Saturday, December 31, 2016

LAST DAY OF THE YEAR





It's long after midnight on New Year's Eve morning. Saturday morning. I'm in the process of drinking hot tea and eating pizza. Eating any time of the day or night is one of the great benefits of living alone. A cold, quiet night - interrupted now and again by the distant clamor of coyotes.

My Friday was incredibly miserable. I had been procrastinating going to town for nearly a week. I really needed some necessary things, so I convinced myself it had to be Friday or never. 

After getting less than two hours of sleep, I forced myself out of bed (with pain and trepidation) on a miserably frigid morning. I keep re-injuring my back (spine) injury - - which is much more serious than I'd care to admit, and which has been causing many more complications than I'd want to reveal.

I hadn't realized that the Friday before New Year's Eve would be one the the worst possible days to venture into town. Traffic was bumper to bumper and the stores were more crowded than ever. I spent over twenty minutes in the checkout line at Walmart, while the old lady in front of me slowly and carefully took out the 800 items in her shopping cart. Then I waited another twenty minutes while the lethargic cashier rang up the items.

I am definitely a misanthrope with  homicidal inclinations. That's why I live in the wilderness.

By the time I made the five thousand mile drive home (slightly exaggerated), I was so wiped out from stress, lack of sleep, and no food that I felt on the verge of passing out. I left all the groceries in the car and fell asleep on the sofa, fully dressed (coat, boots, and all).

So, here I am - back in my shack in the wilderness, on the last day of 2016. Soon it will be 2017.
2017!!
It sounds like something out of science fiction. Remember the Big Hubbub over New Year's Eve 2000? My parents were still alive then, and many of my relatives. It now seems so long ago....

Rain is expected here on New Year's Eve. A slight warmup will keep snow at a safe distance. At least for awhile.
Gone are the days when I used to cook wonderfully elaborate New Year's Eve suppers. I miss those times.

My solo supper tonight will be chicken, rice, and herbal stuffing. And I've decided to bake a cake. I always bake a white cake for New Years.

I plan to write another post later tonight. Until then - stay safe, keep warm, have a pleasant day, and be assured that I truly value your company.

BTW - I'm incredibly slow at reading your blogs but I'll get there.

ALSO, I haven't seen the possum in two days, but the food that I leave out is always gone. He must be around.

 

Monday, December 26, 2016

ALL GOOD THINGS

 Sunset on Christmas Day

Christmas is finally over, but we're still ensconced in the maddening limbo of the holiday season. New Year's Eve is our next hurdle.

I've decided to curtail my complaints, rants, grievances, and general misery - and try to concentrate on all good things. At least for a few minutes. As a hardcore pessimist it won't be easy, but it's my holiday gift to you.

I finally replied to your comments on my previous post. I generally love comments (as long as they're not death threats), but I don't always acknowledge them simply because I'm lazy - and often because I have nothing interesting to contribute.

Christmas Eve was remarkably pleasant and I savored the persistent fog and dreary weather. I ate supper at midnight and watched the 2002 Hallmark movie Silent Night - which was remarkably good. It was based on a true story about a group of American and German soldiers who were unwittingly brought together by fate on Christmas Eve in 1944.
It's available on YouTube, in case anyone cares. 

On Christmas day the fog and rain cleared out and the temperature rose to 65 balmy degrees (that's Fahrenheit, for those of you in Stockholm). The day was marred by four (yes, four) power outages. They were consistently annoying but mercifully brief.

Today - which I'm assuming is Monday - is still unseasonably mild and windy. It's a clean wind here (not tainted with west Texas dirt), and it inspires the treetops to sing as a great haunting chorus.


 This was my back yard in west Texas during a windstorm (no, I am not kidding)

 This is my Tennessee back yard today during a windstorm. I rest my case.


I watched another movie recently, the 2012 German film Ludwig II starring Sabin Tambrea as the ill-fated Bavarian King (directed by Peter Sehr). Despite taking many liberties with historical accuracy, I thought it was a wonderful film. It certainly held my interest for the two and a half hour duration. 

It's difficult to compare this recent film with the 1973 film about Ludwig II directed by Visconti - - both efforts are good in their own right. 

 Sabin Tambrea as King Ludwig II

I've always had a strong penchant for Ludwig II, the "mad" Bavarian king, because in many ways we were alike. I never held the belief that he was insane, but rather feel that he was an extreme eccentric who chose to avoid the harsh realities of life and kingship by escaping into the safe and soothing fantasy of music, art, and literature.

