Friday, April 17, 2015

The Gift Of A City

Don and Karen Simons gave me San Diego for my birthday.  Well, not the entire city.  Just the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, the Hotel Del Coronado, the Old Globe Theatre, Montgomery Field, a helicopter ride and a plate of Philippine noodles.  It was way too much loot to fit in my carry-on bag for the flight home to Sacramento.  I left everything as it was except for the noodles, which I ate.

Also included was a breakfast with Mr. and Mrs. Edward R. Murphy, Jr.  Mr. Murphy is a former Navy lieutenant.  He was also the education officer of the Subic Bay Naval Station in the Philippines in 1962 where he confined Seaman Browne  to the base until Seaman Browne passed a high school GED test, the tyrant.

Mr. Murphy later served as the executive officer of the USS Pueblo, the Navy spy ship captured by North Korea in international waters in 1968.   The 82 crewmen were imprisoned under medieval conditions for 11 months of physical and mental torture.  He co-authored a book about the experience:

Mr, Murphy – he will always be Mr. Murphy to me.  Navy training takes lasting grip --  is also the recipient of the Navy Marine Corps medal for lifesaving.

Don and Karen Simons volunteer as tuxedo-clad ushers at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park, a replica of its London namesake where the son of a glove maker named William Shakespeare staged his plays.  The Simons thought it would be a socko idea if I volunteered to usher too. 

So packed my second hand tuxedo for the occasion, a performance of  Buyer And Cellar.  The premise is an out of work actor hired to perform as a dress shop clerk in a fake mall in Barbra Streisand’s basement where the estimable Ms. Streisand is the only customer and very picky one at that.  Her character is never seen.  Actor and author Jonathan Tollins is the only presence on the theatre-in-the-round stage for an hour and forty minutes of very funny monologue.  He was given a well earned standing ovation.

So, my thanks to Don and Karen Simons, Karen’s mother, Wanda, and the family’s feisty ball of white fluff, a pooch named Cody, for a week of the best birthday ever.



Thanks so much for keeping me in the loop of your words. Whether they are old memories and fresh ones, I've found keeping memories written down to reread on occasion is a bit of reliving it that goes down well. Life isn't as much a plan for tomorrow as it is a whole bunch of memories of yesterday re-experienced at a certain age.

I hope you remember your great birthday present and that your fish lives plenty long to give you untold numbers of stares through the deep aquarium address he now shares with you. --- ZoZo

It’s already cut my toxic TV habit by 80%.


Happy belated birthday.  By the way, have you named your fish? (Not that it'll come when you call it, but it seems it's the thing to do.)  - Beaty

I have.  Since it’s a Betta fighting fish, I’ve named him Rip Finley, Fish Ninja. 

Good job, as usual.  – Bob


Wonderful as always!  -- Juli


Sounds like a great birthday!  Glad you had fun!  -- Shannon


You lucky dog!!  -- Wht

Monday, April 6, 2015

My New BFF - Best Fish Friend


Spent time with my two of my favorite ladies last week:  Blythe, age 10 (almost), and her grandmother, The Lady Karen.  We met at a coffee shop halfway between Sacramento and the Bay Area, where Blythe lives and where Lady K was visiting.  They brought gifts of licorice candy and a new best friend:  a fish.

Oh but not just any fish, but a genuine tropical orange and purple ninja fighting fish, called a Betta.  The fish came with a combination ninja dojo and bachelor pad water tank, a water filter, a light, some stylish fish furniture and accessories, and enough food to keep the fish in fighting trim.

Thing is, it doesn’t have another fish to fight. That’s a good thing if you want to keep your Betta on a long term basis, but there are reflecting surfaces on the inside of the tank.  This way it can happily hurl threats and insults at what seems to be another fish without risking injury and other fish mayhem. 

I haven’t told the fish that it’s only seeing reflection of itself and I don’t plan to.  It might get depressed and just sulk all day in a hidden recess of the stylish fish accessories  and be no fun at all. 

