Malcolm Cowley – “ernest”


Go forth and do what you must do!

Dry Season - ernest panorama
“Ernest” by Malcolm Cowley, from “The Dry Season”



Safe is the man with blunderbuss
who stalks the hippopotamus
on Niger’s bank or scours the veldt
to rape the lion of its pelt;

but deep in peril he who sits
at home to rack his lonely wits
and there do battle , grim and blind,
against the jackals of the mind.



Red VW Beetle Convertible Karmann
Red VW Beetle Convertible Karmann
VW Beetle Convertible Karmann
Karmann emblem on a VW Beetle Convertible


I took my first drivers road test in Eureka, California, in my grandparents’ maroon Karmann Ghia, a sporty little car that I still miss. The Karmann Ghia was designed by the Italian firm Ghia and built by the German firm Karmann.
Here’s a convertible VW Beetle from Karmann.

(Thanks to Michael Marinacci for the background info.)


Refinshing the Letters at the Sonoma County Library

Outside the downtown Central branch of the Sonoma County Library, one of the maintenance crew was refinishing the large metal letters. He peeled off thin sheets of silver foil with adhesive backing like a sticker, carefully applied the sheet to the letter, smoothed out bubbles with a scraper tool, then cut the outline of the letter with an X-acto knife.

Applying silver foil to the letters outside the Sonoma County Library


Lettering outside the Sonoma County Library, Central branch
… and then cutting it to size with an X-acto knife.

This was the thrifty alternative to taking the letters down sending them off to be refinished, he said.

Who knew?

Ignore Facebook Friend Requests! Don’t Explain!

Facebook private message from Ellen Skagerberg to Kathleen Stanton in response to a Friend Request ~ 5 April

Hi, Kathi,

Thanks for the Friend request! I feel very friendly toward YOU, but I’m not so friendly toward Facebook these days and am trying to reduce my time here — partly by narrowing my various lists and pages so it isn’t as compelling and addictive to me.

I’ll look forward to seeing you (and others) in person instead, and I hope my emotional health will improve by focusing more on “real life” interactions.

Best wishes,

~~ Ellen

Facebook private message from Kathleen Stanton to Ellen Skagerberg ~ 15 April

You know Ellen, in my entire life I’ve never had anyone tell me that they had too many friends – so I’m out of luck. Very disturbing, especially since we’ve known each other for over 25 years.




I have 309 Facebook Friends, and I’m ready to let go of half of them. I checked, and Kathi has 51 Facebook Friends, so I’m guessing she’s new and still wants more, and she hasn’t had time yet to experience the hazards.

Kathi is the first wife of a long-time friend of ours. (Interestingly, another of this friend’s exes, Tammy, was also offended when I declined a Facebook Friend request from her. Tammy had once been a close friend and I thought I was extending the courtesy of a reply, but I received a similarly angry response from Tammy about how insensitive I was, and how I should just ignore it instead of rejecting her by explaining.)

WE’RE ALL IN OUR FIFTIES AND SIXTIES! So, kids — no, the drama never ends.

Word: most people would rather have others Ignore their Friend requests than get a personal message in response — they really don’t need to know why.(I’m an exception, so if you don’t want me sending you Facebook Friend requests, you can let me know.)

Now I’m thinking, If you don’t know me well enough to know that I might say “no” and tell you why, you don’t know me well enough for me to accept your Friend request, and you’re probably too thin-skinned to put up with me long-term anyway.

P.S. Conflicted angry people typically write nastygrams and then close with “Peace.” Like, “Peace, baby, because it’s all your fault.”

“It’s different when it’s your own”? Sometimes it’s just a mistake.

I wish more people could share honestly about parenthood, but I think successful parenting requires a lot of real-time denial about the hardships. I recall the informal survey Ann Landers did (several decades ago, by now) where something like 70% of people said if they could do it again, they would not have children. But even for those of us who know we didn’t want kids, we still hear, “Oh, it’s different when it’s YOUR OWN.”

Please never try to talk someone into having a child when you already know how hard it is. Stop selling the joy, and sugar-coating the pain and effort of raising a child. People leave their children, and I wonder how many divorces happen after one parent realizes they don’t want to raise the kids they already have?

Don’t “sell” parenthood to others just to convince yourself that it was worth it for you.

