Apparently one has to be a little kinky to take up the accordion or one of the other “squeezebox” instruments.  I say this in the nicest and most appreciative way, just having returned from a really fun and interesting day at the Cotati Accordion Festival.  Held in a grassy park near the center of this small but interesting town the Festival transforms Cotati into Global Accordion Central for the third weekend in August.


Rarely have I seen a more eclectic crowd as far as dress, general appearance and hair style goes (though very little racial diversity was evident) and even more rarely have I heard the sounds of hundreds of accordions simultaneously.  An annual event is the “Lady of Spain Accordion Ring” when several dozen accordion players gather in front of the stage and play the old warhorse, following it with “Roll Out The Barrel”.  If one has taken even the first couple of lessons those two are in the repertoire.


The site is ringed by vendors, mostly food but some beautiful crafts, there’s a wine “tasting” tent, a beer brewer and many accordion sellers, teachers, repairers and etc.  Bring your own chairs or sit on the strategically placed hay bales and prepare yourself for fun.


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A Visit to Costco


            Once a week, more or less, we make a trek to Costco in San Leandro to stock the pantry.  This time of the year, when we entertain more often than usual, the stocking is stuffed!  I try not to be hungry when we go so as not to give in to my impulses and fill the cart with snacks and sweets and too much food for two people who don’t eat that much.

            The primary reason to go to Costco, at least for me, is the very high quality of their food offerings and, of course, the reasonable prices.  There are side benefits to the experience as well.  For one thing, I estimate that walking up and down all the aisles, which we invariably do lest we miss out on some special treat or unbelievable bargain, is tantamount to a good day’s exercise.  Easily three or four miles.  Okay, I’m exaggerating, it can’t be more than half a mile, three quarters tops.  But I’m pushing a cart that gets heavier with every aisle so that counts for something.


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A Visit From Friends


            We’re having a visit from friends this week and, as usual, it’s a very rich and rewarding experience.  Not that we do much or that what we do is special in any way, but doing it together and sharing it makes it special.

            Last night we sat around the dinner table sort of grazing on home-made mushroom soup, six kinds of cheese, a loaf of olive bread, various dishes of raw veggies and a bottle of Beaujolais Nouvelle.  This group doesn’t actually need the wine to loosen our tongues but it does help the general hilarity.

            At our ages a part of the discussion is always focused on ailments and death; who has what and who is dead or dying.  It’s never the most cheerful part of the talk but neither is it the most depressing.  Death and dying, illness and doctors are natural parts of life and cannot be ignored but because they are natural and universal railing against them is futile.  Instead, what comes...

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7 Billion!



            Ever since Malthus at the dawn of the nineteenth century predicted that the food supply would not be able to keep up with the supply of human mouths, we have been conditioned to think of the rise of population as an unrelievedly bad thing.  We have also been trained to think of population control as perhaps, good in principle but evil if coercive.

            Our joy at the discovery that attaining middle class status brought down the birth rate has been tempered, if not extinguished, by the simultaneous discovery that middle class status striving is ruining the world through the side effects of industrialization.  A pretty fix we humans have gotten ourselves into.  Clearly our numbers will continue to rise and clearly the desire to care for our children, educate them to better themselves, develop our economies and deliver a chicken to every pot in a personal automobile is not going to diminish any time soon.  Is this an occasion...

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          “When did you first understand the meaning of love?”

            The question seems simple enough, on the face of it, but once considered it opens the door to layer upon layer of hidden questions and even more hidden meanings.  Stumbling blocks to an easy answer begin with the word “understand”.  What would it mean to understand a complex emotion like love?  If the understanding is intellectual what part of the emotion is ignored?

            Another block in the road to understanding is the word “meaning”.  The philosophers have wrestled with that forever and are no closer than when they began.

            And then, the word “love”.  I have been searching for and researching about the meaning and the experiences of love all my life, quite literally and only at the age of 72 do I feel I have received a glimmer of a clue to understanding.

