Book Notes

September 12, 2009

Book notes for Pete and David.

Pete, you suggested I read Gold Coast, by Nelson DeMille. I just finished reading it. The book was very stimulating, entertaining, thoughtful, and well-written, and I plan to read the sequel. I thank you for the suggestion.

The main lesson I drew from reading it was not to get involved in a ménage à trois with a Mafia don and my wife, not a kink I am likely to pursue. (My wife has made it clear to me that if I am not faithful to her, I am not likely to live for a long time. I don’t think she would bother to hire someone from the Mafia to help her hit me.)

I presume you are adhering to the same sensible policy in regard to your lovely bride.

Pete, in turn I will suggest two possible books for you to read. They are not exactly like Gold Coast and I don’t know if you will like either book, so please don’t put out a contract on me if you read either and find you don’t like them.

One is called Vertical Run, by Joseph Garber.

The other is Vanishing Act by Thomas Perry.

David, on more than one occasion, you have suggested I read The Road to Wellville by T. Coraghessan Boyle. I just checked it out of the library and I have started reading it.

It does indeed seem to relate in a deep way to my family’s history. (My paternal grandfather was a big fan of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.) Although I have only started reading the book, I do already sense a connection and it does bring back moving memories.



Almost a year ago, David said:

I’m thinking that your aid campaign is what turned my life around. You’ve got a powerful tool there. Use it wisely.

I started what I called a “shareware” program where I sometimes send $5 to someone who is blogging and evincing some distress. David, Waxingstrange, and more recently a person on worldmagblog, the evangelical Christian web site, have all been recipients of my tiny postal mail donations.

In each case the recipient reported some benefit.

Here is my thinking.

1. All human beings are crazy. We are crazy because of our self-awareness of our mortality. (Becker) There is no cure for our condition. Religious belief is the most common method of alleviating it.

2. There are many sub categories to our craziness, such as the “I’m no good” syndrome (original sin).

3. Two common symptoms of the I’m no good syndrome are the “I am ugly,” and “Nobody loves me” feelings. David, for example, suffered severely from these symptoms, though he is not ugly and people do love him.

Here’s my theory. It is based on “cognitive dissonance” theory. This theory suggests that humans resist holding contradictory ideas in their minds. So if a person thinks, “I am ugly,” and a beautiful woman sleeps with him, he then thinks, “She is only doing this for my money.” This issue is complicated by the fact that in some cases the conjecture may be true. I don’t think like a woman, but the a woman may think, “He only loves me for my body.”

It may take a fairly strong and unexpected shock to break through this resistance. In Zen Buddhism, the master sometimes “slaps” the student to force him into a new awareness. Apparently, sometimes getting five dollars in the mail can sometimes have the same result. It’s only good for a few days, though.

I haven’t figured out what to do for David in July. I may send a great white shark to his house to tell him to get his act together. However, while the shark is looking for a place to park, David may be able to escape. In the meantime, to encourage David to keep living and keep posting his entertaining blogs, make a shareware contribution to him at the address listed below.

Send your contributions in small, unmarked bills, to

“David Rochester”

4803 SE Woodstock, #202

Portland OR 97206


However, David’s cat, Little Liu, will defend him against the great white. In a battle between a great white shark and Little Liu, which would win? Send your answer to David, wrapped in a $5 bill.

Premium Premium

October 29, 2008

Today is the prep day for my colonoscopy. I clean out my system today. I took the first four pills at 9 am. At 3 pm I start drinking the liquids. Tomorrow I go through the actual procedure so they can see how likely it is that I have colon cancer.

I am dedicating these two days to the Help David Stay Alive Pledge Drive. If you mail a contribution today or tomorrow I will think of you each time I take a trip to the toilet. On Friday, I would like David to provide us with an update how contributions have been coming in.

I am providing first class premium quality premiums this week.

My Wife and I Finally Meet

October 26, 2008


When I was young I was so afraid of young women I could hardly bring myself to even speak to one. I’m not quite sure exactly why that was, but probably I thought of myself as so worthless a person no woman would want to have anything to do with me. This must be one of the reasons I feel a bond with David and his tales of being harassed and bullied by other children and feeling worthless as a child.

I wasn’t bullied as a child in the same way he was, but in a sense I bullied myself.

