Monday, June 30, 2014

Don’t Try to Talk to Russians in Paris (If You Are An American)

One of the myriad joys of sitting in a French bistro or restaurant has always been – for me – the people that I often get to talk to.

Whether sitting at Le Départ Saint-Michel, Le Bonaparte, Café du Metro or many less frequently attended, and therefore not remembered by name, at the little round tables scattered hither and yon, or at Brasserie Lipp in the interior at a banquette (see for more on that) I have always been able, if I wanted to, to talk to people adjacent to me that attracted my attention; sometimes the situation has been reciprocal – I had attracted their attention.

The grease that has lubricated the communication machine that has allowed me to talk to such  an interesting variety of people over the years is the English language. 

It is surprising how universal English is.

Really, demoralizing would be a better descriptor.

If one wants to try to stumble though one’s French, most waiters don’t have time for that. 

They just talk in English.

Probably the pinnacle of conversation-in-the-bistro incidents was several years ago when Mysti and I were in a very crowded one of the Brasseries Fernande. 

The guys next to us asked us if we spoke French.

Mysti does.

They said, “great, can you help us with this menu?  We are Italian and we don’t speak French”.

We did and an interesting conversation ensued.

And I have had many other similar encounters over time.

A uniform aspect of these encounters has always been that, when I finally decide to – politely (“please excuse my rudeness”) interrupt the conversation at some adjacent table – or bench space in the next slot at the banquette – has been that the interruptees always respond with some degree of cordiality.

The least cordiality I have ever encountered has been several times with Brits: they have always cordially responded to me with statements that – given that I do speak English – I have easily been able to parse as meaning “fuck off; we don’t talk to Americans”.

So today at my au revoir dejeuner at Le Depart Saint-Michel I perceived an opportunity looming from the following little story.

And, I thought, it was about to become le premiere of conversation opportunities de brasseries de Paris to date.

I was eating the green salad that I had ordered as dessert to the really good steak au poivre et frittes that I had just wolfed down.

As I tried to shove an unruly glob of greens dripping French dressing into my mouth without too much residue being deposited on my beard I became aware of someone taking possession of the table immediately next to mine.

A voice appeared to be speaking French.

That seemed reasonable since the words and rhythm sounded vaguely familiar and I had no idea what they meant.

I would have faded to black from that had it not been for the next words coming from that adjacent table.

The voice had switched to a guttural from of English and had asked for the “English menu”.

I was, of course, interested.

Another conversation opportunity?

The plot thickened.

The voice also asked for the “Russian menu”.

I didn’t know that Le Départ had a Russian menu.

“This is going to be great” I heard in my head.

“I have never talked to a Russian.”


I waited until the voice’s (turned out to be a round little man – about five foot three and bald and about 300 pounds – basically a rather small man in the form of a very large egg) table mate had returned from the toilette, and they had examined their various menus, and had ordered before I made my move.

I am seventy one years old and it sounds really stupid that something such as this could be an exciting event after all this time and all the places that I have been in my life – but it was.

“I have never talked to a Russian” I heard from somewhere.

I had, while considering whether I was going to make an attempt at talking to this guy considered what I thought to be the obvious alternative outcomes of such an attempt:

1. He really didn’t speak English and we would smile and nod to one another and go back to our business.

2. He would respond in a manner similar to the Brits, mentioned above.

3. He would try to engage me with a brilliant command of French, to which I would have to mumble “je ne, etc.”

4. He would, as it sounded, speak English and another rapprochement of individuals, in spite of their governments would have taken place.


“Please excuse my rudeness for interrupting you, but do you speak English?” I said, having turned to face my maybe Russian bistro mates.

I might have thought that I had seen hate during the course of my life.

But at the moment that my round-man-intended-interlocutor looked at me, as I spoke to him, I knew that I had never really seen hate before.

He looked at me with such an intensity of hate that it almost frightened me.

“What do you want?” he said in a manner that closed the encounter with his last word.

He sort of snarled; spittle almost came forth.

He had a wolfishly canine manner.


I had no idea what to do.