            As a child I knew I was loved.  My mother had been waiting for a child...

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                Thanksgiving has given rise to a new holiday, Black Friday.  No longer is the dominant theme of the holiday the feast of the harvest and the celebration of family and friendship.  It is now the official lead-in to the opening of the Christmas shopping season.  Oh well, we can turn off the television, eschew the gladiatorial games and concentrate on what the holiday is really about.

                In my family we’re extremely thankful for the crop of babies the past year has brought to us.  If cuteness were to be personified we’re all sure that Ada, Lexi and Michelle (alphabetical, not cuteness order) are the very ones to do so.  The more mature among us are grateful for another year on this earth and all of us are thankful for each other as the experience of life is immeasurably enhanced by our loved ones, both relatives and friends.

                For me in particular this year has special significance.  This is the year the world found its...

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            When you enter the old Naval station at Alameda Point from Main Street, (named after Mr. Main, not to be confused with Park St., Alameda’s real “Main” street) you drive along the waterway for several blocks.  The opposite shore is lined with the huge cranes used to load and unload the freighters and beyond them is a great view of San Francisco.  “I certainly hope they sustain this view,” I thought driving through the gate.  The last thing we need is a row of million dollar houses blocking the views.

            With my admittedly biased opinions firmly in place I parked in front of the O Club and went in to join the workshop.

            There was an introduction by the deputy city manager and then a presentation by the head of the firm tasked with coming up with feasible alternatives for development of the Point.  Since the presentation was designed to lead us all to the point of giving our own opinions it was interesting to observe the subtle...

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                A virulent flu epidemic struck New York City in April 1951  and coincided with an illness that struck me down with fever and chills.  I was twelve and precocious and sick as a dog.  As was the custom of the time my parents called our family doctor, Samuel Tripler, M.D., and as was the custom of the time, he duly arrived at our door to examine and treat me and go on about his errands of mercy.

                Later that night, well after midnight, I awoke screaming with my right leg on fire with pain.  It had to be bad because my parents did the unthinkable, call the doctor again that late at night.  Dr. Tripler did the unthinkable as well, he came.  Standing next to my sweat-soaked bed he decided that I had a case of osteomyelitis and that the treatment should be massive doses of that new miracle drug, penicillin.

                He went back down to where his car, with the “MD” license plate, was double parked (and not broken into there in...

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Last Saturday we attended the Otis Elementary School Halloween Fair with my sweetie’s granddaughter and basically had a pretty great time.  Oh, the line to buy tickets was too long and the line to enter the Haunted House was too long, but waiting on the lines had their own rewards – being in a position to watch the action sort of anonymously.

The kids were so great.  About half were in costume, many with make-up obscuring their faces, and all were grinning.  Occasional outbreaks of glee could be heard all around with only a few disgruntled cries.

Games of skill and chance were set up in the playground staffed by upper grade students (5th and 6th I think) with the occasional teacher or parent watching over them.  It was especially heartwarming to see the older kids being solicitous of the younger ones, usually rigging the games or disregarding the rules to make sure everyone got a prize and left happy.

            The wise parents allowed maximum latitude...

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            We have new babies in my family, grandchildren and the first great-grandchild and it has started a chain of thoughts running through my mind about their future.  The world they will grow up in and the world they will create when grown, is already very different from the world that shaped my age cohort.  Technology has transformed everything though the shape of the new world is not yet clearly drawn.

            “What lessons have I learned from living that I want to pass on?” I ask myself.

            The obvious ones will be taught at school, at home, at work and by their friends.  “Look both ways.  Pick your friends carefully.  Think before you act.  Follow the Golden Rule.”  These, and others like them, will be reiterated hundreds of times as they grow, and like most lessons they will be learned best after they are breached.

            But do I have anything to add that they won’t be likely to hear?  I do have one precept that has guided my life that I do want them to adopt – Be Human.


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