This is the real King Ludwig II

When I was a child, I escaped from the brutal reality of my father's violence and abuse by reading books, writing, and delving into music. This chimerical safe zone of artistic delusion has followed me throughout life.

Two more things: just for the record, I never agreed with the general theory that Ludwig committed suicide. I believe that he was murdered by his (many) enemies.
The 2012 film Ludwig II is available on YouTube, if you want to see it. It's definitely not a movie that will appeal to everyone - and it's in German. Be sure to enable the English subtitles (I can understand German, but the subtitles help immensely).

I never initially intended this post to be a movie review but, hopefully this transgression will be forgiven.

Now I'm off to feed my cats, feed the 'possums, and make dinner (for myself). 
 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

CHRISTMAS EVE



Rain. Pouring rain ever since midnight. It's nearly 4:00 a.m. Christmas Eve morning and I haven't been to bed yet. The caffeine from several strong cups of tea has rendered me restless.

The past few days have been overcast with an eerie wind brushing through the treetops. Mild, colorless days, snuffed short by an extremely early dusk. I took a few photos yesterday from the back porch.
The hazy sun lingers so low in the sky that it's hardly visible from trees and hills (these photos are in color).


Yesterday the 'possum appeared on the back porch for his daily ration of bread. I was doing maintenance on the lawn mower.
Why the hell should I have a lawn mower when I'm surrounded by acres of 30 foot weeds? I'll never know.


Possum and Lawn Mower

 This is a very unflattering photo of my cat Scruffy (below) but she was fascinated by the 'possum. The picture makes them look closer to each other than they really were.
I quickly took Scruffy back inside after I snapped the photo. I wasn't in the mood to see fur fly in a rumble.



Scruffy and Possum
I have some things to do (like laundry) and then I'll try to get a few hours of shuteye. Going to put this post on hold and finish it later today. 

****      ****      ****      ****  

It's now after noon on Christmas Eve. I slept about three hours, woke up with the usual excruciating back pain, hobbled around doing the usual chores.

It's a dark, damp, dreary day with  spectral mountain fog  weaving through the naked trees. I actually love it - - very atmospheric.

 View from the front porch, taken a few minutes ago

I'm in a lethargic, introspective mood today. Don't feel much like writing or communicating at all. I've become hermitized, like Heidi's grandfather, and it suits my brooding disposition.

Spell Check just assured me that there's no such word as "hermitized". I beg to differ.

I have no holiday plans, no guests but my three cats (and the 'possums). Gone are the days when I used to bake delectable goodies and cook elaborate meals. Tonight I plan to have roasted chicken with stuffing, and pumpkin pie.

Just for the hell of it, here are some photos from the distant past - when I used to enjoy cooking and actually had a life.

 Yes, I really and truly used to make homemade donuts. Never again! Too damn much trouble. Those green demitasse cups are for eggnog.




 

 Homemade turkey soup, and pumpkin 
bread from scratch.




My German chocolate cherry cake

This was a gingerbread house and New Year's Eve cake that I made

I used to make Hungarian cookies every year. The ones on the right are filled with raspberry and apricot jam. 

In retrospect I'm not nearly as dumb as I look. Or as tough.  Heck, I would probably make a great wife for somebody (that was said with bitter sarcasm....).

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

TWO CHRISTMAS CARDS

It's the winter solstice - first official day of winter, shortest day of the year. After a nasty stint of bitterly cold weather, it's gradually warming up. Today here in the wilds of Tennessee it was near 40 degrees (that's Fahrenheit, for those of you in Malaysia).

Nothing new in my life, except for the fact that I now have two resident 'possums. Thought I was seeing double the other day, but I wasn't drunk. Twin 'possums on the premises. I'll go broke feeding all these varmints.
'Possum stew is a possibility on my Christmas menu.

Speaking of twos, I have two musical Christmas cards for your consideration.

These are my own piano arrangements, which I wrote and recorded long ago in Los Angeles (when I was about nineteen).

Last night, just for the hell of it, I transformed the recordings into videos. Nothing special here - - just some dreary examples of how I while away the boring late-night hours. 

Caution - you might want to turn the volume down. For some reason they came out annoyingly loud.
Full-screen viewing is best. 