It had been like a scene out of “The Exorcist”.

“Please forgive me” was the best I could do.

I turned back to my table.

I finished my salad.

I ordered a double espresso.

I nursed my wounds.

I thought about what, if anything, I ought to do in response.

My command of language and my sense of self worth, and my pride for my country were goading me to do something.


When I had finished and had paid my bill I stood up and purposely towered over the little round man and his table mate.

The little round man was engrossed with an encounter with a ridiculously shitty little camera; he had obviously chosen that as his premise for not looking at me.

Which he was NOT going to do – look at me.

I chose to wait; I figured I could wait him out and embarrass him into having to look at me.

I couldn’t.

I had stood there for long enough to make other denizens of the place to begin to look at me.

Finally I chose to speak.

“To answer your question.

“What I had wanted was to be able to talk to a Russian which has been a privilege that I have never previously had offered to me.

“I think I now know why that privilege has eluded me.”

And then I left.

In a lifetime replete with frequent oddities, this encounter had been among the very most odd.

La Citrouille 2014

If you ever had occasion to read my post from 2010

about this restaurant you might have tried it yourself since then.

Or you may have read the post and not been moved to try it.

Or you may have just found yourself to have been mildly entertained by my screw-loose description of the place.

Or you may have never heard of me or my post.

Or … or, I don’t know.

But it’s 2014 and I am still going to La Citrouille. 

And for me it as good as ever, or maybe better. 

Having a place in Paris that I can go to and be welcomed like a long lost friend every time I show up after a year or so absence is a very pleasant phenomenon.

In 2012 my wife and I and my daughter in law and my son spent the entire evening of my 70th birthday in the place.

It’s just not right for a family to have as much fun as we did that evening.

The La Citroilleians even sang happy birthday to me.

I probably could pontificate at length about how great a place I think La Citrouille to be, but the previous post did quite enough of that.

Suffice it to say that I still think if you want to go to a place with good food and great people when you are in Paris go to La Citrouille.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Some E-Mails

A friend of mine recently sent me this email.

“Just for some fun:

Here is one for you to try.  Easy quick and tasty.  Cooks up in no time, maybe half hour total time including prep of cutting the chicken

Boneless skinless chicken breast (as many as you need)

Sesame Oil

Couscous plain (can use Israeli or Lebanese couscous but the regular makes the meal seem lighter)

Small can of sliced water chestnuts

Small can of bamboo shoots

Small can of mushrooms (any variety or fresh if you chose)

Slice the chicken into cubes (I do it length wise and then cross cut for the cubes)

The chicken breasts we get from Sam's are rather thick so they are halved and I think the thinner the chicken breast the better

In a deep frying pan or small pot cook the chicken breast in a mixture or extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil when nearly done mix in the water chestnuts bamboo shoots mushrooms and any other veggie that may appeal to you like baby corn or the likes.

While cooking this mixture, prepare couscous spread couscous on plate and top with the chicken veggie mix.

There is a store selling olive oil and olive oil mixes that just opened up down here.  While I like the sesame oil for cooking, they sell a Tuscan herb and olive oil mix that is a good flavor.  So I sense that one could experiment with different flavored olive oil mixes and try different flavors.”

To which I replied:

“A couple of chicken things from me:

I do several chicken cube recipes; among them:

A tomatillo/jalapeno/Anaheim pepper chicken wrapped in flour tortillas and put in the oven at high heat covered with jack cheese and once that all gets heated and melted I serve them covered with sour cream and sliced avocado. I guess they are generically burritos. There is always a lot left over and – I am really weird – I like it cold for breakfast.

Chicken curry with jalapenos and whatever green stuff is around at the time: usually asparagus or broccoli, or both.  Served on jasmine rice is nice.

