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VOLO DEL CORVO

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THE BLOG

Wine, Politics, Literature, Sex, Religion, Ethics…A new book in progress…

 

In August of 2008, the book came off the presses and we started bottling the first wine.  In relating how not to start a winery, I would now add: DON’T PICK THE WORST ECONOMIC CLIMATE IN 80 YEARS TO DO IT 

We have added a new feature.  A BLOG check it out.  If you like it, tell a friend. If you don’t like it, tell an enemy.

Go to BLOG

BEST TO ALL… ken

 

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THE BOOKS  scroll down for WALDO and THE WRATH

NEW KICKSTARTER.COM PROJECT

THE LAST AMERICAN ALCHEMISTS

MY NEXT BOOK --

CLICK ON THE LINK (DON’T MISS THE VIDEO) http://kck.st/1ddLH1n

A LIFETIME OF LESSONS AND ADVENTURES often STRANGER THAN FICTION MAKE THIS PREDESTINED:

One aging Rocky battles two banks, injury, exhaustion and deceit

to save his ranch from foreclosure in a story that is…

 

 THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA MEETS

ERIN BROKOVICH

CLICK ON THE LINK ……. http://kck.st/1ddLH1n

 

 

  

THE WRATH . . .

Where adversity thru humor spawns H-O-P-E 

This is more than a book about starting a winery. It is “reality” personified. Included herein is an account of lessons learned about life...and death…and following dreams. If starting a winery is a dream of yours and you are considering such a venture, or if you are determined absolutely not to ever do such an idiotic thing--wouldn't ever dream of it--there is support for your conviction within these pages either way. There are other dreams addressed here, both the day and night kind. But building a winery, albeit a very small one, is the central one and serves at least as a paradigm for following dreams.

If you are interested in making home wine, you will find assistance, support, and encouragement. If you just love wine, you will find fellowship and you might be interested in what goes on before you pull the cork out of the bottle. And your appreciation for what your favorite winemaker has accomplished could be multiplied tenfold. There are so many out there making some great wines. If you have just been introduced to the beverage, you are most welcome aboard.

 

The philosophy expressed in one sentence: Wine is learning what you like, not being taught what to like.

 

What They Are Saying:

 

 “Winemaking is indeed a dream adventure, and Ken Jones has made an educational, entertaining tale of it. We loved the book!"       

--Margrit (Mrs. Robert) Mondavi

 

"With the WRATH OF GRAPES you are definitely onto something. After 22 years in the wine business I quite often become over challenged. But strangely I get a huge kick out of the possibilities for the next vintage."             

--Fess Parker, Davy Crockett to the world, owner of Fess Parker Winery

 

"It’s a good thing he can write, he couldn't hit a curve ball

if he knew it was coming."

--Tom Seaver, Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher, Owner of GTS Vineyards

 

" In addition to dedicated oenophiles, the book appeals to dog lovers,

 especially for Jones’ affectionate recounting of his Labrador retrievers’ production of a huge litter of active puppies, who have their own issues with native fauna, from benign bunnies to lethal rattlesnakes.

September 15, 2008

 

 

About the author:

Ken Jones has been writing for over forty years. His magazine travel and adventure articles, and his photography, have taken him to all continents but Antarctica and Australia,   Coming close to both on a recent trip to New Zealand, he is currently on the lamb for speeding. Having been notified of the allegation a month after his return, and with no means to prove or disprove it, he has invited the New Zealand Police to “come and get him,” advising that “they will never take him alive.”

 

In Pamplona, as a youth, he was invited into the James A. Michener/ex-Hemmingway crowd and served as the prototype for Joe in The Drifters.  In the Amazon, he dined with headhunters. And in Africa he was chased on foot by a bull elephant. Subsequently he has run 19 marathons.

 

Now divorced, he describes his marriage as having been a good one for fifteen years, but that it lasted twenty.

 

He states that he was a prisoner of war during Viet Nam: he was drafted. He was awarded the “Good Conduct Medal.”

 

In 1995, he planted his first wine grapes and has been making wine since 1998.  Currently his winery is seeking a tasting room manager, preferably of Scandinavian descent with prior experience as a lingerie model.

 

 

 

To Order:

Cover Price for case bound (paperback) is $11.95 US

Add $3.00 for Priority Mail shipping and handling (within the US) , free shipping for orders of three or more.  We pay the sales tax.

personal checks accepted, no credit cards currently, do not send cash

Send Orders to:

Corvo Publications

P O Box 89

Lockwood, CA 93932

E-mail: corvo@redshift.com

 

Book signing/speaking engagements:

We do our best to accommodate and enjoy reader interaction. Please feel free to inquire.                                               back to top

 

 

 

HERE'S . . .

