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The Farming of Bones

I haven’t been to a city library since the pandemic started. For a long time, they were closed. However I’ve done very well sharing books with reading neighbours by using a little free street library a mere block away. I’ve learned they read some worthy books around here.


Stuff happens to me that never happens to other people. By sheer coincidence, after just finishing ‘The Feast of the Goat’ by Mario Vargas Llosa, a novel based on the Dominican Republic during dictator Trujillo’s era, what do you think falls into my hands?


A harrowing but fantastic can’t-put-down read by Edwidge Danticat called ‘The Farming of Bones’ about the destitute Haitians who crossed the border from Haiti into The Dominican Republic during Trujillo’s rule. Those who did struggled for survival doing the dirty and dangerous jobs no one else wanted, meanwhile suffering outright racism.


Danticat’s book didn’t end the way I wanted it to. A love story, the lovers don’t get to walk off into the sunset, get married and live happily after. If that’s what you want, it isn’t the book for you. It isn’t a pleasant story, but it reads true…

A Love Story…

When I asked daughter Susan if I may post the following epic tale, she declared that anyone who IS anyone would want to be familiar with her brilliant saga. Here is what she sent out to friends.
(I’d scanned the original, but shall spare you the difficulties of reading same.)

photo by Chandra

‘So, my mom is going through some old files of hers and is finding all kinds of detritus from the distant past of our lives. One item she unearthed is a story which I must have written when I was extremely young, maybe around seven years old, judging by the spelling. My conclusion after reading this epic tale of heroism and romance: My mother was clearly putting LSD in my Cheerios! How else does a child come up with a story like this one, called, “The Pickle and the Stick”:
(Original spelling preserved)

Susan, left, could be about that age in this photo


Once thare was a pickle. It was locked up in a jar. Thare was a stick. One day the jar with the pickle fell out of a bag. the stick had gest left tree. The stick saw the pickles helplessa nd stranded; He opend the jar. all the pickles wher sour-harted all but one. she was a vary nice kind harted one. she asked the stick to please help her out. The stick did as she pleased (the pickle) The pickle said she would repay his kindness some how. The stick who was very polite said, “how nice of you.” Back at the jar the pickles had bad luck. a boy kicked them into the gutter and a car ran over them. that was the end, at least of them. the stick just then was picked up by a boy. He was going to brake Sirr stick in half! The pickle took a big, big breth and just in time FOOOOOOOOOOOO! Out came a tarabell noise. The pickle saved his life. They got marieyed and lived happily ever after.

The attached drawing is something I threw together with some help from the internet, inspired by reading this story. No, I am not currently on acid!’


Posts to read…

Hey everyone: I’m having hand surgery tomorrow. It will take a little time to mend and will then be better. What to do until I can type again?


Here’s what I came up with. I went to 2012 and 2013 and chose some of what I believe are the better posts I wrote then. Read some of them. If you don’t like one, try another. There ought to be something you’ll enjoy.

Cary Grant, ‘A Conversatrion with Cary Grant’

To select the one you want, go to the box on the upper right of the home page where the magnifying glass is, type in the name of the post as I’ve listed it.

Alma Mahler, ‘Reflections on Reincarnation
Lynda Carter ‘She only looks as though she knows’

Favorite Sayings. June, 2012

The Most Beautiful Cat in the World, March 3, 2013

Reflections on Reincarnation, April 21, 2013

She Only Looks As Though She Knows, May, 2013

Murder in the Bedroom

A Conversation with Cary Grant, June 22, 2013

Falling in Love, Literally, July 21, 2013

Murder in the Bedroom, Sept 21, 2013

Caution: May Contain Peanuts, uh, Breasts
(Reader discretion is advised) Sept 2, 2013

Sometimes things won’t let us lose them, Dec 22, 2013

Happy reading.
I’ll be fine and I’ll be back soon.

My love, alone he walketh

My late friend Hans was a really funny guy. He enjoyed marzipan, which I don’t. Thus marzipan was a safe thing for me to get for him whenever he visited.

I drove to the candy store in Kerrisdale for it until Purdy’s opened a shop in my own neighbourhood on 4th Avenue.

Since I was working, Hans was on his own during the day. I suggested he walk the few blocks for the chocolates on his own.

You couldn’t insult Hans. I recall telling him that he was arrogant. His response? ‘Well, I don’t know anyone who has more reason to be.’ It was impossible to get angry at him.