And, finally, one I invented just before I left for Paris, I put as many chicken hind quarters as I can fit in a huge cast iron frying pan with a thin sheen of olive oil to brown the chicken.  To that end – browning (and cooking) I put the cast iron lid on the pan and put it in the oven at 380 for an hour – or so – I can’t remember for sure.  That produces moist falling apart chicken and an amazing liquid that begs to be reduce ( without the chicken) to a - I guess it’s called a roué – to which I add white wine, capers and Dijon mustard and reduce it back down to get the wine non-raw and the roué a little thick.  Put that on the chicken and viola you have poulet de Lopez.  One salubrious side effect is that the weight of all that chicken, added to the weight of the pan and lid makes the face that I handle the thing with one hand – usually my right one – a test of how far age and arthritis have taken me down the path to oblivion.  So far I have been the great one handed chef of 41st Avenue South.

The final thing is I have always bought boneless breasts at Costco.  Recently I noticed that they had a separate skinless chicken breast product – tenders – which are those elusive beautiful little strings of chicken breast muscle that always comes loose when you decide to bone your breasts rather than buy them that way already prepared.  Actually, even if you buy the fully boned breast you probably have those things frequently falling out of the rest of the breast which leaves you with a bunch of one density and size and shape of cubes, and a small amount of a totally different density and shaped things. 

That makes for uneven cooking.

Costco apparently noticed this phenomenon because they now sell those “tenders” as a separate product.  For me it is a better solution to my insatiable need for chicken for – other than the hindquarters in the cast iron pan thing – the various chicken preparations I like to do.

They are, as their name might imply, more tender than the rest of the breast and they are less expensive per pound and they come in smaller packages so it is possible to get a meal per package ration that makes more sense to a single person household.

I know, I know; we have things called freezers.  But in the best of worlds I try to minimize that artificial intervention into the preparation of my food.”

Then, after some thought, I needed to follow on to this long term friend, with whom I have talked for years and in depth about the weakness that exists at the seams that hold the United States together.  I offered the following non-sequitur:

“Something that amazes me is that it doesn’t seem that anyone in the political class there in the good ol’ USA – which is as clueless as the political class here in Europe - is how transportable and transferable is the ISIS model to the various militias that lurk on the edge of things in the United States.

That amazes me, and worries me – a lot.”


The nihilistic desire to pull things down seems to me to be the central motivating force – spiced and laced with the everlasting twinge and twang of unutilized testosterone - in all militias, but especially so with the nut Islamists.

If we could figure out the reason for, and fix it, for that unutilized hormone, I would not be anywhere near as worried as I am.

The fact that that problem has cataclysmic consequences for our 200 plus year old experiment in self government is disquieting.

How nice; how tragic; how stupid.

It is especially stupid since the answer to how to fix the testosterone problem is so obvious.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Au Revoir Iraq

I have been rooting for the Kurds ever since the beginning of our Cheney/Bush “surgical” entry into the Middle East.

They have always sounded like a cohesive "people" to me.

They have sounded like a people.who have been trying to have a "homeland" for a long time.

Looks as if they might finally have one.

Au revoir Iraq.

And good riddance.

At least it will be the Jihad Disneyland.

There must be some Islamic benefit to all that.

To this Facebook post a friend replied:

I root for the Kurds, too. If the place is going to be divided up, they deserve their own homeland, and that includes the Turkish Kurds

To which I replied:

I agree with that and that is not good for NATO.

But Erdoğan is such an Islamic asshole that it probably turns out that Turkey will come unglued and leave NATO anyway.

It is unnerving that - except for, apparently Tunisia, Islamic clusters can't get out of the 8th Century.

Other than Tunisia the Kurds have seemed to be less than nuts.

(That ignores the Egyptians.  There the people valiantly tried to get into the Twenty First Century a few years back and ended up with Mubarak light). 

Since I don’t know how to deal with something of that tragic magnitude I have folded it into my personal view of all other Islamic clusters.

The Kurds, though, have always seemed to me to be the only segment of Islam that are generally like what I always thought Islam to be: the third monotheistic religion, nothing more, no other agendas.

Under that banner I thought I had a pretty good idea of what Muslims believed and how they viewed the world.

How wrong can one be?

I guess not participating in the Renaissance has been a real problem for Islam.