Through a series of fortunate and unfortunate coincidences, a dedicated but relatively unknown writer/humorist finds himself exiled to a piece of rural real estate near the Central California coast. One step from homelessness and unemployment, he is quartered in a leaky, little camp trailer set on a barren building site -- Eden, if John Steinbeck's geography was correct.

But the coincidences that got this reluctant Ulysses here are nothing -- NOTHING! -- compared to the ones that follow. They lead to the acquisition of a chocolate Labrador retriever, "Roof" WALDO Emerson.

Together they set out on one weird and wonderful, intellectual and spiritual adventure, that makes the Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland seem like quick trips to the corner speedimart.

The lessons learned -- those of self-reliance and the conduct of life -- are age-old and would gladden the ghost of WALDO's namesake. You've heard the saying about teaching old dogs new tricks; well, this young dog has a few things to teach us all.

WALDO is about meeting challenges, whether adversities or goals. It is a celebration of the human (and canine) spirit. This is The X-Files meets The Funny Farm. Except it isn't fiction. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about the mysteries of nature and delved into transcendentalism. A century and a half later, the protagonists of this book live it.

WALDO is a detective story, as the author and his dog investigate what has to be a writer's worst nightmare -- plagiarism. How would you feel to discover that a novel, "remarkably similar" to one of yours, has just hit the best-seller list and that its author will be advanced $1 million for the movie rights? What these sleuths discover is that a writer's work is about as safe from larceny as a parked Mercedes with the motor running and the driver's-side door wide open.

Is this just another weird coincidence or literary theft? WALDO is an odyssey into ethics and the law that transcend the boundaries of reality. Grab your magnifying glass and calabash, Sherlock, you're in for a wild read.

 

Reviews:

"Written from the heart, with a literary voice that is

clear, insightful and intriguing."

 Michel J. Bryant, syndicated television consumer advocate, author of The Legal Edge (Renaissance Books)

 

"WALDO offers inspiring examples of how

synchronicities come to life and guide us

with precise elegance."

Dr. Dianne Skafte, author of When Oracles Speak (Quest Books)

 

 

 

To Order:

Cover Price for case bound (hard cover) is $19.95 US

Add $3.00 for Priority Mail shipping and handling (within the US) , free shipping for orders of three or more.  We pay the sales tax.

personal checks accepted, no credit cards currently, do not send cash

Send Orders to:

Corvo Publications

P O Box 89

Lockwood, CA 93932

E-mail: corvo@redshift.com

Future titles:

Butterflies, Bells and Mirrors, a novel that chronicles a Japanese-American family, before, during and after World War II.

Canary Road, an illustrated children's story about a canary who aspires to sing Opera.

Book signing/speaking engagements:

We do our best to accommodate and enjoy reader interaction. Please feel free to inquire.          back to top

 

 

WINES

 

VOLO DEL CORVO

Winery

 

 

Sign Up for announcements

We like variety, tailored to the meal

And Hope you will, too

We currently offer a Sangiovese, Zin, Vin Santo dessert wine (from Malvasia Bianca) and Sauvignon Blanc. We also grow and make Chardonnay, Barbera, Syrah, Cab, Cab/Sangio blend (a SuperTusKen {what vanity}), Vernacia, Pinot Gris, Nebbiolo, Primitivo, and heaven knows what next.

These are now in tanks and barrels, and will be bottled in the next few months.  If You would like to be notified when they are ready, give us your contact information. Email is preferred.

 

REDS:

Zinfandel

Sangiovese

Nebbiolo

Montepulciano

Shiraz/Syrah

Primitivo

Cabernet Sauvignon

 

WHITES:

Sauvignon Blanc

Trebbiano Toscano

Malvasia Bianca

Pinot Gris

Vernacia

Chardonnay

 

 

Following is a special offer to a now-forming wine club.

We are offering a book (The WRATH of Grapes)and wine

incentive discount that amounts to a savings of between

28% to 50% when you buy six bottles of mixed case;

note an additional 10% savings when you buy a full case (12 bottles).

 

Offer to sell wine is good only in states where legal and to

those over legal alcohol consumption age.

 

Email us for specific details with your order. Prices do

not include sales tax or shipping that will be added to the order.

 

 

Variety    Retail Price     Wine Club     6pak       Case(12)                            

 

’05 Sangiovese   $40.00               $25.00       $135.00     $240.00

May be as close to Tuscany as you will find in the US...Great with Osso Buco or Eggplant...well, it would  make even sawdust delicious.  Great with pork chops deglazed with a Jack Daniels.  We would love to do a blind tasting with some Brunellos. Drink now.

’05 Zinfandel     $30.00               $17.00       $91.00      $183.00

Steak, Steak, Steak and Prime Rib if you run out of steak....or ribs, or anything you can remove from the Barbeque before it becomes ashes. Should age and mature well.

