My daughter and I and Wee Jamie the Wonder Grandson had to make a flying visit out to California all last week. Family reasons – my mother asked to see the three of us. She is in her nineties, bedridden and failing; this was the first time that she had asked to see us. We knew it would be the last, so we dropped everything, packed Thing the Versa and hit the road on Memorial Day for the twenty-hour-long drive, rather dreading everything that we might encounter when we got there. Not just the personal – but dreading encounters with the progressively-inclined and everything else which has come about in the nearly half-century since I upped sticks and left California behind for the military and then retirement in Texas.

I grew up in California – a nice, normal 1950s and 60’s upbringing in an outlaying fringe suburb, backed up against the wall of the San Gabriel Mountains. The first house that my parents owned there was a hill-top bungalow built shortly after WWII. On a dirt road among similarly rural properties, we had a horse and a garden, walked to school, a row of olive trees in the back yard, and watched fireworks over Hansen Dam on the 4th of July. The second house was on a paved road, but with a view and a swimming pool, bountifully producing orange and lemon trees in the back yard. We visited the grandparents regularly, went to Cotillion, confirmation class, summer camp, and Scouts … Vietnam was ongoing, but Ronald Reagan was governor, and Tom Bradley was the mayor, so California then was a sane and well-organized place, with beautiful scenery that might range from desert palms to snow in the pines in the space of half a day’s drive. Temperate weather, bountiful farming country – growing everything from rice to dates to almonds and acres and acres of citrus fruit. There was a strong industrial element, too, along with an enviable public education system, and a state-of-the-art highway network. The nutbars, fruitcakes and relatively harmless eccentrics stayed or were kept away from the levers of power. Or so it seemed, then.

I went to the military for twenty years, then spent the following thirty in Texas – increasingly happy with the chance that deposited me there, after the Air Force.

My daughter went out every year by Amtrak to spell my sister and her family, so that they could take a vacation from overseeing Mom’s constant care. Last year, she took Wee Jamie (then aged two) to introduce to my brothers, sister and Mom. She returned from every visit with discouraging stories of homeless camps lining the streets downtown by Union Station and freeway overpasses, horrifying mountains of trash and graffiti disfiguring buildings and the railway sidings, and disintegrating highways. Last year it was a deranged woman in the doorway to the local neighborhood Ald1, screaming abuse at shoppers. It was also a comatose street person on the sidewalk by a thrift store. She curtailed a visit to that shop, since she had Wee Jamie with her, and didn’t want to risk a dangerous encounter with an obviously substance-addled individual. And of course, stories of California political and social dysfunction are almost a permanent feature in the alternate media which is my regular source of information, as well as countless stories of California residents departing in droves for practically anywhere else. I was expecting – and dreading the same and perhaps worse on this trip.

But no – my sister’s neighborhood was a placid, well-kept and to all appearances a stable and secure place. The streets are lined with mature trees, shading beautifully maintained cottages and small houses of every vintage from turn-of-the-last-century to mid-century post-war, lush with well-groomed gardens and hedges of sweet-olive and mock orange. (TV series often use this neighborhood for exterior location shoots, it is that attractive.) Rows of palm trees lined some streets, and the familiar silhouette of Mount Wilson loomed up on the horizon to the east. Rose bushes in bloom were everywhere – Pasadena calls their New Year’s festival the Rose Parade for a reason.

The homeless were nowhere in evidence, much to my daughter’s mild surprise. I walked Wee Jamie every morning, pushing the cheap Cocomelon-themed folding stroller that we keep in Thing’s trunk for emergencies. The weather was cool, in comparison to late May in Texas – no need for air conditioning and closed windows and doors. We went to the LA County Arboretum with Jamie, admiring the flowers, the Queen Anne cottage, Lucky Baldwin’s bespoke stable, and the peacocks, who were in mating season, and in full voice. There were volunteers at the Arboretum, dead-heading the roses, and a well-mannered class of high-school kids from a private school, appreciating a morning of freedom from routine. We went to a nearby up-scale mall, let Jamie into the play area and let him run around with the other littles for a bit, bought lunch in the food court… the mall had about as many shoppers as one could expect at a mid-day mid-week, and there were no vacancies along the shop fronts. And it all was … good. I talked now and again with people that I met; an elderly gentleman walking his German shepherd dog, the expatriate Englishwoman tending her lovely garden at the front of a pair of cottages on a deep lot (as was the custom in that part of Pasadena – stacking two houses on a deep lot), the young woman walking her baby son in another stroller. We had one of those weird heart-to-heart conversations, in which she confessed that she and her husband really didn’t want to raise their little son there – but they had family close by and depended on them … and I looked around and realized that for most people in a comfortable situation, in a prosperous neighborhood, close to kin and friends… it’s all good.

It’s lotus-land. For now. Maybe it will continue being OK. For now.

05. May 2024 · Comments Off on Pity Poor Mexico … · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Memoir

… so far from God, as the saying went – so close to the United States. Mexico was very close to us, when I was growing up in suburban Los Angeles in the 1960s and early 70s. My elementary school had us study Mexican history in the 6th grade – if I remember correctly, that was part of the unified school district curriculum. We did a field trip to Olvera St., in the old part of downtown, at least three of the old Spanish missions were within a short drive from our various homes, and we weren’t allowed to forget that Los Angeles itself had Spanish origins and Mexican governance for decades before American statehood. For Southern California, Mexico was just a hop, skip, and a jump away – just as it is for South Texas.

A day trip to Tijuana when I would have been about thirteen or fourteen was my first trip to a foreign country. Dad took JP, Pip, and I with him on a trip to could get a new headliner installed in the ’52 Plymouth station wagon which was our family’s main ride. I don’t know why Tijuana, or how Dad located a workshop there that could do the work – but he did, and we spent a whole day there. I guess they could do it in Tijuana for a fraction of the cost of having it done anywhere closer to home. We drove down from Los Angeles, crossed the border, dropped off the car, and spent the hours until it was ready wandering through nearby shops catering to the tourist trade; folk art, hand-blown glass, and Mexican-style furniture. We watched some glassblowers at work, which was pretty interesting, looked at the finished glass menageries, walked by the bull ring and looked at the posters – but as it was a weekday, there was no bullfight scheduled, which was mildly disappointing. We went to a grocery store were Dad bought fresh rolls, cheese and soft drinks for lunch … and in the afternoon, we collected the station wagon and drove home.

Later, when Dad got interested in dune buggies and off-roading, he built a custom dune buggy on the chassis, transmission and engine of a VW bug – they were favored for their low profile and disinclination to roll over on steep inclines, which couldn’t be said of jeeps. Dad welded a custom body out of tube steel lengths, and sourced seats, dash, windshield, and enormous-capacity gas tanks from his favorite junkyards. The resulting junk-parts vehicle looked pretty much like something out of the Mad Max franchise. Over the Easter week holiday break, Dad would take my brothers P.J. and Sander in that dune buggy and go on an extended off-road camping trip to Baja California. They’d camp out in the desert, or on the beaches, eat beanie-weenies out of the can, forgo washing … and have a glorious time of it, all week long. (Meanwhile, Mom and Pip and I would go shopping, see a movie or go to the theater, and elegantly lunch in restaurants … and towards the end of the week, get ready for Easter; each of us had a glorious time over the Easter week break, partaking in those activities which engaged us the most. Pip and I would have been miserable, dragged on such a road trip; Dad, JP and Sander would have hated the ladies-who-lunch routine. To each, their own, and we were much happier for it.)  

What brought all this on was this horrifying story – of three surfing tourists turning up dead – murdered on their dream surfing trip to Baja. Not just the violence, robbery, murder and all – but that it all happened in a place that Dad and my brothers used to frequent, without any shred of concern about danger on visiting. Dad had no worries taking two kids through Baha, no more than any other place north of the border. He possessed a sidearm and was a good  shot with it; I do not know if he took it with him on those trips for personal projection; likely not, as that was frowned upon by Mexican authorities even then. The small towns and the open country along the length of Baha California seemed as safe as any place north of the border. Baja, Ensenada, Rosarita Beach … all those places named in the news stories are familiar. Ensenada and Rosarita just an easy day trip over the border, for the beaches, the bars and restaurants serving excellent and comparatively inexpensive local seafood cooked with Mexican flair.

But that was then, this is now – and another horrible reminder that places which once were fun and safe to visit are not safe now.

 

06. March 2024 · Comments Off on Another Visit to the Quadrangle · Categories: Ain't That America?, Critters, Devil Dogs, Domestic, Local

My daughter and I with Wee Jamie had cause to visit Fort Sam Houston this week, to pick up some prescription refills and make a run through the commissary – but before we did, we went by the historic old Quadrangle, so that my grandson could pester the deer and the peacocks and admire the enormous koi goldfish in the little landscaped fishpond. Yes, the historic limestone Quadrangle, the original structure and oldest building at Fort Sam houses a kind of petting zoo in the courtyard in the middle of three block-long ranges of buildings. That is, it would be a petting zoo if the current herd of nine deer were slightly more tame.

The Quadrangle was originally constructed to replace the Alamo, which had been the original military HQ in this part of Texas, serving sequentially the Spanish colonial army, the Mexican army, the Texian militia and army, the US Army, the Confederate Army, and the US Army again over the space of 200 years. (The Quadrangle is now HQ 5th Army, and home to the post’s historical museum.) In it’s last decades as a military installation, the Alamo was basically a central supply depot for the US Army in the Southwest, and the plaza before it a wagon park. When city sprawl swamped it all in the 1870s, the Army took the opportunity of some donated land out north of town to build a brand-new post with plenty of room for quartermastering activities – to park wagons, pasture horses and mules, warehouse supplies, and to establish a proper garrison for training and housing troops and officers.

Originally constructed for defense against attack by hostile Indians, the Quadrangle was first built without doors and windows along the outside walls. This was a somewhat remote reality by the time that the Quadrangle’s cornerstone was laid – but not entirely out of the question, and certainly not outside of living memory by troops and ordinary citizens then. About the only activity in the Quadrangle involving hostile or formerly hostile Indians came in the mid-1880s, when the Apache war leader Geronimo and the survivors of his war band were captured and interned there for a month before being moved to Florida. The legend is that the deer and birds were brought in to serve as meals on the hoof for the Apache prisoners … but that is an oft-debunked legend. According to some accounts, the presence of the deer predated the Apache internees.