There are other benefits to having an active fish in an aquarium.   For one thing, it relaxes me.  For another, I spend less time watching TV and more time watching the fish. Unlike the TV, the fish doesn’t blab doom and gloom about the economy, reveal the personal secrets of celebrities I’ve never heard of, or try to sell me anything for $19.95 plus shipping and handling.  I find that refreshing.

I have made one minor lifestyle change now that the fish and I are roomies: I don’t make tuna sandwiches where the fish can see me. That’s just good manners


Sunday, March 29, 2015

High Times

Airliners makes me grumpy.  I mean, I like flying.  Hell, I’m a former pilot.  Second generation.  My dad was a pioneer pilot in South America and Alaska whose flying career spanned 40 years. I grew up around and in aircraft. eventually becoming an honest-to-gosh legally licensed airborne hazard myself.  So I know the risks inherent in doing something as unnatural for a wingless creature as "slipping the surly bonds of earth and dancing aloft on laughter silvered wings," as that unbelievably cornball poem "High Flight" has it.     

Anyway, this week I'm slipping the surly bonds of earth on an airline flight to San Diego. The risks will be to my sanity,not my safety.  They include  being jammed into narrow seat upholstered in cement with an armrest hogging garlic eater on one side and an oblivious mother with a shrieking pooper on the other.  Oh, and someone’s little angel in back of me kicking my cement seat.

Then there are the folks of the Transportation Security Administration who will bombard my alabaster body with radioactivity to determine if that thing in my pants is not a small bazooka, and who will worry that I might hijack an airliner with an eight ounce can of shaving cream in my ZipLoc terrorist kit, which I'll  have to get rid of before boarding the plane.

The two ounce size is okay, though, in case you’re thinking of hijacking a turboprop commuter flight.  But I doubt too much terror will be struck in the hearts and minds of other passengers by a hijacker holding a can of Gillette Foamy to the neck of an annoyed flight attendant and demanding that the flight arrive on time.

I’ll be flying on Southwest Airlines.  I like Southwest.  When a man named Herb Kelleher bought Texas Air and renamed it Southwest, he came up with a really radical idea:  Give flight crews a greater say in management decisions about working conditions. That made his competitors snort in derision.

“Snort snort,” they derision.  “Who is this Kelleher person? Employees <snort> should be grateful that we even notice them, at least when we do notice them for other than <snort> handing them a  <snort> furlough notice. Hey!  <snort> Look at me! I can <snort> talk and snort at the same time! <snort snort>  

Ah, but the result of Mr.Kelleher’s unconventional thinking resulted in happy flight crews. Happy flight crews were encouraged to be creative and funny with cabin announcements, which resulted in passengers actually paying attention during the pre-takeoff safety talk from the happy flight attendants.  Happy passengers are often repeat passengers, and that makes management happy.   A swell deal all around.

Now if only Southwest would allow cabin crews to add a little Thorazine to the beverages served to little poopers, annoying seat kickers and armrest hogging garlic eaters whose breath could start a truck.  
Makes me wish I could sprout feathers, wings and webbed feet and just flap my way to San Diego without being hassled by TSA gropers and seatmates from hell. 

Oh well, it’s only a 90 minute flight and I know better than to pray for patience.  Prayers can result in a Divine Response in the form of a test, like Job got, the poor bastard.. Even an atheist like me knows better than provoke other peoples' gods. I suppose I could make the trip on laughter silvered wings, but I quit drinking alcohol years ago.

