Department of Silliness/Congress of Wonders

•March 4, 2019 • Leave a Comment

It’s a wet, sluggish Saturday, but on the radio, what joy. A Grateful Dead Marathon hosted by David Gans, our local Dead expert…Ever since my youth in Los Angeles hideously bucolic suburb (Tarzana) I’ve had fun listening, and writing down the names of the songs and the groups. I’d end up with long lists in .005 rapidograph scribble, as if getting them down was going to serve me someday. As with everyone else, ‘band name inventing’ is a sideline of mine.
I only rarely get the time to do anything like that now, though I do find myself running for a pen while repeating in my head: “Mance Liscomb, Mance Liscomb” til i could get it written down.

In the middle of the music marathon, a hilarious comedy skit began with a pseudo old-man calling to pigeons: “Here pidgy pidgy pidgy…” and another ‘old’ man comes up to the bench, and fogey merriment ensues. It turned out to be a group called Congress of Wonders. Missed them completely in my youth, but am making up for it. Pigeon Park is the name of the five minute gag, full of fogey-defamation so thrilling to post P.C. ears. In a different sketch I hear a doorbell ding-dong followed by a cheery “A-bomb calling!”.

My plan: make you have to learn some of it, to make up for  your own misspent youth.

The other killer performer was Ken Nordine, creator of the music genre now known as Word Jazz. His bit was entitled: “How Are Things in YOUR Town?”. Turns out this poet/voice-over millionaire had a very long, fruitful career, being sought out by Jerry Garcia, Tom Waits, David Bowie and hosts of others in need of a golden voice. Further research reveals that he died a mere two or three weeks ago in February 2019. He had an amazing 70 or more year career.

Last night I chanced upon “My Beautiful Broken Brain”, a Netflix documentary about a 35 yr old filmmaker/ad agency creative  named Lotje Sodderland, who had a stroke. Charlie and I watched it until it grew too late to continue. This TBI survivor  revived a couple of days after the stroke and immediately began documenting her experience on her iphone–which led to meeting another filmmaker, and ultimately getting help from David Lynch, and becoming a reality.

No one at Schurig Center (formerly Marin Brain Injury Network) had heard of it.
I consider it required viewing,  owing to the fine editing and startling creativity it used to get the watcher to experience a bit of Lotje’s brain activity.


Every little ember

•February 27, 2019 • 1 Comment

As I washed out the zip-loc baggie that held the barely-used sponge I pulled from the trash at Schurig Center for Brain Injury Recovery, where I take Charlie twice a week to learn to read, I smiled.
Bag rewashing behavior must seem pretty obsessive to a visitor. I thought back to the first time I’d seen a baggie hanging above someone’s kitchen sink. It was at my friend Lynne Gurnee’s house. She is an artist, biker, and general great human.
I’d decided to overcome my loathing for driving at least for one weekend, and head north toward Eureka (six hours by car).  I so missed her company down here in the Gray Area.  She is the kind of person that writes real letters on real paper (or torn out sheets from New York Times fashion magazine).  For wakefulness insurance (my problem with driving is remaining alert, and not becoming a yellow-line zombie within forty five minutes of turning the key)I brought my sick rat, “Gnogden Gnash” with me, wrapped in a flannel cloth and tucked into my blouse. This way, each time he shifted position in his ‘sleeping bag’, I’d feel it on my stomach and be a better non-drowsy driver, thinking about how little time rat people have to love their pet, before they expire.
Very short shelf-life. Three years, max, unless you have a miracle rat.I’ve heard of five year rodents, but never met one.
ANYWAY, the baggie, dripping over her sink, held at one corner by a clothespin, caught my eye.
When I asked about it she told me she puts a drop of liquid soap in, with some water, squishes it about with the bag firmly cinched, and then rinses, hangs, and re-uses.
Not one to shirk from a (nunspoken) challenge, I carried this new eco-behavior home, where it is put into practice as a routine.
I never buy these bags. I just use them till the heat-seal on the perimeter gives out.
Like any good (ex)Catholic, I take my original sin quite seriously, and I’d like to think that throwing away a perfectly cleanable baggie is a pretty original way of disturbing the heavenly peace.

