Monthly Archives: July 2022

The Westlunds

My Mother’s Family

I’ve written/edited lots about my father’s family, since it continues a story that they themselves wrote about for several generations. My mother’s family didn’t write so much, but I’d still like to include something about them, from what little I know.

This side of the family is all Swedish. My Grandparents had been born in Scandinavia. My mother Virginia was born in Oregon, but she identified with Swedish ethnicity every bit as much as her parents did. Indeed they were all part of the immigrant Swedish community, which was tight-knit just like so many other immigrant communities.

And because the Swedes were perceived as different from the standard-issue Anglo Saxon, they occasionally suffered from prejudice, like so many immigrant communities. It wasn’t much compared to what Blacks and Asians had to put up with, but it was real enough that, to this day, my mother’s feelings still sting from the ethnic insults that were hurled her way.

Interestingly, my Grandparents never did teach Mom to speak Swedish. I guess they wanted to promote her English usage, or maybe they wanted to keep a language that their daughter didn’t know, so they could speak in secret behind her back!

Grandpa Westlund

My grandfather, Gustav Andreas Westlund, came from a little town named Korsnäs, a suburb of Falun, the administrative center for Dalarna province, which is located in the heart of Sweden. Falun has a copper mine that operated for a thousand years until quite recently. The leftovers from the mine were used to produce the red paint seen all over Sweden, known for its ability to preserve wood.

Dalarna is also where those little red-painted wooden horses come from. And Korsnäs is not far from Sundborn, where the famous artist Karl Larsson lived and worked. You can’t get more Swedish than Dalarna and Gust was born there on June 1st 1891.

Gust’s family lived in a huge house on the edge of a forest. Like so many places, it was painted red from the copper mine wiith white trim. It was actually closer to the town of Hosjö than it was to Korsnäs. The house was built in the 1700’s. I myself saw the proof of that when I visited there a couple decades ago. Each room was originally heated by a colorful ceramic wood-burning oven, overlaid with fancy ceramic designs. They have upgraded the heating system since then, but the old furnaces remain because they are so beautiful. The house still stands today, located a little ways into the woods, with a clear view of the Hosjö church (built in 1663 – also painted red, though without white trim) It was Gust’s church when he still lived there. It stands across a shallow valley from the house. In fact, the church and Grandpa’s old house are on the same road (Church Way)

When Gust was an infant, his mother died. His father remarried to a woman with two children of her own. She did not care much for little Gust, so at the age of eleven he “ran away,” to avoid spending too much time in the house. Instead, he spent as much time as possible in what was later known as “Gust’s Woods,” which was a vast thicket of medium-sized birch trees mixed with evergreens. So I don’t even know if he ever finished school In fact, it was still called “Gust’s Woods” when I visited the house in 1975. He matured into quite a carpenter, perhaps practicing on those birches. He even constructed a huge barn (still standing) on the family property. All of it was painted red, of course.

On September 22, 1911, he departed for America, along with a cousin and Axel Hansson, a family friend who later became Siri Hansson’s father upon his return to Sweden. Siri was actually born in that same huge house on Church Way. The three young men contacted an agent who sold sets of tickets to cover the entire route from Sweden to Portland. They took the White Star Line, which sailed from Göteborg, near Denmark, through Liverpool, in England, and from there to Boston, landing on October 5, 1911. From there they took a beeline (actually, a train) to Portland, Oregon.

It’s never been clear to us why Gust had wanted to come to America in the first place. He didn’t talk about it much. Perhaps it was the call of adventure. Perhaps, at the age of twenty, he wanted to avoid the draft. Or perhaps he figured he could earn a lot more money in America, where he already had some relatives living in Portland. His own home in Dalarna never seemed very welcoming.

In Portland, he showed up at his cousin’s, Marie Erickson’s. He knocked on her back door, and when she answered, he shouted, “I’m here!” Marie was surprised, because apparently they had not been expecting him and his two large trunks. Had he written them beforehand? Maybe the letter had gotten lost in the mail. Or maybe he figured they were family so they’d help him. At any rate, they did help him find a place to live.

It may be typical, by the way, for Swedes to use the back door rather than the front door, for family and friends. Gust’s big house in Dalarna didn’t even have a front door.

One of those trunks contained a piano accordion, and as quick as he could, Gust joined local polka bands. He learned music by ear, including a tune I’ll always associate with him, “I Finnlands Skogen.” (In Finland’s forests). He also liked to play the mandolin and the “juice harp.” How he ever learned all that while hanging out in the woods in Sweden is beyond me. Like many Swedes in Portland at that time, he got a job with Emerson Hardwood Mills – ten hours of work a day.

Grandma Westlund

My adventurous grandmother, Anna Adelina Hudd West, was born on March 29, 1896, in (or near) Vasa, Finland, a Finnish region with a large Swedish minority, left over from when that area was part off Sweden.

She grew up on a farm, and enjoyed climbing trees and riding horses. In fact, she sometimes rode her horse across one of Finland’s oldest stone bridges, the Toby River stone bridge near Helsingby. Her family’s farm buildings themselves have long ago been torn down, so there was no house for me to visit.

When she was about thirteen years old, her father, John West (Johan Johansson West), left for America to seek his fortune. He settled in Portland, where his wife’s sister, Ida Hudd Berg, ran a boarding house at NW 19th and NW Johnson streets. This is probably where Gust also settled when he arrived in Portland a couple years later. John began working for the Electrolux Company, which was a Swedish company. Presumably he sent money home to Finland.

Anna was confirmed in the Lutheran church at the age of 16, which seemed to have freed her to travel, because a year later, “on a lark,” she came to Portland with her two brothers to visit her father. It could be, too, that the family in Finland was wondering what had happened to John after several years’ absence, and Anna was sent to “suss out” the situation. In Portland, she soon met Gust, so perhaps they had all ended up living at Ida Berg’s place.

Anna soon got a job as a domestic worker for a family named Soloman, who lived in a big house in the “Holladay” section of Portland (near where Lloyd center is now). She did the cooking and cared for their two children. Gust sometimes waited for her to get off work, so they could walk off together. On one occasion, while Gust was waiting, another woman began flirting with him. He walked away, but she kept after him. Eventually the story was picked up by a local newspaper. I guess life was a lot simpler back then, and it was much easier to be scandalized.