 

’07 Vin Santo    $30.00 (375 ml)         $22.00       $118.00    $211.00 

Amber Dessert wine terrific with cheese cake, puddings, or cream desserts.  Keeps for weeks in the frig once opened.

 

NEW!!     ’06 Sauv. Blanc $25.00                $15.00       $81.00      $144.00   NEW!!

                    A more traditional Sauvignon Blanc than the ’06, terrific with milder seafood,

                    and fowl, cheese or vegetarian dishes.  I am not a wine sipper but drew a decanter

                    From the tank and set it by the computer as I was working. I looked up to discover

                    that the decanter was empty. Evaporation was not the culprit.

 

’05 Sauv. Blanc $25.00                $15.00       $81.00      $144.00  

An unusually floral nose, tart, citrus up front, with a peach finish.  A rare pairing with Chinese food or ahi with wasabi. Refer to about wines below, a little “Kate” crept into this one.

 

Book (THE WRATH) with purchase of a bottle is $6.00

 

SPECIAL MIXED CASE/HALF CASE PRICES: 1 Sangiovese, 1 Vin Santo,

2 Sauvignon Blank (specify year), 2 Zinfandel: $89.00    full case $170.00

 

About the wines:

The Hepburn paradigm:

 

The REDS: Our aim is to make a bold, sassy, up front red wine -- think Katherine -- the fruit, acidity and tannins enhance that steak, tomato sauce, or chocolate dessert.  Usually these are aged in oak barrels.

 

The WHITES: We strive for a delicate, refreshing, seductively subtle white wine -- think Audrey -- that sparkles with that seafood, poultry, and light sauces.  Normally these are aged without oak to keep the fruit up front.

 

We do try to keep our maxims to a minimum, and believe that wine is meant to enhance and be enhanced by food, and if you like a red when others prefer a white with a dish, then go for it.  One maxim that holds throughout the growing, making and consumption of wine is that for every opinion there is an equally qualified opposite opinion.  And for every rule, there is an exception. Wine is learning what you like, not being taught what to like.

 

SULFITES: In the book, our aversion to adding sulfur is explained.  In home winemaking, where the wine was kept in the cellar, we did not use sulfites at all.  But every winemaker we know and respect has told us we are crazy not to sulfite wine for commercial sales where it might not get the greatest care on a store shelf or a warm kitchen cupboard. That we have started a winery supports the psychiatric diagnosis, discretion has mandated that we add a minimal amount of sulfite at bottling. 

 

Not using sulfur during fermentation and aging requires an added care for cleanliness and sanitization, keeping the wine free from contamination.  Forcing the wine to survive whatever organisms might be on the skins and stems seems to give it resilience, like a child after the first year in school.  Once opened, you will probably notice that it maintains its freshness longer.  We would consider bottling special orders of two cases or more without sulfites and provide a certified lab report of the contents.

 

UNFINED, UNFILTERED:  We like to offer the whole wine.  Consider gourmet coffee, a few grounds in the espresso cup are acceptable, but at times a little tweaking improves the result.  Most of our wines are unfined/unfiltered.

About the vines:

Free range grapes?

 

It is illegal to use the “O” word in any wine advertising (shhh, the root word of inOrganic) unless you are certified “O”.  An explanation for not applying for certification is given in the book.  Basically it is due to the abuse the term receives, the bureaucratic cost of certification, and the undesirable intrusion of having inspectors tromping through the vineyard with disease contaminated tools, shoes and tires. So we are not “O.”

 

The policy is NO PESTICIDES, NO FERTILIZER, NO HERBICIDES.  This means that it takes longer (typically five years [if we are lucky] from planting to first crop instead of the three years enjoyed by most vineyards).  There are some eight-year old vines that we hope to get a first crop in 2009.  There is an old Italian saying that the poorer the soil, the richer the vine will make you. We just hope our dirt helps pay the mortgage.

 

The yield is smaller, and we believe the grapes produce a unique fruit. 

 

We do wish that Noah hadn’t included yellowjackets, leafhoppers and gophers when he set sail.

 

{Editors note: since Al Gore won his Academy Award and Nobel prizes for his work with Global Warming, we have been beset by two frosts that cut production by another 25%.  We think he should give the Nobel back but he can keep the Academy Award.}

 

 

 

 

PO BOX 89, Lockwood, CA 93932

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E-Mail corvo@redshift.com

 

 

VOLO DEL CORVO

OLIVE OIL

 

 

We really aren't in business yet to sell olive oil.  The eighty trees are still young and production is very light. We came out with about one gallon, which considering the cost of the trees, harvest and the press, each eight-ounce bottle should retail for $1000.00.