Hans on a visit

Hans loved Shakespeare. He even wrote an award-winning musical set in Shakespeare’s England. (It was the sole production not actually written by Shakespeare ever performed in ‘The Globe Theatre’ in Los Angeles.)

Tongue in cheek, he complained about the terrible treatment he was receiving at my hands. Tongue in cheek, I wrote this for him. We both had a good laugh. I hope you enjoy reading it too.

My Love, Alone He Walketh

My love, upon the Avenue he walketh
Gallantly, bravely, forth he setteth
Alone, uncivilized hordes he faceth
On Fourth, between Arbutus and Yew.

A villain on 4th Avenue?

Not rain, nor sleet, nor snow delayeth
Nor fear of highwaymen who lurketh
Along the dangerous route he walketh
Onward, onward to Purdy’s door.

These foreign climes, my love, he braveth
Distanced far from the land he loveth
For his fair damsel alone he cometh
Her beauteous face to see once more.

And when my love, indeed he leaveth
And alone, I must myself then beith
Shall I, on mornings cold and cleareth
Walk in his steps to Purdy’s store.

The door handle, I shall then caresseth
For dear hands upon it once had layeth
My love’s devotion I shall recalleth
And surely remember evermore.

Above all else, he does not snore.

He walk-ed this path so unafraideth
For marzipan, the world he’d braveth
Upon my knees I thank the Lordeth
That above all else, he does not snore.

A COVID:19 Romance…

wqlkerCOVID:19 or no, If I don’t continue my dally walks these old bones of mine may not want to go anywhere, so I’m walking each day — totally on my own. Those who care about me kept reminding me how old I am and that I must take extra care out there, so I do.

I avoid the major street where I usually walk. The shops, cafes, and markets are all located there and I think it wise to avoid people so I use only the side streets, where there are just apartment buildings and houses. There are very few cars on the streets right now and many less people.

On one of these very first walks, I saw a man sitting outyoungr&J in the sun on a second floor balcony. He waved down to me and said hello. I asked if he was staying in like me. He was. We ended up chatting, he sitting on his balcony above and me sitting on my walker below on the sidewalk.

REDsIf things had been reversed, I would say it was like the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet. And if I told you we made each other laugh, became fast friends, exchanged phone numbers and now talk endlessly so that’s why my phone is usually busy, and have decided we really like each other, have much in common and shall spend oodles of time with each other after this is over, it would be a lovely end to the story. Right? Unfortunately, it would also be a big fat lie. That’s not how it ended.

QuoteR&J

Since then, although I’ve walked on the same street and passed under ‘Romeo’s’ balcony many times, I’ve not seen him again. Is he chatting with someone new? Is that the real end of this love story?

funny-elderly-husband-wife-celebrating-wedding-anniversary-old-senior-couple-listening-to-music-vector-cartoon-174728339True, we really did have an enjoyable chat, that part is actually true. However without breakfasts every day at my favorite cafe, many lunches with friends, exercise classes to take, visits to the library, and everything else I do in my ordinary life, things are more leisurely right now and I don’t get out at the same time each day. Perhaps the lack of a new COVID:19 romance in my life is my own fault. Poor ‘Romeo’ just doesn’t know when  I’ll show up. This is, indeed, a tragedy!

Oh, well…..

Porgy and Bess — the opera

Muriel2017Many important issues were covered on Broadway in those 1930s musicals — issues which society would not have been comfortable confronting in other ways. Just as comedy was, and continues to be, used to help us deal with the unbearable, musicals often presented audiences with differing views than their own. Audiences were thus encouraged to look at and rethink their own attitudes.

 

 

‘Porgy and Bess’ the first and only opera created by the famous American Gershwin brothers, was written and first performed in 1935. Unfortunately, George died of a brain tumor in 1937, so no more operas followed. The magnificent songs alone make it worth seeing, however, this masterpiece is so much more than only beautiful music.

 

Scan1 1

Eric Owens is Porgy and Angel Blue performs Bess (The Gershwins would have been pleased by the casting)

 

 

GeorgeGershwin1898-1937

George Gershwin, 1898-1937

The Gershwin brothers, whose parents

IraGershwin1896-1983

Ira Gershwin, 1896-1983

immigrated to the U.S. from Russia, like my own — for good reason, well understood discrimination, prejudice, antisemitism — and racism. For this opera, they insisted that all performers appearing in black roles, be black. This at a time when opera singers in the U.S. were white only and using white performers in black face was common.