Anna was really close to her mother, and even though she was settling into Portland life, they exchanged letters every week.

Anna often came around when Gust was playing his accordion in a band. She loved to dance (more than she liked to eat, she said), but when she needed a rest from dancing, she’d walk over close to Gust to listen to him play. Anna had planned to return to Finland to live with her mother again, but reasons kept piling up for her to stay in America.

For example, she had always wanted to become a nurse. A doctor in Portland told her about a nursing program in San Francisco where she assuredly would be accepted. In fact, he would sponsor her. Not only that, Hilma Anderson, her childhood friend, was already living there. Gust didn’t like that idea, though. He said that if she went to San Francisco, she likely would never return. Of course, he could have gone to San Francisco with her.

But at any rate, he convinced her that, after three years of getting to know each other, they should get married. The wedding took place on February 17, 1917, in the home of Fred and Fay Anderson, with a large number of friends and family attending and eating. John West was also present, supporting Anna in the absence of her mother. And “I Love You Truly” was sung by “Miss Hazel.”

At the time, Gust continued to work for the Emerson Hardwood Company at Nineteenth and Front Streets for ten hours a day.

Gust and Anna’s married life

They moved into a house on N. E. 79th Avenue. Then, later in 1917, the Spanish flu epidemic caught up with them. Anna was stricken, but her doctor advised her not to seek help at a hospital or one of the city-managed emergency hospitals, as people there were “dropping like flies.” So she put a “quarantine” sign by their front door and went to bed for several days. Then one day she had a craving for bacon, so she asked Gust to fry some for her. Well, he tried. But she ate the burned and blackened mess anyway.. And she started to recover, if only so she could take over the kitchen, again.

And I have to interrupt to say that she was one of the best cooks I have ever come across. She knew no recipes, but she did know how to manipulate foods in an intuitive manner that came out perfectly every time.

Then they decided to try Southeast Portland, where several Swedish families that they knew were already living. But after a few years living there, they found that they didn’t really like Southeast Portland. They never should have left the Northeast! During that time, Anna’s mother in Finland died on December 2, 1920. Anna asked Gust if they could have a child, as she now needed someone else to love. She had asked many times through the years, but Gust had always said “no.” Now he said “Yes.” In fact, as he later explained, he’d have been happy to have as many kids as possible if only they could start their lives at the age of two and not as newborns. He was just no baby guy.

After Anna’s mother died, her father John moved back to Finland later the same year (He left on December 15th 1920) and never returned to America. When he got to Finland, he got remarried, to a woman only five years older than Anna! Anna was no fan of this arrangement. However, she loved her own mother so much, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could have taken her place in Anna’s heart.

1922 was a momentous year for the Westlunds. Their daughter Virginia (my mother) was born at Emmanuel Hospital on October 5th,, 1922. The labor was not easy, and lasted 36 hours. Maybe that’s why they never had another child. At the time, Gust was not in Portland. He was working in Reedsport, along with fellow Swede Axel Matson. Reedsport is located just above the mouth of the Umpqua river, West of Eugene and Roseburg, with close ties to the fishing industry and the logging industry. Though not precisely on the Pacific Coast, it was subject to periodic flooding from the sea.

W hile the men were a way, Irene Matson stayed with Anna. And when Virginia was born, and brought them home from the hospital. Irene could drive, and she said that Virginia’s “first outing” was to visit Tillie Benson at the age of three weeks. Tillie’s son Leroy, whom Virginia later got to be good friends with, was five years old then. He was playing outdoors when they came to visit..

Earlier that year, the Westlunds took out a loan to buy a vacant lot in Northeast Portland at the corner of 79th Avenue (the street that they had left a few years before) and Beech Street. I imagine they also bought a truckload of lumber. They truly intended to stay there forever. Though the lot started out vacant, they had the skills and imagination to build whatever sort of home they wanted.

So Anna would get the gables she always wanted, as well as fancy doors on each side of the fireplace, like she’d seen In home fashions magazines.

T hey began by building a small garage, shaped like a giant Kleenex box, on the east end of the property. For the next few years, they’d live there while constructing the big house that they really wanted. In fact, that little garage was Virginia’s first home. It faced Beech Street, and had a Beech Street address, whereas the big house that they would build would face 79th Avenue and have a 79th Avenue address. When it was finished, the Beech Street address came down off the garage

One of Virginia’s earliest memories was of that big house being built. She was standing in the back yard watching two men laying shingles on its steep roof. Was one of them her father? She was too young to be sure, seeing them from such an unfamiliar angle.

When the family finally moved in, the hardwood floors in the living room and dining room had not yet been installed, so one could look through the spaces in the wooden sub-floor into the basement. There were also a few knot holes in the wood where one could look through, too.

There were other kids in the neighborhood, though not as many as there would be if all the lots had been built up. One was Billy Bowman, who Mom didn’t visit often, because she had to cross the street to get there, and she was forbidden to do that. And then there was George Barnes, the boy two doors down on 79th street. It wasn’t necessary to cross the street to get there. And then there was Beverly Ericksson, another Swede, who lived a couple houses further down. Her father worked as a chauffeur for a wealthy man in town, and he even had one of those fancy “chauffeur’s hats.”

Beverly herself had a bit of a mean streak. Mom remembers Beverley chasing her and George. They both dove into George’s house, where his mother quickly hid them in a small cabinet. Beverly burst in after them, yelling “I know you’re in there!” But the two hidden ones remained silent, so eventually she gave up.

Gust had an old Ford in the Twenties. It did not have an upper body, and it was painted red with a black border around the top. Every now and then he would give the neighborhood kids a ride around a block or two. They would be so excited to be riding in a real automobile that they laughed and waved to anyone they saw.

We don’t know what happened to this car, except that the frame ended up in the empty lot next door on Beech Street. (much later a house was built on that site and the Poetz family lived there). It remained there for many years, half buried in weeds. Finally, in the 1940’s my mom and dad took the “frame” to a junk yard and sold it for four dollars a ton. When one of their friends heard about that, he said that if he had known about the Ford frame, he would have driven to Portland to pick it up and would have paid them seven hundred dollars for it!!

Decades later, Mom was helping Anna go through things after Gust had passed on. Going down to the basement one day, Virginia ran her hand along the woodwork over the door, and she found a part from the old Ford! It brought back memories of rides in the old Ford Tin Lizzie, and a smile to her face! Gust was truly wonderful about “hiding” objects or papers around the house or the garage, imagining who might later find them.