I realize one must pick one’s battles.
Since I’m despairing of the political situation, I burrow into weird micro-moves
that dispel my sense of powerlessness.


As far as I know, no one has adopted bag re-washing after visiting Offhand Manor, let alone rifling through trash to find barely-used kitchen sponges.
I remain hopeful that we can clean house in a political sense, by having all those women in the House of Representatives, none of them old bags.
I am your always hopeful, even while despairing correspondent
Alice B.

Stop the press! no, wait, rev it up again! No, wait, it’s not a mechanical Chandler & Price letterpress, it’s Wurdpress! ANYWHEY, I struck gold in the tip (that’s Brit for dumpster) today en route home from my 日本語のクラス at College of Marin. It was a heavy cardboard box amid a pile of soon-to-be-composted potted garden plants (they hurl EVERYTHING away here in the Shire of Consumption)…44 lbs to be precise-ish. I didn’t need to look hard at the label. It was a block of cheese. Once I’d ascertained it wasn’t American cheese food (which is not technically cheese but you know that) I wrestled it onto my bike (careful not to let the front wheel fly up as I plopped it on the rear rack (no! no! not the rack!  Wait!  The rack, the rack!!) and care.f.u.l.l.y steered home. Up the hill at Fforest Ave, i noticed a distinct wobble as I tried to make a straight line (by now it was dark and dreich) when a car came past.  Got home, put away bike, and proudly hefted this thing ( didn’t pick it up correctly, Grant Petersen, I bent straight over and destroyed my lumbar vertebrae except I didn’t) into my arms and into the door and onto the table was….an impressive find. AGED ENGLISH CHEDDAR!!  Judging from the web, it was worth about $900 (if sold by a reputable dealer) . In my case it’s going to be given out (and I hope to hell consumed!)  The box that the cheese block came in had a date on it, something like ‘sell by May 2018’…well, since the company proudly shares the fact that their VINTAGE West Country Farmhouse Cheddar is aged 24 months, I can trumpet (should I even USE that word? those first five letters…ugh) that mine is aged 36 months!! EVEN BETTER.
There, now I’ve told you.

Think of the plastic I’m trying not to buy, and the cheese I’ve saved from certain death. Can I have my halo now?


Develop a leaf

•July 5, 2018 • 1 Comment

Hearsay on Hersey

•March 11, 2018 • 3 Comments

I just met, or rather re-met a woman whose last name is Hersey.

“As in John?” I asked. It’s my reflex to help me memorize names.

“Well, yes and no. My ex’s name’s John, too, but no relation…”

We were seated at a convivial table at Sorella, the reputed center of the universe according to some. It’s become the center of my week, Saturday night over pasta and fat sausage. Live music makes it extra memorable (if difficult to hear conversation).

I told her that I’d remember her name better if we talked about a Meaningful topic. I chose the topic: why I’m not going to even try to watch any more “The Fall” (scary British crime serial, starring a horny woman detective and a very sick psycho-killer).

I realzied that even though I survived “Homeland” intact (psychically), it would be harder with the other show, recommended by a different friend.

To  watch repeated murder and rape washes the brain (at least MY brain) in frightening images and actions that are probably indistiguishable with actual events. In other words, my tired old brain would treat those things as if they’d happened to me, and this has no redeeming social value (remember that term?).

And the idea that tens of thousands are glued to such content is a little unsettling, too. It’s probably like porn, and you become inured.

I wanted to share what I read as soon as I tipsily pedaled home last night:

The story that ran in the New Yorker in 1946 by the other John Hersey. That epic piece filled the magazine. The editors kept its identity under wraps: only 3 peple at the magazien knew what they were going to print that summery week. The cover featured a bird’s eye view of a park full of people enjoying a fine day.

I have had time to reflect on something I gave nearly no thought to: why I decided to learn Japanese.
It wasn’t for the manga, the culture, the style. As they say in Japan, “ううん” (huh-uh, as in NO).

It was… to honor the people themselves, despite the near-impossibility of communication with them someday.