But then, in the defense of the 8th century crowd, I can't help but remember some idiot American general - whose name I didn’t know at the time and so can’t even claim to remember now - several years back who commented that "my god can whip their god (Allah, I guessed at the time) any day anywhere".

You want to know what a problem we have, just parse that comment.

And, finally, before anybody starts mouthing off about my opinions, please read "The God Problem" by Howard Bloom.

Bloom is a pain in the ass pedant, but what he says - unfortunately for the size of the book, with great redundancy - is brilliant.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Iraq: It Seemed to Me

I had no idea, when the event  occurred, why Maliki decided not sign the SOFA .

It seemed to me to be irrational on the part of Maliki,  since without a backbone of US troops remaining for a long time in Iraq, it seemed to me, there was a pretty good chance of things falling back into chaos.

But Maliki wanted our troops to be subject to Iraqi “law” and we didn’t sign the SOFA.

So: welcome to chaos.

The fact that, without a SOFA, we went home is something that needs to be talked about.

We ought to talk about it because the republican party, in its never ending mission to bring down our President, will inevitably, now that a disaster of biblical proportions looms on the horizon in Iraq, say that it is all Obama’s fault.

Actually it is all Maliki’s fault.

No American president was going to sign an agreement that said that a residue of its citizens, left behind in a war zone, were going to be subject to a capricious and questionable legal system administered by a pretend government.

Maliki insisted that that would be the case and Obama eschewed.

If Obama had not eschewed signing such a SOFA the republicans, when the first errant American suddenly was being tried in an Iraqi pretend court, would be beating the drum of impeachment, saying that the President had passed to a foreign “government” (quotes mine) sovereignty over American citizens. 

And they would, I imagine, be saying that that was a sort of treason.

But the President – for reasons obvious to all but the republicans – (unless they had gotten their dream scenario - a signed SOFA - in which they would have been cheering, as they waited for the inevitable American-in-the-clutches-of- Iraq) and joyously filed their Articles of Impeachment – didn’t sign the SOFA.

Now the world is seeing the inevitable result of no American military presence. 

They have been replaced by a huge hoard of islamic nuts.

Welcome to the caliphate.

I guess that (or at least I hope that) drones can be armed with precision-targeted micro nukes, so that the critical mass of islamic nuts heading toward Baghdad  may not be all bad.

They should make a great target.

How nice.

Taking out the incipient caliphate in one blinding fel swoop would be a good thing.

Since we are going to have to do something major about this, that would be, or would have been (if it happens) a good thing.

The other thing that needs to be talked about is that America, if she really wants to continue as the keeper of the post WWII peace, will have to bring back the draft.

The all volunteer military is an abject failure.

So we need to fix that problem with a universal conscription law – post haste.

And that will be a really good thing – for America and for the world.

I may post something about that at another time.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Real Zombies

Back in the CrackBerry days I was on a plane. 

The woman next to me had her Blackberry out in her hand as we taxied after landing. 

She was scrupulous. 

She wasn't going to turn the thing on unless intergalactic control told her it was ok.

But her fingers were twitching and I think she was suppressing a scream as she waited to be told that it was ok to turn the thing on. 

On the Metro here in Paris almost every lump of human flesh that I see, once they have gotten through the doors and have lurched to wherever they choose to take up their semi-permanent residence for the duration of their journey all does the same thing.

It is eerie.

It is if a cosmic dog trainer had sent out a cosmic emanation and trained all the dogs in one fel swoop.

Here is what they do.

They all  get out some rectangular sort of thing and, breathing a sigh of almost sexual relief, they start thumbing the thing. 

If I were a time traveller from 1980 – which in a way I am – I would wonder what it was about those small rectangles that could possibly cause every human I saw to do the same thing.

I would also, I suppose, wonder what had occurred to cause the entire human race seem to have one of the rectangles.

I am sure I would  wonder what the things even might be.

But I am not such a time traveller and I know what those rectangles are.

I have one.

It is the second one I have owned. 

I had to buy a new one recently after two successive releases of the software that made the old one work had become so rotund and cycle hungry that the old one was a functional cipher.