The Depression Years

The depression years were hard on most people, but not on Virginia, whose parents insulated her from the struggles of the day. Whatever they lacked, they could usually make themselves, or grow for themselves in the various gardens they’d planted, or sew for themselves. They planted a huge garden in the still-vacant lot on 79th Avenue , including raspberries, carrots, peas, etc. The parking strip in front of the house on 79th Avenue was planted with potatoes. Anna canned everything that she could. She also made all of Virginia’s clothes, though they always bought her the best shoes that they could afford.

And Gust, ever handy with wood, made a playhouse for Virginia and the neighborhood kids. It had a front door with a window, and small windows on both sides. It was tall enough for kids to stand up inside it, but adults would have to bow their heads, except maybe where the roof peaked. It stood on that same empty lot next door on 79th Avenue, by the garden.

And there was always a present from Santa Claus to Virginia every Christmas. Gust made them down in the basement. For example, he made a rocking crib for Virginia’s life-sized doll (named Rosie – she still has both the doll and the crib) and he made a large dresser for that doll. She told Gust that Santa must had built it in place, as she knew it was too big to drag through the chimney.

Anna didn’t want her to go down to the basement to see Christmas gifts under construction, so she scared her about the basement, and told her that the “boogie man” lived down there. The strategy worked, but too well, because ever since, she’s always had a “fear” of basements.

One year, on New Year’s Eve, Anna and Virginia were waiting for Gust to come home. It was a cold winter night with lots of ice on the roads. He was coming home on the Sandy Boulevard street car, and when he got off at 79th Avenue, he was hit by a car, a drunk driver, which injured his leg. It scared Virginia half to death that his leg had been injured. The man who hit him had Gust go to his doctor, who put it in a cast. And that was the end of the consequences for the drunk driver.. In those days, people didn’t sue other people like they do now.

Meanwhile, Gust spent so much time wearing that cast that one day, bored from being at home, he walked to downtown on his crutches and walked back, about five miles each way.

Virginia was kept blissfully ignorant of the many bills that needed to be paid. One of the most significant was the mortgage and the taxes on the property. Gust had always had a good job, but many lumber mills had closed because of the depression. The Westlund’s household income fell to the point that they were afraid they might lose the house. Gust angrily declared that if that happened, he’d go through the house with a hammer and punch holes in all the walls. But Anna said, no, they would leave the house in perfect condition if they had to leave. After all, it was their blood, sweat and tears that had built that big house back in the twenties. In the end, the house was safe from the bankers because Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1932. His administration made cheap home loans available through the new Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

Well, they didn’t lose the house, but Gust did have to sell the big piano accordion that he had brought with him from Sweden years before. It really hurt him to part with it. In fact, the big house had been built with music in mind. The dining room and adjoining living room had been built without doors between them – just a wooden border thick enough to hang a small picture on, to mark the border between the two rooms, making them essentially one huge room.

So for entertainment, they’d invite the Swedish community over to the house, roll the carpets back and dance on the hardwood floors. The double-size room had plenty of space for a dozen dancers. When the times got better, Gust bought another accordion, not as big or as good as the old one, but good enough to play in the house for informal dances.

Roosevelt also developed the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration), which offered jobs with the goal of developing public infrastructure. In a short time, Gust got such a job through the WPA. One time he was working on 82nd street and Virginia brought him a lunch. She saw that it was really hard for Gust to accept what he considered to be a “charity” job, but a job was a job.

Gust was good at fixing cars, and friends would come to him for help. In those days, everybody helped their neighbor or friend. There was no money exchanged, as most people did not have any money to spare, anyway.

For three years during the Depression, Gust was hired as a carpenter to do maintenance at a fish cannery in Alaska for three months during the summers. On the day he left town for such a long-term and far-away destination, Mom was awakened by Anna crying, which scared her because Anna was usually too tough to cry. Mom also cried that night.

Meanwhile, in Alaska, Gust was able to get canned salmon for himself and he brought cases of salmon home with him. Mom used to say that they had fish and potatoes for dinner one night, and potatoes and fish the next. One summer he brought back some of the menus from the ship that he took to Alaska. They’re still around the house somewhere.

On one trip home, he told about a man who had committed suicide in his stateroom on the ship. He said that he had shot himself in the head and his brains were splattered all over. The scene he described had quite an impact on Virginia. From the fish cannery, Gust sent fifty dollars each month to Anna. She and Virginia lived on that. They kept close records of what they bought in groceries. Anna made bread and was very creative with her cooking. They ate well, and they became very close to each other while Gust was away.

For a while, Gust also got a part-time job on Saturdays with Keller’s Bakery in Northeast Portland. He earned fifty cents each Saturday by doing odd tasks or maintenance work at the bakery. After five weeks he had earned enough to buy Virginia a used bicycle, which he painted red with black trimming, reminiscent of his old Ford. The new paint made it look shiny new.

Developing the Big House

Even after the Westlund’s big house on 79th Street had been “finished,” there were always modifications ongoing.

So, for example, the steep stairs down into the basement never had a railing, until one day Anna dashed down the stairs with some laundry in her arms, and she fell. She cried out to Gust, who rushed down to pick her up. The railing was installed right after that.

Most of the laundry, by the way, reached the basement through a chute built into the bathroom. It always seemed magical that, one moment, the dirty laundry was in front of you in the bathroom, and the next, it disappeared like magic and re-materialized in a completely different part of the house without anybody having to go there themselves.

A small corner of the kitchen was walled off as a nook, with a built in table and side benches. The wall also formed an entry way from the back door leading into the kitchen. Anna did not want a low window on the street side of this nook, because she didn’t want passersby looking in on them while they sat and ate. But she hadn’t reckoned with Gust and Virginia’s desire to look out. There were not many cars driving down Beech street in those days, and whenever a car did go by, Virginia and Gust had to jump up to look out the window to see what kind it was. Anna would say “sit down” and ask them why they would be so interested.

So one summer, 1940 or 1939, they decided to knock down the wall of the nook and open up the kitchen. The built-in table and benches had to go, too, to be replaced by a small red table and four chairs. This dining set is still there.

To knock out the built-in table and chairs involved lots of loud hammering. At the time, Maxine Miller (Hoddle) was staying for the summer. She slept right through the hammering din. She was a “hard sleeper” who would need two or more alarm clocks to awaken her whenever she lived alone.

