Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category


Somewhere on the way to the South Pole.

Karen Marlene Dunning was Karrie to everyone she knew. And she knew everyone. Karrie moved easily within and between so many subcultures that she must’ve been at least one degree hotter than Kevin Bacon.

When I met Karrie, I was new to Seattle and deeply involved in science fiction fandom. I only dimly understand sci-fi fandom today, but in the early 1980s there was a sharp division between people who watched the stuff and dressed up like the stuff vs. people who read the stuff and published fanzines that were at least sometimes about the stuff. I, being a snob, was of course firmly in the literary camp. Karrie recognized these divisions but saw past them. I never met a person who had anything negative to say about her.

Karrie was my girlfriend in 1981 and 1982. I left her for another girlfriend. I wanted to leave our relationship, but this wasnt the way to do it. The next girlfriend was a hair-raising mistake. Karrie took me back. (It didn’t last, but she did it.) Karrie had no room in her heart for hate. I was one more man who had wronged her, but she had little time for feeling wronged. She had too much to do. Prince, for example (“Ooh baby!”). Unfortunately, she never had that chance.

Even though Karrie predicted, late one spring, “It’s going to be a bean bag summer,” she packed more into her life than I will in my life even if I live two lives. She was born already knowing how to practice mindfulness, a concept I’m still stumbling over. I don’t believe there was an hour in the day that escaped her full attention, and I mean the full eight days a week. (Karrie was a lifelong Beatles fan. She and her sister saw them twice in Seattle and spent hours practicing their Scouse accents.)

Things I will always remember about Karrie:

Dancing with her at Norwescon to Manhattan Transfer’s “Twilight Zone.”

Putting on a satirical version of the con, Invisible Norwescon, complete with unhealthy snacks and a ridiculous slate of programming, in my hotel room.

Going to the 1982  rerelease of A Hard Day’s Night at the Cinerama in  downtown Seattle and staying to watch it three times.

Karrie visiting the hotel where I was playing in a chess tournament and providing the kind of motivation between rounds that sent me into the next game without a clue to which opening I had studied.

Karrie bravely volunteering to take my parents sight-seeing when they came to Seattle in 1987 for my wedding. My parents are not easy. After she dropped them off (at their hotel, not in Elliott Bay), she had to go home and soak in a hot bath.

This appreciation is difficult for me to write because Karrie and I have had no contact in more than 25 years. When Special D and I put on our first formal seder, Karrie and her boyfriend at the time, Frank, were two of our guests. But that was in 1989. We gradually moved into other orbits.

I always thought, someday, someday I’ll call her, but there are no more somedays. Karrie has died. I urge you to read her obituary, because the extent of her adventures has left me in awe. You will rarely read about a life like Karen Marlene Dunning’s. Rest in peace. Your friends were a big help to you at the end, but overall I’d say we got by with a little help from you.

 

Time for some three-months-overdue housekeeping. Return with me now to the long-ago Year of Our Lord 2016, and thanks as always for sending me money*:

Goodbyes

Maurice White

David Bowie

Prince

Bands

The Alarm

Astounding songs on atrocious albums: The Zombies, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, The American Breed

Classical music showdown

The Cult

David + David, Wall of Voodoo, The Nails

David Bowie

Rick James

Every Motown single ever made

Birthday musings, including The Rolling Stones

The Trashcan Sinatras

Richard Wagner

Animals

Junior, my father-in-law’s last pet

Xena, part 1

Xena, part 2

All the rest

Email haters

More crap from Dad, part 1

More crap from Dad, part 2: Flashlight of the Month Club

More crap from Dad, part 3: The house it all came from

The white feather boa finds a new Bearer

My favorite holiday

Things I have lived long enough to see, part 1

Things I have lived long enough to see, part 2: Hillary Clinton explained

I have one job on this lousy ship

The unrelenting awfulness of Star Trek: Beyond

Checkers

My loyal readers

The election

Random Pick of the Day
The Secret Sisters, Put Your Needle Down (2014)

The sweet, tight harmonies of Laura and Lydia Rogers, the not-exactly-a-secret sisters, will immediately make you think of The Everly Brothers. Like Phil and Don, Laura and Lydia have a country background and cross-over appeal. The girls venture farther into honky-tonk; the boys go deeper into gospel. Are there any songs on Put Your Needle Down that could chart as high “Bye-Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” or “Cathy’s Clown”? Yes, there are several candidates – if this album had been released in 1960. The musical world is too fragmented today for the Rogers or the Everlys to dominate the pop charts.

