spell in the yard, she knitting and me doing what I do best:  as little as possible.  We had background sounds.  The hog and horse next door were chatting.  There were neighbors’  roosters here and about, still announcing the dawn three hours after the event.

Aunt Jemima waffles and Canadian maple syrup are coming to the table in a short time, a Sunday custom.  A banana will get mashed in the mix too.

A nice, hot soak in a full tub to follow.  Oh, boy.

And later, we’ll be having steak, guacamole and onions at a restaurant downtown, which we often do for Sunday lunch.  Then a coffee on the plaza, a little kickback time.  And I’ll come home and torch these dead leaves — and perhaps dream of things that went up in smoke, lost.

* * * *

(Note:  The stone head is an Olmec reproduction.  The stone ball is just a ball.)

The puma’s bed — 2

. . . but he couldn’t sleep, so he opened his eyes again and looked through the large window.  He bounded off the bed, walked to the window and put his cold nose on the glass, but there was no glass.

He jumped through the opening, landing on grass, twigs and soil, not a well-tended lawn but the type of world he preferred, more primitive.

In the distance, down this hillside where sat the house, was a lake reflecting moonlight.  He liked the look of it, and he slowly descended.  There was a dock that ended with an octagonal landing over the still water.

Around the eight sides were clay pots of Saint Peter, their spiny pillars erect.

He lay on the octagon and listened.  Frogs from the lake’s far shore, a quarter mile away, sang as if sitting beside him.  Geometry lessons from 35 years back splashed themselves in lively color on the inner surfaces of his closed eyelids.

He opened his eyes and looked at his paws, but they were not paws.  They were a man’s feet shod in shoes.  He remembered hours ago, sitting in the living room, as the shaman gave him a muddy drink.

This is wonderful, he thought out loud.  It will never end.

* * * *

(The puma’s bed, the beginning.)

Giving thanks

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in another world, but you can be grateful anywhere, even here.

I’m a lucky boy.  Midway between 65 and 70, all my parts work, and I breathe freely.

I have a child bride of light cocoa, and our big red house is paid for, as is the snow-white Honda car that is modern and newish.

The summers here are not very hot, and the winters are mostly bearable.  I have no debt.  I ate no turkey yesterday, but I did have pan-fried chicken in a restaurant up the road.  I paid cash, and somebody else did the dishes.

I am appreciative of late-November days that dawn chill and foggy, and then turn into sunshine and cool, mild afternoons that go great with coffee.

Dead leaves lie on the grass outside, reminding me there were good times in my previous life, there where dead leaves in Fall are expected.  They are not so expected here, which makes them fun.

I am grateful I don’t have to work for a living, that I have no boss.  I get up when I want to, and I hit the sack when it suits me.

I sit at this desk and see mountains through the window over the computer monitor even though at this moment they are mostly hidden in fog.

I have no mammoth problems of any type.  How can one not be thankful for that?  I have coffee and orange juice and low utility bills.

And a hammock that swings under clay tiles.

I’m a lucky boy.

The green sofa

The sofa was dark green, large, soft and sensuous, and it came from Ikea.

I had just moved solo into a spacious, apartment with two bedrooms, a huge living room, a too-small kitchen, an office, dining room and bath.

It was 1997.

There were steel-framed windows that cranked out into a forest of aging trees through which curved a cracked sidewalk to the street made of old asphalt.

The small sofa from the tiny, high-rise condo where I lived previously made the move into the new place, but a fresh sofa was plainly in order for this majestic living room.

The little sofa went into the office, and I went to Ikea.

The broad and acres-long purchase was not too soft, not too firm, but just right, and it was not velvet because I am not Elvis, but it was something similar, sensuous to sit and lie on.

I loved that sofa.  And I also loved a woman 20 years my junior, recently divorced like myself, and we often stripped naked and sprawled across that sofa.  It was not a tight squeeze because it was quite a spectacular sofa, as I’ve said.

But love could not solve the 20-year age span.  That and other things doomed us, and in another year I moved into yet a different space not far away.

It was a mobile time.

The big green sofa would not fit into the next home due to a right-angle at the entry, so I sold it, sadly.  It held memories, murmurs and incense in its fibers.

I really loved that sofa, and I really loved that woman.

The Obamavilles

Those of you who were awake in history class may recall Hoovervilles.

Those were encampments of the disgruntled unemployed during the Great Depression.

They were dubbed Hoovervilles after Herbert Hoover who was presiding in the Depression’s early days.

Again we have encampments of the disgruntled unemployed.  And we have another president.  Clearly, the name for the encampments are Obamavilles, not the unsightly OWS.

I spotted the term recently in a Wall Street Journal  column by James Taranto.

Both Obama and the unruly mobs in the encampments are against free markets and capitalism.

Yes, they are of one mind, so let’s call the encampments what they are:  Obamavilles.

Hoover was tossed out of the White House after one term.  Let us pray Obama gets the same treatment.  It’s gonna happen.

But in the meantime, let’s call the encampments Obamavilles.  Spread it around.  It will do him no good, and that ain’t bad.

* * * *

(Note 1: This is one of a series in which I will occasionally, until next November, vent my apoplexy regarding the Great American Error called Barack Obama.)

(Note 2: Even left-wing Chris Matthews now sees the Great American Error plainly. Watch this brief video.)

Fact, Fiction and Opinion Stirred in an Odd Pot

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