The ownership of – now – two of the things I hope supports my assertion that I do have a pretty good idea what the lumps on the Metro are doing with their rectangles.

That is why I know that what they are doing is the functional equivalent of nothing.

That trend of thought causes me to make the following observation.

I seriously doubt that the average lump of human flesh has ANYTHING THAT CAN BE THAT INTERESTING OR IMPORTANT AT ANY TIME OR PLACE IN THEIR MISERABLE LITTLE LIVES to justify the twitching mesmerization that I see everywhere.

But - peut être.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Who Really Gives a Shit Whether Bowe is a Deserter?

I didn't know anything about Bowe Bergdahl - not even his name - until recently.

I knew there was some guy from Idaho that was the only captive in the hands of "the enemy" in Afghanistan.

So when he was traded for a paltry number of Taliban - the Israelis deal in hundreds of tradees when they get back one or two Israeli captives - I thought "great".

Of course I didn't know that he was maybe a deserter. I had to learn that form a friend of mine who is an Idahonian.

So I am Pogo, looking at this whole fiasco from Paris saying "my, my".

The thing that really seems to be relevant to this, though, actually does have something to do with Paris.

A couple of days ago I posted:

about my thoughts about D Day.

In net, those thoughts are that Americans, and the guy who later became their President, did something that day that eclipses anything else any other nation and its citizens have ever done - world history to date.

And that is what bothers me about the Bergdahl Travesty - deserter or not.

How can five Islamic nuts, given their freedom, threaten the very foundation of the nation - and its citizens - that climbed those cliffs seventy years ago? And then kept going and turned Hitler into a charred jaw bone in a cigar box?

If that is true, that five nihilists can bring our civilization down, we - the American People - have atrophied in a manner that has never been seen in world history.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Seventy Years to the Day

It was an absolutely beautiful  day today.  80 degrees, low humidity, no wind, no clouds to speak of.

So I went back to my favorite Parc and took a little bottle of wine and a sandwich poulet that I made from leftovers from last night’s dinner.

And I toasted the men who scaled those cliffs 70 years ago today.

And between toasts I ate my sandwich.

I make really good sandwichs.

The secret is: use the standard baguette; the tradi is too dense for a good sandwich.

But back to Normandy.

If it hadn’t have been for those men, Eisenhower chief among them, I would not be able to have had this wonderful day in this magical place.

My father didn’t get here until a few days later.

But I toasted him as well.

He got here, didn’t he?

And he never really came back.

I guess all the horrors didn’t stop at the cliffs.

Their day on  that day, and the days that followed, makes my year in Saigon a trivial postscript to a trivial life.

The debt to those cliff-scalers, and to my father, that I was happy to pay – or thought that I was paying by going to Vietnam, rather that becoming a Canadian – turned out not to have been a a payment; it turned out to have been a joke.

My laughter has always been hollow.

The pictures start in le Jardin de Luxembourg and follow on down the spine of that part of the City to le parc.

No parrots were seen or even heard.

paris 2014 jardin de luxembourg 060614 00000

paris 2014 avenue rene coty 060614 00000paris 2014 avenue rene coty 060614 00001paris 2014 st john's wort 060614 00000paris 2014 swans 060614 00000

Sunday, June 1, 2014

But Here is the Rest of What That (Soon June) Was All About

Perhaps the declining toe had been the warning bell. If it had been, it had been unheard. Perhaps it had been the visual warning that had emerged from the drawer of my bedside stand when I opened it and took the time to rummage the several expired driver’s licenses that were kept in the drawer into some form of sequence among the other flotsam and jetsam. Whenever I had laid those licenses side by side - oldest to newest - the question always formed “who is the young guy with all the hair?” That question would be followed immediately by the follow-on question, “who is that increasingly older guy with less and less hair?” And finally I would wonder, “who, for that matter is the guy on the license in my wallet?” By laying them side by side and blinking rapidly I could see a movie like progression of a somber faced, vaguely familiar looking person changing from younger to older. It took only moments. “How many years do those moments’ of metamorphosis represent?” I would wonder. Those pictures looked progressively less like the “me” that I thought that I remembered. They looked progressively less like the “me” that I continued to feel as if I were. In fact, rather than looking like “me” they looked more like some ancient grandfather. If they had anything to do with “me” it could only have been from some other consciousness or some other life or some other time or some other place. Except for being mildly entertaining, nothing else ever emerged from that experience of the progression of the pictures; no bells of warning had rung.

