genealogos . . . continues

32 Summer 7 Moon 58 SpaceAge 22 July 2015

I ask myself: Why am I so fascinated with the life of my great-grandfather? Could it be because he, and all his near family are dead and buried years ago, and there remains practically no controversy to ruffle the feathers or rock any boat – unlike my immediate family, alive now, who have occasionally called me out to tell me I should not have said – or written – such things about them, no matter whether it is the truth or not. Well, maybe, perhaps, yes, that has something to do with my fascination: that my great-grandfather and his immediate kin are a relatively safe subject, if you will pardon my pun.

Or, perhaps, it is merely my name-dropping ego, knowing that this particular great grandfather (I had four, you must know) is the one who was a much removed cousin of the late princess Diana Spencer Windsor, and so, thus, my brother and I are both also distantly related to the current and future princes, perhaps even kings, of merry olde England.

Yet even that glitz and glamour might be exaggerated. Yes. Or rather, no. For, you see, even in my dreams, instead of a fantasy about Windsor Castle, I keep seeing the truth: my grandmother’s little house in Alameda, on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay. She was little Nellie, my great-grandfather’s youngest baby, and I knew her last years well when I was a child. I knew her as my sweet old grandma – my father’s mother. I also knew her older sister Caroline and two brothers Robert and Daniel – the last being he after whom I was named (although he died when I was a mere infant).

So perhaps the deeper part of my fascination with my great-grandfather Frank is that I knew his children and they continue, years after their deaths, to measure time and history for me, in my mind, in my heart, in my life.

History, yes, there is also history. For you see, dear reader, my great-grandfather Frank Cogswell, who practiced many years as an old country doctor, lived his entire life on that historic cusp between frontier and modern times. His son Daniel once wrote that his father had never known the automobile, he had been a horse and buggy man, only. That after many a long night spent at the bedside of some suffering child, miles out on the rolling prairie, he would doze in the buggy riding slowly back to town – Lincoln, Kansas – secure in the knowledge that the horse knew the way home.


upcoming train trip

2015 July 7, Tuesday; 22 Moon 17 Summer 54 SpaceAge

I am busily moving into the last four weeks of planning which remain before we go on our train trip for eleven days and ten nights. God willing (and the creek don’t rise), from the 7th to the 15th we will be riding with the private cars Pacific Sands, Silver Splendor, and Tioga Pass, traveling from Los Angeles to Portland to Spokane to Seattle and then back to Los Angeles. We will stay overnight in Portland and Seattle and spend all day in Spokane. Before and after, on the 6th and the 16th we will be coming and going between San Diego and Los Angeles. I have studied the transit systems of the three cities (for when I go out by myself for a few hours of exploration), have selected a few restaurants where I think I can encourage Mom to eat something, and investigated where are the most lovely parks or scenic spots to sit for a while and enjoy the view. While we are stopped overnight or during the day, we have to provide for our own lunch and dinner. Some kind of breakfast is always prepared, and, while we are actually en route, our lunch and dinner are served on the train, in the dome and the lounge of the Silver Splendor. I believe our bedroom (upper and lower berth, private toilet) is in the Pacific Sands. and Norm’s car Tioga Pass (the car on which we took our first private-car trip in 2011) will also be accompanying us – with its spectacular rear platform looking back down the tracks behind us. I have yet to hear whether the other possible sleeper, Salisbury Beach, will be along “for the ride” – but I am selfishly hoping it will not – its presence would mean more people crowding into the dome car for the wonderful views.

Grandmother and

Monday 6 July 2015.

The first time I ever flew back east, I was thirteen years and nine months old. Traveled with a troop of boy scouts from San Diego. My grandmother was a little worried, but politely asked me to look for her home town in Kansas while we flew over. “Oh, Nonnie, I am sorry,” I said to her, “but the flight is at night. We will not be able to see anything outside.”

“Well,” she said, “maybe you could see the street lights. We had electric lights back there, even before I left, in…” and then she paused. Never liked to talk about how old she was. My mom is the same way now.

When I stop and think about it, as I sit here writing this, my grandma Nonnie wasn’t much older than I am today. She used to type, too. So did my mom. So do I. Thirteen, forty-three, seventy-five. That’s how old we were, fifty something years ago. My mother was the baby. I am the oldest. We run about thirty years between generations in my family. Both of them.

That was the only time I ever went to New York City. As of yet. Even ten years later, when I ran away from California to go live in the nation’s capital, I never went any farther up the road than Baltimore. Two years and three months writing poetry in the democratic heart of the imperial American republic, and I let slip every chance I had to go see Gotham.

I may be an intense day-dreamer, but my feet get very easily stuck in the mud. Among other things. Yes. No. Maybe so. Or not. You decide.

Happy Independence Day USA

Saturday 4 July 2015

As I sit here in the morning, the first sip of coffee ringing a few bells in my body, I cannot help but think about the United States of America, because, of course, today is our independence day.

Now, we are not the only free nation in the world, but we pride ourselves on our liberty and our power, and as we move toward the last year before our next presidential election, I give personal – and selfish – thanks that I was born an American citizen.

The news has been full of heightened threat alerts, and I worry that people will die today, and be hurt, not only in acts of terror, but in the more ordinary day-to-day brutalities that assault us: traffic accidents, to name one of our perennial realities of life.

But I am still here, after sixty-some years of life, and although –

[-transmission terminated.]

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

1 July 2015

I remember how much I loved to listen to music while I typed away madly, typing and typing at my desk in my room at my family home, fifty years ago when I was almost 15, and well, yes, forty-nine years ago when I was almost sixteen I remember how much I loved to listen to music while I wrote.

I still do. But the methods – or rather the technology – have changed. I used to put a long play vinyl album onto my portable stereo and let it go around and around and around while I clattered away on my manual typewriting machine. Now I click on a file in my computer memory and the music opens and plays while I write on the same machine, the computer. The two programs run at the same time.

I am also much older. And so is my mother.