It is still green and needs lottsa aging, but if you would like to try a bottle, we might be able to arrange it. The $1000.00 price would include shipping and handling. It should be excellent for lubricationg door hinges.

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THE BLOG

 

Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol II Number 8

January 7, 2014

Vic “Tar” Hugo 1997-2013

 

 

 

AFTER 4 YEARS of COMBATING TWO OF THE WORLD’S BIGGEST BANKS AND A GANG OF THUG “BIG CITY” ATTORNEYS: a settlement…

 

 VICTORy?

 

IT does SMELL LIKE NAPALM IN

 THE MORNING

 

BUT wINNING THE PEACE MAY BE HARDER THAN WINNING THE WAR

after their stalling 6 months, a dismissal was achieved

 

Then a month later, a CITIBANK violation of the sETTLEMENT agreement

 

looks like we might be going back to court…rico maybe…

maybe even go after their

charter

 

(REad more If You like to read. this isn’t just a blog, it’s a short story THAT IS DISTURBING AND AT THE SAME TIME SPIRITUAL AND UPLIFTING. I hope you Enjoy it.

If you are sound bIte oriented you may want to stop here.

A link to a video history of my ranch and insight to what all of the fuss is about: http://youtu.be/FhMAwqLt7yw

 

 

May 10, 2013. My reflection in the barber shop wall of mirrors was startlingly cadaverous. I was reminded of open casket viewings I had attended. I had been overdue for a haircut and the fresh groomed, from-the-ears-up appearance always reminds me of James Brolin-- a testimony to the artful genius of my stylist, Sharon Cambria. But from the forehead down I looked more like something from Tales from the Crypt.

 

The preceding month had its extra dose of stress; this after four years of battling two of the world’s biggest banks and the abusive litigation of a dozen big city attorneys. Their efforts had trebled with last minute discovery requests that I knew were beyond the legal requirements. I tried to meet all forthrightly. You see, I had TRUTH on my side; a concept foreign to the defendants. I wanted to put as much of it out there as possible. There had even been a request (canceled at the last minute) for an inspection of my home. As one who puts a high value on privacy, that wasn’t going to happen: “IT” hadn’t frozen over yet.

 

Additionally, my phone lines were cut; my post office box had been broken into and perhaps also my front door; and then I went out to the dog run one morning to find my little dog, Hugo, dead. Perhaps all of these were coincidences not related to the litigation. I met all with appropriate responses: “Act, don’t react,” had been one of my stepdad’s sayings. It went with “You may not be able to control the events of your life, but you can control your response to them.”

 

Before moving to the ranch, I would not have given much credence to those “new age” philosophers who extol the generosity of the universe and that you can create your own reality. But when you find these themes in such diverse sources as Paulo Coelho (the widest read author on the planet) to Albert Einstein (you may have heard of him), one might begin to take note. Personal experience cases in point:

 

Living in the country, I had been connected to the internet by dial-up. The cutting of the phone line would have cut me off from the world (during a critical time in my litigation) had it not been for Verizon’s gift of a new smart phone (with a contract agreement) that included the ability to generate a Wi-Fi hotspot. The landline became superfluous. I was now connected at exponentially greater speed wirelessly. What used to take minutes to send or receive was now accomplished in seconds.

 

I made arrangements with the postmaster to counter any further intrusions on my mail. Once again, the universe provided: my main source of income was my social security check. They issued a new credit/debit card where their contributions were made electronically. Instead of retrieving a monthly check from my post office box, funds are now automatically deposited into the card’s account. Snail mail became far less critical.

 

As for my little dog, I did check to see that he hadn’t been shot (and in retrospect wished that I had checked for stun gun or cattle prod evidence) before setting out to dig his grave. There was a bittersweet agony about the prospect of the process. The ground here has a bedrock like concrete. My pick handle was broken so I called my friend John Standard at the Pleyto Store nearby. He didn’t have a pick but a customer in his store standing across the counter at the time did. It turned out to be a state of the art, balanced and alloyed for the task I had in front of me. My health wasn’t at its best as I would view a few days later at my barber’s. However, the prospect of exertion -- painful exertion -- made the job grimly attractive. A resting place fit for a pharaoh resulted. I sprained my lower back in the process and the physical pain helped with the emotional one.  

 

Following my haircut, I had an appointment in court for the combined Summary Judgment and Settlement Hearings. Most of the arguments presented by the defendants had been successfully combated in three demurrers that I had survived mostly intact. One exception was that Citibank had my wrong address throughout their motion. Trial was scheduled a month later. However I guess the Judge, the Honorable Lydia Villarreal, saw the same thing I had in my reflection. The vertigo, the dizziness and drained energy combined with ankle swelling that prohibited the wearing of normal shoes (Krocks with dress socks substituted). In stressful situations (like Superior Court Hearings) the elevated blood pressure and inability to focus visually as well as mental were in evidence.