The longest day of the year, every year, had begun to seem to be closer every year to the shortest day of the year. The shortest day was always a day of quiet introspective internal celebration; after all, the darkness would begin to retreat with the following dawn. The longest day was a day for quiet introspective internal grieving; after all the darkness would only advance with the following dawn. Those days had both increasingly seemed to have been bent upon lurching out of their temporal containers of years and into increasingly brief temporal containers of months, days and hours. It seemed as if the longest and shortest days were moving toward merger. Would time reach a point where it flowed back upon itself? And if so, what would happen then? Was the apparently accelerating compression of time an intensely individual experience, or was it universal? And, if it were universal, what would be the end-game of that universe? Or, what was that universe? Or, even, was – as in did it exist - that universe at all? Am I it? Is it me? How can it have become fluid to the point of being actually in question as to its existence? Am I where? Where am I? Am I, even?”

The toe had been the second one in from the big toe. It had capitulated to the leftward pressure from the big one following the big one’s collapse. Perhaps it had been the partially buried flint of Jardin de Luxembourg; perhaps it had been something else that had sealed its doom. But its doom had been sealed. And the toe next to that one had been in the process of going the same way. The composite result had been that running had ceased to be an option. But the real reason hadn’t been the collapse of the toes. The real reason had been the iron grip of arthritis. A feeling of being encased in a vaguely painful cage of steel had been creeping forward for years only semi noticed.

The increasing spin of the hands of the clock, the flow of the days, of the seasons, of the months and of the years and the little movie of the rapidly aging face in the pile of expired driver’s licenses had only seemed to accelerate. And there were the chestnuts. The specifics of their yearly march never varied. Only the interval had changed. The sticky and shiny protectively coated buds would always burst forth into little palm tree-like fronds. The fronds would become full-fledged leaf clusters, appearing from nowhere and taking on a darker green hue and looking like serrated green fans. Then emerged Christmas tree shaped clusters at the tip of each stem. Each Christmas tree shaped cluster would soon become a glorious burst of creamy white flowers with dark rosy colored throats or, in Paris, beautiful pink flowers with deeper rosy colored throats. Little round green nubbins would appear where the flower clusters had been; the leaves would continue to darken; the nubbins would become golf ball sized and then bigger; and the little protrusions that had been on the nubbins would become identifiable spikes. One-day fall would arrive. The angle of the sun would always confirm it. The leaves would turn yellow. On a chilly night the wind would rise and the husks of the golf balls would split and shiny brown gems would fall in cascades to the ground where children would pick some up. The rest would be pushed around in piles of leaves; those piles of leaves were then raked and burned. And some of the chestnuts would get charred. And some would escape getting charred. And those would be ground to meal by passing automobiles. And then the rain would begin to torrent. And the car ground meal would roil into the gutters with the rain and be washed into the drains. And only moments – it began to seem – would have passed. And then it would begin over again. And each time the interval of the chestnuts would have been shorter.

And there was the Mountain Ash. There would be the rapid-fire sequence of fans of small pointed leaves, masses of flat multi petaled creamy white flowers and an unpleasant smell. The flowers and fans would rapidly fade and disappear into a summery green mass of leaves that fluttered and shimmered in the summer breezes. Suddenly after an extended anonymous absence on the part of the Mountain Ash there would be emphatic attention-demanding clusters of red-orange berries, which would have appeared as if from nowhere. Robins, and sometimes, wax wings, would briefly complete the scene as it rushed by with increasing speed but with undiminished clarity. And only moments – it had begun to seem – would have passed. And then it would begin again. And each time the passage of the Mountain Ash would be faster.

