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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Getting old and left behind (or just crotchety)

     Yesterday, I got an email from Old Man Rainbird:
Subject: The Horror of Modern Times 
     After our discussion, I ran into this (Is Google Making us Stupid?). I like doing crossword puzzles, and for some time now I refuse to look up something until I know there is no chance I'll remember, or know, the answer, and I'm a stubborn old bastard. [That’s true.] I always enjoy the moment when things click into place and I have the answer, even if it had to churn away for a while. What's the pleasure you get in an instant search? (I ask rhetorically.) And, so, thanks for Saturday, but my realization on the true and absolute diagnosis of your mom was a blow. I really didn't know, and perhaps I was in denial. 
     I'm up for a lunch later this week if you'd care to indulge. If Friday is still a good day, then fine, but feel free to adjust the time, or for any day, as it happens. 
I responded thus:
About the "Horror of Modern Times" 
     I’ve often marveled at ancient writers, somehow managing to write wonderful, complete sentences, conveying elegant thoughts, as they wield that fuckin' hammer and chisel. I ask myself, could I do that? Don’t think so. I’d have to go through several drafts, and I’d run out of rocks and wear out my tools before I said anything. My back would go out and that would be that for a while. 
     I figure it’s always like that. You’re limited by your tools, and people rise to the occasion of those limitations. I remember how my shitty Bic pens would just stop working and I’d have to go on a search for a new shitty Bic pen. I recall needing a shiny new pad of paper to do any writing. I couldn’t bear to just write on odds and ends and scraps. I even went through a fountain pen period. That was messy. 
     Reading’s that way too. You adjust to your tools. For instance, I tend to use my eyeballs, but I find that they’re not what they used to be, and I keep having to try different pairs of glasses, some of which are broken; some have become monocles or worse. And I can’t really read in the dark, unless I’m reading off of my laptop, which beams at me like a tiny drive-in movie. Darkness is better, laptopwise. 
     I have come to feel that I can no longer keep up with all the changes in tools and shit. I don’t know what people are doing on their iPhones, and I fear that I couldn’t do it even if I tried. I try to “read” Facebook, but it still feels like opening up the minutes for some weird-ass club of underwater basketweavers. I feel alien and left behind. I feel that way pretty much all day long, especially among my students, who seem to wonder how a guy like me is even possible. 
     So I’ve pretty much decided to let it go and just live in my own little world, chiseling away like I do. Boy does my back hurt. 
P.S.: Of course Google is making us stupid. Everything is making us stupid. We will be remembered as the Age of Stupid.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Recent pics

These days, Ron visits 3 times a week: usually late on Saturday, Wednesday, and sometimes Sunday.
He makes an effort to have Ma walk up to my place and back, a standard bit of exercise. It's hard getting her to exercise, and these walks are about it these days.

The Boy, Teddy, entertains us in many ways. Here he is rolling around in the dirt/sand, something he does every day. No one can understand how it is that he always looks so clean. A mystery.
The view from "Teddy Hill," the hillock between my place and the studio/garage. Teddy and I generally walk down this hill every day and then back up again. The Boy loves the outdoors.

There's a fine patch of cactus on the side of this hill--high on the side of the little canyon between the hill and my place. It's blooming these days.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Teddy and I go on our walk

The boy loves his walk. 
We usually walk about the hills surrounding my house when I get home from work.
 He can be a wild-eyed young man.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A fine Huckleberry moment

