Monday, December 7, 2015


First Monday, as were

[Editor’s Note: My call for “character updates” went out to all of the blog’s staff members before I faced up to the fact that regularly scheduled columns weren’t working for me, and the call was graciously (if not habitually) answered by updates from a number of them. I trust that updates will continue to come in as our “characters” have something they want to share about themselves. We look forward to publishing these under their own bylines. To remind yourself who each character is, you may consult their blurbs in the sidebar. And remember that the link of each character’s name calls up all posts whose name they labeled.]

Geoffrey Dean, in gratitude
“Come on in! We can watch Anne of Green Gables until the others get here.” Thus Lisa welcomed us into her family’s palatial home. I had heard that folks down in the valley had large, affordable dwellings for their large, ever-expanding families, so was fascinating to finally get a look at one. But actually I was more captivated by the idea of watching Anne of Green Gables. We kicked up our feet in front of a 60-inch screen above a fireplace and saw the scene where Anne’s hostess discovers that Anne has never prayed, and teaches her how. Then two commentators came on to help us interpret the scene. “Don’t tell us what to think!” exclaimed Lisa sassily and swiftly changed the channel.
    We settled on the musical version of The Wizard of Oz, exchanging one young female protagonist for another as Dorothy learns of the Scarecrow’s lack of brain before they sang “Ease on Down the Road.” Christa thought this was originally a Michael Jackson song, I thought the Tin Man was being played by a thoroughly-disguised Jamie Foxx, and Lisa thought it was time to switch channels again.
    Driving home after the ensuing rehearsal, I randomly blurted out, “Lisa Montgomery.” “You mean Lucy?” Christa replied. Indeed I had meant Lucy, or L. M. I was trying to recall the TV series based on another of her books, but could only remember a couple of character names – Aunt Hettie and Sam – and that it took place in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. It also had a young female protagonist, so Christa rattled off the names of Anne-like characters, none of which rang a bell. I had hit a mental roadblock and changed the subject.
    Two days later Lisa and the other members of our ensemble came to our house to rehearse. As they started to play, I thought of Lucy Montgomery again and almost immediately almost remembered the name of the series – The Road to Avalon, I thought. Luckily Google generously included Road to Avonlea results, and I quickly brought myself up to speed on the series – Canadian, Sullivan Entertainment, 7 seasons in the 1990s, known in the US as Tales from Avonlea thanks to Disney, 91 episodes based on various Montgomery characters and writings about the fictional Prince Edward Island village. Main character is Sarah Stanley, recently transplanted from Montreal.

