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Faulkner’s The Unvanquished

When I was considerably younger, I read quite a few of Wm. Faulkner’s novels, and for a long time he was one of my two favorite fiction writers (the other being Aldous Huxley for entirely different reasons).  Recently I picked up Faulkner’s The Unvanquished, one of those I had not read before, and I finished it about an hour ago.  Faulkner’s prose is dense, and frequently beautiful.  One reads Faulkner as one exposes oneself to any great art, whether Shakespeare, Beethoven, W.M.S. Turner or the sculpture of Henry Moore.  It enriches one, and, I suspect, considerably increases the number of neural pathways between brain cells.
The Unvanquished takes place in the American south during and in the four or five years immediately after the Civil War.  There is language that may offend some, but it is the language as it was spoken at the time, I suspect, and is, therefore, appropriately used.  It is an exciting story, taking place, for the most part, during wartime, and the characters are drawn very well.  But it is Faulkner’s beautiful use of language that is the main thing, and near the very end there is one paragraph, that is, perhaps, two pages long, that is what made Faulkner one of the preeminent American prose writers.  It is beautiful, extremely moving and bears close attention.  This is not writing one glides over for the story (what happened then, what happened next), but rather one savors, lies in, holds very still and tries to imbibe.

Well, I recommend it.

Late one night in Portland OR

In the early 1980’s, in Portland, Oregon, I had a radio show on KBOO-FM, a Pacifica station.  Once every other Tuesday, late night, I played blues.  Magic Sam, Earl Hooker, Jr. Wells, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy, James Cotton, Jr. Parker, Freddy King, etc. 


I had a full beard for much of that time, which I mention because it’s pertinent to what occurred.  I played records.  There were no CDs, MPGs (or whatever they’re called – that’s actually embarrassing that I don’t know that.  Fuck.)   And so I’d lug two huge, heavy bags filled with blues records, to and from my car, wherever I managed to park, and the studios of KBOO-FM.  And one night, after my show, about 1 in the morning, I’m lugging these two heavy bags through the damp streets of downtown Portland and I’m coming to a corner where I know there’s a bar.  And outside the bar, leaning back with one foot on the wall behind them, two guys were smoking cigarettes.  And one guy glances my way and pushes off from the wall.  “It’s that guy,” he says, “from the bar last night.”  And he looked as though we hadn’t had a very good time.  And the other guy, who thank god had a beard too, looks at me and calmly says: “Nah, that’s not him.”  And that was that.  I passed them by, walked on to my car.  Drove home.  Went to sleep.  Down these mean streets, yah?

Happy Holloween


I was a little kid in the 1950’s.  I had an older brother and an older sister.  By the time I started trick or treating, I suppose my sister was at least 13 y/o, and, though I don’t remember, I suppose she took me trick or treating with her, and then, a few years later when she might have felt too big to do this, my brother, 5 years older than me, probably took me.  Then, a few years after that, I would go on my own, or with a friend my own age.


I don’t know when things changed, so that parents were frightened to let their kids go without a parent, and I don’t know when (or if, but I suppose so) we reached circumstances when this would be necessary.  And I also don’t know when it became necessary to make sure that the candy the kids eat was new, storebought, wrapped, unopened.  No razor blades in the apples, for example.

In my neighborhood, if you went to the Sinclair gas station at 63rd and Whipple  (though it might have been 63rd and Richmond) they’d give you a coke.  Maybe an 8 ounce bottle.  I think they had those then.  And there was a house on Francisco between 66th and 67th that would give you 50c, which is probably the equivalent of eight thousand dollars today.

And every kid would come home with an enormous bag of candy.    It was great fun.  I never felt in any danger, no one ever did anything unpleasant to me or even spoke an unkind word to me.  I guess I was lucky to live when and where I did.

Nowadays, of course, the candy alone is a bad idea.  I guess.

I hope there are still places in the USA where parents can let their kids roam, house to house, trick or treating safely.


Evolution and doorways

Years ago I ran the audio-visual department for a small private college.  Being a small operation, I frequently moved equipment around the campus myself.  That is when I learned that human beings have a predilection for standing in doorways.  Something about a doorway makes a human being crave standing in it.  It also has a deleterious effect on their hearing.  I know this because I’d come to a classroom to bring in a slide projector, for example, and there’d be 2 or 3 people standing in the doorway talking.  “Excuse me,” I’d say.  Nothing.  I’d repeat it louder.  Nothing.  I’d have to virtually shout in their ears to get them to notice someone (me) was trying to get through the doorway.  It’s probably a trait strengthened by evolution.  Prehistoric humans who chose to stand in doorways during earthquakes were more likely to survive, and so their traits became dominant.  And the degraded hearing might have some connection to the adverse audio qualities involved in the shape and/or position of doorways themselves.

What makes me think of it now is a series of occurrences at the gym I go to.  The entrance is 2 glass doors that open wide like suicide doors on an old Lincoln Continental.  People don’t stand in these doorways, perhaps because they close by themselves.  Instead, when outside, they stand in front of one, to open the other, thereby blocking both.  So the person inside – which seems to be me a remarkable amount of the time – has to wait while they open the door they want to use, while blocking the door I want to use.  Again, I suspect there is an evolutionary, survival mechanism at work here.  They’re trying to frustrate me to death, thereby increasing the chances that their DNA will survive, while mine die by increased stomach acid.

 Ah, science.

Give us a little bus, will ya, huh?


My car was in the shop all day recently.  After dropping it off this morning, and on my way back to the shop that afternoon, I took the bus.  It’s been quite awhile since I took a bus.