     I dropped by Ma and Pa’s at about 10:00 or 10:30 this morning. I found Ma with Hilda* in the living room. I was surprised and relieved to find Ma in a very good mood, happily greeting me, chirping with Hilda. Nothing like yesterday. Yesterday was pretty bad, what with Ma refusing even to join us for lunch—or anything else. It was one of her “bitter” days.
     But today was a sweet one.
     “I made reservations for 1:00,” I said. They stared at me, uncomprehending. I inferred that, as usual, Pa had somehow (tried and?) failed to communicate the plan to them, which he had mentioned at least to me last night. The plan was to have lunch today, Tuesday, at a favorite restaurant, Las Brisas in Laguna Beach (a decent place with a wonderful view of Main Beach), to celebrate Ma and Pa’s Wedding Anniversary, their 63rd, which was actually yesterday.
     I thought that was a great idea. I told Pa we’d talk about it again in the morning. I was happy about the plan.
     Then, at about 9:15 this morning, he called and muttered unclearly about the plan (or not?), as though he wasn’t sure about what he was saying. I asked if he had made reservations to Las Brisas. He hadn’t. I said I would. I also convinced him to invite Hilda and Annie, which, somehow, he seemed disinclined to do. “Well, you can’t invite me without inviting Annie,” I declared. “And why would we leave Hilda here when she can help out?” (Tight-waddery was afoot, I think. But maybe it was something else.)
     I had already driven down to Annie’s place to let her in on the plan. “Be ready at 12:30,” I said. Okey-dokey.
     Annie usually likes these outings, and her noisy geniality generally prevails. That’s good.
     At about 12:25, I rolled up to Ma and Pa’s. Their usual absurd punctuality had not materialized. –Usually, I find them standing there, in front of the house, waiting impatiently, as though I were late, even when such is not the case.
     It’s a German thing, I guess.

    I walked inside. I could find only Hilda, who seemed unsure about something. My dad then appeared. I said, “Well, everybody ready?” Hilda looked at my dad. “Am I coming along?” she asked.
     “Sure, you’re coming along,” I declared, ending all discussion about the matter. Who knows what Pa had said (or muttered or confusingly uttered) before I got there. I didn’t care. She was coming. (Pa had already insisted on paying for lunch, since I often pay for these things, and he doesn’t want to seem not to do his fair share. Possibly, this was about money, but I'm not sure.)
     Ma was off somewhere, “getting ready,” so Pa and I walked out to the car, climbing inside, sitting in silence. We waited.
     After maybe five minutes, Hilda and Ma trudged through the front door and out to the car. I watched and waited as they climbed in and Hilda attempted to fasten Ma and Pa’s seatbelts. It’s quite a job. 
     We were off. We stopped at Annie's. Naturally, Annie was not ready. I honked and waited. A minute later, she appeared.
     Off we went, rolling through the gate.
     “This is a nice airport,” said Ma. “Did it always have so many planes?”
     How is one to respond to these Alzeimeranian remarks? “Yeah,” I said. “Nice planes.” That seemed to put an end of the "airport" business.
     Ma was mildly confused, but she was happy to be reminded that we were going out to lunch, plus she was in a good mood, and that was good enough for us. She seemed happy to pal around with Hilda—two girls in the world, that sort of thing. Yesterday, Ma actually called Hilda a “bitch” after Hilda urged Ma to join everyone for lunch. “Woman, I know your tricks,” Ma said, nastily. “I do what I want. Nobody can tell me what to do! Certainly, not you!”
     But, today, they were pals again, or at least that’s what I saw in my rear view mirror as we drove down Live Oak and then turned left on Santiago Canyon. They conversed conspiratorially like school girls. It's Hilda's way of making things nice, the giggling school girl thing.
     Meanwhile, the weather was a little cool and breezy—there was some fog earlier—but it looked like it might warm up.
     By the time we were in Laguna Beach, twenty minutes later, it had become a bright and beautiful day. Even the ocean’s horizon line became a clear mark across the sky—the sine qua non of good beach days, IMO—and the occasional breeze caused the palm trees to undulate, their long leaves sparkling. The ocean sparkled, too.
     I sparkled, silently.

     We managed to park close to the restaurant, and I acquired the coins necessary for the hungry parking meter (it eats only quarters and dollar coins). The Las Brisas crew brought us to pretty much where they always bring us—to a table by the window with a great view of Main Beach to the south and Dana Point miles beyond.
     Everybody sat at the table, pleased as punch. Voila!
     We had a great lunch. Ma seemed especially happy. Naturally, nothing of any consequence was said. We toasted to Ma and Pa’s anniversary. We commented on the food. (Good.) Annie told her stories. Hilda talked about her dogs. (One of 'em's named "Ready," I think.) I facilitated things with the standard stupid remarks. “Like your food?” “Have more guacamole!” "Yummmmm."
     Afterward, we walked to Heisler Park, overlooking the sea, where Ma, Pa, and Hilda sat on a bench, taking in the view, the people. It was a standard busy day for Laguna Beach: lots of tourists, young people, and everyone else.
     It was lovely, and I felt some magic.  
Nelson Pike and Pa (Manny), Laguna Beach, c. 1984