Which does bring up the question – why? Why is a herd of semi-tame deer and a flock of peacocks and waterfowl kept on an active military post? They must be maintained at some expense and trouble, after all – there are pens for the deer and sheltered quarters. Presumably deer chow has to be gotten from somewhere, not to mention veterinary care. The first obvious answer is – military tradition! Like the Barbary apes at Gibraltar, and the ravens in the Tower of London. They are there, because they always have been there, and caring for them is enshrined in custom since time immemorial, or at least in this case, since the 1870s. But why – and since when? I began to wonder about this during our visit and did a little research when I got home … and it turns out that … no one really knows for certain. A local historian ventured the supposition that having a few peacocks and tame deer around the place was a popular domestic thing to do in the late 1800s. I have my own theory about the deer herd, though. I suspect that sometime after troops and families came to live at Fort Sam that someone rescued an orphaned deer fawn and made a pet out of it … and the best place to keep it when it was grown was in the confines of the Quadrangle, which seems to have become a park very early on. Could have been an officer’s wife or family member … or equally – a soldier. The deer fawn became a unit mascot – goodness knows that other unlikely animals have since become beloved and honored unit mascots – bears and horses, among them. Within a few years, having the deer at Fort Sam was an established custom, and everyone forgot about who and under what circumstances the deer herd had been established.

Discuss as you will – and share any theories that you might have.

21. February 2024 · Comments Off on The Question of When… · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Home Front, Politics, The Bear

The question of when to talk to your children, when you live in a repressive dictatorship was something I remember from reading James Michener’s essay into political reporting The Bridge at Andau; an account into the Hungarian Revolt of 1956 against the Soviet Union, published the following year. There came a time when parents of school-aged children, Michener wrote, had to open up to their children, if they were anti-Soviet dissidents, religious, or simply Hungary-first patriots. It was a fine line; either live a lie in front of your children regarding your own beliefs, and at worst, see them irretrievably buy into the whole Soviet system if you left it too late, or trusting that they were sufficiently mature, to be adept at concealing such dissident beliefs in front of their schoolfellows, Communist-indoctrinated teachers – and informers among them. How old did your children need to be, before they could dissemble in front of peers, teachers and spying informants among them? It was a matter of deep concern to Hungarian parents, as Michener related. (Parenthetically, as a teenager and young adult I had never been the least bit enchanted by the golden chimera of communism in any guise. Growing up, my parents knew too many people who had fled from Communist-dominated or threatened countries and had heart-rending stories to tell of their experiences in living in and fleeing Cuba, Russia, Eastern Europe, the far East. Reading Michener’s account of the Hungarian Revolt definitely drew a line under my antipathy towards all-powerful dictatorships of the so-called proletariat.)

So the Department of Homeland Security – a governmental entity which just by it’s very name, sends nasty chills down my back – has funded a program to train teachers, ostensibly in something called ‘media literacy’ but which in practice looks more like monitoring students and their families political and religious beliefs, directing them in the preferred set of progressive doctrines and encouraging kids to inform on their peers … or their families who dissent from such doctrines. (This linked post on Legal Insurrection goes into greater and unsettling detail.) I should think that parents of school-aged children would be looking at this so-called ‘media literacy’ with considerable alarm; it has even more dangerous implications than pushing gender-confusion and outright porn for the elementary-school set. Exactly how many other school systems are participating in this program?

This is all of a piece with authoritarian dictatorships across the political spectrum; get ahold of the youth through the education system, mold them into the new man/woman/whatever, encourage them to inform on their families and peers, and reward them with praise, honors, after the example of Pavlik Morozov, the Boy Hero of the Soviets. I wonder if membership in a new organized youth group is part of Homeland Security’s long-term plans for their properly-indoctrinated school-aged cadres. Perhaps the Department’s experts are considering cute uniforms for participating student participants; something with brown shirts and black shorts, or maybe a bright red neckerchief. Discuss as you wish – and is this program being utilized in your local school district?

25. January 2024 · Comments Off on Say Goodbye to Hollywood · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, History, Memoir

Last week, in a discussion thread on a story about plans to revamp Hollywood Boulevard and make it attractive to tourists, against an apparently overwhelming tide of homelessness, addiction and petty crime, someone posted a link to this Billy Joel song. For some curious reason it struck me, since I have been saying goodbye to Hollywood – the physical place, and the entertainment concept – over the last couple of decades.

I grew up on the fringes of physical Hollywood. My immediate family was not directly involved in the entertainment world, although there were a great number of curious connections. A fair number of friends and associates were employed in show-biz, mostly as technical specialists for various studios. One very dear friend of Mom and Dad’s was a makeup artist; curiously, as a straight and good-looking man, he wound up dating a fair number of stars and starlets before his marriage. They were gorgeous women and lonely when it came to dating, as their degree of fame intimidated the heck out of most potential dates who were not ‘in the business’. The husband of my Girl Scout troop leader when I was in high school was an audio tech for Warner Brothers; he got the troop a private tour of the studio lot. The set of the throne room/Round Table for the movie Camelot was still set up on one of the enormous sound stages, and it was every bit as cavernously awesome as it appeared in the movie, with enormous candelabras filled with dripping candles as thick around as my wrist. We also got to see and be introduced to Efrem Zimbalist, as he was shooting an episode of The FBI. Richard Widmark’s brother was one of my high school teachers – and another high school teacher had Tommy and Dick Smothers as students back in the day. Ronny Howard went to the same local junior high for a while – he was the same age as my next-younger brother. (Ronny’s stint in public school didn’t work out well – he was bullied and scorned for being a cry-baby, and his parents eventually removed him from that school.)
The Lutheran church in North Hollywood that we attended for many years also had a coterie of Hollywood people in the congregation – again, mostly techs, although Barbara Hutton coached the kid’s chorus for a while, and Elke Sommer also turned up now and again. (At a time, she had the public image of being a Continental sexpot – against type, she was a devout Lutheran and daughter of a Lutheran minister back in Germany.) As I had written before, Granny Clarke, the mother of one of Mom’s best friends had a storied career for half a century as housekeeper to the stars. The Cal State University Northridge campus, which I went to for upper division was a location for exteriors for the medical drama Medical Center, and there was often a camera crew working there. For years afterwards, running the TV control room for whatever AFRTS outlet I was assigned to, I amused myself by spotting familiar places around Los Angeles which had served as backgrounds. For TV shows mostly, as the movie location shooting could go very much farther afield by the late 1970s and early 80’s.

Say goodbye to Hollywood … my brothers and sister also knew physical aspects from the weekly commute to church. Over the hills from the San Fernando Valley, and down through Laurel Canyon – past the forest-grown grounds of Harry Houdini’s estate, although we were never looking in that direction. There was an old rustic house on the other side of Laurel Canyon, with a spiral staircase from an upper floor room wound round the trunk of a big tree next to the building. We were enchanted by that house, and always looked for it. Down to Sunset Boulevard, turning right and past the place where the Garden of Allah had been, and where there was a model of that legendary hotel complex in a glass case next to the bank HQ that sat for a time on that very spot. Past the Whiskey-a-Go-Go – then the white-hot live-music and clubbing venue on Saturday nights. Past the great neo-gothic cliff of the Chateau Marmont … past the more-than-life-size rotating showgirl on the signboard for the Sahara Hotel in Los Vegas – a billboard made famous by the book and movie Myra Breckenridge … all this to the tune of Mom quietly grousing about the drivers with out of state license plates, driving oh-so-slowly, thinking they would catch a glimpse of a real movie star! Yeah, a recognizable movie star, walking along the Sunset Boulevard sidewalk, on an early Sunday morning. It was considered rather tacky to make a big thing about recognizing a movie or TV star, gushing over how much you luuuuved them, and asking for an autograph. That was for tourists; for us here in that part of California, it was just the local industry, the business that many worked for; we were properly blasé. Gushing over stars that you recognized on the street, in a grocery store, or anywhere else? Tacky, tacky, tacky.

I was gone from there by 1977. The congregation of the Lutheran church had dwindled to almost nothing well before then, the building deconsecrated, sold and torn down, which was a pity, as it was a lovely neo-Tudor structure with gorgeous stained-glass windows, and traditional, richly embroidered paraments to dress the altar and sanctuary with. The various studios are still there, sort of, although much diminished from their heyday of more than half a century ago. Movies and television shows are filmed and taped practically everywhere else. The tourists who still come to see Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, and the handprints of stars in the sidewalk apparently have to step over human poop on the sidewalk and dodge aggressive street people. I don’t think that proposed revamping will help much. It will all be a Potempkin set dressing on a decaying urban setting. And I haven’t set foot in a movie theater in ages, and the TV shows that we watch at home now are all produced and filmed/taped practically anywhere else.
Say Goodbye to Hollywood, indeed.

21. January 2024 · Comments Off on Shopping Daze · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

We spent most of Saturday morning doing the semi-monthly grocery shopping run; a rather abbreviated run as it turns out, as my daughter has some houses to show on Sunday to clients who work Monday-Friday. We have given up driving to New Braunfels once a month to drop a goodly lot of money on meats from Granzin. This is lamentable, as Granzin’s sausages and the various meats, fresh, marinated, smoked and dried were absolutely prime and relatively inexpensive, but with Wee Jamie, a full schedule of real estate stuff for my daughter, and the nerve-wracking drive on a busy highway … road trips like that were just not something we can keep on doing – and never mind the hours’ long trip to Pflugerville or Victoria to the Aldi outlet. (That’s for when we are going in that direction for something else, anyway.)

The cost of most grocery staples has gone up, making certain economies necessary. I’m accustomed to cooking most things from scratch and have lived through patches of extreme economy and a limited budget, so the shopping list doesn’t include much in the way of frozen prepared items anymore – just basic ingredients. As my daughter says – ‘We are Old Poor, compared to the New Poor,’ for whom necessary austerity must bite very hard in the last year or so. But even basic ingredients have increased in price, to the point where now the military base commissaries offer a better deal than HEB, the Texas grocery chain, which has a huge distribution center here in San Antonio, and which has run just about every other national chain out of the state. (It’s a small town indeed, which doesn’t rate a HEB grocery outlet.)

This wasn’t always the case. When I first came to Texas, assigned to the video production unit at Lackland AFB, it was honestly even money whether HEB offered better pricing than the Commissary – various HEB locations certainly offered a wider selection than the commissaries, which mostly featured national big-name brands, and offered in-store bakeries and deli counters and numerous Texas-local brands. After so about a decade and a half of having the base commissary as the only and often limited grocery option, I was glad to shift my grocery-purchasing custom to HEB, and the lavish array of staples and specialty foods on offer, and to either Costo or Sam’s Club for items we used in quantity. We still do Costco, for certain items, and Chewy for pet food … but we’re back to making a commissary runs twice a month. It turns out that the DOD has extended commissary and PX access to veterans across the board, not just retirees, which means that my daughter can shop there for baby and toddler food for Wee Jamie, as the prices for the brands that we favor for him are somewhat less expensive – one thing that has changed for the better, I guess.