When she finally woke up, all the work was done. She walked to the kitchen saying “What happened?”

The big house had a fenced-in porch, built around the chimney at the south end of the living room where a chimney stood against the middle of the wall. A narrow door on each side of the chimney gave access to this porch.

But then, one day, someone finally bought the vacant lot next door, where the Westlunds had planted so many vegetable gardens and built so much play equipment such as that play house for Virginia and the neighborhood kids. Up until then, the lines between the properties didn’t need to be known so precisely. But now, they discovered that the boundary was a couple feet closer to the Westlund’s house than anybody had realized, particularly where the porch wrapped around the fireplace. The porch didn’t actually cross the property line, but there was no longer much space to get around it on the ground while staying on the property.

So the porch had to go, and the doors were replaced with some long and narrow windows. They had planted camellia bushes just inside the property line, and to this day, every spring, one can see brightly-blooming camellia bushes on each side of the chimney through those long windows.

Happy Fourth and a half

Hello everyone.

So how am I doing, anyway?

Well, as my mother often says about herself, I’m still sleeping above ground. But if you’d asked me about it  in January, I’d have honestly thought that it might not be an option. But I’m not complaining. Predicting the future in my case is tricky as it’s not the typical form.  Still, some patients in my position can make it a few years, so there’s a decent chance that I’ll be one of them. But I’m not allowing myself to be sanguine at this point. I’ll know more when my chemo regimen finishes later this month and they do an evaluation in August.

Certainly I have more people praying for me than at any other time in my life. And those prayers are greatly appreciated.

Meanwhile, I’m still here in Portland, living at my sister Abbe’s house, a move which was absolutely the right call for me. I started receiving  chemotherapy shortly after emailing my previous message (I was already taking two forms of hormone therapy, which continue).

And once chemo started, then on most days, I’ve not been capable of caring for myself, at least not for anything that requires me to leave the house. I have been able to make it to the kitchen and back (usually), though my balance is often a little wobbly.

So the daily care from my sister and my brother-in-law (and occasionally from their little dogs) has been great – critical for getting through this. It’s not just a matter of having better meals on a regular basis. I had almost forgotten how wonderful it is to have somebody living in the same physical building as myself, so I can express arcane thoughts like “Good Morning” on a regular basis without having to go out of the house or pick up the phone. I haven’t enjoyed that sort of luxury since my China years.  In fact, with some exceptions, I had never felt more alone than most of the years since I moved back from China. (but not this year thank goodness).  The early Covid years were the worst, but then my therapist at the time and my Chinese friend in Tokyo popped up out of nowhere and helped me through that.

And by the way, living alone didn’t used to bother me, but that was because I was working sixty hours a week, mostly face-to-face with high-pressure (though nice) students, and I needed to escape from humanity in order to re-charge. Obviously that’s not been the case for a while, so my companionship needs need to be reassessed.

And my mother, who lives just down the street from here, has proved to be a supportive positive thinker in getting through this cancer, which has been a real gift to me. And by the way, she’s scheduled to complete a hundred years in three months time, and we’re all looking forward to that day.

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And how does the chemo therapy actually feel? Well, it takes about three weeks to tumultuously tumble its way through my body with varying effects on various days. It’s not like taking a simple medicine whose effects simply fade in the days following administration.

So I always leave the infusion center on steady legs and feeling okay.. But then for the next several days the chemo effects set in, getting more rocky and unpredictable with time. During the day, I can feel so sleepy that my head hurts, but with insomnia. My sense of balance gets wobblier.  Some days prove worse than others and there’s little apparent pattern to it.

Interestingly, I have been sleeping between ten and twelve hours most nights, irrespective of the infusion schedule, but I do think that the infusions have kicked-started these long nocturnal episodes, and also lengthened them. And I also take naps. Perhaps it’s the peace and security that comes from living with somebody who checks on me. In any case, the long nights of sleep are slowly filling up the sleep debt that had built up from the stress of living alone for so long, and from living overseas

Other chemo side effects include swollen joints and a sudden need for Preparation H. (don’t ask) And chemo brain fog is a real thing.  I really want my memory back!!  and I really really want my writing abilities back!!  I had thought to have sent out this update in mid May,  but, well, here we are. On the other  hand,there  are a few conveniences — like  — for the time being, my skin has become self shaving. No blades necessary.

Around day 10 after an infusion, the suppression of my immune system is at its greatest, so I really don’t go anywhere at that point. It’s also the day when the chemo gets its last chance to trip my sense of balance and knock me over.

By day 18  my balance is returning and I can again put on my trousers without falling. Then at 21 days it all starts over again. I’m hoping that the hassles pay off in the end

For my latest infusion, my body seemed to be getting used to the chemicals, because after only seven days I could already put my pants on normally, and I went out with my sister and brother in law to walk their little dogs. It exhausted me, but I did it!!

I even made it past the fabled ten day mark without a hitch.!!!! But then on day 12, I guess the chemo lords didn’t want me to get too cocky,  because they slammed me all day and all night.  Sheesh. These days, even chemicals seem to feel that they have some point to make.

The Lovely Portland Weather

Although I’ve visited Portland at least once a year (literally) for my whole life, this is the first time that I’ve visited for more than two or three weeks at a time. So I’ve come to appreciate the Portland weather over the longer term.

Turns out it’s as utterly predictable as the Bay Area, but a lot cooler and wetter. Generally it’s a bone-chilling coolness seasoned with a variety of rains and drizzles, sort of a drenched version of San Francisco.  I think I’ve previously mentioned the “Portland Coloring Book” which comes with a complete set of all the colors of crayons you’ll need. Actually, it’s just two colors – gray and brown. Well, I’ve been living that reality for the past few months.

Of course, there are always a few exceptions to the constant rain, as shown in the picture at left, taken mid-April through my sister’s front windows. And the sun does come out on occasion.

A Sample Infusion Session

A chemo infusion itself, like the 21-day process outlined above when the medicine is working, may affect every person slightly differently  In my case, the roughest infusion session was the very first one. It was much more dramatic than what most patients experience. I sent this description to some friends already, but it makes for a wonderful adventure for the rest to enjoy, too.