Nelson seemed to like my folks.
     Some young guys walked by and then one of them stopped right next to us to take a picture of his crew with his iPhone. Annie volunteered to take a pic of the group. “No, it’s gotta be a selfie,” said the kid. We all thought that was great. Or something. I think those kids were a bunch of young Hawaiians. They waddled down to the beach. Annie snickered.
     After a bit, I drove us down PCH** a few miles—progress was slow, but not glacial—and that was fun. Pa provided his usual unsolicited factoids about this and that.
     I eventually turned inland and got on Glenneyre, moving north, hoping to bring us through the back way to the Canyon Road. 
     “Didn’t Nelson Pike*** live here?” asked my dad. “Yep,” I said. “On Arch Street.”
     "Whatever happened to him?" asked Annie.
     "He died," I said. "Maybe ten years ago."
     I turned on Park, but the road back to the north end of the city (a left) was closed for repairs. I had to turn around. We were stuck in typical Laguna Beach traffic, crawling along.
     Eventually, I decided to just go back to PCH. We drove up to Broadway, turned right, and then rolled through the Canyon like nobody's business. It was a beautiful drive. Lots of blathering. Lots of green hills, trees. Lots of reminiscing. The usual sort of thing, I guess.
     Clearly Ma and Pa were having a good time, though I do believe that Pa fell asleep, just as I took the 73 north (a mistake, but a happy one: I love the view at the top). 
     Eventually, by about 4:30, I got us back home.
     I dropped everybody off.
     I got back to my place and released the hound—i.e., I released young Teddy Boy, who was very pleased to go for his walk.
     We climbed up to the flat spot above the Avacado trees and took in the view, with Trabuco Canyon and Rancho Santa Margarita way off to the east, the mountain pretty much to the north. Then we climbed up to the water tower, a great view spot. The sun was still shining. The breeze was perfect, and the leaves glistened.
     Again, I felt magic.
     A fine Huckleberry moment. 

*Hilda is Ma's caregiver for six days of the week (49 hours). Hilda has worked for us for maybe four or five months. She's warm and nice and she seems to do a great job.

**Pacific Coast Highway

***Pike, my old philosophy mentor [Phil of Religion, Hume], died six years ago. (1930-2010) In 1984, the family, including Annie, attended a party at Pike's place on Arch St. in Laguna Beach. Pike attended at least one party in our home in Trabuco Canyon. (He also worked with Kathie J. The party might have been for Kathie's doctorate.)
At Las Brisas, three years ago

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Saddleback Park & Escape Country

     Remember Saddleback Park (1968-1984)? Was located at the top of the hill very near where the toll road now crosses Santiago Blvd (above Irvine Lake). Used to be a land fill up there. Back in the late 60s, early 70s, this motocross park was very popular. I do believe that the Briggs' kids (next door neighbors) road there. It eventually shut down owing to lawsuits and disputes with the land owner, the Irvine Co.
     Another motocross track was constructed near us in Trabuco--Escape Country in Robinson Ranch. Two bike tracks plus hang-gliding.  (I believe it was open from about 1971 until about 1978. I think the owner died in '78.)

Escape Country, c. 1975

     Back in the 1970s, the only way in or out of Robinson Ranch (nowadays on the periphery of Rancho Santa Margarita) was on treacherous (for drunks) Live Oak Canyon Road, and it seemed to us that drunk drivers were dying like flies out there on weekends.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Leigh Porter, RIP