    Reacquainting myself with these particulars was terribly important to me. I had seen several seasons worth of Avonlea episodes in the 1990s when I was living in Sofia, and at that time (in the absence of today’s Internet resources) I did not succeed in discovering the Montgomery sources for the material or in finding additional episodes. The Bulgarian broadcasts ended with Sam – Sarah’s love interest – apparently drowned at sea. This was highly unacceptable to my young son, and now that he is grown up, I hope to learn what happens next and hopefully to inform him that Sam survives, Sarah and Sam marry and live happily ever after, etc, etc. I am thankful that the Salt Lake City public library has all of the Avonlea seasons in its DVD collection.
    All of which brings me, finally, to why I’m feeling grateful. I was a little disappointed this year with the lack of reflection on thankfulness during the month of November. The place of reflection seems to have been derailed this year by events inspiring fear and outrage. Maybe we’ve been reflecting, and praying and sympathizing, long enough. Maybe the victims and their families and their communities would appreciate action more than reflection, especially if those actions increased accountability and saved lives. So what’s there to feel grateful about? I’m grateful that there’s always the chance that the cries of “Something must be done” may become loud and frequent enough that they are heard … and acted upon. I’m grateful that my own outrage is still balanced by hope. I’m grateful that 2016 is an election year. I’m grateful that the Moristotle blog encourages me to reflect on these and many other things, and to write about them.
Chuck Smythe, in performance
In the next two weeks: two performance of the Messiah with the Seicento Baroque Ensemble and the Stratus Chamber Orchestra, and three with the Bach Festival Chorus, the Boulder Philharmonic, and the Central City Opera. They’re all over the state, only one performance in Boulder. I’d been bored with the Messiah for many years, but am now enjoying it again.
    You may recall I had a burst pipe in the basement last month, with mold, asbestos, and a mountain of ruined books and records. Yesterday I discovered another leak in the same pipe, which has ruined the rest of those books and records.
    I’ve been suffering from upper GI infections for the last year. Handling all of those moldy books has shown me that I’m allergic to the mold, so I’m not going to try to save much. Land-filling a whole library of old Bach recordings is bruising my soul.
James T. Carney, rather active
Since mid-March I have been extremely busy with various legal cases and a rather active travel schedule. I spent two weeks on the West Coast visiting cousins, a son, and going to Zion National Park. I made three trips to the Adirondacks this year, totaling 3 weeks and half. I spent five days on a Civil War trip to Northern Virginia with a group of United States Steel retirees. I spent two weeks in London, Montenegro, and Dubrovnik on a hiking trip with my best friend from high school. And, finally, Donna and I went to California for Thanksgiving with our son in Los Angeles.
Bettina Sperry, awaiting snow
November brought on an intense need for winter preparedness and spring planning. It is all getting so much closer. Gravel and mulch over muddy areas, insulation in the house crawl space, heat and insulation in one dog shed, mulch in the spring garden, planning new paddocks for the horses, new fencing on the horizon, and in the planning stages an orchard.
    Mau Loa has had a huge growth spurt this fall and will soon be trained and headed to the race track. Couch on Fire is right behind him, also a growth spurt this late fall. Indiola, a slow grower, will be trained in the fall of 2016. She is a gorgeous filly, and like the other two, she is kind and outwardly affectionate.
    Also an intense effort is under way to redesign my farmhouse kitchen. This has taken a long time to envision, but is coming along now. The colors of sunflowers will focus the kitchen, with real wood trim and a few antiques. Bright and cheerful.
    With all that is going on, 2016 promises to be more restful than this past year. Looking forward to enjoying coffee on my front porch, getting a lot of reading done in the months ahead, and finally getting some of this work out from underneath me
    I am a winter girl, so am now eagerly awaiting snow.
The Rogers, welcoming sunshine
November was a strange month for me. First off, Janie spent ten days back in the States with our daughter over Thanksgiving. This left me and Del (our dog), to make do for ourselves. November is the time of change in Costa Rica. It is the end of the wet season and the beginning of the dry season. All the plants have gone crazy – it is their last push before dying back and waiting for the rain to return. Our yard looks like a jungle, but then again it’s Costa Rica.

    I kept busy with a few projects that I had been putting off and I finished my rewrite of Boystown: The Return. Thanksgiving day I worked on eight chapters and ate two BLTs for Thanksgiving dinner. Del thinks we should do that every year. She loves BLTs – or the bacon anyway.
    The winds started the week of Thanksgiving. They came in hard and cold. It was so loud at night it was hard to sleep and I had to close all the windows and break out my long pants. It was as if the gods of summer were chasing the old wet gods of winter across the sky.
    Janie returned on the 30th and wanted to know what happened to the warm sunshine. The next day ended the winter wet season. Every day has been sunshine and a cool breeze, if you sit in the shade. It is a beautiful time to be in Costa Rica. Janie says she is the one that brought the sunshine back and I tend to believe her.

                        –Pura Vide from Ed & Janie
William Silveira, divesting
Marylin and I are selling two 4-unit apartment buildings we own in the City of Tulare. What may seem like an ordinary business transaction, however, carries in its wake emotional reactions.
    These apartments are located one block north of Tulare Union High School. Morris, Jim Rix, and other close friends attended and graduated from high school there (1960). The former homes of friends and mentors (teachers, long gone) are nearby. The physical appearance of the school itself is changed. What was an open campus is now surrounded by fences. And the large windows on gracious old buildings have been replaced by small apertures.
    That time in high school seemed then to pass so slowly. Now, it seems to have passed very quickly and I regret not appreciating it more then. I tell myself that my emotional state is simply that of an old man romanticizing a past in which only the best has been remembered and the worst forgotten. And none of these gloomy maunderings are helped by news of events in Paris, Colorado Springs, and now, San Bernardino.
Jim Rix, enjoying hi-fidelity
The fun part of the month was resurrecting my Bose 901 speakers. I purchased these speakers when I was a young man, 40 or so years ago. They were in use for 20 years, then spent the last 20 years in storage. I’d all but forgotten about them. Then earlier this month they miraculously surfaced. They didn’t sound very good when I first plugged them in.
The bottom speaker is merely a stand for the Bose