My brother-in-law had taken me to the infusion center for my 2 pm appointment. The infusion center is a huge room that wraps itself around the entire perimeter of a large square building at the Kaiser Clinic. It has about two dozen huge comfy hospital chairs, a couple of them in private rooms, but most just neatly arranged throughout that one long bent room. My primary nurse escorted me to my chair. The room seemed sparsely attended that day, but the sounds of various beeps and other electric noises from the equipment betrayed the hidden presence of other patients.

The plan was for a session of about two and a half hours. There would be a half hour of setup and instruction, including weighing in, checking my blood pressure, etc. The infusion would be given through a drip IV, which would take a little while to set up.
Then we’d infuse for a half hour at 50% speed. This slower speed was to make sure that I wasn’t having any weird reactions to the medicine. If there were none, we’d increase the drip to the normal speed, actually a little bit faster than twice the 50% speed. Then we’d go for about an hour at the normal speed until all the medicine was in my body.
Well, we’d gone a little over twenty-five minutes at the slow speed when my lower back erupted in pain. I pushed the call button and a nearby speaker repeatedly blared something like “Emergency at bed #120.” I was immediately surrounded by three nurses with fully-loaded syringes. There was Benedryl and another medicine that I didn’t recognize. These they added to the IV drip. The chemo medicine was switched off and we continued with nothing but saline while the nurses’ injections were taking effect.
It was the strongest pain I’d felt in a long time, and was later told it might actually be  coming from a kidney, though others had a different opinion. With these new medicines introduced into the infusion, it took about ten minutes for the pain to subside. We continued to wait, though. I continued to receive saline until the pain abated completely.
My primary nurse told me that this kind of reaction was pretty common. In any case, it was extremely unlikely to recur (like one time in a hundred), not just when we restarted the IV drip that afternoon, but especially not for the subsequent session in three weeks time. He asked if I had felt any other of the possible reactions that we’d reviewed together before starting the infusion. I hadn’t.  So we waited again until the pain really was gone (except for some residual achiness like you’d get if somebody struck you.)
Then we restarted the drip of medicine at half of the half speed (25% speed). We’d gone about ten minutes when I could feel the pain coming back. So much for one chance in a hundred! The principal nurse was still there, and he switched off the medicine again, put me back on saline and gave me the rest of the Benedryl that remained in the syringe. The pain subsided again. Then he huddled with a couple other nurses. They decided to call the pharmacist for advice. Should they try another syringe of some different drug? Should they just wait and try again?
The pharmacist came back with a plan, which was a second restart at an even slightly slower speed (20%). If it didn’t work on this slower second restart, then they’d call it a day and ask the oncologist for a new plan for the next time. I didn’t like the sound of that. The oncologist was already stretching things a little bit with as much chemo medicine as he was giving me.
Well we dripped the medicine for a while at the 20% speed and the pain did not seem to be coming back. So we turned up the speed, not to  any intermediate speed like at 50%, but all the way up to full speed. This big increase kind of surprised me, but I figured the pharmacist must know what they’re doing. About five minutes into the process, a small ache, a not-quite tangible memory of a pain, bumped up, but it never increased into any sort of strong pain.
At that point there was about forty-five minutes worth of full-speed medicine drip left. The pain never returned and that little bump of an ache faded. I happily listened to a podcast on my phone (through my ear-phones, even though all the other infusion center patients had gone home by that point). I was not bothered by any more pain at all, and I still felt a sense of accomplishment when the infusion was over.
By this time, my sister had arrived to pick me up (she’d arrived a long time before, actually) My planned 2 1/2 hour session had turned into a full four-hour session. The nurse would report the goings-on to the doctor. The nurse told me that we’d probably repeat the planned 2 1/2 hour session the next time and then for the following time, as they have to have two “clean” sessions in a row before they simply plug it in and let it go at full speed. Of course, he couldn’t predict that course for sure because he wasn’t the oncologist.
So that’s the story! As it turned out, the next scheduled infusion was also a little bit rough, though not as much as the first. We kept making adjustments to the pre-infusion medications and the last three infusions were not painful at all, nor was there any delay involved. Indeed, it felt strange to be walking out the door after such relatively quick sessions. Well, as one nurse put it, they throw everything they can at it, but then back off to make sure they’re not killing the patient.

Thank You, friends  (actually family)

My mother, sister, brother-in-law, and myself (four people) constitute my entire family on this earth, at least in the way that “family” is normally defined.

But friends have reached out to me from just about every continent on Earth (except Antarctica – a required disclaimer) from Nando Court in Castro Valley to Tianjin in China.  And I’m so grateful for your remembering me.

And I think of most of these people as family, including those outside of North America. And I think of my pseudo-nephews in the Bay Area, my pseudo-niece in Oregon, my church friends in Berkeley who light candles for me, or who listen to my concerns and pray about them, my old friend from Davis who’s watching my house and my financial affairs (friends/family for 53 years now) and my even older friend  from San Leandro (friends/family for  57 years now)whose frequent brief and cheery emails about family news lift my spirits.  All of these people and more do I consider family, even though, again, the common meaning of “family” might not include them.  And one more disclaimer — my foggy head keeps me from mentioning even more people individually.

Yeah, to be remembered for who I really am makes a difference. So one friend/family member actually wished me a happy father’s day last month. As someone who’s spent almost his entire life “in loco parentis” (Latin for “like a crazy parent,”) it really touched me.

Living in the Past

Since I’ve essentially been stuck in the same house all the time, I haven’t had much chance to go out for new adventures, so I’ve had to turn to the past, mainly through projects that chronicle it. These I can work on in fits and starts as the clattering chemo infusions allow.

So I’m occasionally making progress on the project of family biographies that got started by my grandfather on my father’s side.

Recently I’ve added some stories about my grandparents on my mother’s side, though I had less material to work with, unfortunately.

They were both Scandinavian immigrants here in Portland, something I think about a lot in these days of rising hatred towards immigrants. Of course, Mom didn’t suffer from ethnic/immigrant prejudice anywhere near as much as Blacks or Asians or Indians did, though she didn’t entirely escape it, either.

I think of that regularly because the route to the chemo infusion clinic takes us through the former town of Albina, a historically black neighborhood that was plowed under to make a freeway (Highway I-5) (where have I heard that before?) And where my paternal grandfather ran a lumberyard well over a century ago.

In comparison,  the prejudice Mom felt faded over time. But she still remembered the sting of it long past middle age.

