Thursday, April 30, 2020

where wisdom comes from

If you ask the question,"Where does wisdom come from?" aren't you forced simultaneously to ask the question "Where does wisdom not come from?"

Seems sensible to me.

But that's just me.


Come spring, the blacksmith would arrive for his annual reshodding and pedicures the horses needed after a winter indoors and sheltered. He was all the things I thought then and think now a blacksmith should be ... a leather apron sheltering a beer bulge and a cool calmness that the horses, one by one, seemed to sense and appreciate.

The blacksmith moved with the smooth ease of a great dancer around his clients. Sometimes it was to repair and sometimes to replace. He had a small forge in which to heat the shoes, shape them. Red-hot flecks of metal would emerge from beneath his practiced hammer. He clipped the detritus away, clipped the nails that held the shoes in place, made horseshoe nail rings for the kids like me who stopped to watch, and, in slack moments, would join the small gathering of those who wished to challenge the smith in a spitting contest against the back of the barn. And that man could spit.

It always marveled me how easy the blacksmith was around the horses. He seemed to trust them and and they seemed to trust him. I never trusted a horse. Here was an animal two to three times larger than I was in the 4th, 5th and sixth grade, a creature that could knock me on my ass without thinking twice ... and I'm supposed to believe this animal won't get it into his or her mind to kick my butt? Trust a horse? You must be out of your mind. Not so for the blacksmith in his well-worn apron and first-class spitting apparatus.

How fortunate I was to go to a school that had farm animals to tend to. Plucking chickens was the worst of the chores ... a great vat of boiling paraffin and water in which to dip the deceased-- you didn't have to kill the chicken if you didn't want to, but sure as shit you got to pluck it, separate out the gizzard and heart and pluck ... gawd! the plucking seemed endless. This chicken would end up on the supper table, much like the venison or rabbit or whatever local beast entered the sights of the hunt-prone teachers. Venison was not some pansy French specialty ... it was food... period.

There was organic eating at North Country School. This was before the la-la land of "organic" eating. After plucking a chicken, weeding got high marks in my books for the suck-y-est chores.

No one thought much about any of this. It's just what everyone did when it was time to do it. But it gave good lessons to those who might look down on those who broke their backs with farming. You can take your snooty nose and stick it up your ass. This is work, by God, and it doesn't matter who does it or what language they speak.

And the strange part, or one of them, anyway, was the the fifty or so students at the school, most if not all of them were the offspring of the well-known and well-heeled. For a while in there between the 4th and the 8th grade, Krov Menhuin was my best friend, not because he was violinist Yehudi Menhuin's son ... I just liked him. So his father played the violin ... so what? And Peter Brooks invited me to his house during school vacation and I found myself seated next to Helen Keller ... what the hell does a kid say to a crippled person?

A shrink would later say to me that North Country School, "saved your ass." And I suppose it was true. Take away the panoramas of entitlement and plucking a chicken or weeding a garden is still pretty damned hard work.

I'm still practicing my spitting.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

the Republican tax break

I just want to be on the record: No matter what happens, no matter what lumps and bumps occur in the Donald-Trump milieu .... no matter what

The Republicans got what the Republicans wanted: A tax break for the the Republicans, same as George Bush got them. All the frou-frou and all the talk and all the investigations in the world and STILL the Republicans got their tax break. Everything else is piss in a snow bank. Let the chickens cluck around in the dust -- oh it's so important, oh it's so important!!!! --

The Democrats haven't got the balls to call the Republicans out on supply-side economics, no matter how many times it is disproven as a way to raise all ships.

I can't say as I blame the Republicans for tittering behind their lace hankies. What a bunch of fools.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

more of the same

News organizations are struggling and straining to say something they haven't already said before... and failing. The wearing, grinding repetitiveness is like rug burn. We need testing. Trump calls off his appearances at the six o'clock news show only to change gears when he realizes he won't get any coverage at all.

The word "hero" wears thinner and thinner: People who work, work because they have to work, not for any heroism quotient. Glad to see the helium kicked out of the 'heroism' balloon.

My teacher's teacher once said of this life, "There is birth, there is death and in between there is enlightenment."  Enlightenment is not so groovy when all the news is grey and smoldering and rug-burn-y. Everyone scrambles but there is no place to scramble to. The local penny-saver -- referred to as a "newspaper" hereabouts -- is filled with touching tales of those who cannot hold the hands of those headed for what my teacher's teacher called "the majority." Everyone stays at a distance from the next person and the distance, in the end, may be worse than the end that death seems to proffer.

Masks ... ick. Everyone wears a mask.