 

Marian Anderson1897-1993

Marian Anderson 1897-1993

 

 

Contralto Marian Anderson waited until 1955 to be able to perform in a Metropolitan Opera. Before that, she performed in concerts in Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

The libretto of Porgy and Bess, set in 1920‘s South Carolina, makes a powerful statement regarding the vulnerability of the black community’s attempts at survival. All this years before Dr. Martin Luther King came along. Shamefully, the struggle still continues today.

But, if all you want are songs, Porgy and Bess has glorious songs: ‘Summertime’. ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’, ‘I Got Plenty O’Nothin’, and then some. Definitely worth seeing! (I saw the Metropolitan’s Live Broadcast at a local theatre, and yes, all black roles were performed by black artists — as the Gershwins would have wanted..)

A song for Elise???

Muriel2017

Hans Muller was a talented, classically-trained musician who studied at the Conservatory of Music in Vienna. Brilliant and playful, his most wonderful trait was his irreverent sense of humor. To him, even the great Beethoven was fair game.

Going through stuff to throw out, I found these words he wrote to the master’s ‘Fer Elise’. You can sing it to the music….

 

 

Beethoven

Beethoven: Certainly gifted but I wouldn’t have wanted to marry him either

Ludwig named this ditty for Elise

but no one seems to know who she’s
Was she from Bonn or was she Viennese?
What was her amorous expertise?
Was Elise his lover or his maid
And, either way, was she well paid?
Did she become his broad, his concubine
When he asked her ‘Your place or mine?’
Was she his chick, his moll, his fox
Or did she only darn his socks?

Fer Elise

Therese Malfalli Could she have been Ludwig’s Elise? He may have asked her to marry him, but she refused.

 

Did she spend nights of passion with Beethoven?
Limbs entwined and interwoven?

Was Elise a flirt, was she a tease?
Did she undress, smile and say cheese?
Did Ludwig kiss Elise beneath a tree
And touch her way above the knee?
Or did he give her one strategic squeeze
And hand her his apartment keys?

 

 

What did he do when he met her
Did he right away embrace and pet her
Or did he sit down at the keyboard
And compose one of his immortal tunes?
Perhaps the most romantic though a bit pedantic
Opus twenty-seven, number two, in C sharp minor
Known as moonlight, a sonata soon quite popular
All over Vienna and in Bonn
The biggest hit by Ludwig Van.

Hans Muller

Hans Muller: All this from a man for whom English was only one of six languages he spoke and read with ease…

One stormy night in bed he said to her
As winter gales howled from the North,
I have decided that I’ll do my Fifth
As soon as I have done the Fourth,
A Fourth, a Fifth, said she, but Lou
You cannot even manage two.

Did she listen to what he composed?
Sometimes she did, sometimes she dozed.
One day he wrote a Missa called Solemnis,
She said: Ludwig, I condemn this
Latest opus
Must it go thus
To and fro — it bores me so!
Was she a connoisseur, was she well-read
Or was she only good in bed?
Of all of music history’s mysteries
The greatest puzzle is E l i s e.

A remedy for overpopulation???

Muriel2017Nature sometimes does get things right, but things can go awry. It isn’t nature’s fault. Usually man screws it up — and things have gone very wrong when it comes to human procreation.

As you know, what I do best is worry/ One of the multiple things that worry me now is the overpopulation of our planet, which, poor thing, is sagging under the weight of us all, especially with so many of us in the west being overweight. How did this happen?

drawing

We’re wired for it

It was once a good idea to have oodles of kids because so few of them made it to adulthood. Childhood was dangerous — diseases and mishaps could kill us long before we grew up. Modern medicine, however, has more treatments than MacDonald’s has hamburgers and so many more of us survive.

sillouettes

If sex weren’t so darned pleasurable..

manonseatWhat to do? As I see it, if having sex weren’t so darned pleasurable, there wouldn’t be so many babies and that might help. How many woman would opt to go through the pain and discomfort of childbirth and those endless, sleepless nights afterwards without the joys of sex?

If having sex wasn’t so much fun, there wouldn’t be any need for abortions. The states of Alabama and Georgia wouldn’t bother with making abortions illegal, as they are planning to do right now. After all, it’s obvious only people who don’t want children, but still want to enjoy sex, (which we are wired for) require them. Right?

no

No way mister!

