Neighbors

Trent Kleppen up on the Hi Line asked about my ranch neighbors, and in answering I realized we are still a wild bunch here, for whatever reason. It is no accident that songwriter Tom Russell lived here, in el Paso and Santa Fe, for years. I wanted to send some photos of my ranch friends at the time, but I crashed and burned.The oncoming fatigue of PD is like nothing I know- I barely get a warning and suddenly I cannot even move my fingers to type. It is exactly as though I had a plug in my foot, and suddenly all the  energy drains out. I stand to type because I must— no delusions that it improves my writing, like Hem or (with far more conviction and far less reason) Betsy’s old friend Robin Moore. My desk is a present from Brad Watson in Laramie  (Last of the Dog Men, Miss Jane) who is in line for a National Book Award; without it it would be even more difficult…)

Anyway. Here are some stories and images of Sis, her mother Betty Gianera, John Davila, and some others, even some old magazine photos of Joe Brown. First set: Dutch Salmon, Cousin Sis, me in Owl Bar  in San Antonio, NM. It was a day of hound talk, and Sis was there with her scent hounds, us with the running kind…

The winners of the team penning events at T or C at  the Clint Benjamin Memorial Rodeo a  number of years back: Sis’s husband Tom Olney, second gen cat hunter; me;  her friend  Chuck; mother Betty. Betty generally was the sweetest person I ever knew, but she was the granddaughter  of a Swiss Italian,  Joe Gianera, who built his first house, Torrejon, “The Fortress”, on the lip of a little volcanic caldera with a natural spring, the only natural permanent water other than the Rio itself in our county, in 1859, when everything west of the Rio was still Apacheria. It still exists, thirty miles south of any pavement. So do three other domiciles including  Sis and Tom’s, perched on a rock over the seasonally – roaring Nogal Canyon and so doomed or pleasantly destined to bouts of enforced isolation; and HQ, closer to the road and grown up haphazardly around Joe G’s windowless old WINE CELLAR,  a rambling, confusing one story incipient ruin surrounded by dead cars, a coyote cage, guinea fowl, and rattlesnakes… a nostalgic’s dream, replete with Colliers from the 1890’s,  Saturday Evening Posts from the 1930’s, stuffed heads, dead cowboys’ hats and rifles dating back again to the 90’s hanging dusty in the rafters like Cardinal’s hats in the cathedral….

Sis, the first female Brand Inspector in the US, is FAMILY and more: a  winning rodeo competitor, a  self described cowboy bitch rather than a cowgirl, the owner of a strain of lion hounds, and the person who, with me, knows not only where  each others’ bodies are buried– we helped each other bury them- and woke up in the back seat on the way to Mexico…

She catered and designed my 40th birthday party..

And she was the only human I know in the world able to ask the question, in public in the bar, of Sybille Bedford; whose autobiography I had been reading there: “She wouldn’t be the one what wrote that big fat book about Aldous Huxley, would she?”

Her mother Betty Betty was superficially less flamboyant; showed her steel only once in all the years I knew her; normally she was the sweet Italian- American Catholic school girl from Loretto Academy.

But her husband, Smokey, had been born in Iowa, and drifted west after the war, ending up sweeping out the swinging doors of the Capitol Bar on the square in Socorro, for the DeBrines. It was an old bar and a bucket of blood through the Seventies and the eighties, when Earl De Brine owned it. The old Comanche chief Leonard Parker, who managed the Spur after he retired from the BIA, and I had the habit of going down there on Sunday when an unholy (?) combination of Baptists and Socorro Bar owners kept us from Sunday bar hours. We would eat bad Cantonese food at the China Best , then drink and argue with Navajos on peyote visions, bikers, mad profs, and an  ancient Commie Martyr (Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz, the knowing of whom was Oppenheimer’s crime- a red – diaper baby 80 years old, named after Brazilian- Italian anarchists- I suspect rather CAPITAL “A” Anarchists, Bakuninites with strict rules, not the non- ideological kind like me & the Prince– [Mutual Aid, Carlos!] — fighting Anarchists, with homemade weapons, consumed like dry straw in one of the endless immolations that consumed 19th century Brazil- read Don Roberto, or a more modern treatment like Mario Vargas Llosa’s…