14. January 2024 · Comments Off on Incoming · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Eat, Drink and be Merry

A winter storm/extreme cold front has hit this weekend, with overnight temperatures falling into the ‘well-below-freezing’ range; rare indeed for this part of Texas.  Our planting zone falls around “9” – which generally means that warm-weather plants – banana trees, citrus, ferns and the like – generally do rather well. The occasional snow that stays for longer than a couple of hours after sunrise is a rare happening. Like about every twenty years or so. But one of those last long-predicted winter blasts hit a little less than two years ago and hit so catastrophically that everyone’s memories are still quite unpleasantly fresh … especially memories of how badly our civic power authorities bungled a long-predicted cold front which left much of suburban San Antonio freezing in the dark, and without tap water. A foot of snow on the ground, too – which would have left places in the Northern tier doubled over laughing; ‘That’s not winter … this (pointing to four feet and more on the ground for weeks and months on end) is winter!’ But the naked fact is that places like Ogden, Utah, Denver, Colorado, and Truckee, California are set up to cope with lots of snow and prolonged freezing temperatures, and South Texas is not. (What we are set up for is months of summer heat at temperatures in the three figures.)

Every one of my neighbors whose memories of the Great Snowmagedden of February, 2021 are uncomfortably vivid grimly prepped for something like it to happen again: stocking up on any groceries to be needed in the next week, making certain that electronic devices are charged, and that we are stocked up on propane, bottled water and toilet paper. The word on Next Door is that various HEB groceries are entirely out of canned soups and the like. Probably bread, milk and sandwich fixings, too. What saved a lot of my neighbors and I during Snowmagedden was having camping gear, propane camping stoves or barbeques, and a lot of blankets and firewood. We made out OK, generally – not happy about it all, especially the owners of one house which burned because the fire department couldn’t pull water from the hydrants because the pipes were frozen or empty – but we all remembered the week of misery. Hence the grim preparations, just in case. Our faith and trust in the power grid and those who manage it has been considerably reduced in the last couple of years. If what I heard on a walkabout during the last prolonged power outage this spring, at least a dozen neighbors have bought and set up household generators.

Right now it’s overcast and 30 degrees outside, and it’s late afternoon. The temperature will drop after sunset: a hard freeze is predicted for tonight, and pretty much the same for the next few days. We’ve taken the few tender plants that the hot, rainless summer didn’t kill into the garage, hung a blanket over the front door, and drawn the curtains and shutters over the windows to preserve as much of the warmth as possible. The dogs and cats are all inside and sheltered – at least this time around, we don’t have chickens to keep inside, too. The battery lanterns, our cellphones and my Kindle are all on their chargers – so, we’ll see what develops. Already, the inside walls and windows are cold to touch. We’ll keep the heat on tonight, which is not our usual custom, but with Wee Jamie as part of the household now, we can’t long endure an excessively cold house.

 

27. December 2023 · Comments Off on 2023 – Wrap-up & Plans for 2024 · Categories: Domestic

Ah, yes – the last week of the old year rapidly dribbling away, and time for me to sit down and assess what I managed to get done out of the goals set for last year at this time.

Last year, I vowed to complete three books, which at the time were only partially completed or just barely begun: the Civil War novel That Fateful Lightning, the latest installment of the Lone Star series, a new collection of Jim Reade and Toby Shaw adventures in 1840s Texas, and the 12th volume of the Luna City series.

Well, best two out of three; Lone Star Blood launched in ebook in March, and That Fateful Lightning launched the first of December, in Kindle and print both. As for Luna City #12, that has to roll over into next year’s projects and goals.

I have started on Luna City #12 and hope to have it done and ready for launch at mid-year. I have decided, though, to make it Kindle only, but generate it in print as part of the fourth compendium of Luna City. That makes a nice round number of four extra-hefty collections. Because the story arc of Richard Astor-Hall will come to a nice conclusion with his marrying Katie Heisel, and because one larger-than-life real person who inspired creation of a character in Luna City has since passed away – we have decided to wrap up the present-day cycle at twelve books. However, I am very fond of the mental place that Luna City occupies, as are the fans, so there will be future books set in that space – but in the 1920s and 30s, with Stephen, Letty, Douglas, and their friends as children. They will have adventures and solve mysteries, and generally assist Chief Magill and John Drury in fighting minor crime – a sort of American Emil and the Detectives. I haven’t started on that book yet – still thinking about it and coming up with possible story lines.

We decided to put off doing vinyl flooring throughout the house for the foreseeable future – it’s too big and exhausting a project to tackle myself. It was bad enough, just doing one small room. The privacy fence from the garage to the neighbor’s gatepost was completed early on, though – and as predicted, delivery people are confused about where the front door is! But it makes a secure and private patio for the front bedroom. So that goal done and dusted, and the dryer vent also was cleaned out, at a much greater expense than expected. It might never have been done by the original owners of the house, as the technician found the vent cover permanently attached. That was a disconcerting discovery, and so were the massive quantities of lint removed from the stack.

We didn’t get the slider insert with a pet door in it for the cats to go in and out as they wish – but we did put in some patio furniture, cat beds and litter boxes, feeder and water butt for the cats, so the patio is sort-of reclaimed. The slider insert has gone up in price since last I checked – so for now, we’re just leaving the slider door about six inches open most days, so the feline herd may go in and out as the mood takes them. Although the back fence has been totally rebuilt – we’re holding off on chickens until this next spring. That and the slider door insert with the pet door are on the agenda for 2024.

In March of 2025, the mortgage on the house will be entirely paid off, and I should have made a good dent in paying for the new siding, windows and HVAC system – all of that installed in 2020 or 2021. As an aside, the siding and the specialty paint on it are wearing extraordinarily well – they all still look as if they had been freshly done just last week.

As for the ongoing projects and plans, I will do my best to get a good vegetable garden going this year, now that I have the somewhat sturdier greenhouse to start seeds in. And I might be able to fit into a pair of size 14 jeans once more. And that’s the state of the author for this year, and the plans for next. Happy New Year!

It was my daughter’s notion to watch Christmas movies beginning at the first of November, but we pretty well watched all the ones that we wanted to watch by last week – even old favorites like A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation and new favorites like Arthur Christmas. This has had the effect of Wee Jamie being perfectly happy and sociable when introduced to that weird stranger known as Santa Claus – a fat jolly man with a long white beard and a red coat trimmed with white fur. That project being successfully accomplished, we commenced on a secondary aim… to properly nerdify Wee Jamie with a watching of the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Yes, not only did my daughter and I made it a project to go see each of the movies as they launched (normally at a multiplex in Oceanside when she was still in the Marines and I came out to California to spend the holiday at my parents’ house) but I had started her off early by reading all of RR Tolkein’s The Hobbit and LOTR to her as a bedtime story when she was three … and I had read them all to my little brother Alex as well when he was about seven or eight. This was a project which took at least a year, and my little brother was so immersed in the story that he could do a very creditable voice as Sam Gamgee by the time we were done. He also dressed as a hobbit that Halloween, in a tunic and cloak, with a sword and shield by his side. (Wooden ones that Dad made for him.)

The whole four-volume epic is a great read-aloud adventure, by the way – every chapter, practically, ends on a cliffhanger. We still love the movie version, though, in spite of the mild violence done to the storyline in the interests of moviemaking. Skipping over Tom Bombadil was understandable, and Arwen had to be introduced as a character, instead of appearing out of the blue with no explanation at the very end. Faramir, unlike his brother twigged the peril of possessing the Ring almost at once, but really, was it necessary to make Denethor such an unpleasant character?

On the other hand, the visual sweep of Middle Earth was just mind-bogglingly wonderful – the pleasant, rural Shire and golden, stream-threaded Rivendell, the ancient statues looking over the river, Meduseld, the Golden Hall of Rohan, the charge of the Rohirrim before the walls of Minias Tirith, and the splendor of the White City itself. What I really liked over the course of the Trilogy was the care taken in the design of sets and props; instead of settling for a vaguely medieval-fantasy of places and folk, Peter Jackson and his designers made an obvious distinction between the various settings. The Shire was vaguely late Victorian rural cottage, Rivendell was very Art-Deco, while Rohan was early Saxon/Germanic, and Gondor classical Roman/Romanesque. I like that the distinctions were so carefully drawn and noted. This just added so much visual texture to the Trilogy.

The one thing that we both wish, as far as movie-making goes – is that Peter Jackson had decided to do movies all of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, instead of padding out The Hobbit to make three movies out of what could have been only rather long one. I get chills, just imagining what Jackson could have made of that mythic tale. The Prydain story arc could have been a series just as riveting, and with as many yearly releases as the Harry Potter epic. Ah, well – we all have our dreams, in the world of Nerddom.

30. October 2023 · Comments Off on Tale of the Moroccan Brass Table (And Stand) · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

So I was wandering though my YouTube subscription channels and noticed this one particular bit of restorage – a mid-century modern Moroccan brass coffee table on a wooden stand, which rather decayed object was being renovated and restored. And it reminded me very much of a similar table which served in my parent’s various houses for nearly four decades, until it was destroyed in the 2003 Paradise Mountain Fire in northern San Diego County. That fire pretty much obliterated Mom and Dad’s retirement house. All that was left standing was a quadrangle of conblock walls … everything else in the house burned to a crisp, unless it was a few things that Mom threw into the back of her car, or which the firemen grabbed when the fire began exploding the glass windows inwards. When all was said and done, the insurance claim paid off and the house rebuilt, I think Mom rather had fun replacing the furniture and contents to her own taste, rather than what had been a random collection of family hand-be-downs and stuff acquired because it was available and either inexpensive or free.

The Moroccan brass table that my parents had in their various living rooms looked more like this one on eBay: almost five feet across, engraved overall with an ornate deckle edge and a matching wood and brass “spider” stand, which folded flat. Mom usually had the current issues of her magazines arranged on it, with an antique globe-shaped bowl with blue irises on it in the center. When we were expecting guests, it was usually my chore to remove all the issues of Harpers, The Atlantic, American Heritage and whatever, to apply about a quart of brass polish and the equivalent amount of elbow grease and polish the darned thing, before replacing the array of magazines. But when Mom and Dad refurnished their house, the Moroccan brass coffee table wasn’t something they were fond enough of to replace. The one like it that I located on eBay is on offer for almost $900, nearly half again what it originally ought to have cost. The insurance would have paid for a replacement … if they had wanted one. And why did Mom and Dad give houseroom for so many years to an expensive, high maintenance but distinctly flashy bit of mid-century exotic modern? They didn’t pick it out or pay for it – it came as a gift from Great-Aunt Nan. And thereby hangs a bit of a family story.