 

The good judge halted the proceedings, stating, “This is not the same man that first appeared here four years ago.” An in-chambers meeting was convened. A settlement was hammered out. It wasn’t the brass ring results that I had hoped for and that had accompanied the complaints and their amendments. I had to come to grips with the reality of the situation. The judge didn’t want someone dying in her courtroom. I didn’t want that either.

 

The reality was that I needed immediate funds for:

            1. Long neglected medical diagnosis and treatment. The high blood pressure was being managed when not under stress. But the root of the other ailments remained a mystery. The doctors that I sought within 200 miles weren’t taking new Medicare patients.

            2. Funds to hire workers to tend the vines. The irrigation system need repair. Summer was on the brink.

            3. Without good health, I wasn’t able to carry on the winery and sale of the ranch was an unattractive but real looming imperative. I am proud of the ranch I have built and have created a video that chronicles this on You Tube:

http://youtu.be/FhMAwqLt7yw 

Selling was an avenue that had been pursued in the past. Prior to the Banks’ involvement, I had found that I had been able to attract real potential buyers with more success than through realtors. Money was needed for advertising of the sale. The prime real estate selling time is from Spring to Autumn. May 10 marked the beginning.

 

After the in-chambers conference, court was convened and conditions of the settlement were stipulated to in open court.

 

It will probably come as a great surprise that the funds stipulated to in open court were not immediately forthcoming. Like a bratty kid pulling a piece of raw meat on a string to tease a hungry dog, a series of communications were issued about the imminence of the payment and finally in September I filed for an ex parte emergency hearing to enforce the settlement agreement.

 

All three of the reasons for accepting the settlement had been, in the words of Harry Potter, obliviated: I had no new medical treatment for six months. The vines struggled through the heat of summer without water, many perishing. The prime real estate season had come and gone.

 

The request to enforce the settlement agreement was not a failure. Funds were forthcoming in late October.  Some of the long overdue bills were being paid: Sharon Cambria who had generously provided haircuts on credit was paid. Rosa Munoz, who with her husband, Abe, runs the UPS Store on Constitution Blvd. in Salinas and who provided delivery of legal documents with the greatest of reliability and generosity was paid. I got new eyeglasses for the first time in five years. And medical investigation of the vertigo, fatigue, and loss of visual and mental focus was begun. On the last day of 2013, I got the results of a battery of blood tests whose volume would have delighted a bevy of vampires. This wasn’t a meek whisper, it was a thunderous pronouncement:  vitamin B12 deficiency.

 

Almost all of my symptoms can be attributed to it; and It was the only test result out of norm. I didn’t have diabetes, heavy metal poisoning, cancer or any STD. My vitamin B12 level was very low. That’s it.  And what is the main cause? STRESS!!!

 

Suffice to say, I have begun administration of huge sublingual doses of B12 and almost immediately have seen results. The recovery is slow and it will take several months to determine how successful this will be and what permanent damage may have been done. The mental and visual focus are improving. And if I hurry in the morning before the ankles again begin to swell, I can wear shoes again.

 

IF THIS BLOG ACHIEVES NOTHING ELSE IT WILL BE TO PUBLICIZE THE NEED FOR B12 TESTING. IF YOU HAVEN’T HAD YOUR VITAMIN B12 TESTED (AND YOU PROBABLY HAVEN’T) DO IT !!!.

 

One Note: the American Medical standards for this level are low. A level of above 200 is considered in normal range. Japan (which has the lowest rate of Alzheimer’s in the world -- yes there may be a link between B12 deficiency and Alzheimer’s) has a minimum of 450.

 

Not all is totally well in Godric's Hollow however. As those first precious drops of B12 were being assimilated, Citibank violated the terms of the settlement. It was an egregious violation. As of this writing, we are headed back to court with a whole new set of complaints. BAD FAITH heads the list but with health coming back, I am looking into RICO (racketeering) violations and maybe even going after their charters.

 

BY ALL THAT IS HOLY IN THIS UNIVERSE, IF YOU HAVE AN ACCOUNT WITH CITIBANK OR WELLS FARGO, CLOSE IT.

IF YOU HAVE A LOAN WITH THEM, REFINANCE IT

…WITH SOMEONE ELSE.

 

There are other banks that should be included with Citi and Wells but I don’t have the first-hand information that I do with these two. Look for banks that didn’t receive TARP funds; a credit union if you have one available.