Various cities are trying to open up selectively -- gyms, salons, bowling alleys etc. -- and no one knows if it's the right move or not ... will there be a snapback to an ever-further increased uptick in illness?

I live on a diet composed largely of Ritz crackers and cottage cheese ... the only thing that holds a sustained taste-interest for me. It's not poverty ... it's just my taste budds acting persnickety.

Today's early world figures:

Coronavirus Cases: 33,082,031

Deaths: 212,405

Recovered: 934,878

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Massachusetts schools closed

The day after (today) I asked my younger son, Ives, whether schools were now closed in Massachusetts and he said he didn't know, the governor closed schools for the remainder of the school year.

Such is the epidemic. The disruption has got to be enormous.

I wonder if some good-hearted millennial will start a gofundme page that invites donations to quarantine U.S. President Donald Trump. Buy him a Pacific island somewhere, put him in a mirrored telephone booth where he will always have an appreciative audience, but just get him out of the way. His ineptitude and lies are confusing things ... let's just try to put him in a bubble and send him out to sea.

Funds not used for the proposed goal can be earmarked for some worthy cause. His appearance at the six o'clock news conference is an embarrassment. His self-serving comments, bereft of any sympathy, do nothing to advance the spread of hard-core news.

Let's just quarantine him.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

useless prattle

I suppose (wrongly perhaps) that everyone forms grids of appreciation through accumulations of experience in this life. Having been in the army, I have a military grid of sorts. Having curried the crap off a horse's rear leg, I know something about currying. Having practiced Zen Buddhism, I suppose I have a spiritual schtick as well. When events crop up, grids are brought to bear.

Why I should think of this, I don't know, but lately I have been thinking about Episcopalians as the whipped cream and cherry on top of a Roman Catholic Sundae. Smooth as silk. Well-heeled. They own Infinitis and stuff. They are polite and cossetted without admitting to being cossetted.

What his this got to do with anything? I have no clue. Episcopalians are the vendors of smooth.

So what?

So nothing.

a small touchstone

Collect your bling, be it spiritual persuasion or gold froufrou or whatever, but


Any trade, but some trade.

How many of the well-anointed can actually do or actually make something?

I admit to being somewhat smug about knowing how to paint a New York apartment, how to wield a hole-digger, and what it's like to own a gandy-dancer's pole. Also, when pressed, I can make some pretty good brownies.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Zen practice in an era of epidemic

Were Zen Buddhism a come-to-Jesus persuasion, you might think Zennies would be dancing in the aisles with all the stay-at-home disciplines being imposed by the corona19 epidemic. People are staying at home, the TV constantly reminds us in glowing wonder. Life boils down to this life and Zen Buddhism prescribes a still and seated discipline as a means of addressing it.

But it is one thing to sit still at my own behest and quite another to have it imposed from the outside, so to speak.

When someone tells me to bunker in place, what's the first thing I want to do? Well, run around and wave my arms for example. Tell me to sit still and all I want to do is move. Zennies may sit still of their own accord but be adamant about moving when someone else imposes the sit-still rule. The virus imposes Zen practices ... get me out of here! Forty or fifty years of self-imposed stillness collapses when the outside world orders what amounts to a Zen practice.

I'm trying to draw some parallel but am not exactly sure what it is.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


Easter, whose varieties passed over the world more or less on Sunday last, laid a goose egg since such celebrations have always involved large gatherings of people which, given the coronanovid epidemic, are contraindicated.

Bunnies laying eggs -- let alone chocolate ones: I wonder who thought that up.

Lately, I have been somewhat relieved in the rat-a-tat-tat of sickness chat, to hear that hallucinations are (or may be) part and parcel of the current illness. I have been having increasingly vivid hallucinations ... none of them malevolent, all of them not long enough to sit down for a chat.

It is, to borrow a word I dislike, do-able. The vividness is increasing ... does that mean these mild interruptions are demanding room in which to roam and, perhaps, take command?

Born and reborn, what's the diff?

apple detectives

In this Oct. 23, 2019, photo, apples collected by amateur botanists David Benscoter and EJ Brandt of the Lost Apple Project, rest on the ground in an orchard at an abandoned homestead near Genesee, Idaho. Benscoter and Brandt recently learned that their work in the fall of 2019 has led to the rediscovery of 10 apple varieties in the Pacific Northwest that were planted by long-ago pioneers and had been thought extinct. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)
North America once had 17,000 named varieties of domesticated apples, but only about 4,500 are known to exist today. The Lost Apple Project believes settlers planted a few hundred varieties in their corner of the Pacific Northwest alone as they moved across the U. S. West to try their hands at the pioneer life.

Apple pie ... one of my faves.