I think Great-Aunt Nan worked a lot of different jobs in her lifetime – I am not entirely certain what some of them were; secretarial positions for certain, possibly up-scale retail sales, a telegraphist in the 1930s, a government job in WWII and an enlistment in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps. She might also have had income from what remained of the family fortunes established by her father, my Great-grandfather George. She lived very simply in small rental apartments, and traveled when the urge took her … anyway, one day in the mid-1960s, she was tootling around one of the high-end department stores in downtown Los Angeles. It may have been Bullocks, could have been May Co., or Robinsons. For some reason, Nan went wandering through the furniture department – and spied the Moroccan table and stand.

Holy cow! It was priced at $60, which even then was a steal! Obviously, someone marking the price tag on that table had made a howling blunder by misplacing a decimal point; it should have been marked $600! Well, never one to disdain a bargain, Nan insisted on buying the Moroccan brass table (and stand) for $60, over the strenuous objections of the salesperson, and the department head, and for all that I know, the store manager. No, (said Nan, standing her ground as only a spinster lady of independent means and irreproachable English upbringing could) – she knew the rights of retail sales. What the price on the sales floor was marked as – that was what it would sell for, and she would have that Moroccan brass table (and stand) for the $60 marked price, or else… I have no doubt that Nan would have raised the matter all the way to the Bullock’s company president and the board of directors.

Of course, Nan emerged triumphant, with the $60-dollar Moroccan brass table (and stand) in her possession – an item for which she had about as much use for as a goldfish does for long winter underwear. It was the principle of the thing, and too good a bargain to pass up. She gave it to Mom and Dad, who also appreciated bargains, even if it wasn’t for an item which they liked particularly well. Free was an even better deal than $60.

And that is the tale of the inadvertently marked-down Moroccan brass coffee table (and stand.) You’re welcome.

24. October 2023 · Comments Off on Finished! · Categories: Domestic, General, History, War, Working In A Salt Mine...

The Civil War novel is at last finished! I rounded off the last few bits of dialog and narrative this last weekend. I’ll have to look back in my archive for when I started on it … sometime in early 2020, I think. The narrative concerned the experiences of Miss Minnie Vining, of an old Boston family, who was an abolitionist crusader in the 1850s, and then a battlefield nurse during the Civil War which resulted. The rough outline of her experiences and the Boston Vining family were alluded to in Sunset and Steel Rails, when the indominable Miss Minnie was a very elderly character, whose importance to the plot in that book was to aid her niece in escaping a dreadful situation. Minnie Vining was also briefly mentioned in My Dear Cousin, when a distant younger relative also served as a wartime Army nurse. Miss Minnie was first mentioned in Daughter of Texas, as the older bluestocking sister of Race Vining … well, anyway, this book rather filled out her character as a strong-willed and determined spinster of independent fortune and considerable education.

This narrative also allowed me to explore through Minnie’s experiences a number of fascinating themes; the immense yet subtle power that women wielded in 19th century America, and the enormous degree to which the anti-slavery movement roiled every aspect of American society and politics during the two decades leading up to the Civil War. The commonplace perception among most 21st century Americans is that because women didn’t have full political rights and were often treated unequally in legal proceedings, that women were completely without power economically and within their communities; barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. And that is just not the situation at all. Women had and wielded considerable economic, intellectual, and social power within communities, even under those constraints. This was demonstrated nowhere more clearly than in the abolitionist movement, where many of the popular “influencers” of the time were women, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin … a narrative that turned out to be so popular in the North that Abraham Lincoln himself humorously attributed the war to it. So, contra the dark insistence of those pushing the 1619 narrative, that the United States was primarily and irredeemably founded and perpetuated on the institution of Negro slavery, the fight against it was long, passionate, and carried on by a wide swath of citizens, almost from the very first. Although only the most prominent of them are known today, many of their peers in the abolitionist movement are relatively obscure – but they left writings and memoirs of their struggle. A lot of those memoirs, published in the decade after the Civil War are available through on-line archives. Many such activists, like my fictitious Minnie Vining, were women. Quite a few were also later involved in campaigning for female suffrage, or like Dorothea Dix, reformers in other causes. A fair number of these women were friends, or at least, acquainted with each other, and became much more famed for their efforts in that crusade for full suffrage.

Another eye-opening aspect, at least to me, was the degree to which women contributed to the military effort in the civil war, by getting involved with the Sanitary Commission – a volunteer organization formed to provide to the Civil War era military what now is provided by a combination of the military medical system, the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation service, and the current Red Cross. Up to the outbreak of hostilities in 1861, the US Army was small, the medical corps even smaller – and when the enormous numbers of militia volunteers took to the field, the existing medical care and soldier-support system was utterly swamped. Although the top leadership of the Sanitary Commission was male, women were everywhere else at regional levels, and formed the core of volunteers. Women, wishing to see to the welfare and care of their brothers, fathers and sons – raised funds to pay for all those necessary services through all manner of fairs, sales and donation drives, volunteered themselves as nurses, sewed shirts and knitted socks, contributed all kinds of comforts, and saw to goods being packed and distributed. The Sanitary Commission volunteer organization fielded hospital steamships to transport the wounded, opened hospitals, provided comforts for the troops, facilitated communications with families, and assisted soldiers traveling on furlough – all those services necessary to field a large national military and keep morale as high as could be expected. It was fascinating to read about all that.

It was even more interesting to read the memoirs and accounts of the volunteer nurses, practically all of whom had any formal training for that field. Only a few orders of Catholic nursing sisters had any kind of training in the profession which we would recognize today. Just about all the nurses recruited for service in Civil War hospitals came straight from their homes, which might sound curious from today’s perspective, but caring for the sick at home would have been a large part of woman’s work, before vaccinations, modern sanitation standards and sterile surgery. Nurses Rebecca Pomroy and Mary Bickerdyke, just to give an example of two real-life women who feature as characters in That Fateful Lightning were widows who had spent years caring for husbands with compromised health. As an indication of how important this was in the 19th century, Mrs. Beeton’s popular cookery and household management book, contained a whole chapter on invalid cookery – light, nourishing and appealing dishes intended to appeal to the appetites of the ill. Those women volunteers who came into Civil War service already possessed a practical knowledge of nursing.

So there it is – all finished but for the final polishing. The next two book projects after this likely will be the 12th Luna City installment, and another collection of YA short adventures for the Lone Star Sons series – probably not to start on those until after the holiday season, though.

21. September 2023 · Comments Off on Another Brand Bites the Dust? · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Stupidity, Working In A Salt Mine...

So Dove, a venerable brand of bar soap (owned by Lever Brothers, AKA Unilever, which has an enormous stable of household brands) looks to have trod heavily on it’s metaphorical private parts in falling for the supposed magic of an internet celebrity “influencer”, a woman who bears a notable resemblance to the Venus of Willendorf and is a malicious racist besides. I swear, I wonder if someone has spiked the coffee urns or the water coolers at whoever is the most currently popular advertising agency with hallucinogenic compounds, or if the advert creators and the approving corporate C-suite executives have all just drunk too deeply of the magical diversity madness. There is a place for edgy – and it’s not with mainstream commodities with a long history of appealing to a wide segment of consumers. On recent examination, I deduce that they are not teaching this in marketing classes lately.

It is nice and perhaps forward-thinking of advertisers and producers of consumer goods to ditch impossibly perfect, beautiful models in favor of featuring normal but attractive women or men in advertising, but I just can’t help thinking that it is a huge mistake to feature the grotesque, the homely and the screamingly unattractive models to sell soap, underwear, or whatever – male, female, or wanna-be-something-else. There is ordinary and normal – and then there is ‘auditioning for a place in a traveling circus freak show’. How on earth can this be construed as a good idea when it comes to moving product? The usual excuse for an awful, offensive commercial has always been “Well, it makes it memorable, so no matter! Good or bad, you’ll remember and buy the product!”

I have never entirely been convinced of this line of reasoning; there were plenty of consumer items that I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole because an ad by the manufacturer left me cold, and I don’t believe I am unique in this. It’s become clear in the last few months that loyal customers can only be pushed so far by popular national brands embracing their inner freak, ever since the recent debacle over Bud Light and wanna-be-girl Dylan Mulvaney. An inexpensive and best-selling beer formerly beloved by undiscriminating male drinkers everywhere basically became untouchable over a long hot summer. Will Dove soap likewise crash and burn, through being partnered with a so-called influencer so repulsive, and an advertising concept so ick-making as Free the Pits’? Discuss as you feel moved.
(As for soap, my daughter and I make our own homemade olive-oil Castile, from scratch, for our own use.)

The trickle of news regarding the Maui wildfires which incinerated an entire town and likely over a thousand of its residents just gets worse and even more distressing with every tidbit reluctantly disgorged by the local authorities. 1,100 are still listed as missing. After a week, it is most likely that they are dead. Many of the missing are presumed to be children, as local schools were closed because of high winds and power outages – and children at home alone because their parents were at work. Others might be senior citizens trapped in a local retirement home, unable to move without assistance, and visiting tourists unfamiliar with the area, whom no one has thought to report missing as yet. That so many are still unaccounted for – especially the children — that is an aspect that is difficult to contemplate. No wonder that local authorities are reluctant to admit the degree of carnage.

The very same national news media who pounded on the failures after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans over and over and over again, with the precision of trip-hammers are relatively silent, since there is not a Republican anywhere in sight to be assigned blame, credibly or otherwise. This brings to mind Iowahawk’s much-quoted quip about covering a story … with a pillow, until it stops moving.

Will the story of the Maui wildfire stop moving soon? It certainly seems to have dropped off the headlines of the major media; although bloggers like Neo are still posting about it, and inviting comments from a handful of people with direct personal knowledge. The whole thing is a farrago of civic fail, from not clearing away flammable brush, to a fire department apparently not equipped with tanker or brush trucks to fight off-road conflagrations, not having access to water to quash the fire after it started, to delayed and/or no warning to residents and holidaymakers, and finally blocking the few exit roads from Lahaina. Perhaps there was a good a good reason for this, because of downed live electric lines – but it doesn’t speak very well of local emergency services, bottling up people in town, leaving most with no choice but to jump into the turbulent ocean or burn alive in their cars or homes. Some reports compare the Lahaina fire to that which destroyed the hill town of Paradise, California, but it seems to me more like the conflagrations of the Hinckley and Peshtigo fires of the 19th century, which burned out whole districts and towns, to the tune of hundreds of deaths – in the case of Peshtigo, thousands. The only people who emerge with any credit from the disaster are that handful who disregarded official orders, drove around the barricades, removing themselves and families from the danger area, or who found a safe refuge and went back over and over again to help others. There are, apparently, a great many good citizens doing their quiet best to assist their friends and neighbors on Maui – unlike Oprah Winfrey, without a camera crew in tow, or like the FEMA operatives, holing up at a luxury beachside resort as the first order of business.