# # #


One of the last experiences I had was a direct flight to Boston from someplace. I think the midway point was St. Louis. Thunder storms greeted us, eventually passed, and we taxied to fall in line behind other delayed planes for the last leg of the journey. There was a smarmy, odorous European on my left. I had my nose buried in the window (thank God for small seating favors). After an hour I was becoming more than anxious. We were told we would be taking off shortly, but that didn't seem likely. At the two hour mark, the pilot announced that we had to go back to the gate. (Some man's oxygen had run out. God bless him.) I was right behind him. The stewardess told me she couldn't guarantee it wouldn't be another two hours, so I bolted for the terminal in a full-blown panic attack. The airline was very polite, gave me food vouchers and booked me on the next flight, which conveniently had about 10 people on it. I took a seat, lifted the arm rests and had 3 seats to myself. I buckled up and took a nice long nap. The only person I inconvenienced by doing this was my brother, who had gone to Logan to pick me up. This was a long, long time ago, before cell phones and rules about wait times. I wasn't a good flyer then, and I don't fly now, if at all possible. Thanks for you story. I hope you have a great flight!   -- Beaty


Nicely done and well-feathered -- Kent

Thank you.  I've noticed that ducks get mighty skittish around orange sauce and Chinese restaurants.  MB


I love it Mike. Of course, we would be wedged between unruly and loud babies, uncouth or stupid passengers sitting so close as to feel their breath and gum chewing model wannabes. You see them all I fear. At least it is only 90 minutes from here to San Diego.

Figure this on a flight from Sacramento to Atlanta and add a few more babies, young children whose stuffed animals make incessant godawful noises, and who seem to feel the back seat of the passenger in front of them (in which I sit) is a locked gate that needs to be opened by battering rams--Daddy or mommy saying sweetly, 'please stop that'. And then the crying and all. Now I love babies but honestly, there should be a plane just for these kids with their parents. For some reason I like peace and quiet and sleep.

I hope you are doing well. If my dad were alive he would say hello and treat you to more stories and songs. – Peggy

I too wish that elegant gentleman was still alive. MB


My experiences with airlines and planes is very limited, as I've flown about as many times as I can count on one hand. However, even with my severely limited flying stories, I did have some issues on flights.

Once, I sat next to a man on a flight who had no capacity to be anything but marginally civil, and I'm absolutely certain him treating me like a turnip is something he did to everyone. He simply had no social skills whatsoever, so he chose to just pretend no one but him existed, which was....well...creepy. Not that I want to talk to strangers non-stop on a long flight (from Seattle to Chicago), but I said, creepy just the same.

Second,  the food. I would hope that over the ten years I haven't flown, the food has improved. Yep. I'm going to say it....ready? It tasted like cardboard. Not even salted cardboard. I don't even remember what it was, but I'm reasonably sure it was supposed to be some kind of pasta, but it was awful. I couldn't even eat the little bag of peanuts they tried to give me - I'm allergic. So, I ate an orange I had brought, or I would have withered away to nothing. (Okay, go along with me on that.) I was glad the man who met me at John Wayne Airport whisked me off to have dinner. Whew.

I will say that people complain about little "puddle jumpers", those planes that have transported me from my town to Seattle in half an hour. I always found them to be sort of fun. I'm not sure if that makes me weird, but oh well. The loud-ish, bumpy jaunt in a cramped seat just seems like some sort of high carnival ride to me.
Anyway, thanks for sending me the great stuff you write.  -- Z.

Thank you for reading it.   MB


What a great read! Reminds me of the times when I was single and would take short jaunts to Las Vegas just to go dancing with strangers, and maybe hit the nickel slots...

Too bad about the pooper and the garlicman!!! I found a thrill every time I rode in a plane. I won a trip to Bal Harbour in Florida back in '84, and wow, what fun to look at the clouds … I met wonderful people on every flight when I was alone.  Great story, Mike, I want to see your work in PRINT. -- Amanda

Zen And The Art Of Getting Lost

"She understands a peculiar language which has nothing to do with what you are saying. A daughter." -- Robert M. Pirsig, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance - An Inquiry Into Values.

Just bought a copy of that book, which I first read 40 years ago. It gave me an aha moment regarding women. But that wasn't the big news for me at the time. My epiphany was of the action variety. The book gonged up some confidence I didn't know I had, boosting me out of a soul-grinding rut and on to a swift powerful motorcycle for a three year 30,000 mile journey across the American southwest.