My YouTube Channel: Jayveesonata

Monday, December 19, 2016

OLIVES, POTATOES, GROWLING, ZSA ZSA




A quick hodgepodge of completely unrelated stuff.

Yesterday, in her comment on my blog, Myra mentioned something about Christmas stockings - and that sparked a memory that I hadn't thought of in many years.

I've always had an unnatural obsession for olives (yes, olives), ever since I was a tiny child. It's some sort of weird addiction. I can't get enough of them. 

One Christmas when I was either four or five (can't remember), my father put a jar of olives in my Christmas stocking (which I, of course, thought was from Santa Claus). Dad secretly said to Mom "Let's see what the kid goes for first: the toys, candy, or olives."



It was no contest. On Christmas morning, I was ecstatic to find the jar of olives in my stocking. To hell with toys and candy! I pried off the lid and started eating them. My parents eventually pried the jar away from me, or I would have eaten the whole thing in one sitting. 

Strange but true. And I still love olives.
 

The other day when I went shopping in town, I bought a 15 lb. bag of potatoes. Imagine my surprise when I opened it and found a potato that was nearly a foot long. Over eleven inches. I've seldom seen one that big.
This photo doesn't do it justice. 

Please try to contain your excitement.

  
As most of you know, I've been feeding the resident 'possum.  Although basically nocturnal, the 'possum has been coming out in the daylight lately because the nights are so damn cold.

A few days ago my eldest cat Scratch was outside on the back porch. I looked out a window to check on her and she was face to face with the 'possum. Neither of them looked pleased.

I quickly went outside and they were growling at each other! Scratch growls when she's angry, but I've never heard a 'possum growl before. I chased the 'possum and dragged the cat inside.
Not easily intimidated, the 'possum returned five minutes later. I gave him (what else?) some cat food to eat.

I took this blurry pic through the kitchen window.



 Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, dead at the ripe old age of 99. Much more known for her glamour and flamboyance than for her acting abilities.

I met Zsa Zsa when I was sixteen. At that time I was a piano student of the Hungarian concert pianist Geza Wolf, who lived in Riverside.


Geza Wolf (real name Wolfenstein) was the former conductor of the Belgrade Opera Orchestra, and a survivor of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He was also a close friend of the Gabor family (sisters Zsa Zsa, Eva, and Magda) and visited them often in Palm Springs.

One day when I was arriving at Wolf's house in Riverside, Zsa Zsa was just leaving. We exchanged greetings and talked very briefly. I proudly told her that I was learning some of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies. She mentioned that she could make a helluva good Hungarian goulash.

In retrospect, at the time I was hopelessly immature and too young to make much of an impression. 

Just one of my many fleeting California memories.....

An afterthought:
Longevity seems to be in the Gabor family. Zsa Zsa's mother Jolie lived to be 102. 

 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

ALL ABOUT SANTA


It happened about a week ago at the Westgate Mall in Amarillo, Texas (I've been there a few times).

Children were waiting in line with their parents to see Santa Claus - or a reasonable Claus facsimile. Suddenly the innocuous moment was rudely interrupted by a guy named David Grisham - an evangelical street preacher from Alaska.

Grisham began loudly proclaiming to the children that Santa Claus wasn't real and their parents were lying to them. There is no such thing as flying reindeer, there's no toy workshop with elves at the North Pole.

It was a sober moment for the stunned kids and a rather embarrassing one for their now-angry parents.

Grisham was right, of course - he was spewing the truth. But perhaps his method of conveying the fact was thoughtless and crude.

The curious can find a video of Grisham and his dire Santa message at this link:
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Li3N-eYt4g8&t=3s

If the link doesn't work, just go to YouTube and type in a search for David Grisham.

Okay, I can't hide my real feelings. The guy is an annoying nut case - - but I admire his guts and think the whole incident is hilarious.

I was an extremely innocent and gullible child. I fully believed everything I was told - - and would have probably still believed in Santa when I was forty, had the truth not been revealed to me when I was six.

We had recently moved to California and I got a Schwinn bike for Christmas. My Mom revealed the Santa lie to me and I (miraculously) wasn't phased or shocked in the least. I said to my father "Thanks for the bike, Dad."
End of the Santa myth.

Now, a thousand years later, I have no sentimental feelings towards the Faux Claus Connection. It's ridiculous to lie to children about a fraudulent Santa, no matter how noble the intention. Christmas is a pagan holiday and a insanely commercialized annoyance. Celebrate it in your own way - if you must - but don't force-feed it to the unwilling.