 

ONE MORE GIFT FROM THE UNIVERSE; THE MOST PRECIOUS ONE I HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN:

Throughout the last four years, I have also been the recipient of volumes of generosity. Some of those who have extended it are named above. One that I would like to add to the list-- if not head it -- is a breeder of Labrador retrievers that I met in my search for a new puppy. With Hugo’s loss, I was without a Lab for the first time in nearly twenty-five years.

 

I began a quest through the internet that initially knocked me on my hind end. The prices!!! When I had a litter in the late 90’s, a price of $400 was at the high end.  Now it’s common to see $2000 price tags. Occasionally I would come across a home-bred litter in the $400 range. So, where would I come up with even that? Ask the Universe. Almost as I asked, a friend of mine, a retired executive from CBS news, emailed me a link to a State of California website that lists unclaimed property. You do a search of cities where you have lived and look for your name. There are thousands of reasons for these funds; from unclosed bank accounts to an insurance dividend.

 

There was $500 (of which I could earmark $300 for a puppy) in my name. I have no idea what it was for. I also noted there was a slightly larger amount in my half sister’s name (mom always liked her best). It was no small feat tying me to the money. I didn’t have a driver’s license then or even a social security number. I was able to get my first year’s high school transcripts which bore the address and my father’s name. I provided a birth certificate with my father’s same name. A month and a half later, I had my funds.

 

Now to find my pup: There are a half-dozen websites that offer puppies for sale. I was still hampered by the limitation of funds. As I called those ads that didn’t list prices or whose prices were in the ballpark, I made contact with one family north of Sacramento, the Miners (that’s their last name not occupation) of Cool (a real city name), California. They had a litter of chocolates and blacks. I was open about my financial limits as Stacey Miner was with their price: we really were far apart. But we got to talking; about my writing and the dogs that were prominently featured. We parted amicably. Then about an hour later, Stacey called back. She said that she had talked to her husband, KC, and that if I wanted a puppy, they would give me one.

 

 Give me one?

 

I offered to at least pay for their expenses such as dew claw and first shots. My offer was declined and a couple of weeks later -- as soon as she turned 8 weeks -- I was driving home with the most precious gift I have been given in my life. I named her, according to my tradition, after one of my favorite writers: Dorothy Parker; AKC Dorothy Barker. It is an apt choice. She is full of feist. And also affection. We have already started our adventures. Readers of this blog will enjoy how I end this one. The symmetry of the Universe (re the date in my first paragraph. This may be the world’s longest Haiku). Dorothy was born May 10, 2013.

 

 

Dorothy Barker 2013 --

 

 

 

 

Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol II Number 7

August 23, 2013

 

 

As the government begins criminal prosecution of the big banks, one private citizen has been LITIGATING for four years  AND wonders where they’ve been….

 

 

In the last four years, I have prevailed in three demurrers, two Temporary Restraining Orders, two Preliminary Injunctions against foreclosure sale of my ranch/winery/vineyard, and two motions for undertakings (an unfortunate choice of words). I have spent 25 years building this property with my own two hands. The litigation was conducted with the same self-reliance: without an attorney, representing myself with no formal legal education. In the course, I have suffered financial and health damage as I successfully countered false statements and malicious litigation from Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and Citibank, N.A. and their attorneys.

 

On May 10,2013 a settlement was reached. Still the funds have not been forthcoming. Health at 67 continues to deteriorate. But the best award is the story. I am a writer. I have been writing for 50 years. There is no better gift for a writer than a good story. Entitled The Last American Alchemists. this is The Old Man and the Sea meets Erin Brockovich. It is a current Kickstarter,com project (http://kck.st/1ddLH1n ). If successful, it could just save the farm.

 

A copy of the most recent letter to the attorneys follows:

 

                                                                        FROM:

                                                                                    Kenneth F. Jones

                                                                        65401 Cross Rd.

                                                                        Lockwood, CA 93932-0089

                                                                        August 23, 2013

                                                                        E-Mail corvo@redshift.com

TO:

Mr. Jonah Van Zandt                                        Mr. Kelly A. Beall

Attorney for Wells Fargo Bank N.A.                Attorney for Citibank, N.A.                             

Severson & Werson                                         WOLFE & WYMAN LLP

One Embarcadero Center, Suite 2600              2301 Dupont Drive, Suite 300

San Francisco, California 94111                                   Irvine, CA  92612-7531

(415) 677-5568 (direct dial)                             Tel. (949) 475-9200 Ext 460

(415) 956-0439 (facsimile)                               Fax  (949) 475-9203
jvz@severson.com (e-mail)                               Email:  kabeall@wolfewyman.com

 

Dear Mr. VanZ andt, and Mr. Be all:

 

Last May 10th we reached a settlement agreement that was stipulated in open court. You agreed, on behalf of your client, to provide several documents and pay me a sum of money

 

It has now been nearly four months and that money has not been forthcoming. Part of the settlement was that I pay off all mortgages and attendant fees. It was agreed that I do that in five months. The most immediate source of these funds is to sell the ranch home/vineyard/winery that I have spent the last 22 years building, doing 90 percent of the work myself; personal industry substituting for capital. While selling a home where forty-foot oaks stand that I planted as acorns is not my first choice, However I am totally dedicated to that effort. My ranch is priced at least $200,000 below the market.  IT NEEDS ADVERTISING!!!