The Sisters’ lyrics are far more literate than any pop star could’ve pulled off in the 1950s (or been allowed to pull off). I like this album, their second, a lot. Their first, Secret Sisters (2010), is too country for me.

Random Pan of the Day
Iggy Pop, Blah Blah Blah (1986)
On this album, Iggy sings like David Bowie and looks like Buster Keaton. Bowie co-wrote and co-produced; Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols plays guitar.

This is a very ’80s album, by which I mean there are deep sedimentary layers of synthesizers and drum machines. At several points it could slide into songs or at least moods by The Psychedelic Furs, Echo & The Bunnymen, and even Erasure.

“Real Wild Child” was on the radio a lot that year. It still holds up. “Winners and Losers,” for all the overproduction, is a serious rocker, though it goes on a long time for Iggy (6 minutes). “Hideaway” is also good, plus the guitar sounds like mid-’80s Springsteen.

This is an interesting combination of musicians that makes you wish the parts added up to something better.

* You do know you’re supposed to do that, don’t you? Everyone else does!

My mother and I have battled over my clothes, my career choices, my hair, why I don’t put on a hat when it rains, whom I married and whom I didn’t, but I love my mother and I think of her as the light that warms the room on a bright morning in May. Alzheimer’s has not changed her sunny personality.

Following a series of unfortunate events, we had to place Mom in a nursing home. She’s within eight miles of the house she lived in for 59 years, but she’ll never see that house again. This has been traumatic for everyone except Mom, who has a limited ability to form new memories.

Surprise! A few weeks in the dementia unit did wonders for her physically. She’s been transferred into the general population. Mom now has people she can talk with (she can hold up her end of a conversation, if you don’t mind that she forgets everything). She’s not surrounded by unfortunate souls who have lost the power of speech or who can only converse in disjointed sounds or who aren’t aware of their surroundings. Though she asks every day if today is the day she’s going home, she also says about her current circumstances, “I can’t complain.”

Meanwhile, my Dad’s health and morale have also improved. He can sleep through the night because there are no more emergencies. For the first time in years, he has a schedule: Eat breakfast, play with the cat, get dressed and go spend the day with Mom. They play bingo and word games, drink coffee and talk to people. If they’re sitting together and the nurses put a blanket on Mom, they put one on Dad, too. “I look like one of the inmates,” he says. He’s almost 90 – he’s older than most of the inmates.

A couple of weeks before Chuck Berry died, Dad gave me a clue to help me understand Berry’s legacy. A rotating cast of musicians give concerts at the nursing home, including a guitar player who, according to Dad, “plays all the old songs.” He and Mom love them. That includes “Roll Over, Beethoven.” Berry’s obituaries and appreciations have all mentioned how his songs have been “stitched into our DNA.” I thought this was only true for people born after the war. No, it includes everyone, even Dad, who was born a few months after Berry. Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll.

If Alzheimer’s ever sneaks into my head and the doc recommends I be packed off to a dementia unit, please euthanize me in front of a wall of boom boxes all playing U2’s “Gloria” with the volume at 11.

Random Pick of the Day
Hoodoo Gurus, Stoneage Romeos (1984), Mars Needs Guitars! (1985), Blow Your Cool! (1987)
A friend of a friend died recently. Her nickname was Boz. I never knew her real name, and in fact I only met her three or four times in 30 years. But through our mutual friends I heard about her often. I felt she was part of my life, though occupying a distant orbit.

The only time I was ever alone with Boz, we talked about her favorite band, The Hoodoo Gurus. I like them, too. They’re an Australian band with a dark sense of humor, maybe too hard-edged for pop but definitely too good to miss. These are their three best records. They’re uneven – if I had my choice, I’d siphon the best tracks onto one disc and call it Cool Stoneage Guitars. Give them a listen in Boz’s memory, or at least try their one almost-hit, “Bittersweet.”

Random Pan of the Day
Donald Trump
It’s too easy to make fun of Donald Trump and his rants, lies, delusions, wet dreams, and fourth-grade mental fitness. He’s lived in this country all his life and yet he doesn’t understand our history, culture, language, or even the government he’s now in charge of.

It’s also too easy to point out that he’s stocked his administration with fuckwads, dipshits, shitburgers, hairballs, ass kissers, racists, ninnies, and swimming-pool goicks.

