Between Heaven & Hell

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September 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


 The author nearly 70 years ago, when life was still a journey to ponder


It’s an oppressively hot day. It was the first time this summer the temperature had gotten up in to the 90s. That wouldn’t have meant much–after all it’s now August–but for the humidity. Summer usually isn’t humid in Los Angeles. Humidity is mostly alien to Los Angeles. That’s more for Miami or New York or those kinds of places. I don’t know for others, but this kind of weather makes me depressed and hopeless.

I guess I’m spoiled. The air conditioning in my 20-year-old Toyota is broken. So I don’t go out much more than I absolutely have to. But as I pamper myself, I feel guilty. Like everyone else, I’ve seen those pictures of families from Africa and the Middle East, often children and young mothers, stranded on old rust buckets in the Mediterranean, crying from hunger, thirst and fear. Read more


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September 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Paul Morantz and Annie Hall (Nikki)

Paul Morantz and his Annie Hall (Nikki Schevers) in the late 1970’s


Two of my life’s best friends—Nicky and Nikki—met for the first time on July 4th, seven years ago, on an unseasonably cool summer day. Sharing the same names phonetically was not a coincidence.

While driving my ‘Nicky’ in my l957 Porsche Speedster in the annual Pacific Palisades Fourth of July Parade, I spotted the other ‘Nikki’ at the very curb she and her family had occupied during each parade for many years—directly in front of what once was the First National Food Company, the restaurant in which she had formerly worked. It had been 17 years since we had seen one another. She sat in a wheel chair with a blanket covering her knees. Read more


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September 1, 2015 · Posted in Miscellany · Comment 



Michael Harrison


 Michael Harrison relaxes in his garden


There is not a whole lot of celebration going on this particular birthday

Just grateful for still being on the field, and that the celestial manager has seen fit to leave me in for perhaps another few innings

I was allowed to make a quick stop yesterday to pick up my new hearing aids

They are a mixed blessing indeed, and without a doubt, the most expensive present I’ve ever indulged myself

I now enjoy the beauty of hearing birds that I haven’t heard for many years, and hearing the hushed whispers of my grandchildren without having to ask them to increase their volume,

Sometimes while in the garden I imagine

I can hear plants and the earth talking

However, I find it only a brief interlude until the cacophony of the world intrudes, which in turn, makes me wince and oft times cry out, “what the hell is that noise?”

My ever-patient Sue informs me that the hideous noise I just heard was only the kitchen timer that called her back to the stove

Funny, I always thought that timer was just a pleasantly soft little warning, on those rare occasions that I was close enough to hear it

I had no idea that the cutting of vegetables could be so loud—not to mention my own voice that I now barely recognize

I appreciate what these gadgets allow me to hear—and for what I am desirous of hearing—but the relief of returning to my hushed world when I remove them at night is palpable

And oh, so welcoming

Michael Harrison retired from the book business after 42 years working as a field representative for several publishing houses including Houghton Mifflin Company and W.W. Norton.. He and his wife Sue live in Oakland, California.



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September 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Polo Players- enhanced

Do we have a deal? (l to rt) Bob Vickrey, Barry Stein, Arnie Wishnick, Josh Greenfeld

By Bob Vickrey


As we approached the stately Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, the perennial playground of the rich and famous, we wondered if the staff there was prepared to host the likes of the middle-class and not-so-famous.

Our motley crew of four might not be confused with the “Beverly Hillbillies,” but the boyish giddiness we had exhibited in recent road trip luncheons certainly might raise a few eyebrows in this traditionally button-down palace.

The storied Polo Lounge inside the lobby of the hotel, which has a long history of Hollywood deal-making and star-sightings, was the fourth stop in our newly-formed monthly dining group where our goal was to dine in many of the oldest and most famous restaurants in Los Angeles. Read more

Is There Any Meaning to Human Life Or Should We Just Get On With It?

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September 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Inquiry into Human Freedom. John Gray. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015. 179 pp.

Leslie Evans

John Gray

John Gray

John Gray, English political philosopher and acerbic journalist, is our great pessimist. If at one time raising a lance against the happy illusions of progress was to make one a lonely outsider, today the already creeping  cataclysms of overpopulation and resource depletion, worsened by the early effects of global warming, can hardly be ignored – in the rise of fanatical Islamic movements that are destroying the resource-poor Arab Middle East and North Africa, the endless bloodshed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, the failed economic recovery of southern Europe, or the rapid erosion of the American middle class. The sense of decline and of imminent peril is reflected in the avalanche of dystopian films and novels that dominate the cultural landscape.

In this collection Gray presents three long essays, each touching briefly on many individual writers, some well known, some obscure. He begins with Heinrich von Kleist’s 1810 essay, “The Puppet Theatre,” from which Gray takes his title. Marionettes, Kleist observes, precisely because they have no self-consciousness, respond perfectly and with grace to the strings to which they are bound, the freedom to follow the arc of gravity. Read more

Honey And Lands Of The Sun

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September 1, 2015 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comment 


By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)


Honey and Lands of the Sun


In 1913, Mary Austin lived for a time in London. According to Lawrence Powell, in California Classics: The Creative Literature of the Golden State (First published in 1971), Mary Austin was asked to write a series of essays to accompany British painter Sutton Palmer’s watercolors of California. Adam and Charles Black published California, Land of the Sun in 1915. The book did not appear in the United States until 1927, published without the paintings as the Lands of the Sun.

Powell wrote:

“It is a lyrical hymn to California, its contours and configurations of seacoast, valleys and mountains. This book holds a special place in my remembered reading because of the circumstances in which I discovered it. The place was Paris on a rainy afternoon in May, mild and yet too wet for walking. I sheltered under the umbrella of a bookstall on the…Quay of the Goldsmiths – and there I chanced upon a worn copy of The Lands of the Sun”

I was more fortunate than Lawrence Powell. On a summer day in 1985, I walked into the Santa Cruz Public Library in downtown Santa Cruz, An oil painting of Josephine McCracken in old age hung on the wall. McCracken had not only been a prolific writer and Ina Coolbrith’s close friend, she had helped save the last of the Old Growth redwoods growing in the Santa Cruz Mountains. From a page on the library’s website I retrieved thirty years later: Read more