Fun before it burned, the truest BAR in Socorro proper, though there were roadhouses back then…

Earl also became my landlord after Bets died in November of 86, in Lemitar 4 miles north, a walk I could do in a pinch even in that icy winter of 86 and 7, sometimes with a spaniel or two and  my old Browning Sweet Sixteen shotgun. The long low house had been built in the 1700’s and had (non- working) solar panels, two folding chairs with a board over them for a kitchen table or desk depending on time of day, a mini- Olivetti manual typewriter, a single set of dishes, and a big comfortable bed. In eleven rooms. with no other furniture, and all my books already taken east to Newton MA for a season by Tommy McIntyre. It was COLD.

Socorro county college kids feared to enter the Cap then. Several years later Earl died and the bar was struck by lightning one afternoon- a slightly superstitious (in a Catholic way) old girlfriend still mutters we cursed it when tried to get in it on the way to an illicit tryst; it was inexplicably closed, and clouds of Mordor were closing in; no, Con, I don’t think we burned it! But though the DeBrine kids own it and it still has swinging doors, it is now a Clean, Well- Lighted place, full of college kids…

But after the War it was probably wilder than we can imagine now (the country was so improbably wild when I came here 35 years ago that it will take more posts to even convey it). Smokey looked like Brando as the wild one; he had his Harley, his leather jacket. and his engineer boots. The heiress must have had some rebel in her soul; she married her Smokey;  he then became the consummate cowboy, and lived and thought about cows as real animals and metaphor to the exclusion of all else, like Rink Malhum, the North Dakota Cowboy with me and my dad in the rodeo photo below, who had  “been three places: North Dakota, Vee- et – Nam, and Socorro County!” . 8* Just once I saw the steel, and was reminded that the Gianera ranch after Pete was a de facto matriarchy. Smokey and Betty went head to head for a moment at dinner one night; then she looked at him and said simply, “This is the Gianera Ranch, and I am Betty Gianera..” Not even an implied exclamation point….

To her fellow Northern Italians she was family. She and my Dad both had pics in their houses titled “Two old wops”, and she even hatched a crackpot scheme with my mother to sell illegal antique Native artifacts to Goldie Hawn,  a plan I stopped in its tracks not wanting my mom and adopted aunt to become felons…

 At her funeral, I knew the young Chicago priest was going to be OK when he began his sermon: “Betty Pound made me touch a cow…”

John Davila….

Floyd and John “bill” their contestants

… at the (legal then, before Bill Richardson sold out in search of respectability), cockfights run by Floyd Mansell over 30 years ago, and now; 3 days ago actually, under the painting of Tom Russell’s “Gallo del Cielo” by him, a birthday present from him to me– we have the same birthday..

John looks a lot like the late Texas songwriter Townes van Zandt. I assume the old Texas Hill country families have some Spanish blood. John was long convinced of something I thought romantic but turned out to be scientifically proven in a  sort of horrible way— that the old families were pervaded by “conversos”, observant Jews who went to the colonies to hide and practice their faith in secret. He used to hold Leonard Cohen’s albums up beside his face saying “Tell me that ain’t my primo!” (cousin). Actually Leonard’s grin in the video of closing time reminds me a lot of John’s.

Once he was having dinner at our house with Dog-in-law Daniela Imre (Harvard MA in architecture, advanced degrees in dealing with impossible Indians — Alamo Navajo– and saluki dogs). John turned to her genially and said: “Daniela, yer a Jew, aint ya?” Daniela, as unflappable as John, said ”John, as you know I am a veteran of the Israeli Army, that is a safe bet !”