Am I a Scrooge or a Grinch? Hell, yea.

What I like most about the holiday season is the festivity of it all - - the beautiful decorations, the fantastic food, the magical wintery ambiance, the feeling (even though it's completely false) of peace and goodwill.

I'll end this dismal epistle with some photos that I post every year. Most of you have seen them - so just pretend that you haven't. I have other photos, of course, but I don't feel like digging them out of the cobwebs and scanning them.


My first Christmas. Actually, it was technically my second Christmas. I would have been just a year old (I was born on December 13th)

The house where we lived during my first Christmas. My father took this photo on Christmas Eve.

 That winter coat amazes me. Kinda looks like a straight jacket. Notice the matching hat. Clueless about my age. Maybe four? I was a tall kid.



Again, not sure of my age. Possibly just turned four?? I look a bit cranky.




Wednesday, December 14, 2016

NIGHTMARE IN THE DAYLIGHT





First of all, I want to thank everyone from the depths of my heart (yes, I do have one) for the birthday greetings. There were no death threats, no insults. I'd call it a resounding success.

Now that I've generated a calm and amicable mood, I'm going to expunge it with a description of my daylight nightmare. Actually, my entire life has been a nightmare in varying degrees - but some days are worse than others. Today was worse than others.

First of all, anyone who's read my blog for any length of time knows how much I dread driving into town. Miles and miles of narrow, twisting mountain roads that test the limit of my endurance and make one hour seem like twelve.

I limit my going-to-town excursions  to once or twice a month - - and beforehand I have to psyche myself up like a suicide bomber. 

There was no way I could avoid going to town today. I'm getting low on supplies and was completely (and I mean completely) out of cat food. Not to mention the fact that an arctic blast is due to arrive late tonight, which will render the roads icy.
It was now or never.

I got up rather late and stalled around, but eventually got dressed - despite lack of sleep and ample back pain. I dragged myself out to the car and plowed through the 10-foot weeds (the frosts haven't killed them) to the dreaded road.

I was making remarkably good progress, until I saw all the blinking red and amber lights ahead. Colored lights never blink on this road, unless I've had too many beers...or there is an alien landing.

That was supposed to be funny. I just thought I'd point that out.

Directly ahead, entirely blocking the narrow road, were three (three, count 'em) gigantic work trucks equipped with what looked like steam shovels. They were moving rocks and heavy branches - all along the roadway and traveling about 1/8th of a mile an hour. Possibly even slower.

Holy shit! I won't get to town until Easter!

That was my first thought. My second thought is unprintable.

Time dragged on  as we crawled at a pace slower than a lame snail. Within twenty minutes, the traffic that had gathered in back of me looked like it was lined up to Memphis.

Impatience and irrationality are traits that I inherited from my father. I was getting desperate and decided to take drastic measures.

Despite the fact that there was a dangerous curve ahead, I grasped the steering wheel, crudely calculated my chances for survival, and inched my way between two of the trucks. Then I stepped on the gas pedal and screeched  past the obstacles and around the blind curve - leaving the astonished truck drivers and the line of vehicles in the dust. 

This inane story is getting incredibly long for no discernible reason, but agonizingly verbose descriptions are part of my charm.

Since I was completely broke, my first stop in town was the bank - not to rob it but rather to make a legal withdrawal. My heart sank when I saw that the parking lot was empty. Then the horrifying truth dawned on me.

It's Wednesday. And it's after noon!!!

For some odd reason that I've never quite figured out: the bank closes at noon on Wednesdays, along with the post office, the library, and all other similar places.

It has something to do with local religious practices - - which is why I staunchly believe that organized religion should be banned. It's bad enough that these hillbilly yokels took away our booze. 

All I could think of is my three starving cats....and the grim fact that I drove all the way into this godforsaken town for absolutely nothing!

Fortunately, I did have twelve dollars in my pocket. I went to Walmart and bought a big bag of Purina (that's cat food, for those of you in Guam).

As I angrily drove back home, I encountered the same three annoying work trucks and the same endless line of impatient traffic. 

After suppressing road rage and the intense urge to commit murder, I concentrated on plans to construct a still and make my own moonshine.

There's no logical end to this impossibly long story. I wrote it simply to unleash my pent-up hostilities.
It's now Wednesday night. The temperature is dropping rapidly. And I don't plan on going back to town until Monday.