     Previously, I wrote about a high school friend, Leigh Porter, who died in 1999. I knew little about Leigh’s fate, beyond the fact that he had become a chemist, that he studied at UCI, and that he died in 1999.
     I really liked Leigh, and I wanted to learn something about his life and death. I found some publications in chemistry journals, authored by Leigh and one Robert Doedens. I determined that Doedens, age 78, was a chemist at UCI (now retired), where Leigh earned his Ph.D. in 1984. I found Doedens’ email address, a UCI email address. I wrote:
Hello. My name is Roy Bauer; I teach Philosophy at Irvine Valley College. I've been attempting to track down some of my friends from high school (Villa Park High here in Orange County). One especially important friend was Leigh Porter. As near as I can tell, he died in 1999. I did a search and his name seems to come up with yours on some publications from the late 80s (chemistry?). Were you a friend or associate of Leigh's? Any information you could share about Leigh—how and why he died, what he was doing with his life, etc.—would be much appreciated. If not, could you direct me to anyone who knew him? Leigh and I were friends, briefly, in high school. I recall few decent conversations in those days—the Nixon years; the few I had were with Leigh. I remember him as a smart and sensitive guy. I do regret not having kept in touch with him. [1/13/2016 4:05 PM]  
—Roy Bauer,  Irvine Valley College
Today, I received this response:
Dear Roy, Leigh finished his Ph.D. degree under my supervision in 1984 after earning B.S. and M.S. degrees from Cal State Fullerton. He was a bright and independent graduate student and we kept in touch for some time after he left. He held a few postdoctoral research positions, of which the most important were at Argonne National Lab and at Texas A&M University. He did good work at both places and his supervisors had a high regard for him. He was then hired as an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas in El Paso. He seemed to be doing very well there, but I learned later that there was some tension between him and one or more of his colleagues and that he had at least one significant episode of depression. He left UTEP after a negative tenure decision. After a few short-term research positions he was hired as a postdoc at the University of Utah. Within a year or so, I received the sad news of his suicide. I have never learned the full story of the events at El Paso and Utah.  
— Bob Doedens, UC Irvine

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

UCI c. 1973-1975

Just imagine the acoustics! A vast plastic barn.
     My time at UC Irvine started in the Fall of 1973, just after high school graduation (at Villa Park High). The UCI campus was relatively simple and incomplete in those days--not like it is today. The library seemed small, the campus, with its vast central park, often felt nearly empty, and the "commons"--I never asked why it was called that--was cavernous and noisy and furnished with shitty plastic chairs and faux-wood tables.
    I came across these photos of the commons in those days:

Actually, I don't remember these booths. I do remember the shitty lighting and the hideous linoleum.
     In one of my courses, students were told to form small discussion groups that would meet informally somewhere on campus. I recall being in one such group--I don't recall the course's discipline--that met inside the vast and noisy commons facility. My hearing was probably sound in those days; nevertheless, I do recall having some difficulty carrying on a conversation in that place, what with all the harsh, smooth surfaces, including much glass. I think I did all right joining in on these discussions with my colleagues.
     Nevertheless, in those days, I was very shy--pathologically shy--and I did not make many friends. I remained pretty isolated through those early years, and I seem to recall struggling with that and with my utter inability to have, or to create, a social life. I was clueless. This state was essentially a continuation of my high school years, though, at Villa Park High, I did manage to have good friends and a fair number of acquaintances. No dating though. Not much socializing. I would visit with my best friend Mark and I would have long and somewhat fulfilling conversations with a few individuals (with Leigh, not with Mark, who was very OC Republican, as were his folks). 

That's Verano Place in the background
     Eventually, Kathie and I moved into Verano Place--in about 1980 or 1981. We stayed for many years (until perhaps 1988 or so).

     In those days, at the end of Verano Place (as one walked away from campus) one encountered an old farmhouse and some fields. Pretty wide open.

     I eventually got into the habit of staying on campus, in the library, to study or simply to read. The library was cold and empty-seeming, not a social gathering place by any means. So, in a sense, it was perfect for study, especially in the basement.
     I could have been more studious than I was, however. I recall chasing after various whims in the stacks--reading about politics, history, and so on. Eventually, I learned to drop by the periodicals room and check out all sorts of cool journals and magazines.

     UCI tended (in my experience) not to be terribly nurturing. It was more a "throw 'em in the deep in of the pool" kind of place. I typically did fine, but the experience always seemed institutional and cold. I didn't really know what other students were doing or experiencing; never comparee notes with them. There were some exceptions.
     I was, however, very interested in my studies. I recall being dazzled by my exposure to linguistics and history especially. I recall occasionally getting the sense that all of my studies somehow pointed to surprising unifying themes, such as "free will."

     I recall making friends with a guy named Dave P in my Metaphysics class. He was all about dating and socializing, and he was attracted to me, I guess, because I was relatively engaged in the material and pretty serious. He wasn't any of those things.
     He wanted to befriend me and I offered very little resistance. I recall driving to Long Beach to his parents' home. It was in a fairly crummy neighborhood. He'd drag us to "clubs" and bars, looking for women. I did that a couple of times but found it to be appalling, and I slipped away from Dave somehow.
     A year or so later he sent me a postcard from Aspen or some such place, bragging that he was now a ski instructor. He had his eyes on the babes, he said.