The real tragedy of Donald Trump is not the lives he’s going to wreck or the money his family will strip-mine from the Treasury or the planet he’ll pollute. The tragedy is how he’s teaching our children – excuse me, he’s teaching our male children – that you can spend your life lying and cheating and treating women like serfs and never reading a book, not even your own, and 60 million people will happily vote for you to be their leader. You can merit nothing and win everything.

This shit just got real.

 

(Dear Readers: You’re in trouble now. I figured out how to republish my old posts! This unsparing survey of holiday music originally appeared on 22 December 2011. To quote the sign that hangs in the window of the Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle, “Sorry, we’re open.”) 

One night this week I powered up the radio in the Run-DMStevemobile and there was Perry Como singing “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays.” I punched Scan and immediately got Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health”: “Bang! Your! HEAD!” I stuck with it. When I walked in the door here at the Bureau, Special D was celebrating a surf Christmas courtesy of Los Straitjackets and their perspective on “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Later in the evening I heard Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” which as far as I’m concerned was the last straw in the manger.

Yes, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” when Quiet Riot, the poor man’s Judas Priest, provides an island of serenity in a sea of Christmas music, most of it written by my fellow Jews. (I haven’t mentioned one Christmas song yet that wasn’t.) This is why I’ve decided to have a few words with you today about the black hole that is Hanukkah music. Why, you may ask, have the Jews written “White Christmas” for the Christians but no equivalent blockbuster for their own people? Why are we stuck with Adam Sandler rhyming “Hanukkah” with “gin and tonica” and a pre-schooler’s tune about a spinning top made out of clay?

“O Come All Ye Schnorrers”
I know this question has been keeping you awake at night. Fortunately, there’s a simple answer: When it comes to Hanukkah, there’s not much to hang your muse on. The “Festival of Lights” is of so little Judaic significance that it doesn’t even appear in the Bible. (Note to my pagan readers: The Bible is what you charmingly call the “Old Testament.”) In Israel, Hanukkah is celebrated as a military holiday something like our Memorial Day, which probably means they take that opportunity to sell mattresses at a steep discount. Here in the USA, Hanukkah appears at approximately the same time as Christmas, and so has absorbed some of that glory without actually earning it.

About the only Hanukkah activity of my childhood was lighting candles, but my parents often fell asleep in front of the TV before we could get to the ceremony. We always ended up missing nights. You need 44 candles for one Festival of Lights. What are you going to do with the 13 you didn’t use last year? There are Hanukkah candles in colors they don’t make anymore quietly fossilizing in closets all over my parents’ house.

I don’t want to imply that my old man was overly concerned with workplace safety, but he did view a menorah with all nine candles in action as possessing about the same thermonuclear potential as a Saturn V rocket. Only when our cast iron menorah had been set within an aluminum pie plate and positioned atop the steel oven, in the wide nonflammable space between the four burners, would Dad ignite the Hanukkah candles. If he was awake. He might’ve nodded off in the middle of Gunsmoke.

“I’m Dreaming of a Fine Purim”
Jewish kids today expect a present every night. Stupid Jewish kids today! Things were very different when I was a boy and the Southern states were threatening to leave the Union. Wait, that’s still happening. My siblings and I were generally issued small mesh bags of chocolate coins in gold foil. They weren’t as good as Oreos. One year, through a mistake no one could explain, I received a model of the battleship North Carolina (“The Showboat”). On weekends my mother made latkes (potato pancakes) and everyone had heartburn.

As for playing the dreidel game, even when my friends and I were old enough to responsibly enjoy recreational drugs, spinning a dreidel was still insufficient to hold the attention of a teenager. Though I can see that adults willing to take a walk on the wild side might make a whole different game out of it.

“God Rest Ye Feisty Deli Men”
I’ve established that Hanukkah is basically boring. To further illustrate the difficulty of making music out of this odd little festival, consider Christmas music. What are Christmas songs about, and how do these subjects compare with Hanukkah? I’ve divided popular Yuletide tunes into three thematic areas:

1) Jesus. Christmas powers the American economy, but it also stars Jesus, and that’s kinda sacred for you guys with the cross there. What’s sacred in Hanukkah? Sure, the oil in the menorah in the liberated temple in Jerusalem burned for eight nights instead of the one night the rebel alliance thought they were entitled to. But remember, the first Hanukkah took place in the 2nd century B.C. There was no Food & Drug Administration back then, meaning no government inspectors checking for impurities. My theory is that when the Jews liberated the Temple from their Greek oppressors, what they found in the oil room was some really good shit.