Turns out my unintended destination was an entirely new perspective. That journey continues to this day, only with a computer through cyberspace instead of on a motorcycle across a desert. As with the bike trips, there have been a lot of rest stops along the way. And this way I don't get speeding tickets.

This week my friend Tim Menees got me back on the writing road to a long intended destination: getting published, with Tim as the illustrator. Tim is a Pittsburgh-based artist who was a political cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post -Gazette before the bean counters slashed and burned the editorial staff, picking off people nearing retirement, an all too common bum deal among America’s newspapers today.

Tim surivived. Even flourished. He and his displaced colleagues were awarded a settlement from the Post-Gazette management and Tim opened his own gallery. You can see his work at

He is also a musician who recently confessed to taking up the accordion. Since he uses it to perform zydeco tunes with a band of like-minded and equally talented friends, he can be forgiven.

Tim and his wife, Kay, were visiting their kids and grandkids in the Bay Area this week. Tim made a side trip to Sacramento, a 90-mile train ride on AMTRAK's California Zephyr. Tim likes trains. He also likes ferry boats, drawbridges and the art of Wayne Thiebaud, who teaches at the nearby Davis campus of the University of California. Thiebaud's work is on display at Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum. So is a touring exhibit of Toulouse Lautrec's paintings that Tim wanted to see.

After an al fresco lunch at my fave Chinese semi-drive-in, (Tim's treat), off we went to the Crocker where I gasped at the cost of admission. Eighteen bucks for the two of us. I know, I know, that's cheaper than a pair of tickets and two boxes of stale popcorn at your local multiplex, but the Crocker exhibit was well worth the price, especially since it was again Tim’s treat.

The roadway of my life – and Tim’s – had a detour when I drove Tim back to the AMTRAK station, which occupies an entire city block in downtown Sacramento. Just because I’ve lived here for 40 years doesn’t mean I can’t lost -- and did. Tim spotted the train depot while I was rediscovering the downtown area. We barely made it. He boarded the train with one minute to spare before the California Zephyr zephyred off to the Bay Area.
I went home to a pot of coffee, a book, and meditations about life ”on the railroad earth,” a phrase I stole from Jack Kerouac. I tellya being a mobile bookworm is not for the faint of heart, especially if the bookworm is lousy at finding his way around.



I just laughed my head off reading about When Womyn Rule America. What a gem! [As for your Zen piece] It was wonderful to relax and read about the lovely, wending journey and your newfound actions with your friend to get you published! -- Amanda

Put me on the list. I would love a bound, illustrated book, personally signed by you, to me.-- Linda

Oh my, marvelous as always! And I look forward to buying your books, Materman! -- Julisari

Enjoyed the piece. Not sure how to convey how I feel, but the writing is so easy to read. It just flows. -- Mimi

Well, this piece hit me a lot of ways. this thing forty years ago...women and men....politics....idiots....a little serious....a lot of humor.....points made.....damn.I think ... I'm a woman. I think too much already. -- Zoey

I am really really really happy you are talking about publication again. I would very much like to see your stories neatly bound in book form . Not only because it would be a great way for me to store them but because it has been a goal for you. -- Tammy

Glad you are producing great art again, my dear -- Karen

Great art? Oh please. MB

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

More That A Few Words About Ken Kesey

The following is reprinted with permission from the weblog of Ken Babbs, friend and neighbor of the late Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Sometimes A Great Notion, Demon Box, and other works.  Mr. Babbs is also a novelist.  He wrote Who Shot The Water Buffalo? a book based on his experiences as a Marine helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. Mr. Babbs' website, Sky Pilot Club, is linked on the right. 


Speaking of Kesey, I received an email from a guy in Florida doing an article on Kesey (actually on Kesey's book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). He emailed me some questions. Here's one, with my answer.What do you think is the legacy of Mr. Kesey?