The picture at left shows my maternal grandparents a hundred years ago, early into their marriage, when they and some friends had scampered down to the river at the edge of Portland to splash and paddle in their new bathing suits, the height of aqua fashion at the time. Again, both of them are wearing swim suits in this picture (click on it to enlarge).

Anyone who’s interested in reading more about this frisky pair can   just click on this sentence (it’s a small pdf).

Or you can read it as a web page by clicking here.

Sunday Morning Study

Even though I am not in Berkeley, Zoom allows me to attend my Sunday School at the First Presbyterian Church of  Berkeley, when I’m feeling up to it. I’ve not only valued the study, which is a bit unique, but also the supportive class members. The class is called “Sunday Morning Study,” And I have 28 years of history with it to look back on. Let me write a little about how it works.

The study is focused on facilitating a close personal reading of the original text, examining passages large enough to supply some context when examining smaller fragments contained in it. We also supplement the reading with standard reference books and commentaries .

And as class members are different, so they may draw differing conclusions from the same passage, so long as they can prove it from the text. The other class members can “keep them honest” that way. They might even feel strong enough about differences of conclusions from the readings that they’ll study them further at home.

But that’s why it’s called a living book —   because it speaks uniquely to each person, imparting  the individual message that they are ready to hear. So, for example, we’ve recently been studying the first letter to the Corinthians. The thirteenth chapter’s famous text is this:

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If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love (Agape), I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardships worth boasting about, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails: but where there be prophecies, they shall fail; where there be tongues, they shall cease; where there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is only in part shall be done away with. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see as through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know only in part; but then shall I know even as I am also known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (agape).

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So as I read this whole passage, I was struck by some significant points, at least significant to me. First of all, history books tell us that the Corinthians were quite well off, kind of Nouveau Riche” so they had time to devote to religion and houses suitable for holding rather large meetings. The passage in the letter tells us that they had acquired remarkable abilities for  speaking in tongues and prophecies. Furthermore, they’d been gifted with deep knowledge and steadfast faith.  It may seem that they are a model of what so many people think religion is all about.

But the passage claims repeatedly that these apparently spectacular abilities and resources, though not worthless, are like fragments, almost annoyances, and beside the point, compared to the perfection that is the actual reality of religion. Thus, (to me) the main point of the chapter is to help us recognize this perfection when we come across it, and to free ourselves from being overly-focused on that which is only partially useful. The phrase”through a glass darkly” means a dark polished brass mirror (not actually made of glass). It may be a useful expedient to help us perceive our environment, but it’s not much compared to daylight.

So what exactly is that perfect thing, that undefeatable weapon, that perfect key to understanding, and the only way to produce works that last? As I read the chapter, It’s named nine times and also described in detail. It’s love, obviously. But how could anybody not notice its importance in their lives? Maybe because perception of it grows slowly, like a child? Maybe love is so unspectacular, so simple and at times so fragile, and already known to everybody, anyway, at least in part, that one can’t imagine that something so ordinary could be the perfect key to everything? Maybe that’s where faith comes in.

Turning again to the dictionary, the letter to the Corinthians was originally written in a simplified form of Greek, which has at least four different words with distinct meanings that are commonly translated into English as “love.” The Greek word here is “agape” which has nothing to do with romance or other affections.  It’s an active commitment to seek the best for one’s neighbor, unconditionally, which in turn shows one’s love for God, which in turn fulfills the law. It makes me think of James Madison’s famous dictum that if men were angels, no government would be necessary.

So agape is the whole path, while spectacular preaching or even faith itself are just fragments of it, liable to dis-attachment from it, but maybe helpful when love is lacking. I’m thus challenged to make more room for agape in my life, so I can perceive its perfection and to the extent that I’m able, act upon it.  At least, that’s the way I read it. How about you?

I cited this particular passage not only because our group just discussed it, but because “hope” is described almost like a component of love (agape). As such it must be an active commitment, and not just a matter of waiting around for something nice to happen. And life has recently challenged me to hope, whether it be for meaning in  this life or in the next one. And that’s my prayer request for myself and the members of my Sunday school class.  That they and I may live out an active hope.

And by the way, in case anybody is interested in more details of my Sunday school class, earlier this year I was asked to write out a description of it, which can be read (as a pdf file) by clicking in this sentence.  At the end of the weekly lesson, differences in interpretation among the participants are usually small, but I sometimes remember that in more authoritarian times, differences that were equally small could become fighting  words. I’m glad to be living in more tolerant times where such small differences merely enrich the ways that we can be challenged by agape love, the actual perfect religion. Again, that’s how i read it, anyway.

The View

Another part of my looking back on my former life  involves a TV show that I had never seen before I came to Portland this year — when  chemo imposed my own custom lock down . It’s called The View. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a daytime talk show involving a small group of women sitting around a table, discussing the news of the day as well as interviewing celebrities and celebrity chefs like one might expect for a show that’s broadcast at that time of day.

I like it for a couple reasons– primarily because all of these women are strong – in their personalities, their assertiveness, and their willingness to reason deeply. Obviously I know none of them personally, but I spent thirty years teaching in elementary schools (where I was practically the only man) where most of my colleagues were the same kind of strong middle-aged women that are well represented on The View. So when I watch the show, I feel comfortable and at home, and I think of that elementary school where I spent so many years, as well as the colleagues I had there, whom I long considered to be family.

I also like it because Whoopi Goldberg is the moderator and one of the women shares a given name with Sunny, my most longtime friend in China. She’s definitely family.

If you haven’t seen The View before, I’ll post links to their Juneteenth show below.

Introduction

Ben Crump, Civil Rights worker

Jon Batiste, Jazz Musician

Kirk Franklin and Maverick City Music

A promo and discussion about their “The View” Hulu Special

The Constitution

In the news, I’ve found another connection to my old elementary school — it’s the United States Constitution, which I hear being batted about constantly by people who I wonder if they’ve ever read it.

Well, now they can! Every year when I was teaching fifth grade we’d study American History, which included the US Constitution. It’s a surprisingly brief document, which most fifth graders can easily read, except for the unfamiliar vocabulary. So I produced my own version of the Constitution, translated from the Legalese, which we could all read together in class. It’s printed in parallel columns with the original text on the right and my translation on the left.

I recently dusted it off and reformatted it to fit letter-size paper and it can be viewed (as a pdf) by clicking on this sentence.