     I recall commuting to and from UCI (lived in Orange at the time) in my '66 Bug. I installed a 6-12 volt converter, which permitted installation of a cassette tape player. Used to play Mott the Hoople. Loved that band.

     I recall really liking a girl in one of my Philosophy classes. She seemed very nice. Commuted, I guess, from Riverside. I hated Riverside (I still tend to view it as foreign and unpleasant). But I liked her. I recall having opportunities to get to know her. But I failed.

     I recall taking some small elective course concerning library research. The teacher, a librarian, would yammer about how one must read "books" to learn, to be learned, and so on. She offered cliches, mostly, and I guess I didn't think much of her. I recall saying that I was not that kind of reader (it's true; I was never into novels, though I did read much non-fiction). When we turned in our research projects, she singled mine out as some kind of model of wonderfulness. I was surprised and amused; I did the work in one afternoon, essentially. I recall having a conception of what a good presentation would be and relying on that, not on actual research. It seemed obvious to me how to present the research even though I hadn't really done any.
     The teacher marvelled at my work; she was amazed: how can a non-reader, such as this odd Bauer fellow, be this good with research?
     I didn't know what to think of the situation. The victory of BS over substance. I had some inkling that I had abilities in presentation; I wasn't sure what they were. They flowered a bit, much later, during my editor and publication (newsletters, etc.) days.

     One time, I was driving in the parking lot adjacent to Humanities Hall, and I came across this girl in her Karmann Ghia. Her battery was dead and she couldn't start her car. I stopped to help her. Soon, a cop drove up and ordered me to get behind the wheel of her Ghia. I did so and the cop then used his cruiser to push me very fast--I was alarmed--through the parking lot. I popped the clutch and the engine started right up. The cop left it at that.
     I told the girl to let the engine run for a while. She was grateful. Another opportunity. I dropped the ball. Off she went.

     I recall attending a Kinks concert at UCI. Must've been the Spring of 1976 (the "School Boys in Disgrace" tour). Saw the same concert at Long Beach Auditorium.

     Things improved for me in my last two or so years at UCI as an undergraduate. I got to know some of the other Philosophy majors, including Kathy Leonard (nowadays she goes by "Blanchard"; she's a veterinarian in San Bernardino). Kathy knew the popular and charismatic Professor Nelson Pike (only later did I realize that Kathy and Nelson were sleeping together) and, through Kathy, some of these majors, including me, ended up at Nelson's place on Arch Street(?) in Laguna Beach on Friday nights. This situation did not really lead me to a social life, however. I was always awkwardly alone, different, albeit prettty good at the philosophy thing (for an undergrad). I guess that's why people put up with me. That, and just being a nice guy.

     Even now, I feel a great coldness and emptiness thinking about my undergrad years. I don't blame anyone. It's just the way it was. It's just me.
     I used to use the term "medieval" to describe my childhood. I would remember it as empty and grey and harsh in some ways--though I wasn't mistreated. I was a sensitive child, as they say (though my folks never said it; I'm sure they would have described me as a "normal" kid). And, when I went to college, I just didn't have the tools to live or flourish. I was very frustrated, essentially unhappy, albeit ambitious in a certain way. I think that largely continued to be the case thereafter. Essentially, it is the case now.
     I often think that my friends should be bold and tell me what I'm doing wrong. (Well, sometimes they do, but it never helps.) But I guess they don't see me the way I do. They seem to think that nothing's wrong. How very odd.
     I'd fight back, master the obstacle, give it the old college try. But, now, I feel too old.
     I know that's silly. 

 * * *
     Situations and events that just roll off some people produce syndromes and complexes in others. I recall my dad often coming home from work in a dark mood. He wasn't violent. He displayed no explicit signs of his poor mood. But I knew he was unhappy, dissatisfied. Something was wrong, I knew not what. He brought his darkness home, and I felt it as if I'd been suddenly led into a dungeon made of cold blocks and iron bars in a foggy, misty moor. I felt dread. And, yes, it is as though I feared violence until sleep; the morning seemed brighter.
     Was it me or him? It was both.