The bald truth about what happened in this disaster will come trickling out, bit by bit, I expect – as survivors talk to each other and to their friends, as much as the national establishment media and the political powers that be try to keep the pillow pressed down. Discuss as you wish.

27. July 2023 · Comments Off on Will There Ever Be An Apology For Covid Overreaction> · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Health and Wellness, Military, Politics, Stupidity, World

In the light of this story, and this one as well, I am more than ever glad that my daughter and I said “no” to the Covid shot and follow-on boosters. Of course, I know that any new vaccine or drug can have a small number of unfortunate side effects – but honestly, aren’t well-informed adults allowed these days to calculate the risks and make their own decision? Apparently not for many employees, who were ordered to get the Covid vaccine or be fired … and are now facing health problems that make Covid itself look like pretty small potatoes.
My daughter and I were extremely reluctant to get the vaccination – mostly because we had read enough to be skeptical, neither of us was in a position where we could have been forced to do so as a requirement of continued employment. As it turned out, both of us caught Covid anyway. So did Wee Jamie at the age of four months or so. He had a mild temperature and the sniffles for two days, and that was that.
As of this writing, 2020 Covid is done. I wrote earlier this yearThe dreadful creeping suspicion among the general public – or those who have been paying attention to the world around us, tallying up our own observations and personal experiences – is that the Covid vax may possibly be damaging in the long run or the short run to those whom it was administered, whether voluntarily or under threat. And if it is damaging … will that ever be fully acknowledged, or publicly regretted and apologized for?

I’m afraid the answer to that one is – no. Those responsible for inflicting incalculable damage likely are incapable of ever owning up to what they have done. They will never publicly regret the damage that their actions or non-actions did to general mental well-being of a large swath of the public, or the irrecoverable damage to school students left to their own devices for almost two years because public schools stayed closed. They will never acknowledge the economic damage to small businesses in lock-down-crazed states and municipalities… and most especially we will never hear any regret over the damage to health caused by a rush to administer an experimental vaccination. There will be no apology to those who were forced to vaccinate or else forfeit employment. And why? Because the authorities, bureaucrats, politicians and media who insisted on all this view themselves as good people, good people who simply don’t do awful things … you know, like wreck the health of strangers, kill their elderly parents in hospital, isolate them in their homes, ruin their business, shred their mental health and wreck the education of their children. Nice people, well-intentioned people simply don’t do evil things like that … and they are nice people, with the best intentions in the world … so they simply didn’t do any of those things. Expressing sincere regret and apologies would mean admitting that they aren’t nice people, with the best intentions in the world. So, they never will own up to the incalculable damage. They simply can’t. and still maintain their self-image as nice people.
Discuss as you wish. While we still can.

23. July 2023 · Comments Off on Projects for Autumn · Categories: Domestic

Well, naturally, in Texas, one starts to look forward to autumn after a month of near to 100° high temps and not a hint of rain, save for a mere trace which splattered all the dust in the atmosphere onto cars … when I was stationed in Greece, they called that a mud rain, when a storm washed all the free dust blowing over from Africa down over streets, car windows and other surfaces with a dirty brown slip. It was the same last night – just a splatter of dirt on the cars. Anyway, we’re looking ahead to fall, to the craft market in Bulverde, especially. My daughter has taken it into her head that we should do home-made soaps again, this year, since they were such a hit last year. And it’s not all that difficult, really – no different from following many another exacting recipe, and we had all the equipment to do it; thermometer, digital scale, crock-pot and stick blender. The lye solution is the only tricky bit, fenced around with so many dire warnings and precautions that I can readily see why many hopeful crafters shy away from anything but the melt-and-pour version. But there would be no profit in that … so it’s olive oil and coconut oil, and all sorts of natural scents and the dreaded lye solution and an assortment of silicone molds got from Temu and Amazon. The castile soap recipe that we are using calls for an aging and drying out period of at least six months – so that is why we are doing this now.

We use the less-than-successful product ourselves, of course. But at present I have two shelves full of home-made castile soap curing and aging in my bathroom vanity closet. We are trying to do a couple of batches on weekends while Wee Jamie, the Wonder Grandson is down for his afternoon nap. He is very cooperative about his afternoon naps, to the astonishment of our friends and the various therapists working on his developmental issues. (Down at noon sharp, up at 2:30. No fuss, no protest, no crying. Just curls up in the crib and fast asleep within ten minutes.) No – the development is nothing really serious, he is just a boy, and lazy and stubborn. He was slow to roll over, slow to crawl, is on the verge of walking and talking … his way of things seems to be to delay and delay and delay … and then surprise everyone by suddenly leaping ahead to where he should have been. He cut four teeth all at once, for example – after not having them appear for months after they should have. He has a full set at present, although the last three are just now appearing. He is otherwise a friendly, fearless and charming child, fluent in baby-babble, although we think that his English vocabulary is limited to “mama” and “up” – and sign-language for “more.” I really expect that he will not really talk until four or so, and then come out with complete, coherent, and grammatically correct sentences. “No, Mama, I do not want any more green beans at this time, thank you.” He can and will take three or four steps without support, so I expect he will be walking on his own any day now.

This snippet of a story popped up in a mild way on several different news sites and feeds, including that of the Great Grey Whore, the New York Times, which I presume was anguished over the prospect of a member of the reporting fraternity, one Sophie Alexander of Sky News being driven out of a popular Miami restaurant where Trump had stopped by, presumably to spend a few minutes with supportive fans. The reporter/producer apparently carried on the tradition of shouting rude questions at political figures they don’t like on occasions that are not press conferences and formal interviews, in the usually vain hope of getting some kind or answer, and if not, noting snottily that ‘So-and-so declined to reply.’ Ms Alexander was heckled, verbally abused, and all but physically thrown out of the restaurant by Trump fans. Frankly, the only likely surprise about this matter is that Ms. Alexander appears to be indignant and a bit surprised at her treatment.

When I searched for links on this particular story, a whole raft of other incidents came up, going back some years but most of them in the last half-decade – of various news reporters and TV personalities increasingly being heckled, harassed and personally insulted by members of the public in various public places. And no, I can’t really say I’m surprised at all, regarding this particular occurrence, or all the others. I’m pretty certain that most media people do exist in a kind of protective bubble, isolated by the peculiar demands of their jobs. Do many of them even associate regularly with someone who works at a physical job for a living, has dirt under their fingernails, drives a pickup truck, swings a hammer, a wrench or a shovel, lives and works in flyover country? Such media luminaries might have to talk briefly with such, as part of their work requirements – but increasingly I have the feeling that such interchanges are brief. Only one national print reporter that I can think of appears to have any real feeling, or knowledge of ordinary lives – Salena Zito, who accurately predicted the successful election of Donald Trump.

Too many of the rest are the inheritors of privilege, educated at expensive universities, baldly contemptuous of everyone outside their sphere and too lazy to even try to break out of it. To me, the epitome of that kind of media personality is Anderson Cooper, the first to scornfully refer to Tea Partiers as ‘tea-baggers’ – this on national television. Practically every other national outlet, print and broadcast alike followed that lead in sneering … and the scorn and distain has only gotten more intense since then. The overwhelming majority of national news and entertainment media despise ordinary, conservative-leaning Americans. They used to hide it better, though, even before the national media became the American equivalent of Pravda, the public relations arm of the Democrat Party, the attentive stenographers of the ruling class.

Normally polite and courteous citizens can only be pushed so far, before returning insult for insult. The recent exchange in the Miami restaurant with Sophie Alexander indicates that ordinary American have begun despising the media nobility right back, and just as passionately.
Discuss as you wish.

23. May 2023 · Comments Off on Dealing With The Threat · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Geekery, Veteran's Affairs

This post is kind of a continuation of last weeks’ post, about the invasion of genetically male-claiming-to-be-gender-fluid into spaces formerly the preserve of genuinely, original-equipment-issue XX females … and no, I will not play the variable-gender game and use your favored pronouns. (Should you demand that of me, mine are ‘Your Highness’ and ‘My Lady’). I admit that yes, there are those very rare occurrences of people who are genuinely physically inter-sex from birth, and another small number who have fully undertaken to conduct their lives as the opposite sex of what they were observed to be at birth; this after careful consideration, with surgery, hormones, and the choice of suitable dressing/makeup. But it doesn’t really change anything at all, save the superficial impression. When in a thousand, two thousand, or five thousand years, a future archeologist excavates the bodies of one of those people, the skeletal features and residual DNA will read the remains as either male or female – no matter what they maintained an appearance/pretense of being in life.
Frankly, I otherwise wouldn’t much care about the kinks of other adults. I’ve always subscribed to the wisdom of the Edwardian-era actress and correspondent with GB Shaw, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, who famously remarked that she didn’t much care what people did in the bedroom, just that they weren’t doing it in the road and frightening the horses. My own metric was “consulting, adult, and private” which does admittedly leave open a wide range of sexual behaviors such as incest and polygamy. Really, I don’t care. Just don’t demand my rapturous approval. And don’t go about flaunting it in places where the rest of us just can’t look away, m’kay?

I wouldn’t care about transgender matters at all, if they weren’t so determined to strip off and wag the wang-wang in my face, or that of teenage girls and boys, elementary-school students, and apparently everyone else considering buying a cheap intercourse-inna-canoe-beer or a stretchy swimsuit modeled by a model who needs minimal stretch in the breast area, but plenty in the crotch. Or invade places like … hospital wards, prison units, sorority houses, leisure spas, locker rooms, changing rooms, bathrooms, and the like, under the handy guise of claiming to ‘identify as’ female. No matter how unconvincing the pretense, and it appears that many of those pretenses are extraordinarily unconvincing, the perverts and sexual predators are determined on indulging their kink, while male and female authority figures positively cheerlead for the program of invasion. They accrue woke points in the eyes of their peers, I surmise. And the perverts, predators and scammers get away with it. Or at least, they have gotten away with it so far, although this might be on the cusp of changing.