2) Santas, saints, snowmen, drummer boys, reindeer, elves, orcs, and other RPG characters. There’s none of that noise at Hanukkah. All we have are the Maccabees (Hebrew for “Hammer”), who led the revolt against the Greeks. The Maccabees are the perfect example of having the right people in the right place at the right time, though most times you’d rather have the Gypsy Jokers as neighbors than these violence-loving religious enthusiasts.

3) Home. I agree that there’s no place like it, but you don’t go home for Hanukkah, you go home for Passover! Passover – now that’s a holiday. You can get something done on a holiday like that. The only thing you’re doing at Hanukkah is burning up a box of 44 candles so you don’t end up sticking orphan candles in birthday cakes years later.

It’s easy to see why there are so few songs about Hanukkah. What is not so clear is why I don’t get more gifts. Hanukkah is in fact such a simple affair that our dogs mastered it on the first try. We haven’t had a dog yet who didn’t know to report to the menorah as soon as it was fired up to receive my blessing and an Alpo Snap.

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Succos”
I leave you now with good wishes for a happy holiday, whichever one you downloaded the app for, and this link to one of the few Christmas songs not penned by one of my co-religionists. I tackled Handel and his Messiah last year, but I have to bow to these awesome kids in Alaska. Hallelujah, and don’t forget, tonight is the third night of Hanukkah so you’ll need four candles. Dad says to check that your fire extinguisher is fully charged.

(Headline and subheads this evening come from a fake SCTV commercial for “Jewish holiday hits.” I’ll be back in January with still more musical snobbery. Happy New Year, everybody!)

The result of the recent presidential election resembles nothing in the history of the United States. It looks more like the final convulsions of the ruling white elites in Rhodesia and South Africa. This resemblance doesn’t help me sleep at night.

his-back-to-the-wall
Lucky has his back to the wall.

Barack Obama, whom I admire, urged the nation to keep an open mind about our new commander-in-chief. Keep an open mind about a man who does not read. A man who has never had a pet. A man who has bragged about not wasting any time raising his own children. Has he ever played with his kids? What music does he like? (I know what he’d say: “Only the best!”) He is the fattest man to hold the office since William Howard Taft got stuck in his bathtub.

Note: William Howard Taft never got stuck in his bathtub; that story was invented years after his death. But he did own a custom-built bathtub that four non-Tafts could sit in.

Each half of our politically divided country voted for a candidate that made the other half want to kick a hole in a stained glass window. From here to eternity, will each side spend its years in power dismantling the work of the other? I am so flabbergasted by this election that I am reduced to quoting Sting, God help me:

“We all sink or we all float. We are all in the same big boat.”

In the alternate universe that has inexplicably ejected me, Hillary Clinton is right now selecting experienced, serious, boring people to help her run the government. In the universe where I’ve landed like Dorothy and Toto in their windblown house, our new leader is picking weirdos with no experience in what they’ve been picked for. That worked well during Hurricane Katrina so I won’t spend another second worrying about it.

“The revolution will not be televised,” Gil Scott-Heron told us. He was wrong. “But it will put you in the driver’s seat.” Maybe. But what is the nature of the man who is now behind the wheel?

No more politics.

Let’s talk about…chess!

Bone-crunching industrial thud machine Magnus Carlsen holds world championship with move so awesome that the planet increased its rotation and now the day is an hour shorter
In case you haven’t been keeping up with current events, Magnus Carlsen won the last game of the championship against Sergey Karjakin by sacrificing his queen, motherfuckers. When has that ever happened in championship chess? How about never! Not in 130 years!

No one has ever won the world championship on the last move in the last game by saying Oh I don’t need this thing anymore and then sacrificing the strongest piece on the board. The 13-year-old Bobby Fischer sacrificed his queen for a rook, two bishops, and a pawn in 1956 in what was later called “The Game of the Century,” and yeah it was stunning but it wasn’t the world championship, was it? It was not!

Are you getting this now? Do you understand that less than a month after reality shifted on November 8, reality shifted AGAIN this week, or do I have to come over there and clap your heads together like chalkboard erasers?

I have to reach into another sport to find something comparable. Travel with me now to the 1960 World Series, when the Pittsburgh Pirates, losing to the New York Yankees in game 7, came back IN THE BOTTOM OF THE NINTH thanks to Bill Mazeroski’s homerun – the only World Series to end with a homerun.