“Well, I am too – we old land grant families are all Jews, conversos – don’t know about the Davilas, just some no- ‘count Meskins that got rich and came north and married up about 1820, but the Guttierezes, Reals, C de Bacas”.  He was right, too- a gene for breast cancer has been traced from the Levant to Spain to Northern NM and SW Colorado (John’s parents moved to Cartoon County (as we affectionately call Connecticut- sized Catron county, with basically three paved roads,  fewer than 7000 people, a requirement for all households to be armed, that attempted to put a bounty on reintroduced wolves, with an average high  above sea level of almost 7000 feet– our Afghanistan) from the North. He added smugly ” That’s why were smarter’n you sonsabitches!”, gesturing to the rest of us.

John. Simultaneously a yellow dog Democrat and an utterly reactionary horseback aristocrat (“The US Government didn’t ask us to give up nuthin but hunting Indins on horseback with lances, and breedin’ ‘em!” (Apparently he meant as domestic animals – one can never tell). He was married to a beautiful intelligent one from an unlikely background- a Jack Mormon cowboy Boho and gold prospector of Scottish descent, Pete Daniel, still alive & sharp in his nineties, and a Navajo Mormon woman who soon longed to leave Idaho and be nearer her own people. They had nine kids- Mormons are as philoprogenitive as Catholics used to be (I am oldest of nine myself, as was my late best man James “Viejo” Trujillo, and HIS father Tony was one of eleven; Floyd Mansell, a converso TO Catholicism, had nine and adopted one; several other families in my VERY “U”, upper- crust Catholic grammar school back east had nine or ten, so it wasn’t just a working- class thing either, but nowadays it is just the Mormons. Many of the kids had Mormon names, like “Mosiah”, and cowboyed up in the buckaroo country. I remember Pete squatting up against a wall, hat over his eyes, huge prophet’s beard over his knees, rolling a cigarete as I asked him about Claude Dallas, who had worked with several of his sons. “Well Steve, he were a good hand, but I liked the judge that sentenced him even better.” John and Becky had a daughter, the lovely and brilliant Ungelbah Daniel- Davila, who owned a Punk style ‘zine in  Albuquerque for a while, called La Loca– think Corb Lund’s “Gothest Girl I Can” with a slight Hispanic slant .I was  going to use my contacts with Ian Tyson through Tom Russell to get an interview of Corb for Ungie, but she folded the mag.

The Davila gang leave few stones unturned. Beck went to the Culinary Institute in Oregon after t he marriage broke up, and for a while she was past y chef for one of the big Santa Fe hotels., and then became the vegan chef at St John’s College, but not the vegetarian CHEF- she would serve delicious vegan food, then stand behind it, ostentasiously eating a corn dog. (We got to eat there fairly often in the old days because the kids went there, and the Prez was an old friend from Massachusetts days, a funny guy- but I can ‘t digress further…) Ungie has had poetry published in London. I once encountered a lovely girl named Marcie Cohen at a pa ty in Manhattan and later remarked to Betsy that an unlikely person was wearing “a shirt like John Davila would wear to the Catron County Fair,” only t o have Marcie remark: ”How is John? Has he married Becky yet?” To my look of disbelief she replied “I’m a Guttierrez. He’s my PRIMO.” She lives in Milan now  I’m told…

Two of Beck at different ages, one of Ungie.

And John.. goes places being John. 

 He is a high school dropout who once stared into my bookcase and said “Got any real OBSCURE Steinbeck?” How obscure , John? “More’n Sweet Thursday?” Forget it- it doesn’t exist.