I’d truly planned on getting over there, and ‘converting’ a few dozen women to wombatinesss.

To the freedom, silliness, healthiness of pure joy riding, away from cars. I still believe personal transpo via automobile is an incalculable harm to the planet and its inhabitants. This blog was and is my “Phelantine” to two wheel self propulsion.

But I thought I’d tack on some Social Redemption as well.



A shapeshifting mate

•January 9, 2018 • 1 Comment

L1000376Listening to Liege and Lief, a favorite Fairport Convention LP, and remembering about Tam Lin, a folktale about a woman whose mate has been cursed, and she must hold on to him regardless of what shape he takes, to defeat the spell.
It brought to mind the two months Charlie spent in hospital, the first in Marin General Intensive Care, reachable easily on a bike, then a couple weeks in Kaiser ICU, then the last month farrrrr away, and people often gave me a ride to Vallejo across the bay-ho.
The road is narrow, two-lane, and guaranteed gridlock much of the time. No public transit connects Vallejo to Marin.
I’d overnight, and crawl into the hydraulic bed with him, activating the hissing of self-inflating pressure bags which spare the nurses much work, flipping patients every couple of hours.
While encircling his frail form with food tube through the nose and sometimes even wrist restraints on, I’d try to envision some form of existence in the future. It was not as bad as it might seem at this telling. I just poured out Hope vibes, and kept up my monthly spirituality subscription, cancellable at any time….
and now…he walks, he talks, we get alone time (right now he’s on a walk between rain storms), he has fun hearing me read about the difference between the oil of the Right whale (burns dirty) and the Sperm whale (clear, bright burning). We’re plowing through Moby Dick, since he loves being read do, and I love finally reading a book I know I ‘ought’ to read. I’m convinced that the elaborate, fine language is better nourishment for his language brain than the nauseatingly profane dialogue in Homeland (TV show, very vile, but seemingly addictive).
We hope that nevermore will whales have to fuel lamps.
Then I went into the internet to tell him about ambergris…
Hope your 2018 is fragrant, natural, and less worried.

If you’ve wondered where I’ve been, I’ve been typing up a storm at Charlie’s Gofundme site. I have about 150 postings, following his slow crawl back into functionality. Not interesting to folks looking for top-notch writing. Just spur-of-the-moment jive.

Wish me luck on MeMoir, eh?


Two Charlies at dinner

•September 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

`Our beloved friend Charlie Kelly, impresario and general fat tire friend recently back from globetrotting to England, invited us (or was it responded to my unsubtle hint?) to join him and Mary his wife…Last Friday we got together and it was clear Mary’d spent the week carefully planning a meal around my Charlie’s gluten intolerance…We had short ribs from CK’s productive backyard ‘cue, Greek Salad and cornbread, and piping hot roasted corn on the cob.
Faces covered with grease, we caught up on each other’s news, eventually tapering into a sort of stupor, which signalled Mary to run to the stove and pull out a massive peach crumble. Maybe 4 lbs of fruit in it–it bubbled merrily over in the oven, portending a clean-up hangover , heaven bless these two.


Treasure (as usual) in the Tips

•September 5, 2017 • 1 Comment

Jacquie Phelan's Weblog

Nuttin in this one...

It didn’t take long to answer the siren song of the curved-top black rubbish bins.

Mrs. Magdala’s Treasure Trove

Just yesterday I came back from a meal delivery –Jac Strachan was freshly home from a hammer session with Martin Steele –‘rainy day risotto’ (it features leeks) and found an entire kitchen pitched into a tip on a posh street next to the Deaf School.

Come to think of it, the meal itself was dumpster cuisine…thanks to a five pound dumpage of Arborio grains–dry, clean, fine, courtesy of Real Foods in Broughton Street.

I called the Scotsman’s Alison Gray to see if she might be interested in sampling my found gourmet provender… no..

Anyway, the stuff I found and squirrelled away: ironstone (beige enamel 6-quart ) covered pot. Denby pottery pitcher and tea pot (kept the latter). Langley oval covered dishes….wooden cutting board. Brand-new analog P. Mercier ladie’s watch (easily…

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