When I was a teenager, the thought of asking a girl for a “date” seemed more terrifying than climbing Mt. Everest without a scarf. I had no idea how other boys had the courage to approach a girl. I never went on a date with a girl while I was in high school. Aside from my timidity and terror, not knowing how to drive a car, not knowing how to dance, and always being an introvert in a new school (my father worked for a defense contractor and was always being transferred to help install computers at a new Air Force base for the Strategic Air Command, so I attended six different high schools in three states) also did not help.

In college, I did go out on two very timid and chaste “dates” with young ladies I considered so unattractive that I figured they would even go out with me. I am kind of disgusted with myself when I consider my thinking at the time. I hope the ladies involved eventually encountered someone in their lives who was a little more respectful than I was, even if I was perfectly polite to them and never laid an improper hand on them.

My brother was still in high school and already had gone through several girl friends. He was far less timid and inhibited than I was, not to mention so immature he would do any fool thing that came into his head.

One day after I retreated home in disgrace after flunking out of college, my brother and I were home alone. We were bored. As an introvert, I would have just buried myself in a book. As an extroverted immature person, my brother started flipping through the phone book and decided to call people with peculiar last names and make jokes about their names. I went along for the ride, listening on an extension phone.

After the first two victims quickly hung up in disgust, he hit gold, reaching a teenage girl sitting bored at home with her hair up in curlers. Even though she was bored, and even though she was only about 15 years of age, my WTB (wife to be) was already a cautious, strait-laced person, not the type of person to stay on the phone flirting with a couple of boyish pranksters.

Nevertheless, she even laughed when we made fun of her eccentric last name. (She was quite happy to change it to my last name when we got married. On the other hand, my daughter was quite happy to change her last name to her out-of-law partner’s last name after they had been not-married for a few years and Random Granddaughter joined the conversation.)

Actually my brother quickly grew bored with the conversation, but I started to improvise a comedy routine and she started to laugh. I don’t remember exactly what I talked about, though I do remember extemporizing some sort of pathetic routine about elves living under toadstools. I am sure it was exactly as bad then as it sounds now.

The funniest thing about this exploit is that my wife is generally not much amused by my sense of humor; much less so than the typical reader of my blog. But somehow or other I got her laughing that night and she not only laughed, she agreed to talk to me if I called her again. Well, I did have her number.

Well, you already realize I was a youthful loser-dork. What was my wife’s problem? It was her bra size.

My wife’s mother was quite buxom, as is her older sister. As my wife became a teenager, her bosom never developed much bux. She apparently figured this physical handicap meant that no men would ever be attracted to her, forcing to her succumb to a fate of being a lonely old maid. Intellectually, even then, she knew this was nonsense, and in fact, another teenage boy, named Bruce had actually asked her out on a date, but emotionally she considered herself as an unlovable flat-chested reject in a breast-obsessed society.

As two people who each felt ourselves utterly unlikely to ever find love, I guess our love was meant to be.

At the time we met by telephone I was attending a junior college in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles (after flunking out of the University of California at Berkeley) and volunteering in the news department of KPFA, the Pacifica listener-supported radio station in Los Angeles. My wife-to-be was still attending high school, where she took a drama class with Sally Field. However, my WTB is quite unlike Sally Field. Her real soul sister in the world of entertainment stars is Carol Burnett. My wife can do a brilliant Carol Burnett imitation.

I had gone on two tepid dates in college. My wife-to-be had gone out with a boy named Bruce. Bruce, the daring rake, planted a timid kiss on her lips at the end of a date. According to my wife, no sparks ensued, and her hormones yawned. I hope Bruce found his own true love somewhere whose fire he lit.

At that childish time in my life, I did not even know how to drive. After my WTB and I had talked on the phone a few times, I asked her to go out with me. Our “date” (which my father drove us to as I couldn’t drive) was a real dork-fest. On weekends, as a volunteer, I wrote and read a 15-minute newscast at the listener-supported radio station KPFA (part of the Pacifica network).

Probably seven people listened throughout the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, six of whom were probably confined to their beds, and one of whom had already called the radio station and asked why the news sounded so amateurish on weekends. Evidently fancying myself a fascinating and alluring media star, I asked my wife-to-be if she wanted to watch me do a radio broadcast and see the inside of a radio station.

My wife told her mother that she had met me at a party at one of her friends’ houses.

