thinking about buying a mobile home (episode 01)

For the three years since my mother died at 97 (I was living with her and helping her keep her home), I have been planning on eventually buying a small place to live, hopefully not very expensive, and most probably in southern California, although I confess I have looked elsewhere around the Unites States and in Mexico.

Let me say right now, before we go any further, that my mother’s home for her last forty years was actually her second husband’s house, who after nearly thirty years of marriage (1978-2007), graduated from this mortal life where I am still writing, and gave in his will the right for his widow to live in his house for as long as she wished, and that after her decease, the property would pass to his three children from his first wife (who had deceased three or four years before he remarried). Following my mom’s death, my now ex-steps were kind enough to let me stay on in the house for another two years, before we finally knuckled down to clearing out everything so that they could begin to prepare it for sale or lease or whatever plans they may agree upon in their own time.

Goodness but it is easy to get distracted. I almost fell into the labyrinth of writing about my mother Marjorie and stepfather Herb and their many years together, but have somehow managed to hold it down to simply preparing a background to describe my search for a new place to live. Even at that, I can only introduce the search today, and continue later in succeeding episodes.

If you are familiar with astronomical prices for real estate here in California, then you will not be surprised that I can most probably only afford a mobile home in a trailer park somewhere. Either that or go back to work; and at seventy, with a small income (barely twenty thousand a year), I would prefer to remain retired. Well, except for writing, translating, and making video (https://vimeo.com/user962132), of course.

Originally – two years ago – I had thought about relocating to the desert, most probably in Borrego Springs, an area I know rather well. But then I got side-tracked by a dream of traveling around the golden state, and all of North America, in fact, and camping out at various natural wonders. I am still obsessed by this “crazy-ass dream” (as my ex-wife calls it). Yet, even as I bought camping equipment, in the back of my mind sat the realization that I am always and only getting older and that sooner or later I must find a place to settle down. As it turned out, “sooner” came much sooner than I had anticipated.

During my first camping experience last summer, after two weeks at Blue Jay campground in the Santa Ana mountains (Cleveland National Forest), I fell victim to heatstroke, spent two nights in the hospital, and then took shelter with my brother and nephew, who were kind enough, and tolerant enough, to let me “camp out” indoors, at their house in San Jacinto.

San Jacinto is a small town in a rather large valley, part of what is called the “inland empire” of Riverside, San Bernardino, Redlands, Hemet, Temecula, and dozens of other similarly named towns, valleys, and hills, making up a sprawling, widespread mix of agricultural areas and suburban zones, almost all within an hour or two drive from Los Angeles (except at rush hour). I have been living here for six months now, sheltering from the corona virus, but at the same time finding myself more and more enamored with this landscape, this geography of rocky hills and flat valleys, where there are always mountains in the distance, and the sun is usually dominant, sometimes quite brutally overpowering, other times merely mildly warm. It is not so harsh as the desert beyond the mountains, but certainly not a particularly well-watered area, either.

In fact, like San Diego where I grew up, a hundred some miles south of here, the inland empire, in fact the entire megalopolis of Calangeles, is completely dependent on imported water. Without aqueducts from the Colorado River in the east, or the Owens Valley and the Feather River in the north, we would all die of thirst within one, or at the most, two years. Yet it is my homeland, this South California, and although I still hunger to explore America, I begin to feel more and more that the time has come for me to find a permanent home of my own, no matter how humble, as the saying goes.

Besides, I can always take my van and go camping, and still have a safe little house to come home to. Unless the neighbors steal my furniture while I am gone, ho ho ho LOL.

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to be continued

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night mare

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I thought that flying was dangerous   and it is           have to watch out for the wires

Power Lines    full of electric shock               tangle my heart in their slender threads

dangle their                                         Dangerous Liaisons

my life             in a dream

comes undone             by leaps and bounds               do I glide or do I flap my wings in strength                                                                                           beware these cubes, these lines

those squares of thought         “but I thought”

don’t               don’t think                  f e e l               it          now

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some of what I wrote today

I am remembering too much. I wanted to tell you how my teacher finally showed me the ruins in the south, where the first cities were, Ur and Uruk and Lagash and Larsa and the others, the first cities of the Shumer, long, long ago, but no we did not go there for ten or twelve years. Not until after the young king Phraates and his mother Musa were overthrown. Then other members of the family of Parthian kings, sons, nephews, even cousins, took the throne, one after another, first Orodes, for two years, then Vonones, for four years, then Artabanus, who ruled for a much longer time, almost thirty years – he was a great one, yes, then came his nephew Vardanes, who had six years before his brother killed him while they were hunting, that was Gotarzes, who himself ruled Parthia for eleven years, followed for less than one year by Vonones II, brother of great Artabanus. Vonones II had been king of Media for almost forty years, and a faithful ally – and brother – of Parthia, but the second Vonoes was very old, and soon died, and his son Vologases became king of kings. This is the man who has been on the throne now for ten years, and has shown himself to be as strong, and cunning as Artabanus his uncle – who ruled for thirty years, remember. He is the one you and your general Corbulo have been fighting, and even though there be peace now, only by strength can the Romans hold the frontier against this one.