I should comment on the second amendment.  My translation of it was guided by the meaning that it had for the original authors and for the first couple hundred years of our country’s history, before Antonin Scalia wrote an opinion in 2008 that nullified the amendment’s original meaning and instead reinterpreted it to guarantee any individual’s unrestricted right to own a gun. Again this “right” was never part of the constitution (still isn’t, actually) and was interpolated into it only 14 years ago, back when I was finishing my elementary school teaching career.

A familiar politics magazine, “Politico” published a piece on the supreme court’s  “originalism” in general and on the second amendment in particular, critiquing Scalia’s 2008 reinterpretation with more authoritative arguments than mine, or than Scalia’s for that matter.

Granted, the court has on occasion nullified a previous opinion or amendment of some sort, but never one that had already stood from the beginning of our country and for the subsequent two hundred years. And, as soon as its meaning was changed, our society began moving firmly down its present path to the firearm-drenched gun fest that threatens us all today and occasions much sympathy from more civilized and secure countries. Thank you Antonin Scalia. Well played. I didn’t expect the supreme court to be the agent of chaos that is setting us up for a well-armed movement whose members fantasize about starting a civil war. Actually we should probably keep an eye on those guys.

Here’s hoping that this recent 2008 reinterpretation of the second amendment can quickly be reversed to its original state to make guns well-regulated again.

Actually, I found out this week that it’s only in the past half century or so that the Supreme Court has been assumed to have the authoritative last word in what the Constitution means, Marbury v. Madison notwithstanding. It’s available here. And since everyone has now read the Constitution, it should provoke some interesting discussions.

The whole gun situation reminds me of my time back in China, which, like every place on Earth, has its share of crazy people. And every once in a while I’d hear (but never read) about one of them attacking a school, just like our crazies do here. Usually it was not a disturbed young man, but a middle-aged man who felt left behind when he missed educational opportunities back in the 1960’s, back when everything was dismantled. Or at least that’s what I’ve been told.

Occasionally one of these crazies would wound or maybe even kill a school staff member or wound a few kids —  but never the sort of slaughter that one sees here on a regular basis.  And why not? Mainly because all guns are forbidden, at least in most locations (except for the army and police) so crazy people have to resort to knives, so school staff can easily overcome them with their own arms, their own limbs.  I think of that whenever I hear the old canard about Guns don’t kill, people do. Yeah, people do, and guns multiply the numbers of casualties, because they’re just so darned convenient! And this applies to unregulated hand guns even more than the more spectacular rifles.

The comparison with China, (and also with countries which limit guns without banning them completely, such as the America of my youth) makes the causes of the disparate rates of gun deaths between us and most of the rest of the world obvious, or at least they should be obvious.

The Latest -gate

And I’ve been mesmerized by the televised House hearings about the criminal behavior of our previous head of state and the insurrection at the U.S. capitol on January 6, 2021 that he engineered with the help of other criminals around him, such as the “proud boys” and “Oath Keepers.”  And I have lots of time on my hands to think about it, since I’m basically at home all the time.

Naturally, I was reminded of Richard Nixon, and the “Summer of Judgment.” (as PBS titled their documentary about Watergate) I remember the Alexander Butterfield moment. I remember Haldeman and Ehrlichman, Segretti and Mitchell, and G. Gordon Liddy and all the burglers. So many exciting crooks! Well, most of them went to jail. How many will go to jail this time?  Any? I also remember John Dean, who’s still with us, and Senator Sam Ervin, (who even went on to record a pop song)

And I expect everyone will remember the present hearings in the same way years from now. Just last week we had a courageous witness present something like a John Dean moment.  To me, it’s like an intriguing  novel, except that it really happened.

But none of the Watergate crooks were agents of chaos generally, such as is our previous commander in chief who is ready, with his proud boys, to “tear it all down” in order to secure authoritarian power. He actually wanted the security people at his Jan 6 speech to let in people bearing weapons including rifles into the rally area. After all, he said, none of them were there to hurt him.  They were his guys, his little agents of chaos.

What moved me to tears (something I usually never do) was the story of the election workers attacked by the previous guy, pawns in his plot to disrupt the election ex post facto and take over the United States.  I think that the election worker’s witness touched me because she was not a policemen in uniform nor a fancy lawyer in an expensive suit, but just a regular person, with a regular job, which made her so relatable. I could so easily imagine her at my classroom door, sometimes with Grandma, arriving for her kid’s regular parent-teacher conference.

Her story taught me a new word – stochastic terrorism — which consists of real attacks, usually carried out by disturbed individuals or groups, but with no direct connection to the leader who instigated them, so the disturbed actors can take all the blame. In this case such attacks led to the election worker basically losing her freedoms without trial, and she and all her colleagues resigned from their positions out of fear for their personal safety, clearing the way for more partisan hacks to take their places.  Again, nobody in the White House directly ordered those attacks, giving plausible deniability to the real instigators.

Indeed, a lot of terrorists caught my attention in those hearings, including the sheer number of  Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and Three Percenters (several hundred at the capitol, — plus many thousands or tens of thousands of others across the country). We found out how they organized themselves and led the crowds, with implicit coordination from the White House. (demonstrating the stochastic principal)

Last year, the New York Times produced a  documentary on this attack. with a mellifluous Irish narrator, which I’d mentioned in a previous update.The beautiful Irish accent alone makes it worth another viewing (though I don’t think it’s a Cork accent).

This year, having identified more of the individual Proud Boys in that day’s videos, the Times produced a brief addendum to that previous documentary that actually details the various strategies used by particular teams of them to peel the building open.(also available here) It just goes to show how extensively organized they really were.

Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger, our beloved former Governator, born in  post-WWII Austria, a land previously dominated by the brown shirts, immediately recognized the Proud Boys for the sizable and heavily-armed group that they really are, just like the brown shirts had been in his parent’s day. His commentary, videoed a couple days after the Jan 6 attack, can be seen here.

I sometimes wonder how the relative optimism that he expressed in that video might have changed since the fascistic/violent movement here has continued to quietly expand throughout this year.  Here’s some recent commentary on that from National Public Radio  which, by the way, is the radio network (along with PBS TV) that I recommend to my foreign friends (and American friends, too). They represent the most middle-of-the-road and accurate news source among the major media.