 

The settlement money was supposed to finance this advertising. Throughout this litigation, with such abusive tactics as posting false advertisings for foreclosure sale while under injunction preventing such sales, you have set out obstacle after obstacle in the face of selling my property. This is beyond abusive, malicious, and oppressive.

 

Documents promised by the attorneys for the defendants in a week or two were not forthcoming for nearly three months. In court, Mr. VanZ andt stated that he would be presenting a simple agreement for my signature, “basically saying that you agree to dismiss the lawsuit and it is over once and for all. We would agree, obviously, not to file any counter-claims against Mr. Jones.” (copied verbatim from official court transcript)

 

Mr. VanZ andt has never produced such a document. Instead four weeks after the hearing, Mr. Be all submitted a ten page settlement agreement that had a lot more in it than the above paragraph; ten pages of more.  There are several things wrong with this document. First Mr. Be all did not attend the hearings, and he created the proposed agreement without referring to the hearing transcripts (which were not published until several weeks after he wrote his version of the settlement). That document is a work of fiction.

 

Among the most fictitious entries in the Be all agreement is the one calling for confidentiality. The terms of the settlement were stipulated in open court, in public domain. Anyone can read it. There was no confidentiality ever mentioned.

 

Quite to the contrary: this suit and the main characters in this drama (The above mentioned attorneys and their cohorts, M. ELIZABETH HOLT, ESQ., and Alice M. Dostálová-Busick) are about to become famous. The deceit and malevolence that you and your clients perpetrated will not be as tolerated by the general public as they are among the lawyer club.

 

I do have a potential alternative to selling. I am a writer and the story that has come out of this experience is my greatest reward (Currently a Kickstarter project, The Last American Alchemists at the following link http://kck.st/1ddLH1n).

 

I recently wrote to Senator Warren of Massachusetts who is making prosecution of the banking industry a priority. I also copied my Senators from California and my congressman. Since sending that letter, my website has enjoyed a fifty percent increase in activity and I did get a charming letter back from Senator Warren. A copy of the letter, slightly redacted, that I sent her is in the next Blog down. Last week the federal government announced the first criminal investigations of the banking industry. Maybe my efforts are giving it a little nudge.

 

The book I am writing is to promote TRUTH and DECENCY. It is not intended to harm, only to put an end to the business practices of your clients and the level of litigation you practice. I am not a vindictive man; I am only going to tell the truth. The sort of litigation that you, Misters VanZ andt and Be all (and your associates) will be disgusting to most readers and movie goers not in the legal “profession.” The business practices of your clients certainly disgust. There is a possibility for constructive change and if achieved, will be told. If not, then I would recommend that you don’t make restaurant reservations in your real names and if you have personal license plates that they be changed.

 

I am also getting encouragement from associates in the publishing and film industry. There is a real possibility that the book and film rights might produce more than the required funds before the court stipulated deadline. Make no mistake; this is not impeding the attempts to sell the property. Selling is number one priority. It needs advertising. It needs the funds to pay for advertising.

 

I have also made it very clear that I needed the funds for medical, dental and eye care. Not paying the settlement goes beyond the outrageous and is done with reckless disregard of the probability that the plaintiff would suffer emotional distress. In addition there has been damage to my vineyard of nearly $50,000 because the funds that would also have gone to repair irrigation have been withheld. I am gaining great support for my story hourly. You may think you are being clever but you are just making the story all that much better.

 

I invite you and your client to get off of your effete asses and produce a settlement agreement that reflects the hearing and send the money.

 

Cordially,

 

Kenneth F. Jones

 

 

CC: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Huffington Post, Monterey Herald, Salinas Californian, San Luis Obispo Tribune, New Times SLO, Senator Warren of Massachusetts, Senator Boxer of Californian, Senator Feinstein of California, Congressman Farr of California, National Public Radio, Harry Shearer, KSBY, KSBW, Lewis Perdue, Rick Martel. CNN, Google Ceo’s, FOX News, USA Today

 

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol II Number 6

July 10, 2013

 

 

One aging Rocky battles two banks, injury, exhaustion and deceit

to save his ranch from foreclosure AS

THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA MEETS

ERIN BROKOVICH

 

Four years ago to the day, HE stood outside of COURTROOM fifteen OF THE SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA, MONTEREY.  With blood pressure soaring and vertigo making it difficult to focus visually as well as mentally, HE paused to regain HIS balance. HE had just appeard IN HIS FIRST HEARING PRO PER (REPRESENTING HIMSELF). HE WAS GRANTED HIS CONTINUANCE: rOUND ONE: VICTORY.