Fortunately, both sides want the trade to flow, the silk and spice and precious glass and ceramic, yes, and in my last years working for the family, I found this small temple here, in the north, in the province of Cappadocia, and decided that this is where I will spend my last years. The caravans come and go – sometimes with my great-grandnephews as their masters, so I have that pleasure of hospitality, and sometimes soldiers or diplomats like yourselves come to keep me company. Thus far it has been a good retirement, and the war… may fate be kind to me… the war has not hurt me. Not yet. Not like it did sometimes in my younger days, when the kings were fighting and killing each other. Yes, those ones I named, and others who plotted against them.

Yes, I do remember them, for good and for bad, and no, I would not trust even my own memory except that before finally coming north to Melitene I myself helped to write a chronicle of those kings of Parthia, for them, in service to their empire. Yes, we completed it only a few years ago, during the first days of great Vologases, may he live forever. We preserved a copy in the Esagila temple library in Babylon. No, my friends. We wrote it in Persian for the king of kings. Who knows how long it will last? Some of it on clay tablets, yes, and some of it on papyrus scrolls, in the Greek fashion, so yes, or no, who knows if  anyone will ever find it, after the kings die and sleep with their fathers.

We all die. You know that.

As for me, well I am so old now that although I remember these things, they no longer seem so important to me as they did when I was young and hungry to learn the ancient languages and uncover their ancient stories.

You ask what is important now? To help younger men like yourselves to remember the ancient past, before it is all forgotten. Somewhere in the south, yes, it is all buried, but I fear no one will read it for a long time to come. Perhaps one day some other men like myself, or like you, men who are hungry to read the old stories, will find them, and read them. If they can read the language, that is. I have told you how the ancient Babylonian language, Akkadian, is almost completely forgotten now. When I finally lived in Babylon, after Phraates and his mother fled to the west and took refuge in Rome, there were only a few hundred Kaldean priests who still could read and write the old tongue. Or the other, even more ancient Shumerian, from the south, nearer to the sea, the one which had come before. But yes, those old priests could still read, and they copied, and I copied with them, and we buried the clay tablets in their large jars, hoping to protect them for the future. Yes, I was one of them, for a while. Almost fifty years, through war and peace and all those great Parthian kings.

Yes. Until I finally felt a call from deep inside my heart, to leave Babylon, and come here. To Melitene.

Christmas then and again

I remember either my grandmother or her sister telling me how their Mama and Papa – Frank and Mary Cogswell – would set up the tree in… well perhaps it was the dining room or the parlor – but it would be in a front room behind safely closed doors – and then at a certain moment on Christmas eve, the doors would open and there would be the tree with little candles burning in their tiny candle-holders – oh and how we had to be careful, she said, careful not to set the tree on fire, Dan’l, or even burn down the house! The four children, Robert, Caroline, Daniel, and Nellie, would rush in through the open doors into the room with the tree lighting up the walls and the mirror and the books and the table where Mama and the hired girl were setting out food and drink and Papa would pick up a carefully wrapped present from under the tree and say here this is for you, and this for you, and this for you my girl, and this, this is for you.

I think about that story today and how one of the old sisters told it to me once or twice, and today I invent and embroider and write it down and change the voice in the middle of the stream of consciousness from one person to another and then reflect that that it could have been some hundred and twenty years ago last night because I believe it was Christmas eve, if I remember rightly, because of the candles burning bright in the night and perhaps it was in Lincoln, Kansas; or perhaps it was in Madison, Wisconsin; or perhaps it was in Seattle, where they finally ended up those last years before Papa died, and I think oh my, how very Victorian, how very bourgeois, how very, very North American.

this is the cargo van that danial bought

This is the cargo van that Danial bought.

These are the cabinets already built in the back of the van that Danial bought.

This is the electric inverter that sits in the cabinets built in the back of the van that Danial bought.

This is the microwave that pulls its power from the inverter that already sits in the cabinets built in the back of the van that Danial bought.

This is the food that will cook in the microwave that pulls its power from the inverter which sits in the cabinets built in the back of the van that Danial bought.

These are the built-in drawers that shall hold the food that will cook in the microwave that pulls its power from the inverter which sits in the cabinets built in the back of the van that Danial bought.

These are the doors that cover the drawers that hold the food that will cook in the microwave that pulls its power from the inverter sitting in the cabinets already built in the back of the van that Danial bought.

These are the speakers that hang on the doors that cover the drawers that hold the food that will cook in the microwave pulling its power from the inverter who sits in the cabinets built in the back of the van that Danial bought.

This is the radio that feeds the speakers that hang on the doors that cover the drawers that hold the food that will cook in the microwave pulling its power from the inverter who sits in the cabinets built in the back of the van that Danial bought.