Why have ordinary women waver on tolerating the invasion of their private spaces and sports competitions. Why would this be? Or as my late father would say – “How come?” While I am not a credentialed sociologist or specialist in human behavior – from what I have read and observed in my own life and gathered from others, women are generally much more vulnerable to social pressure from other women. Maybe it stems from having to be tight with the band of sisters and mothers when we were all part of a prehistoric hunter-gathering tribe, perhaps its from centuries of having to have solidarity with other women while living a very circumscribed life as a matter of survival – a dictatorship of petticoats as a 19th-century observer would have put it, in a tight circle of home-hearth-children-family. Whatever the basis for this might be – women in general have a notably much higher threshold for “This-is-crazy-y’all-are-nuts-I’m-outta-here!” then men. And teenage girls, going through the doubt and misery of going through puberty – with all which the confusion which that entails – seem to be most susceptible to destructive peer pressure, transient fads, social bullying, and the general madness of female crowds. There are exceptions to this, though – Sarah Hoyt calls them “Odds”; the freaks, non-conformists, outliers, eccentrics, and rebels; those of us who wander down a different path, pursuing a fascination in something other than what our peers are interested in. It could be a non-traditional sport or profession, or just defying the current convention by building a stable family and raising your children yourself. (It was noted that many of the women who regularly post comments at According to Hoyt are … military veterans. Which is curious in itself, as female veterans aren’t all that numerous in the general population.) It’s my feeling that it will be the non-conformist women, the “Odds” and the rebels who will not tolerate the trans madness and the invasion of female spaces, and who will take the lead in resisting the invasion of female spaces, and in bringing the trans-fad to a halt. Discuss as you wish.

05. May 2023 · Comments Off on Projects · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

Oh, yes – projects, I’ve got a few, and hoping to get most of them done with them by the time that my daughter and Wee Jamie return from California, after visiting family by next weekend. The tenants renting a house a couple of doors away from us move out – and leave a bunch of stuff. The tenant seems to have had hoarderish tendencies and told us that they are moving with family to Hawaii … so the pruning of household stuff has to be pretty drastic. Indeed, so drastic that there was a dumpster parked in the driveway for a couple of days.  Among the items discarded on the curb were some footlockers; my daughter snagged the two in best condition and … sigh … assumed confidently that I could do something creative with them, something that would return two battered and fairly cheap items to attractive functionality; one to be a toy chest for Wee Jamie, and the other to be storage/transport/display for Matilda’s Portmanteau merchandise … that would be the American Girl 18-inch doll dresses that I make for craft markets, out of scraps from sewing projects and this and that. I have a small trunk from Hobby Lobby that I fitted out for this purpose, some years ago, having purchased it with one of their 40% off coupons, but it wasn’t in the least satisfactory, being too small and too flimsy to hold more that a couple of items … the rest of the Portmanteau inventory is stashed in a couple of plastic tubs …

And anyway – part of my grand plan is to put all the Portmanteau inventory and Miss Matilda herself together in one container – the biggest of the footlockers and use the two plastic storage tubs for other purposes, like my daughter’s vast collection of Christmas stuff.

So far, the footlocker renovation project has necessitated two trips to Lowe’s for spray paint, a can of clear top-coat, and an assortment of small machine nuts and bolts. I will probably need one more trip for some slightly longer machine nuts and bolts to fasten on the replacement lock/latch on the smaller footlocker, which turned out to be metal-clad, with a composition wood-fiber interior that was sadly warped and needed to be stabilized with wood strips along the bottom. Plus I had to place an order to Amazon for the replacement latch, for peel-and-stick wallpaper rolls to adorn the inside, and a couple of replacement strap handles … and then there was a quick jaunt to Office Depot for heavy brochure paper and a roll of paper paste. The larger footlocker, which had a cheap cardboard casing, instead of metal, was damaged when I ripped off a couple of stickers … but never mind, those damaged patches will be hidden by a series of new stickers and the whole varnished over. An array of home-printed versions of vintage hotel stickers and shipping labels lifted from the internet will cover the damage, as Miss Matilda Doll is an experienced international traveler and only stays at the very best hotels in London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Bombay, and Singapore, while traveling by sea on Cunard, White Star and Hamburg-America. I may fit out the lid with rods to display the doll outfits on hangers.

At this juncture, with a week to go before Wee Jamie and my daughter return from California, the smaller trunk for Wee Jamie’s toys is all but finished, and the larger for Matilda is just started. I painted over the whole thing with brown paint yesterday and have begun masking off the main areas with painter’s tape now that the first coat is dry and hardened, so that the edge trim, corners, latches, hinges and handles can be painted a metallic black – a tedious and finicky process.

Almost as tedious as scraping and sanding off all the finish on the oak child’s armchair – which is also about half done.

One more week.

28. April 2023 · Comments Off on Pottering Around · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

My daughter and wee Jamie, the Wonder Grandson are in California to visit family – notably my sister and her family, and to introduce Wee Jamie to them all. They are having a glorious time, so far … and meanwhile, I am getting things done, now that I do not need to schedule them around Wee Jamie’s naptime, appointments, walks, scheduled playtime with the therapists, bath time … all of it. So this was how I was able to write one book in a matter of three months, a trilogy the same length as Lord of the Rings in a mere two years … anyway, I am filling in the hours, pottering in the garden, refitting a couple of inexpensive steamer trunks that my daughter snagged from a pile of discards from a neighbor who is moving lock-stock-and-barrel to Hawaii. One trunk is to be Wee Jamie’s toy chest, the other to be the storage, transport, and display for Matilda’s Portmanteau goods. Both are battered, and rather dirty, and … well, I’ll see what I can do with them. I also must refinish and repair a small oak armchair for Wee Jamie, against the day when he outgrows several other baby chairs.

Then there are a couple of sewing projects, notably a white cotton early 20th century blouse from Past Patterns, sized up to fit me in my present incarnation and trimmed with crocheted ecru lace. The Seguin book festival has been moved back to late in the year, which I am grateful for, as it is a two-day outdoor event, and April in Texas is about the last time of the year that I can endure such, in my customary Victorian/Edwardian costumes.

And the garden … I’ll go on planting seeds and transplanting seedlings, as I have a goal of eating fresh garden-grown vegetables daily and freezing any surplus. The pea plants did so very well, I will probably want to plant more, as they mature and die off. The beans are doing so nicely that I’ve had a good few side dishes of fresh green beans in the last couple of weeks. The first crop of bush beans are likely soon to age out of productivity, but I have several pots of pole beans coming along. I rather like pole beans, since they grow up, rather than producing only at ground level. Tomatoes … I also have a good lot of tomato plants coming along at various stages of development. Yes – tomatoes; infinitely variable in use.

And this might be the year that I have edible squash of various sorts (cross fingers here) – especially the small green ruffled patty-pan squash, which I deeply adored as a kid. They were cheap. readily available, tender, and tasty, and Mom bought them frequently – but where are they in markets today? I haven’t seen patty-pan squash in ages in the supermarket.  As for zucchini, they are often seen, but expensive, so I’d like to grow them. I’ve never been able, save for one single year, to have a good zucchini crop – and the joke is that anyone can grow zucchini and have enough of the darned things to inflict on your neighbors, by leaving a bag full of them on the doorstep, ringing the doorbell and running away. The only year that I did have a couple of edible zucchini squashes was the year that I tried out some exotic hot-weather variety from Lebanon, in a raised bed … and I think I had all of two or three. The squash-borers get to them, it seems, unless one is very lucky.

And that’s my week, since getting up very early Sunday morning and sending off my daughter and Wee Jamie on the train to California. Yours?

It’s an acronym; what it means is “Deny-Accuse-Reverse-Victim-Offender” – and describes a common response of the accused party to charges of domestic abuse, along the lines of “I never laid a hand on her/him-But she/he is crazy/violent! – It’s her/his fault for making me so darned angry – I’m the innocent person here!”
This is indeed what we are seeing now with regard to the Nashville Covenant school murders, murders committed by a deranged and angry transgender, although one might be forgiven for thinking ‘deranged’ and ‘transgender’ to be a duplication of terms. Alas, that was just the worst of recent violent or near-violent incidents involving transgenders and transgender activists, who seem to be exploring new horizons in a quest to be the most deranged, unreasonable, demanding and generally bat-crap crazy in what might seem to be a contest among activists lately. (Is there a substantial cash prize on offer, for whoever can generate the most outrageous headlines? Inquiring minds really want to know.) Shrieking at and terrorizing collegiate swimmer Riley Gaines for objecting to biological males competing against females in athletic contests, threatening a school in Colorado with the same treatment as the Covenant School – fortunately, that threat was neutralized, at least with that school and that potential mass-murderer.

The white hot-fury of transgender anger on display of late is extremely disconcerting. I will concede that there were and are transgender citizens who went into the process after careful consideration, appeared to live or have lived relatively contented lives, who wanted nothing more than to vanish into an ordinary existence, and to have called no great attention to themselves since transitioning. But they were always a minute number, and up until the last couple of years, seemed to relish the obscurity that their new physical form brought them. They didn’t call attention to it, howling like banshees every couple of hours and over every conceivable issue. Or invading a state legislature, with bullhorns and shouted threats. Or ganging up either physically or online on everyone perceived as breathing mild dissentions or criticism of the whole Tranzi crusade.

The curious thing is once one is alerted to the DARVO concept, one begins seeing it everywhere in the headlines of late; in the matter of crime committed by urban youths of color, everything from attacks on passing strangers, gang shootouts with a certain careless attitude regarding the fate of innocent bystanders, and mass lootings of commercial enterprises. No, no – the fault is that of that amorphous concept; structural racism, institutional whiteness or whatever they want to call it in the public release to the press, after the blood has finished soaking into the ground. We didn’t do anything but respond to the viciousness of white/MAGA/conservative/Red State animus – it’s their fault for pushing us, we’re the innocent victims here!

Comment as you wish. And add further examples of DARVO in action, especially in the establishment news media.

I will note for the record that I spent all of last weekend participating in a <a href=”http://”>local folk-life celebration in a medium-sized city in Hill Country Texas – an event blissfully free of anything resembling contemporary wokeism. Small children, tame animals both farm-domestic and pet, patriotic flags, ethnic German folkways, and country music, a lot of demonstrations of ancient black-powder weaponry, and complete law-abidingness among the participants and guests. It was all so very reassuringly normal. Life goes on in the Shire, as it always has done, day to day.

The sudden recent fatwa declared by the great and good in the Biden Administration against the less-expensive gas ranges was … really rather curious – and for what purpose? Cooking (and heating) with gas is (or was) relatively cheap, energy-efficient, beloved of cooks for generations. It has the advantage that if you have an older stove, you can still cook with gas in a power outage. I lived for six years in Spain, where both the stove and the flash hot water heater were powered by propane bottles, and a power outage (which occurred regularly) was only a relatively mild inconvenience. I could cook a hot meal, and we could take hot showers. An all-electric home, such as the one I live in now is miserable, to the point of being unlivable, without consistent electric power, as my neighbors and I were swiftly reminded during the Great Texas Snowmagedden, two years ago. And from this story, linked on Instapundit, one can’t help wondering if the geniuses in Biden’s government are demonstrating trying again, with the so-called safety benefits of locking hot-water heater thermostats at 110-120. The ostensible reason given for these two quasi-campaigns is a tender concern for the ‘health and safety’ of the general public and the best of intentions, but the way to hell is paved with good intentions.