We went out on a couple of other equally exciting dates. I think we took the bus to go bowling with my brother and his girl friend of the time.

My WTB (the youngest of five children as I am the oldest of five children) adored one of her brothers, L, who lived in San Francisco and pursued a life as an artist. The rebel in her family, L stirred my WTB’s inner non-conformist, though at the time he caused me to lose her.

One day I called to ask her out. Her mother told me that she had gone to stay with her brother in San Francisco. The implication-or so I interpreted it-was that my WTB did not want to see me again. I figured love had been glimpsed and then lost forever from my life.

Suppressed Childhood Memory

October 22, 2008

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I am having too much fun. I need to get a grip. This is all about David, not about me.

David has suppressed memories of his childhood, for good reasons, I’m afraid; to protect himself against remembering terrible things that happened to him.

I remember my childhood as being terrible. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of feeling sorry for myself about how badly my father treated my mother, my brother, and myself.

Last night I got in touch with a suppressed memory. I remember my brother, my sister, and myself jumping up and down on a couch and getting hysterical. I remember our parents saying to us, “You’re getting too excited. Pretty soon someone is going to get hurt and you are all going to start crying.”

I remember my sister crying hysterically. We were indeed having too much fun.

It is incompatible with my “stance” of my oppressed childhood to recall that we sometimes had fun in my family. So I have suppressed those memories. Unfortunately, or fortunately, one of those memories broke through.

I was having too much fun with surrealist dwillings, plotting trips for David to meet truce in France, and other jumping up and down on the couch. I am suffering a hangover today. Also we have a staff meeting at work and I am very likely to mention the elephant in the room. This will not go over well at all.

However, I have to tell you about how my wife and I met. This embarrasses me hugely. Next post.

Surrealist Open Houses

October 22, 2008

David and Truce are such a cool couple, even though they are not a couple yet and are divided by a great deal of ocean. However, they are engaged in repartee about starting a surrealist estate business, an idea that seized my mind with ferocious fervor and made me all the more determined to make my Keep David Alive Fund Drive a stunning success.

I immediately became entranced with David holding surrealist open houses, and found some pictures of them. Just imagining David showing these dwelling–there has to be a better word–dwallings…dwillings…dwollings…dwullings? Anyway, just imagining David showing them fills me with such delight I can hardly contain myself.

Putting a lot of links into a comment sends the WordPress spam checker into fits like a rabid German Shepherd snarling and barking and growling and howling hysterically, so I figured I should put it into my own blog. So here it goes.

If you look at all these pictures of surrealistic houses and are half as delighted as I am, you will send David a $5 pledge before this week ends. This is serious stuff.

Surrealist Dwelling #1

Surrealist dwilling #2

Surrealist dwilling #3

Surrealist dwilling #4

Surrealist dwilling #5

Surrealist dwilling #6

Surrealist dwilling #7

Surrealist dwilling #8


Surrealist dwilling #9


For reasons I don’t understand, this turned into a really nasty post to get to work. If you look at all the pictures, I think you should pledge $10.

Well, you get a nice house out of it, anyway.


October 21, 2008

This is my second “Seinfeld” story,  that is a story about nothing, though something or other happens even in a story about nothing, so this story describes a bit of happy matchmaking.

I don’t know if I have ever matched two people romantically. By accident I once put two people in touch with each other and they fell in love and got married (which had not been my intention) but they later divorced bitterly, so I am relieved that it had not been my intention for them to marry.

Anyway, matchmaking can involve just introducing two people to each other because they will like each other or have an interest in common or can be useful to each other. I have successfully done that sort of matchmaking, and I had a good experience in this regard a couple of weeks ago.

I have talked about our friends S and B before. S grew up in Sri Lanka at a time when the terrible civil war was just getting started. As a child she saw people burned alive in mob violence. Her father had been a “rascal” (involved in petty crime such as changing currency illegally) and a Catholic, so S had attended a Catholic school where she had been taught by nuns. An older sister was already a college student in the United States. When the Catholics closed the school and sent the nuns back to Europe, because Sri Lanka had become too dangerous, S’ father decided Sri Lanka was too dangerous for his daughter as well, so he sent S to live with her sister in the United States.

S and my wife used to work together in Portland and they became good friends.