This is the steering wheel next to the radio that feeds the speakers that hang on the doors that cover the drawers that hold the food to cook in the microwave pulling its power from that inverter who sits in the cabinets built in the back of the van that Danial bought.

This is the driver who grasps the wheel sitting next to the radio that feeds the speakers which hang on the doors that cover the drawers to hold the food to cook in the microwave pulling its power from the inverter who sits in the cabinets built in the back of the van that Danial bought.

This is the receipt that was paid by the driver who grasps the wheel sitting next to the radio that feeds the speakers which hang on the doors that cover the drawers to hold the food to cook in the microwave pulling its power from the inverter who sits in the cabinets built in the back of the van that Danial bought.

These are the doxs which were dropped for the van that Danial bought.

Tuesday

The light comes up in the morning and it is beautiful. How it slowly grows from darkness into bright. How the windows of the house admit its shine into our sleeping shadows. How the walls move from invisible to plain, from obscurity to clear. How the dog stretches and yawns and begs for breakfast. How my brother gets up, to come out into the kitchen. How I sit and write without having to turn on the lamp.

How I say good morning. How he answers.

The light steadily grows around us. Over my shoulder, outside the window, beyond the street of California houses, hills shine in rising color under the sky. Orange, blue, gray.

As my words flow, I watch my fingers glow.

This is not paper. I am computer.

Dawn.

some genealogos

A few years ago I scanned some of Mom’s old photos she got from her mother, including two pictures that fit side by side. On the back, however, they are labled as having been taken at Cedar Point, not at Cottonwood Falls, on the 6th of March, 1921.

My mother would have been only six months old, her sister Virginia was then five years and six months old.

It will be a hundred years ago next March.

I would like to go there.

Yes.

I also look at other old photos I scanned into computer files while I was living with my mother.

They were all taken a long time ago. Most of them in the early decades of the twentieth century. A few in the last years of the 19th. A picture of my grandmother and her three sisters, for example.

There they are, the four Holsinger girls of Cottonwood Falls, Kansas: Jeannette (“Netty” born 1880), Elizabeth (“Lizzie” 1885), Arabella (“Picky” 1887), and my grandmother Margaret (“Peggy” 1889).

If you look at these four young girls, you can see the difference in their ages, and may identify each one. Jeannette standing tall; Elizabeth below, on the right; Arabella to the left; Margaret in the center.

There were other babies born to my great-grandmother May, babies who died in infancy and whose tiny bodies were buried in the Cottonwood Falls cemetery.

There was also the older brother, “Bun” (William E. Holsinger 1878-1915) who had one daughter, Dolores (1908-2004) before he passed from mortal life. He appears in another photograph of 1913.

These were the five surviving children of William Henry Holsinger (1853-1930) and Flora May Gandy Holsinger (1856-1935), the five children of Cottonwood Falls, Kansas.

William and May came to the Cottonwood area with their families in the middle 1850s, during the violent and difficult years of “Bloody Kansas” – when the territory was in contention between slave-owning emigrants from the southern states, and abolitionist settlers from the northern states. William was the son of Daniel Holsinger (1827-1863) and Julia Ann Walter (1832-1906), who came west from Pennsylvania via Indiana. May was the daughter of Asbury Preston Gandy (1825-1909) and Nancy Ellen Williams (1831-1883) who met, and married, in Iowa, after emigrating there in the 1840s with their families from Virginia and Pennsylvania.

I begin to see how boring this all is.

But it is on my mind. So I have indulged myself.

Nowadays we tend to think we have been through a revolutionary change, what with computers and cell phones and the internet and social networking, but the fact is that our great grandparents and their parents also passed through massive changes. Daniel, Julia, Asbury, and Nancy, began their lives in the world of wagons with a wide-open frontier (to be taken from the American Indians), and they witnessed the bloody war between the states, the explosion of the industrial revolution, and the capitalist triumph of both the railroads and mail-order catalogs. Their children and grandchildren beheld the birth of electricity, automobiles, and the motion picture.

They watched the 19th century become the 20th, and we have lived on to begin the 21st.

That is all. In a nutshell.

64th year of the space age

They launched a rocket that lifted a small metal satellite into orbit sixty-three years ago. “The world will never be the same.” Many said. Beep beep beep beep beep October 4, 1957. The twelfth day of Autumn (northern hemisphere) that year. This year the twelfth falls on the third of October because of the leap year, which corrects our Gregorian Calendar, making it slightly more timely than Julius Caesar’s correction 2080 some years ago. For that, and other reasons, “they” killed him next door to where the cats all live in the ruins of the Largo. Not that that makes this any different that I can see, but it does make something count for small amounts. I myself would like to visit there, one day. Perhaps I shall, but I think not. I grow old, and already wear my pants rolled. These are the coffee spoons where I measure out my life (as TS reminded me). If you don’t like it, then write your own measure of time and space it into your orbit like this. H spelled “principal” wrong in his letter, but it worked.