I have become convinced in the last few months that the real intent isn’t ‘health and safety’ at all – but the systematic immiseration of everyone but the comfortably ruling class elite. Oh, they didn’t really care much at all and haven’t for the last couple of decades, about the convenience and conditions for the ordinary citizens, except save when they were rolled out by their handlers to make a few remarks to housebroken establishment press representatives, especially at election time when they had to be seen to throw a bone or two in the direction of the electorate, or make the correct sympathetic noises after a natural disaster. It was necessary that they be seen to care … care deeply, just make a shallow pretense of deeply caring. They don’t care, and perhaps have never really cared, beyond making the proper noises in the established media – the credentialed elite in their glass-walled corner offices in the bicoastal ruling class enclaves, and their lushly-paneled and carpeted Congressional office.

But the brutal fact is … they don’t. They don’t give a couple of satisfactory bowel movements about the ordinary electorate, the regular, law-abiding middle and working class out in Flyover Country, the class that pays their modest taxes, runs the business that keep all afloat, volunteer for the military and everything else – and I believe the goal for the elite ruling class now has gone beyond indifference into active malice. They wish to see us impoverished, dirty, miserable, cold and starving, because that makes such obedient servants, of course. A powerless peasant class doesn’t make so many demands on their rulers – and that’s the point at which we may have arrived – not when election results can be called up and organized to give the satisfactory (to the ruling class) result. What need have they of voters then, when the results can be automatically jiggered to give the correct result?

They hate us, mostly because we don’t obediently fall in line, like medieval serfs, tugging our forelocks and saying, “Yes, Sir, Yes, My Lady, whatever you wish, My Lord.” It’s really kind of sad, that the ruling class of a nation should hate the ordinary population so. The Victorians were brutal in their class snobbery – but they didn’t at least hate the ordinary citizens and cheer for their continued immiseration and disenfranchisement.

Comment as you wish, and while we still can.

28. February 2023 · Comments Off on The Hard “Nope” · Categories: Domestic, Fun and Games, General, History, Stupidity, World

It was a post at Bookroom Room that led me to jump aboard this particular train of thought – that most of us have certain concepts embedded in us so firmly that absolutely nothing will ever get us to violate them. As Bookworm put it, “Because as I’ve contended for years, every person has one absolute truth. It’s the one thing they know to their bones is true and the world must align with that truth … For my mother, who would have been a fashionista if she’d had the money, style and beauty were her truths. She sucked up all the lies about Barack and Michelle Obama until the media talking heads said that Michelle was the most beautiful, stylish first lady ever, above and beyond even Jackie Kennedy. That ran headlong into Mom’s truth and, after that, she never again believed what the media had to say about the Obamas.”
It’s a concept worth considering – our own truths, which we will stubbornly hold on to, refusing any threats or blandishments. It varies from person to person, of course. Some have only small and irrelevant truths, which are never seriously threatened, and there are those who have no real truths at all, save perhaps self-aggrandizement – but even so, for some keeping to their truth is a hard struggle, deciding to hold to that truth against everything – especially if they have status or a living to make, in denying that truth.

Sam Houston, as governor of Texas on the eve of the Civil War, refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, required by a newly-passed law upon secession from the United States. Twice elected president of an independent Texas, and the general who had secured freedom from the Centralist dictator, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna nearly fifteen years before, Houston had labored mightily to secure annexation of Texas to the US. Secession from the Union must have nearly broken the old man’s heart. Most accounts have it that he paced the floor of his office for an entire night, considering whether he would take the oath … or not. He did not; he resigned all office and retired to his home in Huntsville, where he died several years later. When all was said and done, Houston was a believer in the Union, and devoted to Texas. When it came to secession and swearing an oath of fealty to the Confederates – a hard “nope” for the hero of San Jacinto.

My own personal biggest hard “nope” has to do with so-called anthropogenic global warming/global cooling/climate change concept alleged to be caused by human activity and industry. I don’t care how much the autistic Swedish teenager scowls at us all, or Al Gore flies from his many lavish mansions, to one important conference after another, to lecture us all about our carbon footprint. Earth’s temperatures and conditions have swung wildly over millennia, without any help from human beings at all. Canada and the north-central US were once covered by a mile of ice. The Sahara desert was once a grassland interspersed with marshes, rivers and lakes. In Roman times, it was temperate enough in England to grow wine grapes, while around 1000 AD it was warm enough for subsistence farming in Greenland … and then the climate turned colder all across Europe, until the River Thames froze solid enough between the 14th and 18th centuries to host so-called Frost Fairs on the solid ice. Avenues of shops opened on the ice, racing events, puppet shows and all manner of entertainments took place. The massive explosion of an Indonesian volcano in early 1815, on the other hand, led to a so-called year without summer in the northern hemisphere in 1816. The climate of earth has changed drastically, without any human input over conditions – even before humans existed, so what the heck have gas stoves or gasoline engines – or even coal-fired power plants have to do with it?

12. February 2023 · Comments Off on Getting Ahead of the Game · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

At only five weeks into 2023, it does look as if I am closing in on some of the goals outlined in my end-of-year wrap-up. As for the books in progress, there is only one more story to round out Lone Star Blood. I looked over the four completed, and they strike me as rather grimmer than some of the previous stories in Lone Star Sons and Lone Star Glory – but then, on looking again at those two volumes; eh, they deal with personal treachery, several murders, suicide, political treachery … and escaping to another life, so maybe not all that grim.

That Fateful Lightening still remains half-finished, while I do that last short adventure for Blood.

But as for the household goals, one is done and dusted – the dryer vent. Yes, finally got that one done, although it wound up costing about four times what I thought that it would. Still – the amount of lint scraped out of the vent was enough to line every bird nest for at least half a mile around, and now the dryer completely dries a load in one brief cycle, unless it is one of the heavy cotton blankets which always took forever, anyway. I definitely know that the dryer vent was never cleaned during the time that I owned this house – save for efforts by my daughter and myself with a vacuum-cleaner attachment to suck out lint from the inside of the house. It may not even have been done by the original owners. The tech hired – and who did the job for about four times as much as I was expecting to pay, as none of the other local companies never did me the courtesy of responding to my requests for bid – said that the cap of the vent was firmly nailed into place and looked to him like it had never been shifted at all. Yeah, my mind boggled, at that point. But now that the job is done – we are happy with it. So now the house won’t catch on fire through the accumulation of heated lint in the chimney-vent, which is always a plus.

The second goal is construction of the short fence and gate to make a little private patio and play space in the paved area by the front bedroom – a room that when I had the windows replaced, I asked for and had installed a French door, instead of a double window. The contractor/handy guy/crew came on Friday morning to start work – it’s just a short run of fence, all of 12 feet, but with the gate – it complicates the project a bit, necessitating four postholes, two at either end and two on either side of the planned gate. And the construction crew, which is run by the husband of another realtor who is my daughter’s good buddy at the brokerage – dropped off one single worker to dig the four holes, before heading off to another job. So that one late teenaged worker went to work with a posthole digger and shovel and managed to drill down into the rock-hard caliche layer – which lies about a foot down, after a layer of solid, brick-like-when-dry adobe clay. He finished gouging the required four yard-deep holes after lunchtime, and then sat with his cellphone in the little patio … and then and then …

We messaged the handy-crew boss; Hey, your guy is still here. Gonna come and finish the job or at least collect him?

Reply – yeah, this is what they do. They get paid for the day, if they finish early, they get to slack off.

Us – OK.

But it was getting cold – it really was. And it was getting later and later.

Ok, surely the crew is gonna finish whatever job they are working on at five … six … and the minutes ticked by, and their worker is still there, sitting on the bench in what will be the small patio, absorbed in his cellphone. And it’s getting colder and colder, supposed to get down to near freezing in the wee hours … my daughter finally came out and told him to come inside. His grasp of English turned out to be nearly non-existent, but my daughter found some translation programs, and was in touch with the manager of the firm, did manage to discover that the work crew were coming back from another job, some distance from the city. And this was Friday at rush hour…

I should point out that we didn’t have any apprehensions of doing this; he was barely teenaged, had no visible tats and was wearing paint-splattered clothing, and we have a large and very protective dog as well as divers other means of personal protection. So – we wound up giving the kid supper – since we were both starving anyway and it would be horrendously bad-mannered to eat in front of him and not offer a plate. If the crew hadn’t shown up, I think we might have just given him a blanket and let him sleep on the couch but they did show up to collect him, eventually.

They are supposed to return on Monday to finish the job. Pictures to follow of the completed patio project.

28. January 2023 · Comments Off on The Temptation of Dressing My Grandson For Book Events · Categories: Domestic

So – I established the practice of wearing late Victorian or Edwardian-style outfit when out doing a book event; everything from a WWI-era grey nurses’ dress with a white apron and kerchief, to a black taffeta bustle skirt and jacked with a blue ribbon sash hung with orders and jewels and a white widow’s bonnet (a la Queen Victoria). It’s an attention-getter in a room full of other authors and readers, and a wonderful social icebreaker/conversation starter: Hi, my name is Celia, I write historical fiction, so I like to dress the part!

I am also helping to raise my grandson, Wee Jamie – and fully intend, when he is just old enough to be a help – to draft him as my assistant, teaching him well the craft of direct sales. We have already carted him along to several market events this last fall, and he was angelically good, quiet and very charming to all – so I have every reason to expect that he will continue in that vein. He will be dressed appropriately, in proper Victorian/Edwardian small boy’s outfit, and I tease my daughter by insisting that I will fit out Wee Jamie in a dark velveteen Little Lord Fauntleroy suit – jacket, knickerbocker trousers, and shirt with a lace collar. We’ll skip the long, curly golden locks. His own hair is light brown and stick straight. I also tease her by telling her that it should be cut in a military high-and tight. (You know – that haircut where it looks like the guy has shaved his head entirely and parked a small furry rodent on top.)

In any case, the black velvet Buster Brown suit was all the rage for little boy’s best outfits in the wake of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s best-selling 1885 novel, subsequently turned into a popular stage play version, and to generations of movies and television series. She based her title character, Cedric Errol, on the charming personality of her younger son, Vivian – who as a small child,  was bold, amiable, socially at ease and given to making endearing remarks to all whom he met. The character Cedric proved to be just as endearing – a sympathetic, well-spoken, and egalitarian lad, who was inclined to use his considerable wealth and rank for innocently charitable purposes; the very beau ideal of the Victorian age. (His metaphorical descendants died in droves, on the Western Front.) He served as the model for the illustrations to the book when it was published – and proved to be as popular as the Harry Potter series, more than a century later. Vivian, as one might surmise, did have some trouble in living the embarrassment of this down, as he grew up … went to college, and married in his turn. He turned out to be a stout guardian of the wealth that his mother had earned through her own work as a writer. Fittingly, he died of a heart attack in his sixties in 1937, through over-exerting himself in the rescue of passengers on a foundered boat.