He got really into European art galleries (“Who do you like better, Impressionists or Renaissance? That’s right, Impressionists. I don’t GET halos.”) Then he discovered the Prado: “Fuck a  bunch of Impressonists: I just seen the greatest paint ing in the world. Its a self portrait of the artist, and he’s paintin these aristocrat kids, and there’s a meer, and a trick of perspective, and..” I hold up my hand and get out a big art book on t he Prådo, opened to las Meninas, and he says thats the very damn thing, the best painting in the world, and Velasquez is the best painter. And you got to see it! I offer Goya to be argumentative and he thinks about it seriously for a minute—then, “No, Velasquez.” I haven’t seen it yet, but he did send an oversized postcard a couple of years ago when he took Ungie over “To see there was more to her heritage than Indins and Jack- Mormon Dirt  Savages!”
 

Other encounters can breed distrust, oddly more in Europe than in Asia, where he and I have often traveled to different places at the same time. He’s not the young John in a rodeo buckle and a tractor cap, drinking cobra blood wine in Taiwansese cafes where  they kill the snake at the table; or grilling fish on a hibachi in Brazil where he has many friends among the Japanese diaspora. Now he wears Italian suits, and encounters can get ugly. He came in one day grumbling. It developed he had stopped in Berlin on the way back from trying to buy a farm in Poland’s Tatra Mountains “Where the old Pope used to ski”, and in a bar ran in to what he called “some damn Karl May Nazi hippies.”

“First they called me a racist because I said I was married to a half Indin half Mormon, and that I liked halfbreeds, and that I weren’t no Jew— they said we was all thrown out of Spain.

“Then they asked me if I liked Colt Single actions. I didn’t even say that nowadays they were for rich folks and people in the suburbs playin cowboy; I just said I preferred a Glock nine em em…
.
“Then they asked me if I liked mustangs. I told em mostly not. I said any horse wouldn’t load in my pickup in an emergency I’d dogmeat the son of a bitch! [excellent use of a verb]

“They told me I was no cowboy, I was too pale to be Spanish, and I was probably from New York City. I LIKE New York[he was with he Wild West Show there when he was in his teens], but they didn’t know shit about it neither, Fuckin nazis….

He astonished me last summer by saying the first sentimental words I have ever heard him say- on leaving, he suddenly clasped my hands in bo th of his, and said in apparent delight, “Steve, damn- were growin old together!” John is over 60- hard to believe*. But  from the first time in 1980 when he showed up on my doorstep with a Goshawk on his hand— it is in Q— through his arrival with Beck and a bottle of Black Jack on the night of Betsy Huntington’s death, saying “let’s tell dead animal stories in honor of Betsy”’ he has been my most loyal friend.

OK, two more characters. Joseph Paul Summers Brown, Joe, who is 90 and tough as old saddle leather; Joe Brown, who wrote the best book on the modern cowboy, The Outfit, and many more, including this one, about a Mexican peasant facing a cattle- killing jaguar (we know the guy who tracked and photo’d the first borderland jaguar in years, a decade back, Warner Glenn- his dogs are related to Sissy’s; I got him into a Russian hunting magazine). Here is what Joe wrote in my favorite book of his, in the copperplate hand he learned as  a Catholic school kid at Loretto in Santa Fe:

 
And someone who I suppose denies those stolid northerner stereotypes: our young friend James Nance, who was on the way to Sweden to see his ex- wife and 3 kids (the second two were born in Sweden after his wife returned there after being bitten by a rattler, but before the divorce.) James is a cowboy, born and raised on his parents big “FIeld Ranch” north of Alamo Navajo, which is to say remote even by Montana standards. (Their brand is 2XS- say it out loud). His parents also run the Juan Tomas “fox” hound pack., a formal pack with red (“pink”) coats and all, aristos of 2 cultures plus hardass  cowboys. They pursue COYOTES, over arroyo and up mountain, and they never see pavement. The horses are mixed blood. mostly quarter rorse- thoroughbred, and they scare me — wild and spirited and 16 – 17 hands!—I ride with the babies. But James was at one time the youngest MFH in the nation, at 17 I think.