It Just Keeps Coming

I’m a collector. And I collect experiences as much or more than I do “things.” For instance, think of a magazine as a potential experience instead of just an object. I’m looking forward to the experience of reading it and “having” more knowledge or entertainment.

However, I finally realized that It Just Keeps Coming. I don’t need to save old unread magazines; they just keep coming. If I miss my favorite radio show one week, there will be another one next week. Can I send unused counter-top appliances to the thrift store for someone else to use? Yes, because in our land of plenty, I can always go to a thrift store and get a functional replacement.

I am not going to be able to consume all of the world’s delights that hold interest for me. Life is like a vast buffet that stretches down for a mile, with more dishes than any one of us could taste in our lifetime; that’s why we have to be so many different people (heh!).

So let it go. We aren’t going to be, do, and have all that we can imagine. Write down all your options and interests, set your priorities, and let the rest go away with a friendly wave goodbye.

Haruki Murakami as Koan

What I’ve found is that people like their first Murakami novel the best. It’s the entry into the Zenderland of the Murakami mind. Strange and sometimes violent things happen in these worlds, and, like a more-benevolent Philip K. Dick novel, afterwards we jump on the floor a little to see if the world is just a big trampoline.

My sister Sandra wouldn’t read Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility because there are only six Jane Austen novels, and she didn’t want to be finished. I nagged her so much about the dire possibility that she could die without ever having read Sense and Sensibility that she finally broke down and finished the Austen oeuvre. But this must run in the family — both the book stinginess, and the sense that we will never die — because even though I’m superstitious to the point that I vote in the mornings before work so my vote will count if I get hit by a bus, I’ve managed to successfully ration my Murakamis to about one a year, as if I will never die, because he’s a mind trip, and I need to continue to hit that reset button periodically.

So, you could start with the biggie, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. This is the book that brought Murakami to the notice of English language readers in 1998. (I don’t read Japanese and probably you don’t either, so these are all English publication dates.) It’s said that Murakami, who at the time owned an American-music jazz nightclub in Tokyo, had the revelation that, if one was allowed to do this with fiction, he would be a writer. This novel follows a contemporary young Japanese man whose wife has disappeared. If you liked “Twin Peaks” or “Lost,” you’ll feel at home in this world.


Or, my favorite, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985), a mystical novel concerning a young man embroiled with a mysterious woman and her strange son, which inexplicably alternates with chapters set in a rustic island community straight out of the local Renaissance Faire. This book is like a koan, one of those Zen questions that make no sense until you get it, but when you finally do, there’s a sense of seeing with almost too much clarity into human sorrow and exquisite beauty.

Murakami himself was influenced by the English detective novels he read as a boy in Kobo, Japan — detective stylists like Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald — going on to read Vonnegut, Kafka, and Brautigan. He said once that his goal would be to have elements of both Dostoevsky and Chandler in his books, and he achieves this to a degree in most of his work.

Just don’t start with 1Q84. While I’ve met a woman who read this one first and couldn’t wait to continue, I found that one, which was released in Japan as a trilogy, too bloated to have the effect of even the short, Brautigan-like A Wild Sheep Chase (1989). And unless you want to read Murakami’s challenge to himself to write a “realistic” novel, don’t start with Norwegian Wood (2000) either – that was the only book of his that I was relieved to finish.

Murakami WILD SHEEP CHASE Murakami 1Q84 Murakami NORWEGIAN WOOD

One of my friends started with Kafka on the Shore, and despite reading others, this plunge into the deep end of the Murakami pool remains her own personal favorite. So here’s what you do. Go into a larger independent bookstore, and do like my friend did. Read the back covers of the books and see which keywords grab you. One of them will sound irresistible. Start there.


When you put down a Murakami book, either in the middle somewhere for a break, or at the end while waiting for the full effect to wash back over you like a sleeper wave, or shake you like an aftershock even bigger than the original earthquake, the leaves on the tree will look distinct. You’ll be looking into alley-ends for ladders, and for magical manhole covers. Life will look both more serious and ridiculously collapsed into something bigger. Put on a Tom Waits album and have a cup of tea. You may get used to it, but you’ll never get over it.

{“I’m entering Book Riot’s START HERE, Vol. 2 Write-In Giveaway”}