I don’t know how she met her American husband B, who works for a power company in Oregon. I will have to ask them one of these days.

They plan to retire to Washington. We hoped they would move to lot #4 (we are on lot #3) on our island. Each lot is about five acres in size because my wife and I love lots of separation from our neighbors. We love our neighbors more when we are not cheek by jowl with them.

S  and B decided not to move next door to us. S has a bad knee and can’t walk very far. They don’t mind living next door  to their neighbors as my wife and I do. S hopes to get an artificial knee to replace her failing natural knee before she retires. My wife’s other best friend has had two artificial hips installed. All of us are getting older and turning into cyborgs. My wife and I still have our original parts, though they definitely creak.

So S and B have been having a house built on the mainland. It is almost done. They will retire and move into the house in about a year.

Our neighbors on lot #1, whom I call the Friendly Neighbors for blog purposes, have been extremely helpful to us. We all garden, which bonds us together. Mr. Friendly Neighbor is a very handy person. He especially loves wood working, and makes many beautiful objects out of wood, both furniture and works of art. He is, in fact, a woodworking nerd (a term I use out of admiration, not disparagement).

He loves to talk about woodworking. He will show me a beautiful piece of furniture he is working on and talk about a joint is going to fashion and ask my opinion. He will point at a couple of other joints and ask my opinion about which to use.

I will say something such as, “That one looks very nice. But that one also looks very nice as well.”

He is a very kind and gentle person, so he says nothing unkind to me, or even cast a look of disgust at me, but it is clear I am of no use to him whatsoever in this regard. I feel like I have let him down terribly. Although he and his wife built their house together-and it indeed a splendid and beautiful dwelling-she is not a woodworking nerd either.

B, is also a woodworking nerd. When S and B visited us a couple of weekends ago, they noticed a sign in front of the Friendly Neighbors’ house advertising eggs for sale. (Their chickens are now producing eggs lustily, though probably that is not the appropriate word, as the Friendly Neighbors do not have a rooster.) They are now selling eggs to neighbors and friends such as us to help pay for feed for the “girls,” as they refer to the hens.

S said to us, “I would love to buy some fresh eggs.” She and my wife had a happy conversation about the difference between fresh organic eggs from the farm and fresh organic eggs in the natural food store. The difference is night and day they agreed.

I said, “I will walk down to the Friendly Neighbors and buy a dozen eggs for you.”

B said, “I will come with you.” S stayed at our place with my wife because the quarter mile walk would be too hard on her bum knee.

When we got to the Friendly Neighbors’ house, I introduced B to Mr. FN. “He is another woodworker,” I said to Mr. FN.

B looked at a table that Mr. FN had built. “What kind of wood is that?” he asked. I don’t even remember the answer (clueless  as I am), but within a few minutes they were deep in conversation about different kinds of wood and a few minute later Mr. FN was taking B on a tour of the house, showing him all his woodworking projects, and they were deep in  happy woodworking nerdish conversation. It was clearly love at first sight, as I had expected it would be.

Mrs. FN and I talked about chickens and gardening. After about half an hour, Mr. FN and B came up for air, and I told B, “We have to get back to our wives.” He obediently followed me, though it was obvious he could easily have spent many more hours in happy conversation with Mr. FN.

As we walked back, carrying the eggs, B described some beautiful piece of furniture Mr. FN had made. “I wanted to make something like that, but I didn’t.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“As I talked about it, S said she saw no need for us to have it. It didn’t go with our other furniture, she said. ‘Why do you want to make that?’ she asked me. ‘We don’t need it.’ She didn’t understand that I just wanted to make it,” he concluded mournfully.

As far as I can tell, B & S have a very happy and successful marriage. Yet as David has said, even in a successful relationship, one partner cannot meet all the needs of the other partner. There has to be space for other relationships even in the happiest marriage.

These other relationships do not always need to be alternative romantic relationships in every case. Probably in very few cases, though I have known some relationships where such relationships did occur.

However, David certainly needs to have at least one romantic relationship no matter how eccentric it may be. Even perhaps with someone as far away as Australia. Maybe that’s how much space he needs for a relationship to flourish. In my next post I will talk about the very high level premiums for those who contribute to the pledge drive.

As a child, I was bullied by my father, as was my mother. I don’t think he was aware of bullying his family, and after he got done with my brother and me, he stopped with the three younger siblings who are puzzled why the two of us resented him so much.