And there was recycling and garbage pickup. It had seemed as if I had no sooner put the garbage and the recycling on the street than I was doing it again; and then I was doing it again; and then I was doing it again. Individual Saturdays or Sundays sometimes appeared fuzzily through the blur of Wednesdays, and sometimes a Monday, but it had begun to be that every day was Thursday. Thursday was pickup day. Early every dawn seemed to begin with the roar then the silence, then the roar again of the oncoming trucks. Intermittently the sound of a bell of the truck backing up punctuated the silences. And then the roar and the bells were separated by hours, then by minutes then by seconds; and then it was just one roar punctuated by bells.

And the chestnuts had begun to interleave with the Mountain Ash and they had both further merged with the Thursday morning roar and silence and roar and silence and the bell; and all of these were merged with and punctuated by the blinding transition from shortest to longest to shortest to longest days of the year. And none of these were blurs but were instead distinct and clear as individuals; and they were distinct and clear from each other; and in spite of their increasingly astonishing speed they had continued to act as individual marks in time. And the moments that those things were brief were becoming briefer between the beginning and the end and then the beginning again.

What I had previously perceived as the inexorably forward progress of time had begun to appear as if it were spinning toward some sort of merger – front to back - where, like the spokes of a wheel seen through the slots of a stroboscope running faster than the wheel, the wheel would actually appear to be in reverse. It had begun to seem as if there would soon be a moment when the longest day and the shortest day would appear together and then would pass one another in the opposite direction. And the blackened chestnuts of the rainy gutter would merge with the reddish orange splash of Mountain Ash. And there would be a flickering moving picture of a man with measured acceleration oscillating between images with hair and images with no hair, between younger and older. At some point would it all become one and then, perhaps, would all fade to black just like a real movie? And then, what?

Then one spring morning I had awakened very early. It had been barely light. I had long since ceased to be accustomed to be being asleep at that time of day, and on many similar mornings I had become familiar with the silence of that time. When I had realized what I was hearing I had assumed that it must be a dream. There was an almost deafening sound. It was almost like a medium pitched roar with occasional wisps of sound leaking out of it. It was the sound of myriad birds, all chirping at random, and singing their morning songs. I had heard it before. With a feeling of joy I recognized a chorus of robins sequentially calling for rain. Or were they calling for the sunrise? I was never to know.

The house had been strangely silent. It had seemed totally out of character for it to have abandoned its periodic creaks, snaps and pops. Perhaps it had known something that I hadn’t known. Perhaps it hadn’t felt the need to keep me awake anymore.

“I must be asleep and dreaming,” I had concluded. “How else could I be seeing and hearing what I am seeing and hearing?” “How could I be seeing and hearing the flow of the chestnuts, the flow of the Mountain Ash, the bell of the recycling truck backing up? And how could the huge tribe of birds long missing suddenly have returned? And why was the face in the driver’s licenses lurching backward beyond its long known limits?”

Why indeed?

And what are all those other sights and sounds: my nose against a huge Parisian "mirror"; peepers, leopard frogs, toads, bullfrogs and my family of tadpoles fully grown; sodium flares and things roiling the evil smelling nasty soup of a small roadside lake; flashes of blue followed by flashes of yellow; thunks heard through a haze of grey lint; "wake up Maggie" and a little blue light; toilets straddled; murders considered and murders not committed; and more; more; and more.

And then everything folds backwards upon itself. The chestnut blossoms have become recycle days and recycle days have become mountain ash berries. The time of a clock that appears from nowhere is at hyper speed even as it stands still, even as its hands pass one another intermittently backwards, even as it blurs, even as it disappears. A sense of mortality blends with the realization of boundaries. The dream is not a dream. The dream is reality. And reality is a dream. And the boundaries fade and opportunities lost and achievements unattained loom and overwhelm. Whatever it had been that I had ever thought that I might be or might have been is becoming a neatly wrapped package; it is becoming a sleekly designed capsule. And then some infinite unseen and unseeable facility or force compresses it all – the hopes, the dreams, the illusions, the achievements, the misses and near misses, the loves, the hates, the intentions good and the attentions bad - into an expendable portion and inserts it into infinity.