A double sided coin, one side his great writing and the other side his living art.The word showman is very close to the word shaman and Kesey was both. He said his greatest work was the bus because it wasn't art written on a page or shown in a movie but was art out amongst the people, living art. This is the artist part of his legacy.

The human part is his humanity to his fellow men and women. He summed it up by saying, "People in the know know what sets them apart is their knowledge that the carrot is better than the stick, that mercy comes before justice and the only compass you can trust is love to guide you down the mean streets of money mad America and, remember, the most important thing is be kind." 

I’m with the person who noted, "The most important thing, is to be kind." Can you post this someplace where it will possibly do some good. Like Facebook. I did love the picture of the bus. Well done, again. --Linda B

I'm not a Ken Kesey fan, Mike, but this is good and I'm definitely picking up Who Shot the Water Buffalo? We killed quite a few of those too on the USS Blue and the USS Hollister and what most people don't realize that in so doing, we wiped out a family's way of making a living. As much as I abhor war, I think that sometimes books like this are necessary so that we don't forget what Steinbeck referred to as "tragic accidents." – Rusty

Agreed – MB
Nice essay.... thanks for sending.  – Sum

Thanks for reading – MB

Always a pleasure to read about you and yours. Thanks for sharing these insights. Hearts and thoughts  -- Pirate

Very nice, Mike.  Thanks for reposting.  --  kb  [Ken Babbs]

“The most important thing is to be kind.”  What a wonderful world we could live in if all followed this, “be kind.”  -- Carol.

Great  piece.  Looking at that bus makes me hear Steppenwolf's Magic Carpet Ride in my head. “Well you don't know what we can find/ Why don't you come with me, little gir/l on a magic carpet ride ….”   -- Tammy

I would give almost anything to have been on that bus with the Merry Pranksters. The trip of a lifetime.  And if you do a compilation of your stories I'd like a signed copy as well. "You're either on the bus or off the bus.”  -- Wht
That quote is Kesey’s, cited by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, Wolfe’s first person account  of the Pranksters’ cross country odyssey in the bus named “Further,” pictured above.  Kesey meant either your are mentally and spiritually with us as well as physically --  or not.  Sigh.  Leave it to a former English major like me to complicate a simple declarative sentence.  -- MB

Very thought-provoking, Mike.  – Amanda

Loved  the piece.  Great writing, and points made.  --  Zoey

Saturday, March 7, 2015

When Womyn Rule America

The following is a likely transcript from of the House Committee On Equal Rights in the not-so-distant future. The issues under discussion are two political hot potatoes: One would give men the right to vote. The other is even more radical. It would allow men to sit anywhere they want on public transportation and not restrict them to the back of the bus. The committee chairwomyn is Rep. Shulamith Franklin Fonda (Republicrat - Womynnesota).

Chairwomyn: The chair recognizes our esteemed sister, Congresswomyn Gloria Peterbilt, who has a martyr’s burden of representing that wishy washy, fence-straddling, knee jerking, testosterone polluted state of Calipornia. I suppose you’re going to play devil’s advocate?

Rep. Peterbilt: Well, the voting rights thingy is a non-issue in my house. The male unit will vote the way I tell him to vote, and anyway, the only things he reads are recipes, horoscopes and fashion tips. Anything else, especially something as complicated as a ballot measure, is just beyond the little dear. But isn’t it about time we allowed male units unrestricted seating on public transportation?

Chairwomyn: What for? So they can plunk their brutish bodies down anywhere they want on the bus? Don’t be absurd. Just because you don’t care who violates your sacred space, think of how your mother would feel, or your daughter, for Goddess’s sake, if some hairy lout reeking of Aqua Velva presumed to be so…so….uppity…as to actually sit next to her innocent flowering Sheness! The mind reels!

Rep. Peterbilt: Yes, I can see where that might be troublesome for some unenlightened souls, but a properly trained male unit would never presume to sit just anywhere on a bus if the back wasn’t already overflowing with nattering giggling male units.