As a school child, I was not especially bullied, but I was aware of bullying and aware of being the kid next in line to be bullied. Children who are bullied send out signals of being good targets. This is not fair, and not really their fault, but the phenomenon clearly exists. When I was a public school teacher I could often tell within a day or two which students were likely to be bullied.

I did get beat up a couple of times as a child. I never learned boxing or karate or similar martial arts skills, so I’ve avoided physical combat situations all of my life. However, anyone can be thrown into such a situation unexpectedly. My first instinct would be to call the  police, but if I had to I would strive to hurt a threatening person, no matter how feebly.

I have been in a couple of scary situations in my life. This is sort of a “Seinfeld story” in that it is about nothing and nothing happened. I tell it in honor of the pledge drive, so if the story fascinates you for a second or two, send a buck to David.

About 15 years ago, I was working in downtown Portland. I rode the bus to and from work. One day after work I was standing on the sidewalk among many other people waiting for busses. I noticed a man and woman engaged in quiet but intense conversation.

He was white and fairly large. She was small and Asian—for no particular reason I imagined she was Vietnamese. I could not tell if they were in a relationship—husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend. They looked as if they were in their thirties or forties.

Although I could not hear the conversation-they were about half a block away and speaking quietly—it was clear to me that he was berating or threatening her and that she was frightened. Angry and threatening was how I would describe his demeanor. Cowering and terrified would be how I would describe hers. There was no physical contact between them, but there was a feeling of threat in the air.

There was no visible reason to intervene or to call the police, but my sense of the tone of their conversation and their body language told me that there might be a need to do so. This was before the time when cell phones were so popular and I had none. There was a phone booth about a block away. There were quite a few people standing around waiting for busses, but I seemed to be the only one noticing the situation.

I decided to stay and quietly observe the tense couple from a distance until the situation resolved peacefully on its own or called for action. I made up my mind to miss my bus and catch a later one if need be.

A few minutes later a bus arrived, apparently the one the woman was waiting for. She scurried over and boarded it with a look of relief on her face. He looked angry but made no attempt to follow. I inferred there was no relationship between them.

Men threaten women all the time, both women they know and women they don’t know, for various reasons, mostly unsavory. Why a man would threaten a woman he evidently didn’t know in the midst of a crowd of people in a very public place remains perplexing to me.

As the bus left I turned my attention away. My bus arrived a few minutes later, and relieved that I had not had to engage in senseless heroics, I boarded and headed home. As I say, it’s a story about nothing. If it held your attention for a moment or two, set aside a dollar for David’s pledge drive.

Two Great Themes of my Life

October 20, 2008

Two of the great themes of my life are:

  • I hate bullies and bullying.
  • I love to play matchmaker.

My brother and I were bullied by our father. I tried very hard as a father not to be a bully toward my daughter. I am not in close contact with my brother and his children-he lives across the country from me-but I think he has made a similar effort for his three children.

My wife and I met by accident, and we are not particularly well-suited to each other, but so far we have made it work. “So far” will reach 43 years in November. Our motto is: We are too weird for anyone else to put up with, so we might as well stick together. After 42 years of marriage, we got brave enough to say, “I love you,” to each other.

When I was young, I read a science fiction story about psychic powers. I don’t remember the title (as usual), but I do remember the author’s name: Keith Laumer. (He was a talented but very tragic person, by the way.)

The protagonist develops a psychic power-he can detect people who need each other. Not necessarily romantic need-though sometimes that is the case. However, each party has some quality or characteristic the other needs. The protagonist puts them in touch with each other and something marvelous happens.

I thought it was one of the most wonderful stories I ever read.

I don’t know that I have ever matched people up successfully in a romantic relationship. However, at times I have brought people together who benefited from knowing each other in other fashions than romance.

My pledge drive for David Rochester may be my magnum opus for working on both of these themes. It’s too early to tell if I will have success on either in his case. While I am working on it, I will tell two stories, one on each theme. One where nothing happened from over twenty years ago. That nothing happened was probably good.

The other incident was quite recent. Only a little tiny thing happened, but it was good.

I will write these stories in the midst of incessant pledge drive badgering. I am eagerly waiting to hear about money coming into David’s mail box next week.