As a kid in Chicago, I was always on public transportation.  I went downtown every Saturday for art lessons and piano lessons, and I’d take the bus to the closest commuter train station, which, in Chicago, we call the “L”, or “El”, short for elevated, because, other than downtown, where some of it is below ground, the tracks are elevated above the streets.  I wonder if Spanish speaking people find it amusing to refer to the El, since “el”, in Spanish, is the masculine version of “the”, so, in a way, they’re referring to the The.  A little funny, maybe.

All through high school I took the bus, five days a week, to and from William Rainey Harper High.

But, as I wrote above, it’s been awhile since I was on a bus.  And it’s not horrible, but it’s not nice either.  After I dropped my car off, I walked a few blocks to Vermont Street to the bus stop for the 180 and 181 buses.  A bus came right away.  But it wasn’t either a 180 or a 181.  And it didn’t stop.  I looked at the sign again, and it only listed 180 and 181.  I probably waited about 15 minutes for my bus.  I got a place to sit, but it was a little crowded, which made it a little unpleasant.

In the afternoon I took the bus back to my mechanic’s neighborhood to pick up my car.  Again, a bus came right away.  Again, it wasn’t a bus I wanted, and it wasn’t a bus listed on the bus stop sign.  The next bus that came was a “Dash”, which I think means it’s extremely local, and it was listed on the bus stop sign, but it wasn’t going where I needed to go.  Then another bus came that didn’t stop where I was, and wasn’t one of the two buses I wanted, and wasn’t listed on the bus stop sign.  Go figure.  I think I waited around 20 minutes this time, and by the time I reached my stop, it was probably about 35 or 40 minutes since I’d arrived at the bus stop where I got on the bus.  We didn’t have cell phones when I was a kid, which was way back in the last century, but we have them now, and a few minutes before I reached my stop, I called the mechanic to let them know I was almost there, because it was almost closing time, and I sure didn’t want to get there and find the place closed and locked.

It all worked out all right, but I’m sure glad I have a car.  I care very much about climate change, and I know one of the partial solutions is less people in individual cars, and more people on public transportation (or on bikes, or walking), but if that’s going to happen, I think public transportation, at least in Los Angeles, is going to have to improve a lot, or things are going to have to get a whole lot worse for drivers driving alone in their cars.  Gas prices skyrocket, or traffic congestion, which is already awful in L.A., getting worse, or something else entirely that I can’t even imagine at the moment.

A signal

Waiting at a red light one morning recently.  Waiting to turn left.  Light turned green.  I don’t recall exactly what I was doing, but I don’t think I was watching the light.  Took me a moment to notice and then move forward a bit.  Guy behind me gave me a honk.  I realized I didn’t have my turn signal on.  He roared around me on the right.  Righteously indignant.  And I was abashed.  Really.  Because when I drive, it seems like every block there is someone double parked, or backing out of their driveway without waiting for it to be clear, or sliding into the parking lane and then expecting to be let back into the flow of traffic some car lengths forward, and changing lanes or turning without signalling.  Whoops.  All those things make me impatient.  Get me angry like as not.  And here I was, doing it too.  Reminds me I really, truly need to be more patient, more tolerant.  It’s difficult.  But who knows, maybe this is the time I’ll remember the lesson.

Perchance to Dream

Some years ago, my friend Joe suggested that I might have sleep apnea.  He has it, and uses, at least sometimes, a device called CPAP, which fits over the nose or mouth or both – I’m not sure, and, I think, forces air into his nose or mouth while he sleeps, which evidently keeps the airway open, and the airway closing while one sleeps, is, as I understand it, what sleep apnea is.  As a result of sleep apnea, the airway closes, and one starts awake…and opens one’s airway.  As I understand it, and as I’ve experienced it, one isn’t necessarily consciously aware that one has awakened, but, evidently, it repeats throughout one’s sleep, even hundreds of times during the night, thereby robbing one of the deep sleep that’s needed to be fully rested.

At the time,  I went to my doctor, and he made the calls necessary for me to get a sleep test, paid for by my health insurance.  So I went to the sleep center, as it was called, at night, if I recall correctly, and went to bed and to sleep, monitored by a technician.  After awhile, he awakened me, told me that I seemed to have a mild case of sleep apnea, and fitted the CPAP to my face, then allowed me to go back to sleep.  Except that the CPAP seemed to me to be suffocating me.  After awhile I told him that I couldn’t sleep this way.  He told me that I had been asleep.  I may have tried again, but as far as I was concerned, I couldn’t fall asleep with this thing on my face, and by now I was exhausted, and I just got up and went home.

Now, about 5 years later, I think the sleep apnea has gotten worse.  In order to get the CPAP I need a prescription.  In order to get a prescription I need to repeat (and complete) the sleep test.  So my doctor is looking into whether my insurance will pay for it again.  If not, I’ll look into how much it costs and pay for it myself, if that’s allowed and it doesn’t cost too much.  Because I really think it’s effecting me on a daily basis.

I get very, very tired during the day.  Often I get so sleepy I have a hard time staying awake.  I am afraid this has caused me to really curtail my activities.  It’s not that I’m necessarily lethargic, but I do feel as though I don’t have much energy.

If I do get the CPAP or some other device prescribed, and if it helps me, that’d be terrific; but I’m a bit afraid that if that happens, I’ll grieve over the years that have gone by when I was living at reduced energy and probably not doing things I might have enjoyed, and/or that might have helped me advance in various areas that I’m interested in, especially my career.  It’s an odd fear.  Fear that I’ll discover I’ve missed out on a part of my life, even while I’m regaining the time that’s ahead.  Yet the fear, or at least concern, is there.