But Carlsen is even more amazing than Maz because Carlsen ONLY NEEDED A DRAW in that game to keep his title. He could’ve played it safe. He chose not to. You can bet your ass and six of your goats that this is why Magnus Carlsen is a champion and Run-DMSteve is an idiot blogger.

doh
A blunder by Emma gives Sailor the win!

I’m back, my friends. Thanks for sticking around, all three of you. I was immersed in an eight-week novel-writing class, faced another emergency in Antique Parent Land, endured my worst Thanksgiving in 36 years, and played with my dog. Details to come, along with more of the forgettable musical opinions you crave.

I hope you’re all well and following your dreams instead of that person who got the restraining order against you. Happy holidays!

Random Pick of the Day
Hillary Clinton.

Sorry.

Random Pick of the Day
Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Colossus (1956)
This milestone in postwar jazz whacks you in the head and throws you up on the roof with the Frisbees. It’s usually seen as a showcase for Rollins and his tenor sax, but the whole quartet is spectacular, particularly Tommy Flanagan on piano and Max Roach on drums. Max Roach must have had a Max Roach clone playing alongside him to lay down all those grooves.

I don’t know how to judge the bass player, Doug Watkins. I can only assume that Sonny, Tommy, and Max wouldn’t have let Doug join in their reindeer games unless he was spectacular, too.

This brilliant set was recorded in one fucking day in Hackensack, New Jersey.

 

I’m taking another break from blogging. I’ll be back in November, and with a story, too, if this goes well.

Today I want to salute my most loyal readers – those generous people who take the time to write comments no matter what stupid things I’ve said. Some of them write under more than one alias. I’m grateful to all of them, whatever name they choose. Here they are – and, because they are such a modest bunch, for the first time ever I will reveal their most impressive accomplishments!

Accused of Lurking: Invented Post-Its.

frostybooboo: Commercial fish farmer who tags his fish with Post-Its.

number9: Snowbird who splits her year between a yellow submarine and an octopus’ garden.

Ofelia: Master of the Brazilian freehand accordion.

seasidedave: International clam thief.

Sherry: Scared Kenny G so badly, he stopped using his last name.

thecorncobb: Sailed alone around the world in a balloon-rigged sloop.

Wm Seabrook: His Mad Men-style ad agency named the Euro, the TiVo, and the Yugo.

Thanks, everyone. Enjoy the rest of your summer, if you’re north of the Equator. If you’re not – bundle up!

Random Pick of the Day 1
Talking Heads, Fear of Music (1979)
Fear of Music has “Cities,” “Life During Wartime,” and “Heaven,” three of the best songs of the ’70s. This is an awesome album.

Particularly interesting are the final three tracks: “Animals,” “Electric Guitar,” and “Drugs.” They point toward the dark, strange band Talking Heads threatened to become. Even amid the darkness and the strangeness, however, you can count on David Byrne to stop making sense. For example, he’s angry that animals don’t help. “They’re never there when you need them,” he complains. Who does that bring to mind? I’m about to tell you!

Random Pick of the Day 2
Talking Heads, Little Creatures (1985)
This album disappointed me when it was released. I’d heard all this before. I admit, though, that I would’ve had trouble with anything released in the shadow of Stop Making Sense. Listening to this album 30 years later, I’ve changed my mind. It’s solid. But the most important thing about Little Creatures is that it’s the closest Talking Heads ever came to making a B-52s record.

You think The B-52s couldn’t create a song like “And She Was”? They did – it’s called “Roam.” You say The B-52s could never match “Stay Up Late,” a vaguely sinister song about a baby? How about “Quiche Lorraine,” a vaguely sinister song about a poodle? And what’s that line in “Creatures of Love”? “Well I’ve seen sex and I think it’s alright.” That’s great, David, but have you ever made love under a strobe light?

It would be wrong to say that Talking Heads are The B-52s with more words and funkier baselines. Wrong, but with some traces of truth. There are several points in the space-time continuum where these bands intersect.

True, their only IRL meeting, when David Byrne produced Mesopotamia, sucked. As much as I love the title song, I’m the first to admit that no one knows how to play it, not even the band that wrote it. And I think I know why: “Mesopotamia” is a slower version of “Cities.”

 

Prolog.

It was a dark and stormy day. Robert A. Heinlein, a man who could pour words onto a page as easy as turning a bucket upside-down, was stumped. He had a book to write, he had nothing in his head, and the cat was distracting him. It prowled the perimeter of the room, crying and poking under and around everything.