And by the way, the social medium that I recommend is called Slashdot — news for Nerds.  Discussions there are almost always civil due to their comment rating systems, and, like true nerds and techies, they put effort into analyzing business and government policies using real evidence, without getting drawn into the “culture wars” of the day.

Truth or Maybe Consequences

When I taught elementary school I had no tolerance for lying students. I could be tolerant or “understanding” of many things, but not that. It would weigh heavy on my mind, for however many days it might take, until some resolution was achieved.  Fortunately the vast majority of my students in California were truthful. Same with my students in China.

But these days, the pervasiveness of lies in the public sphere makes them inescapable. It makes me feel like I’m trapped (or marooned)  in the middle of a more mean-spirited version of Dave Frishberg’s famous song Blizzard of Lies..

There’s an old aphorism that “you are entitled to  your  opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. Events of the last few years belie that old saying.  Instead, it seems that  people can be “gas-lighted,” a term derived from the title of a movie.  It means to convince someone not to believe the evidence of their own eyes and ears and instead believe what some authority wants you to believe. I guess it’s the next level beyond ordinary lying.

In 1984, George Orwell wrote, “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”  I had thought that Orwell’s works were all fantasies, like “Animal Farm.” Now I see that 1984 was not a fantasy. It described the real world, or at least what will become the real world if we let it. And we are headed in that direction.

The lie of our times is that the Democrats, through fraud, stole the presidential election in 2020.  I can understand why that lie was invented. I can even understand how partisans might wish it were true. But I can’t understand why large numbers (35%) of my fellow voters accept being gaslighted into believing such an obvious and monumental lie.  And I can’t understand how they can believe the plethora of lies from the same source.  But my mind is captured, as it looks for a resolution.

I refuse to believe that these people are any less intelligent than most people are, so there must be something else going on. But what is it? Is it simply a matter of watching too much Fox News and believing their lies? Is it that they simply don’t care about truths and lies? Is it a matter of putting up with liars in order to achieve a broader goal? Or do they feel so strongly about something that it distorts their perceptions of the world?

As my old friend Mark used to say, “Inquiring minds want to know.” At least this one does. And I don’t think I’m ever going to figure it all out completely, but I have observed at least one interesting aspect of the problem.

I once read an article about the previous guy’s well-known propensity to openly cheat at golf. And then I read another article claiming that some captains of industry also cheat at golf openly. The other members of the golf party never take it seriously. They often just laugh. Golf is only a game after  all. But it did draw the golfers into a more tight-knit camaraderie, mainly through that laughter and a more distinctly shared identity as golfers, as participants in the same sport, as members of the same club.

But what if the silliness turns serious? Maybe like this: a cheater or lying leader puts forth as truth a statement or idea which is blatantly untrue (such as an election being stolen or Satanic Democrats torturing children).  When it’s accepted as truth by others in the group (even though everybody involved knows it isn’t), the falsehood is not so much a lie any more, but an indicator of a group identity, just like the golfers in the previous example.

And the fervor with which group members espouse the falsehood as truth could signal the extent of their loyalty to the group or to the leader, that they are willing to identify with the group’s version of the truth, even though it isn’t really the truth. It seems to be a variation on “might makes right,” or in this case, “might makes truth.”

And these people do seem to want a leader to tell them what they want to hear, truth or not. They’ll even go for someone like Q, a figure whom no one has ever seen, whose “QAnon” ideas are further than far fetched. Their main tenets are that the Democratic leadership and their global elite allies are engaged in a weird Satanic sex cult involving the trafficking of underage children and a pizza restaurant. Furthermore, an authoritarian figure will soon appear to lead all his followers in rounding up all those elite offenders, apparently all at once, and that violent acts will likely be necessary to pull it all off. And about 17% of Americans say they believe these things.That’s over 40 million people.

And the previous guy really is the Proud Boys’ leader, a point emphasized when the Proud Boys followed his public suggestion in 2020 to stand by, and a Proud Boy leader last year exclaimed “this guy is the epitome of leadership.”

Well, obviously there’s more to understanding the situation than I’ve been able to think through. But I do think that the previous guy’s violence, as well as his use of truth and falsehoods, meshes with their acceptance by violent groups that also have unusual relationships to the truth, such as the Proud Boys,does not bode well for this country.

Still Addicted to YouTube

I still check regularly on Adine’s YouTube channel from South Africa and her herd of rescued orphan elephants.  In this video, Adine had skinned her knee by falling from her bike. Several of the elephants show that they care about her by investigating the wound. It’s really touching to watch.

And in another  touching video, Adine relaxes on the straw in the Infant Khanyisa’s night-time pen, musing about how someday she’s going to have to let her go emotionally and how hard that’s going to be.

And at the other chronological end of that, here’s what happened when Khanyisa was first introduced into her adoptive herd.

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And a couple weeks ago, for the first time in a long time, I found myself simply listening to a simple song with simple pleasure.  The song happened to be a parody of a piece from the musical Grease  called “Summer Nights”. Here’s the original song.  And of course this musical is another link to my past life, because I once got to hear several of my former students perform Grease at Mt. Eden High School.

But in this case, the Parody is called “Russia Tiesby Randy Rainbow, which is not a stage name, but the actual name on his birth certificate. I used to listen to his comedic parodies more than I do now, because comedy was the only way I could make it through the reign of the former guy, and many of Rainbow’s parodies lampoon government. This one is now a few years out of date, though. .

So I just let the simplex chords of the song wash over me. Nothing more than lots of  I – IV – V – IV and their ilk. There was a time when I would never listen unironically to such a simple and cheesy song. I was quite a musical snob. “What, no 13th chords? No flat fives (?) No odd time signatures (?) No bagpipes (?) But honestly, who cares if it’s cheesy? There’s a reason those simple chords have been enjoyed for so many centuries and I finally seem to have remembered that music is simply meant to be fun, and those simplex cords are actually pretty pretty. And by the way, the well-known Youtuber / pianist Nahre Sol takes a deep dive here into what’s cheesy, anyway.

Here’s a more recent Rainbow parody. This time it’s a parody of Tradition from Fiddler on the Roof called Sedition. It shows off his ability to write lyrics that fit the melody.  And I’ll include one more song with skilled lyrics that’s completely non-governmental that he recently co-wrote with the late Stephen Sondheim called Pink Glasses, about the cheesy plastic glasses that have become somewhat an emblem for him.=======================