He is also a poet— published in the Atlantic…                         
       
And a detective for the Socorro sheriff’s  department.

(The guy who runs the jail is also a small rancher, and they based the original TV series NCIS on him….) “The real Abbie is MEAN”).

* As his cousin Juan, Gutteriez, a mentor, who is 78 and just survived cancer, said to me a week ago,  Steve , DAMN. Just yesterday we were young and strong. How’d we ever get to be so damn OLD ?

** And who uttered the best line ever heard in the Spur- ask…

Merry Christmas!

Apparently,  according to Gerry Cox, a lot of our friends have been worried because our mailbox was “full” and messages were bouncing. After messing around with it a lot, it seems to be working normally, at least for now. But whatever the problems, be assured that we are well, despite the puppy’s eating the house*, and you can call us on either our cell phone or our land line. The first is best for messages, the second better for talking.

Steve is hard at work on the new book of books and the fiction follows close behind. He can no longer type comfortably for long periods of time so we hope to hire a professional typist who is literate and very interested in his work. Wish us luck.

And in the words of Belloc:

“May all our enemies go to Hell, noel, noel, noel, noel!”

* Her greatest creation so far involved making a large pile of potting soil in the middle of our living room rug, and decorating it with inch- long sections of two amaryllises. Not content with that effect, she climbed onto the kitchen table and retrieved two tangerines, which she shredded over the amaryllis and potting soil. It wasn’t as bad the day before when she destroyed 5 Kazakh hoods, but it was more creative. We wonder what the Kazakh for “Bowerbird” might be…

Wolf hunt with Berkut

Absolutely the best movie of hunting with eagles in Olgii I have ever seen. This is exactly how it is.. And it is the first time that filmmakers have caught an actual successful hunt for a wolf with eagles. All the others are “bagged”, and I can’t watch them.

This is also exactly where we hunted for two seasons. It makes me ache with nostalgia for Kazakh music, long cold days, and feasts of mutton and vodka.

Bobo

Yes, we have the new pup, and she is everything we wanted. Even ATAIKA likes her- perhaps she can smell familiar genes. (She is her great aunt). Of course she shreds everything, but she wouldn’t be a tazi if she didn’t…

Thanks to Lane Batot, and especially to Philip Bailey and Kerry Cooper, who kept her an extra month so Libby could heal; and to Stefan Wachs, fast becoming our official photographer, for the baby pics.

Don’t blame Stefan for my pallor on this one- I tweaked his to show the grain on the Coggswell.

Rockabilly Poetry!

I finally got Effigies II, the  London- published collection of five Native female poets that includes Ungie Davila;  Most are dutiful to OK, but Ungelbah’s are brilliant, partially because she draws upon the  cultural history of New Mexico as seen through the rhinestone – studded red sunglasses and sensibilties of a talented cowpunk artist and pinup esthete who knows history, rodeos, and the Fifties. I have known her since she was born, in 1987, thirty miles south of the pavement in her father’s house, a unique passive- solar creation built of stone by Mexican craftsmen and tucked beneath the slopes of a little volcano, a house that stays warm even in winter despite the subzero temperatures of Mangas in winter, especially between the twin peaks, Escondida and Allegre, and watched her grow and travel from the ranch to Quemado to the Japanese diaspora in Taiwan and Brazil to the Prado. She has learned from her father, the bronc rider, chickenfighter, and world traveler; from her mother, born to a Navajo mother, now a professional Culinary- school- trained pastry chef, from her ancient grandfather Pete Daniel, prophet- bearded Jack Mormon gold prospector and hand, who has sought treasure off the coast of Belize and in the mountains of New Mexico; from her girlhood mentor Russell Means; perhaps even from reading her old semi-uncle, me. She is at home on the ranch, in Albuquerque, Europe and Asia, at a keyboard, behind a lens and in front of one. She is indeed The Gothest Girl I Can. And these good poems are not even new; I believe they pre- date her  (recently folded) La Loca magazine.