And you thought "Johnny Appleseed" was just another tall American tale.

Friday, April 10, 2020

... and then there were locusts

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Weeks before the coronavirus spread through much of the world, parts of Africa were already threatened by another kind of plague, the biggest locust outbreak some countries had seen in 70 years.
Now the second wave of the voracious insects, some 20 times the size of the first, is arriving. Billions of the young desert locusts are winging in from breeding grounds in Somalia in search of fresh vegetation springing up with seasonal rains.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

John Prine dies at 73

John Prine, the ingenious singer-songwriter who explored the heartbreaks, indignities and absurdities of everyday life in “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” “Hello in There” and scores of other indelible tunes, died Tuesday at the age of 73.
Shitshitshit! One of the best of the best.

Here's just one of many: In Spite if Ourselves

au revoir, Bernie, and thanks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Bernie Sanders, who saw his once strong lead in the Democratic primary evaporate as the party’s establishment lined swiftly up behind rival Joe Biden, ended his presidential bid on Wednesday, acknowledging the former vice president is too far ahead for him to have any reasonable hope of catching up.
The Vermont senator’s announcement makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in a general election campaign that will be waged against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.

if there's nothing to say, don't say it

Last night, when the White House news briefing got under way at about 6 p.m., Donald Trump took to the podium and I reflexively muted the sound. I knew that the president of the most powerful country on earth would have nothing of consequence to say about the epidemic which sounds so much better if it's called a "pandemic.". Imagine that ... arguably the most powerful man on earth and nothing to say ... nothing of fact, nothing of comfort ... nothing.

Slowly, the entire news panorama slips slowly into the realm of "if there's nothing to say, don't say it." Trump's ability to sympathize, to empathize or even to read is "challenged" so to speak. He sucks, is the English for "challenged." Here is one situation he cannot buy off ... lord, bring back the girls with the tits or perhaps a juicy impeachment 'hoax' -- he can cope with that .... sort of.

Various more competent politicians and scientists seem worth listening to  ... but not really all that much. Sickness tolls, death tolls, U.S. tolls, worldwide tolls, supply shortages, masks, over-worked workers. People seem to have hunkered and bunkered a "distanced" themselves without much prodding.

Monday, April 6, 2020

so, about the 'so' syndrome

When I was a kid, lo these many eons gone by, stuttering was considered an "impediment" that sufferers attempted to overcome. Stop saying "unhhhhh."

The same was true for news reporting -- stop adding on the largely-bullshit connectives like
"meanwhile." Keep things thin, trim and direct.

Nowadays, the tables have turned and people are positively flocking to the use the the bullshit connective "so....." Each declarative sentence is prefaced by the word "so." It sounds good and it means nothing whose vacuum stuttering sought to fill.

So ... today I did nothing much of anything. So, I slept, of course. So I ate. So the excitement of my day was filled with opportunities to tack the word "so" onto perfectly understandable sentences. Talking heads of all stripes -- news, non-news, etc. -- all participate.

How're things going?

Er, unhhhhhh, meanwhile ....


Friday, April 3, 2020

romcom alley

Quite independent of each other, my Zen friend Dave and I have both limited ourselves to one or two dips daily into the Coronavirus epidemic. News is routinely the same. Deaths/Shortages/and a yearning it might all end. Talking heads are running out of talking. Why bother?

Dave also said that he did a little zazen or zen meditation and it helped to clear the cobwebs.

What does anyone know when they know "more?" In what way are they lacking when they know
"less?" Is a splinter under a fingernail any less irksome for a well- or ill-informed individual?

And Dave and I swapped tales of the romcoms we have found to while away the time ... seriously.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

news wrap on epidemic

This is as good a wrap as any I've seen... or can stand.
Sent the following to my local paper today.
OK, we're in it for the long haul ... like a rug burn... the Corona virus. But if others are anything like me, they are tiring fast of the endless welter of epidemic stories and it's time for a change-up.

As for example, the resurrection of the I.D. column that once sketched out a reader and his or her background. It might be called "B. C." or Before Corona. Readers might write (and thus take pressure off reporting staff) about some aspect of their lives ... prodded by a Gazette suggestion, eg. "stuff my grandmother told me" or "my most valuable lesson" ... anything that was NOT knicker-twisting about the epidemic. The writers would be ordinary people (not the obvious do-good, yogurt and yoga and political talking heads.) Some people are nuts about collecting Hummel figures; some love horses more than they love people; some learned good lessons; some learned hard ones; everyone's got a favorite color or a secret love ... make a form that would pose the questions and let the readers have at it. Once or twice or thrice a week.

Just a suggestion.

adam fisher

Don't we all wish it were just April Fools?!