May I suggest instead that both states immediately start working at finding a way to make copulation terribly unpleasant. That would do it. If they accomplish this, they can avoid passing laws which will, once again, lead to women perishing on kitchen tables.

inbed

Nah, I’m not in the mood

The devils I fall for…

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra

Lately I’ve been reading some wonderful poetry in blogs I follow and I’m thoroughly enjoying them. Since I’ve written some myself through the years, I decided to go back and read some of my own. This one made me chuckle.

 

 

 

cute

The devils I fall for

 

If the man is a cad

He’s bound to be charming

His false words will tumble

Like music from a fresh mountain stream

Right into my thirsty heart.

 

 

brokenheart

A broken heart

If the man is a scoundrel

I’ll find him delightful

My soul, trembling with desire,

Will hunger for him all the while

He is buttering up somebody else.

 

 

 

If the man is a rascal

loves

The good men, my dear, are not half as exciting

He’ll be clever and entertaining

Because the good men, my dear,

Are not half as exciting

As the devils I fall for.

 

 

 

“Isn’t it awful that good men aren’t half as interesting as the rascals?” Joan Tess Smith

(This was the quote which inspired the above poem long ago. Today I have no idea who Joan Tess Smith was. If I did know once upon a time, I don’t remember now. Can you help? Mr. Google doesn’t seem to know her.)

The elusive ‘O’…..

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra

Years ago in L.A.  I reviewed theatre. I typed weekly articles on my electric typewriter, drove them to the newspaper office or, when it became possible, faxed them from a local shop. No one I knew had a fax of their own yet. Email was not yet available.

A writer friend invited me to visit his cabin high in the San Bernadino mountains. It was a beautiful spot which gave us a break from the heat of the city, but I had a review to do.

‘Not to worry,’ he assured, ‘I’ve got a portable typewriter up there.’

‘Does it work?’

Royal manual typewriter I learned

I first learned to type on an old manual

‘Of course.’

I believed him. Why would he lie? He was a successful playwright. Naturally he’d have a typewriter that worked, right? And I first learned typing on an old manual typewriter so it ought to be okay. Off we went.

First thing next morning, I settled in comfortably on the large outdoor veranda under the shade of huge ancient trees — the kind you know have lived for generations. Sheets of paper and typewriter at the ready. Coffee close at hand, I took a deep breath of the fresh air and started typing.

ribbon-hearts

The word ‘love’ was in the title

 

The name of the play eludes me, it wasn’t that memorable, but the word ‘love’ was in the title. The typewriter managed the first two words without a problem. I managed to press the keys hard enough until I reached the O in the word LOVE. It didn’t work. I tried again. No luck. The third time I pushed that O, I realized I was in trouble. How can you write a whole article about a play about love without an O.

confused-old-lady

What to do?

What to do? I sipped more coffee and glared at that stupid, stubborn typewriter. How dare it do that to me? It didn’t react. Then I glared at my friend. How come he didn’t know the O didn’t work? How could HE do this to me. I guarantee the words coming out of my mouth weren’t pearls.

fatoldangry

The words coming out of my mouth were not pearls

His excuse? He didn’t go there to write. He spent his time climbing mountain trails, not working. Admittedly, his portable typewriter had obviously been ignored. He didn’t know the O was in trouble.

1950's port Oliver typewriter

I inserted an O by hand into each space

After I tired of scolding everything and everyone, I finished my coffee, concentrated on that tired little typewriter, and decided to write that review come hell or high water. Have you ever known me to give up? No way! I would write that darned review by skipping a space every time a word called for an O. It slowed me down — a lot. It took a lot of coffee. It took a lot of time, but I managed the approximate 500 words by inserting a space wherever an O belonged.

After completing my masterpiece, I carefully inserted an O by hand in each space. Was it perfect? No. The O’s stood out from the light gray of the old typewriter ribbon and tended to be of various sizes and shapes, but it said what I wanted it to.

Off to the village post-office we went to fax the piece to my editor. It was done on time, retyped by a clerk at their office, and published. I had managed it after all and my reputation was intact.

Mountains

The San Bernadino Mountains

Later, the editor told me he was so amused by my handwritten O’s throughout my review, he showed it to everyone who would take a moment to look at it, including the mailman. He then tacked it up on the bulletin board where it remained for months to come. I became famous with that Hollywood paper. What fun!