I  have not gotten permission to reprint these poems, as I don’t have Ungie’s current numbers and John is off the grid, but I am sure printing them to promote Ungie’s career comes under the doctrine of Fair Use. And I encourage Ungie or any of her friends who read this to get in touch with me.

 John when Ungie was about one:

Aaaah, a little more…

Tom Cade

The oldest by a bit of the four Peregrine Fund founders, and the only man among them to be born poor (in the Depression era New Mexico Bootheel), my old  friend Dr Tom Cade is still going strong at nearly ninety, Tim Gallagher caught up to him at the Irish Falconers meet, accompanied by a pair of beautiful Brazilian Aplomado falconers:

 Way to go, Tom! I hope I can be like you when I grow up…

The Artist’s Son and his Discontents

I published a piece in the Angler’s Journal a way back, on the perils of your father’s being, or wanting in his heart to be, a sportsman and artist when you are one yourself. The published version is available. It is milder and more anodyne than my preferred version, which is as hard as my old man was.

Joe was a Swiss Border Italian whose parents came from the northeast shore of Lago Maggiore, where the scenery is gorgeous but as he said to me once you cant eat the rocks. Though born in Boston his first language was the local patois, a kind of latinate old- fashoned French; in the cities people spoke “Roman Italian” or Milanese Italian, considered ever  so slightly self aggrandizing  South of the Lombards and  such the people were considered Moors ; “Africa begins at Rome” was less a racial statementt than an ideological one; Federigo II had a Moslem army that he first defeated, then housed on Lucera on the mainland as mercenary shock troops; they were not defeated until his son and heir was.

(Although that Emperor was Sicilian to the core, he was also half German- a Hohenstaufen- and half Norman, a Hauteville. He also ran wild as a street urchin in Sicily til the pope decided at his majority to bend him to his will. THAT was  a plan always likely to work with the son of Constance and the grandson of Barbarossa…)

I promise I will get back to Frederic. But we are talking about my dad here. First the language. I recently read that most of La France Profonde before 1870, especially the South, spoke something “more like Italian” than Parisian French than they did; something like my grandparent’ tongue. It also recalls Villon in the 1200’s– the ing and ung endings- Ving for wine, “pung” for bread.  Pierre Stoyanovivich, Fabre’s heir and a serious lepidopterist himself, though a (very  rich but un-fancy) rich peasant (“un sale paysan, avec les mains sale, led doigts sale”, in the greatly distressed word  of Teocchi, the Italian- Parisian bureaucrat who ran the Harmas, Fabre’s old farm, for the government and wanted his specimen and letters- he was trying to get me to support his views to some German tourists, but my loyalty was elsewhere. Stoyanovich– he was 7/8 Provencal — not only looked like my Dad — he had his gestures, and my grandparents’ language. Why not? They were only some 200 miles apart!

Stoyanovich and The Priest, his old Resistance brother and rival; several versions of Dad

Language? Does your culture have a “Trotting Rhyme”– that is, one to the recitation of which you bounce your kid o your knee? We had TWO. One was “Trot trot to Boston..”; the other, reconstructed on the Internet by sound, was this. They SAY it’s Italian, but what does it sound like to your ears?

Finally, their and my version of the tale:
Angler’s text

And mine, very different:

Betsy had been everywhere and had done everything and was
startlingly frank. Improbably, she hit it off with Joe, the first of my
partners ever to do so. It was all the funnier because he, whose precarious
prosperity was earned by a typical first-generation ethic of hard labor, tended
to call all Yankees with broad vowels “inbred overbites”. To which Betsy would
amiably agree. “That’s all right Joe. The Huntingtons and Trumbells are just
Connecticut Valley farmers who said ‘ain’t’ until the 1950s.”
And she cracked a mystery. One night she asked him flat-out
why he had given up art, and fishing and hunting, and, seemingly, fun.
We were on our third or fourth Jack Daniel’s. He said
“Betsy, when I came back from the war, it was a little early because I had flown
thirty-four missions. I had big ideas. I’d done my flight training in Roswell,
New Mexico, and hunted with a rancher there who had promised me a dog. He sent
me the dog on the train. I had bought an antique Cadillac roadster, and rode
off to Roxbury to show my old man what a swell guy I was.”
“I drove up and knocked on the door, and Rico came out and
looked at me and said “Get your Goddamn rich man’s dog and your Goddamn rich
man’s car off my lawn.”
“I didn’t care. I had survived the war, I was a scholarship
student and I had talent. In England, as a first lieutenant, I was an officer
and a gentleman. I rented a studio with the two most talented artists I knew.
One was a veteran, and one day they carted him off, screaming. He had what the
called “battle fatigue” in those days.”
“Then I started watching my other friend and realized that
he was gay. My father had been nagging me constantly and was always saying that
all artists were either crazy or queer. I was doing some good work but I didn’t
know how to sell it and my money was running out. All of a sudden I got scared.
I sold all my stuff and applied to Carnegie Mellon, and the rest is history. I
started in a company and ended up owning it, and as you know I lost a good bit
of it in the last crash.”
“I did it all for security and, you know, I did it wrong.
I’ve harassed this Goddamn kid for thirty years, and you know what? He made the
right choice. There is no Goddamn security.”
And he looked me in the eye and clinked his glass on mine.
I never had an argument with him again. He came to New
Mexico; we took him to rodeos, we went birding, we fed him wild things. He
called Betsy in the hospital in her last week, and I managed to see him just
before his. He might not have attained security; but he had some measure of
serenity. I have very little of his equipment, having sold or bartered it away.
My sentiment is rooted more in memory and a little bit of his art. I’d still
own an Alcedo Micron. The last of his tackle I possess is an odd assortment:
the aluminum fly box and motheaten flies, some older than me, that will never
see the water; a leather and fleece wallet for streamers, which I still use;
and, most ridiculous here in the high mountain desert of New Mexico: the Penn
Squidder, still loaded with braided Cuttyhunk line.
A photo of him stands on my desk, a portrait in profile,
obviously on a sailboat, the wind ruffling his white hair, sunglasses shading
his hair. He is in the place he loved best, off St. Croix in the islands. I
often think of it as the Old Man, or the Old Man of the Sea. He is four years
younger than I am now.

Fran Hamerstrom

Experimental cut and paste here, from a yet- unfinished autobiographical essay called “A Braid of Memory”  If it works, there will be more, This one refers directly to the one below, and explains Dr Frances  Flint Hamerstrom’s connection to my old grammar school…

The Letterman video runs long.Turn it on and jump to her segment. I wish I had the first…

in 1907, Frances Flint is born on Louisburg Square
in Beacon Hill in Boston, to a family both wealthy and intellectual. She would
claim in her autobiography that she took up smoking cigarettes four years later
while crossing the Atlantic, saying to the adults  “I ADORE my evening
cigarette!” (She got the phrase from a visiting actress).

Domenic “Doc” Conca, DDS- 1925- 2016, R.I.P.: on Conca’s Lawn.

 One of my unmentioned mentors died at 91 a couple of days ago: Dr Domenic Conca of Randolph, Massachusetts.

 “Doc” was the father of my oldest friend, Michael Conca, who was my schoolmate from first grade through my first year in college (BC: I dropped out), as well as my housemate and partner in a firewood business in the wintry January Hills west of the Quabbin Reservoir an east of the Connecticut valley, one of the wildest parts of Massachusetts, for several years, during my second attempt at higher education; he lives there still, with his wife Mary Lou; more of his story later…

Mike at Rick Rozen’s in Golfito, Costa Rica; Mike and Mary Lou a couple of years ago at Karen and George’s.