    I remembered there was an electronic box called an “active equalizer” that went with the speakers – placed between then and the amplifier to enhance the sound – but this box was nowhere to be found. So, I purchased one on the internet. When I plugged it in, wonder of wonders, the sound was as good as it was 40 years ago!
    Merging old technology with new, I purchased a Bluetooth device ($20) that wirelessly connects my iPhone to the Bose speakers. Now I can manage my music library (more than 13,000 tunes) anywhere in my house with hi-fidelity as good as ever.
Morris Dean, excavating in earth & psyche
    For some weeks now – no, months – I had been suffering under the apprehension that I was “losing my mind.” The harder-to-find “non-senior moments” of a recent limerick were my own. That is, “old Horace Bottle” was Moristotle, in case anyone didn’t get that. Or, even more generally, I had a continual sense that death was approaching, and during the month of November, I read Joan Didion’s book Blue Nights, her sober reminiscences about the death of her adopted daughter and her own growing infirmity, and re-read Christopher Hitchens’s Mortality, about his diminishing chances of surviving esophageal cancer.
    As I understand it now, that “suffering” is what led last week to my decision to let go the ideal of a daily blog of regularly scheduled columns. I had intended to go into some detail about this, but now I question the need – or desire on my part – to do that. I do, however, want to publicly thank Vic & Shirley Midyett for responding to some of those details with suggestions that helped provoke me therapeutically.
    I am happy to be able to report that I have been feeling more upbeat and more mentally and physically competent as a result of coming to grips with some of my “issues.” Not that many people’s minds (including mine) don’t degrade, or that death isn’t approaching (all of us), but, as Julian Barnes titled his excellent book, death is Nothing to Be Frightened Of. And Joan Didion’s and Christopher Hitchens’s books are also excellent, and I enjoyed reading them.
    The decision to give up the goal of a daily blog came as easily as going to bed one night last week self-primed to wake up the next morning with a “solution to my morbidity.” And voila! The idea slid into my consciousness as easily as a natural birth – as easily, that is, as my muse usually presents me with solutions and ideas. That morning I wrote to the Midyetts: “I think I have made a step in the right direction and probably even broken a log-jam that will enable me to make other adjustments and feel better about myself, my memory, my ‘powers,’ etc.”
    Thus was I freely available, this past weekend, to deal with a little problem in the back yard. When we moved into our new, “retirement home” here in Mebane, we had a large tank installed underground to collect rainwater, with a pump to draw water out by way of an outdoor suction faucet. Well, the pump has quit working.
    We had a pump specialist come out on Friday (the same day as our announcement about Moristotle & Co.’s going “free-form”), with the result that I started digging the same day to find out where the pump’s electrical cord entered the tank, so that the specialist could climb into the tank to do his thing. Let the photos tell the essentials:

    After digging for about six hours yesterday, I'm hardly even sore. Anyway, not bad for old Mr. Bottle.

Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean


  1. A very good write up on continued progress and good decisions. And thanks very much for your loving acknowledgements and allowing us to be sounding boards for the changes you were ready to make.

  2. Go with the flow, Morris. It makes everything much easier.

  3. It is still good to catch up with everybody. Thanks for all you hard work over the years.

    1. You are welcome, Ed. My pleasure – it was indeed mostly fun, but my tolerance for the work involved, under pressure, had waned. "Going with the flow," as Bettina puts it, will be easier.

  4. A further thought about this Characters column (and its predecessors): They typically included such an abundance of material, it was a bit daunting to comment in a way that would recognize each contributor.
        In the present column, I might comment on Geoffrey's update that I had had no idea until reading it that he had ever watched anything like episodes of Avonlea while living in Sofia. And it's wonderful that his association with Moristotle & Co. prompted his reflections – so readably written!
        And though I had heard from Chuck Smythe about a burst pipe, I didn't know until reading his update what a bruising his soul had suffered from the loss of his collection of Bach recordings. Both his update, and Geoffrey's, deserve to be bylined columns in their own right.
        James T. Carney had told me about his various activities as they were happening, but it had escaped me how justifiably they kept him from contributing any writings to the blog during the year. As a consequence I had continued to bug him from time to time during the year. I apologize, Jim.
        I love reading Bettina's updates – every one is like a bonus edition of her column from Franklin Hill Farm!
        I keep in touch with Ed in Costa Rica as well as with anyone, but it's usually not until he sends me his character update that I enjoy pictures as well as email text. Thank you, Ed!
        Bill Silveira, Jim Rix, and I go back to 1956, the year we entered high school. When I received Bill's update, I emailed Jim to tell him that Bill had mentioned us and would he please be sure to submit a character update too – I'd like to run it immediately after Bill's. Then mine, to complete the trio. Jim is actually the youngest of the three, which explains why he's so upbeat and gives no indication of sharing any of Bill's and my older-age tristesse.

    I look forward to our "free-form" future, when character updates will come in individually to run by themselves, and we can give each one the undivided attention it will deserve.