Chairwomyn (sighing): I know, I know. They get really annoying in a group. That’s why I stopped my male unit from having Schtupperwear and clingerie parties at our house. All those chubby male bodies stuffed into Speedos like cheese blintzes, cooing over plastic food containers. Worse, they whine about their personal circumstances. How we don’t understand them. How don’t care about their needs. How we expect them to have sex at what they consider inopportune times, like at a funeral or on a windswept beach in the rain. Hell, a little wet sand up their buns may have a cleansing effect, so what’s the problem?

Rep Peterbilt: Excuse me, Madam Chairwomyn, but we were discussing voting rights and public transportation. There are political and social reasons why we should allow male units voting rights and equal seating under the law.

Chairwomyn: Oh for Minerva’s sake, what are they?

Rep. Peterbilt: As for the voter franchise, the political reason is voter apathy with absentee ballots mailed prior to primary elections. Many indifferent womyn just turn the ballot over to the male unit like a Sudoko card and allow him to mark it up with a Crayola. I mean, they are already voting anyway. Why not register them in the hope that they may create a landslide mandate when directed by their womyn? Two votes for the price of one. And maybe they’ll feel responsible enough to stop marking ballots with crayons.

Chairwomyn: I know. Makes our ballot box stuffers all waxy. Still, we’re working on some attack ads showing the effects of male units being allowed even a sub rosa voice in the outcome of national elections. Unrestricted seating on buses is just for openers. Soon they’ll protest being required to sit in theater balconies. Who knows? They may even insist on having their brainless entertainment legally broadcast on national television. Imagine having a nice weekend ruined with games of baseballs or footballs blaring out of your TV. Anyway, what’s the social reason for giving male units the vote?

Rep. Peterbilt: A declining birthrate among the desirable demographics
Chairwomyn: You mean eligible voters not on public assistance. Go on.

Rep. Peterbilt: My staff is seeing an alarming trend. An increasing number of my constituents write that their male units get sulky during womyn’s estrus cycles and refuse to sleep with them. Instead of getting in bed, their male units curl up in tight little balls on couches, like armadillos, and cry all night about not being treated as equals. That includes open seating on buses and being able to vote.

Chairwomyn: Well, have your constituents tried distracting their male units away from substantive issues with chocolates and new shoes?

Rep. Peterbilt: Many reported doing both. Didn’t work. They think chocolates make their butts look big. That made them whinier than ever. As for new shoes, have you tried shopping for shoes with your male unit? They can never make up their minds. They try on everything in the store on before settling on a pair of pumps they could’ve picked up at a factory outlet for half the price.

Chairwomyn: Okay, so how will giving male units equal seating on the bus, not to mention the vote, arrest the decline of the retail shoe market and benefit womynkind?

Rep. Peterbilt: It would be the first step, so to speak, in giving them full citizenship under the law.

Chairwomyn: What the hell for? Look, if we give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. Everyone knows that all male units are good for is spending money and being decorative. Other than that, the little dears are just plain useless. They can’t even take out the trash or kill a spider in the bathtub. One other thing, if you care to hear about a really alarming consequence of giving male units the vote
Rep. Peterbilt: And what would that be?

Chairwomyn: Male units in Congress, that’s what! How does that grab you?

Rep. Peterbilt: Oh nonsense. That would never happen. Never
Chairwomyn: Oh? And why, by all that’s holy in the name of Athena, not?

Rep. Peterbilt: Well, even equality has it limits.

Chairwomyn: Don’t count on it!. They may even try to put a male unit in the White House! Imagine that!

Rep. Peterbilt: Oh please, Madame Chairwomyn, I mean really! Surely, even in the great state of Womynnesota, you’ve heard the word “ninny”?

Chairwomyn: I have. Usually applied to misguided Calipornians. I say we table this issue and let it die in the Rules Committee, along with that lunatic balanced budget and arms reduction bill. Let’s move on. What’s the next agenda item?