Well … maybe just a knickerbocker or a sailor suit. Something that doesn’t embarrass Wee Jamie in coming years.

So, Wee Jamie the Wonder Grandson is of the age when he likes noisy things, flashing lights, music and moving colors. We have a Tunie (a kind of boom-box for small children) with an assortment of selections – none of them Disney, by the way. I’m boycotting Disney for now and for the foreseeable future. He has a couple of walkers, and noisy educational toys, toys that jingle, rattle, and play music. And we do let him sit up in the den and watch cartoons. Shaun the Sheep was a favorite, and then a French production – Grizzy and the Lemmings, which features a grizzly bear plagued by a troop of mischievous lemmings. Both Shaun and Grizzy feature wordless adventures, and lots of physical gags.  But the very favorite seems to be Masha and the Bear – a Russian series in various translations for the international market, the adventures of a mischievous and hyperactive little girl and her best buddy, a retired circus bear. There are all sorts of Russian cultural references, most of which I am certain that I am not catching. I do get the classical music references, but the one about the characters of two wolves who live in a decrepit ambulance and are called on for medical and rescue assistance had to be explained through the Wikipedia entry. It’s a Russian proverb, that the wolves are the orderlies of the forest. It’s a cute series, and one of the best things about it is that there isn’t a rainbow in sight. Not a single reference to current woke fads, diversity, or anything more significant than ‘Be careful you don’t get in over your head, child!’ Just gentle and amusing antics of a little girl and her best bear friend, at home and in the forest.

Between this and Grizzy, though – some day we will have to break it to Wee Jamie that bears (and wolves, too) are wild creatures, and not really given to play nicely with small children. I am hoping that he will not be too terribly disappointed.

04. January 2023 · Comments Off on Wee Jamie · Categories: Domestic, General

My grandson, commonly called Wee Jamie in these pages, is twenty months old now, and a week ago Sunday experienced his second Christmas. Possibly this is a Christmas which will establish his memories of the holiday; what with presents, visiting Santa, the decorated Christmas tree and all the lights, nutcrackers, Santa figurines, the creche and the garlands over the door and the mantlepiece. It depends on how early his conscious memory kicks in, which is extremely variable. (I can remember very clearly places and incidents from when I was just barely three, my daughter says that her memory is a blur until nearly four.) Maybe next year will be the one that he remembers as being supremely enchanted, the Christmas which sets the standard for all the happy Christmases in the rest of his life. For myself, having at least sixty of those Christmases in memory under my belt, the only ones which really stand out for me now are the ones that broke the mold – those Christmases celebrated in basic training, a couple of them in Japan, the one in Greenland, the Christmas in Korea – all those holidays wherein we exiled souls made our own celebrations. The family Christmases all have settled into one indistinct blur; a pleasant blur, anyway.

Jamie is … adorable. Not my own opinion as a fond Nana; he is adorable. He is outgoing and friendly to almost every stranger that he meets, and affectionate to those whom he knows – our close neighbors, his godparents and our own friends, mostly. I have always thought this to be a better trait in a toddler, rather than being fretful and fearful of any other adult outside a limited circle.  Adorable in my arms, sodden with sleep, draped limp and boneless against my shoulder when he has fallen asleep, ready for nap or the night. He is a handsome little boy with feathery light-brown hair flopping over a high forehead. I am certain that by early middle age he will have a rapidly receding hairline, rather like Prince William in that respect. His eyes are, alas, an indeterminant hazel-gray-brown, rather than the blue they were as a newborn. He does retain the strongly marked eyebrows and long eyelashes which were noted even in the pre-natal scans. According to his last pediatric visit, he is trending physically on the smaller side of normal for his age. My daughter and I are both certain that sometime in his early teens he will shoot up overnight and become a tall and lanky adult. He is a very well-behaved baby, not much given to spasms of frustrated crying – and that on occasions when he was very tired, very hungry and it was past his regular naptime. This is good – as it distresses my daughter enormously when they do happen. The last three times were when we were in the car, coming back from some place, and Wee Jamie was frustrated and inconsolable.

It was feared, early on and based mostly on my daughters’ age, that there was a risk of Down’s Syndrome for him. This concern haunted her pregnancy, especially as there were some early indications on ultrasound scans which hinted at that condition – mostly a thickened nuchal fold at the back of his neck. There were some small cardiac issues detected at birth, and his eyes were slightly almond-shaped, which turned out to be more of a family trait. But he had none of the other notable physical markers for Downs, and the cardiac issues resolved within a year. The one worrisome quality was and is that he is slow to develop.  Wee Jamie has been late hitting all those important benchmarks; anywhere from two to three months behind in rolling over, sitting unaided, high-crawling, cutting teeth and saying distinguishable words. The pediatrician, being concerned that he might fall too far behind and never catch up, recommended physical and speech therapy through Brighton Center. He is making progress, to the point where the therapist – wise in the ways of small children says that Jamie could walk, stand, feed himself with fingers or a spoon … but he just doesn’t want to. I suspect that he has always been a bit lazy – breast-feeding was too much work for him early on, and he preferred the ease of the bottle.  He still isn’t saying simple words, or following many simple instructions, but by no means is he inarticulate; no, he is quite chatty in baby-babble. After watching the animated series Grizzy and the Lemmings, and Masha and the Bear, will do a very creditable bear-growl. Again, I suspect that he might not talk until very late, at which time he will surprise us all by speaking in complete, grammatically correct sentences. No, thank you, Mother, I do not require another helping of mashed peas at this time.

I can hardly wait to see how he turns out, this wonderful little boy-child. My daughter had a dream of him, once, of Wee Jamie being commissioned a captain in the military medical field, with us pinning the insignia on his shoulders. She said wistfully that she wished she could have shared the dream with me, so that I could see how handsome he had turned out to be. And a doctor in the family, too. Dad would have been so proud of that!

As my daughter has taken up a new career (one which she is thoroughly enjoying, now that she has a successful sale under her belt and another three or four potentially serious and committed buyers on the horizon in the coming new year) I have had, perforce, to take an interest in the market for houses, in this, a moderately prosperous Texas city. Well, moderately prosperous, in spite of all the (explicative deleted) that the current economy and the Biden administration can throw at us. By all evidence that my daughter has noted locally, (mostly in price reductions for a number of listings) the property bubble has well and truly burst, or is now in a mode of slow deflation. Conventional wisdom among realtors who have been in it for years, is that prices for houses are on a seven-year-long boom and bust cycle. We’re about to head into the ‘bust’ downslope. Anyone who does have the wherewithal – the bulging pocketbook to buy outright or a high-enough credit rating qualifying for a loan at favorable rates to buy a house in the next couple of years will have their pick of properties, at least in this part of Texas.

I have noted over more than two decades of living in it, is that my own neighborhood is quietly prosperous; a high percentage of homeowners and few rental properties. This is a good thing, most definitely not a class or racial issue. It should be obvious to all now that owners of a house, even if only a small one, will tend to take better care of the roof, walls, windows and HVAC system that they have invested in. I would guess that my neighborhood very closely reflects the national racial makeup; racially mixed in conformance with the overall national stats. (Not culturally mixed, though. Just about all my neighbors are house-proud, responsible and community minded.) My neighborhood is not one of the notoriously wealthiest neighborhoods in San Antonio; the houses are relatively small, in the 1,000-1.500 square foot range on small lots, not more than a 10th of an acre. Some of the larger houses in the older part are on lots a bit larger than that, but all in all, the subdivision is a comfortable fit for people with working-class jobs, convenient to the various military bases, shopping centers, highway access. These small, comfortable houses and manageable gardens are owned by a cross-section of retired military, ordinary retirees, new families, small families, single working women, and small business owners. Working bourgeoise; the kind that the New Woke World Order wants to squeeze out of existence, for our stubborn insistence on managing our own lives and economics without any interference from the new self-elected and lustful-for-power Ruling Class.

As an aside, I don’t think that will happen – all of us stubborn working bourgeoise reduced to rental serfdom, subject to the illogical whims of some ivory-tower and unaccountable bureaucracy. There are, as yet, too many ways for ordinary citizens to slip away from the grasping fingers of control.

An element that my daughter has noticed is that the smaller houses in solid neighborhoods like ours go like hotcakes. The 1,000-1,3000 sf home, two bed, one bath, or bath and a half – such small starter or retirement homes at a reasonable valuation are in great demand, demonstrated by how blazingly-fast they sell, once they are listed. Not all that surprising, actually, as that is the size that I could readily afford, house hunting at the end of my inglorious military career. Also about the size of what my own parents could afford and which we all lived in as a family of six: two or three bedrooms and a single bath for us all. But such smaller homes coming on the market are few and far between and looking at the new developments spring up around the parts of San Antonio that I frequent, the new builds seem to be at the upper end of that range or larger, even way, way much larger. What about the prospect of smaller homes, homes even under 1,000 square feet, tinier lots?

You might think that the current fashion for “tiny homes” should be appealing to developers, just as a matter of marketing, and the lower costs to build and thereafter maintain … but for some reason, it doesn’t. Builders go on merrily constructing bigger and bigger houses.  (Usually on smaller and smaller lots…) I have always wondered why. The usual explanation is that municipalities naturally want to collect the very most in property taxes – the larger and more lavishly-adorned the property the greater the tax assessed, and the existing homeowners in the area being considered invariably hear “Small affordable houses!” and begin screaming to their local political office-holder, “OMG-Poor people! It’s affordable housing for poor people! OMG! Keep away, keep them far, far away!” Still, one would think that smaller, more compact houses would make so much good sense to developers and builders. Maybe it is.

Along the outer ring highway in San Antonio, a large apartment complex has been going in for months – but at the back of the complex, bounded by a small back road which we routinely use as a short-cut, there is a range of smaller units going in. At first, when they began pouring the slabs for them, we wondered if they were to be garages – but no; from the layout, no way to get a vehicle safely in or out, When the walls began going up, we could see that – no, the back half of the complex will be small cottages, and small duplexes. Interesting. Well, not everyone likes to live in a third-floor walkup, hauling groceries up two flights of stairs, with the noise from neighbors through thin walls at all hours … better a small, self-contained little house, with a decent separation from the neighboring unit, or only the other half of the tiny duplex. We wonder if this is a harbinger of things to come; of builders seeing that there may be money to be made in catering to the ‘smaller house’ impulse. Where will the market let us all, in these trying times?

What say you? Discuss as you like.