Rain splattered the windows. Heinlein’s wife, Ginny, entered this gloomy scene.

“What’s the matter with that damn cat?” the writer demanded.

Ginny calmly observed the cat and the weather and replied, “He’s looking for a door into summer.”

Heinlein jumped off the couch, sprinted to his typewriter, and pounded out a novel called The Door Into Summer.

It’s possible that my wife has said something like this to me, but either I wasn’t listening or I thought I knew better.

Act 1.

It was a hot and bright Massachusetts day. My 14-year-old nephew Jared and I were deep underground, studying the debris field that is my parents’ basement. What did we find? My door into summer:

1 The bats
With reproduction signatures burned into the wood from Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Johnny Bench, Rocky Colavito, and (in Magic Marker) my brother.

Not shown because it was back in Portland, the bat I did the most damage with, my Ernie Banks “Powerized”:

2c My turn at bat
Put me in, coach, I’m ready to bark!

I ran upstairs with those bats and into daylight and started swinging. I guarantee you that if any baseball scout had seen me at that moment (or in 1971) he or she would’ve written me off as no prospect. I reluctantly pulled myself away from all this time-traveling and took Jared for a drive and a man-to-man talk.

Act 2.

For those of you who’ve read my previous dispatches from Massachusetts and who believe that my mother and father live in a wonderland of happy memories, here’s a little treasure I tripped over in the basement:

3 Toxic
As the platoon sergeant said in
Aliens: “Whatever happened here, I think we missed it.”

Act 3.

One night the microwave and the toaster oven went on strike. My brother-in-law Rick (a good man to have on tap) and I went in search of the fuse box, which has lurked quietly in the basement for decades.

4 Fuse box
This electrical showcase keeps the lights on, the water hot, and the Red Sox lukewarm.

The only fuse boxes I’m familiar with use circuit breakers with switches. Not this one. I thought, Hmm, glass fuses. Do they still make glass fuses? Where could I get one at this hour? Then I thought, Why am I thinking these thoughts? Whose house is this, anyway? A quick search turned up boxes of spare fuses that Dad had socked away when he and Mom bought the house in 1957.

5 1957 glass fuses
Our basement is just like the Smithsonian, with fewer lights and more mold.

Rick screwed in the 60-year-old replacement fuse and lo, Mom’s dinner from Meals on Wheels was soon hot and on the table and subject to the inspection of the cat.

Act 4.

Dad said, “I have to do something about my father’s books.”

My father’s father, my Grandpa Sam, died in 1974. Dad, because he was grieving, and because he’s a child of the Depression who must save everything, boxed up and brought home all of Grandpa’s books: his siddurim (daily prayer books), services for the High Holidays, Haggadahs for Passover, commentaries on the Torah, and Jewish cookbooks and cartoon books and a collection of photos from the Yiddish theater with funny captions.

6 Moyel
“Did somebody call for a
moyel?” Your clue: circumcision.

What to do with the unholy books was easy. I threw them in the recycling. What to do with the holy books was not. You can’t throw them in the recycling or the trash and you sure can’t stuff ’em in people’s socks for Christmas. The only thing you can do with these guys is bury them in a Jewish cemetery.

On each trip home, I aim for another small victory. It was my turn at bat.

Down in the basement again with a head lamp and a Geiger counter, I tracked the books to two columns of boxes against a wall. When I opened the boxes, I discovered that other objects had found homes with the Jew stuff. For example, the Time-Life series Outlaws of the Old West. Wooden spools without thread. The hull of my model of the battleship Massachusetts.

Next, I worked my connections. Though I haven’t lived in this community since Lizzie Borden failed her conflict-resolution class, I still knew one person at the temple. This lady quickly made the arrangements and the next morning I surrendered the books to a cheerful, bare-chested Elf who was mowing the cemetery lawn with a tractor. I suspect I’ve met this creature before, probably in Lothlórien.

The books I delivered will someday cushion the bed of a grave, which I think is a poetic end.

The Jewish cemetery rests on a hill overlooking a Catholic cemetery. I’m sure the Jews who reside there, many of whom grew up in the era of Father Coughlin, enjoy looking down on the Catholics. I wandered around in the sunshine and said hello to the people I once knew. At least this time I wasn’t the one who was underground.

Epilog.

The only advice I can give you for dealing with very old, failing parents is to share whatever joy you find and never lose your sense of humor. Also, watch where you step in all that clutter. Something might be waiting for you.