 

AS HE STOOD AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS WATCHING THE FOOT TRAFFIC AScEND AND DECEND, HE WAS STRUCK BY WHAT A MESS his GENERATION HAD MADE OF THE WORLD. WHILE HE DIDN’T TAKE ALL OF THE BLAME, HE ALSO ACKNOWLEDGED THAT HE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING TO PREVENT IT.

 

HE DECIDED THEN AND THERE TO CHANGE THAT. 

 

THE COURT BATTLE IS ALL BUT OVER NOW. HIS DEDICATION CONTINUES ACCORDING TO THE EXAMPLE SET  BY ONE OF HIS ANCESTORS. ABOVE ALL ELSE, HE IS A WRITER. A BOOK IS FORTHCOMING:

 THE LAST AMERICAN ALCHEMISTS.

 

THAT ISN’T THE ONLY AVENUE OF PERSUIT FOR THE AVOWED CHANGE. FOLLOWING IS A SLIGHTLY REDACTED LETTER SENT TO SENATOR WARREN OF Massachusetts WHO HAS BEEN LEADING A campaign TO BRING THE BANKERS TO TASK.

 

 

Dear Senator Warren,

 

Thank You. Thank you for raising the questions about the lack of prosecution of the banking industry. Actually I have been prosecuting two banks -- Wells Fargo and Citibank -- as a private citizen for the last four years Pro Per. I guess I won’t be hired as a lobbyist or bank executive now. I am a writer and believe there is a story here big time; one that will help a lot of people. In that vein, I would like to call your attention to the causes of complaint that I have filed in hope of enhancing the enforcement and penalties of the laws they violate. Enforcement is paramount.

 

1. The banks have a short sale program for property with equity less than market value, but offer no program to sell property in foreclosure worth more than the loan amount. In my case, I have spent 22 years building this ranch/home/vineyard/winery/publishing company doing 90% of the work myself. Industry instead of capital built this ranch. I did not borrow excessively. The ratio of loan to first listing price was about 20%.

 

In 2009, when injured trying to just “work harder,” I had never missed a payment in my life and found myself facing foreclosure. I did try, and continue to try, to sell the ranch, offering at bare land prices, virtually wiping out the 22 years of work. The banks offer no alternative other than selling the property for loan amount at a trustee sale, which is what they sought to do. Fortunately the court granted preliminary injunctions against foreclosure sale.

 

2 Something specific needs to be done about the banks posting trustee sales advertisements on the internet, through a telephone hotline, and through the county recorder’s office when enjoined from foreclosure by preliminary Injunction. They continued to advertise that the home will be sold for loan value, then canceled and rescheduled the sale on the advertised sale date. Pretty tough to sell in the open market if potential buyers believe they can buy for loan value.

 

3 There are laws against attaching Social Security check funds deposited in the bank. Citibank did it anyway. The money was returned…five weeks later. That money was earmarked for blood pressure medication having just becoming eligible for MEDICARE and without medical care for three years. Blood pressure spiked for the first week with evidence of kidney and liver damage. In addition to the slap on the wrist penalties under existing laws, I am claiming daily assault.

 

4. The SAFE ACT is a great step in the right direction of protecting the public by banning convicted felons from working in mortgage origination no matter when the crime was committed. My case began with a loan officer who was a previously convicted felon (for filing false statements to the Real Estate Board). He made false statements to me; one recorded and retained on my answering machine. His conviction was seven years prior to his hiring at Wells Fargo. They claim to have only checked back six years. Now lifetime checks are required. That loan originator “retired” four days after the SAVE ACT was passed. Hopefully the new law will be enforced.

 

5. It might be impossible to enforce decency. But when the attorneys for the banks continuously make false statements, I did try. My biggest disappointment was having contempt and sanctions motion against the defendants denied; not because of lack of merit, but on procedure. I didn’t do it right.

 

 

210/110 blood pressure, and now cataracts have been among the harvest. I am making a case for calendar preference. OMG, I have become a lawyer (Google Class of 2013). I do feel like that Monty Python character who, waving a saber overhead, calls to his troops to CHARGE! A bomb explodes; the general is shown waving the saber in his remaining arm calling “CHARGE!” Several bombs later he is holding the saber in his teeth, calling his troops to, “CHARGE!”

 

I still count this as truly the greatest experience as a citizen of this country that I have ever had. The courts have been terrific. I hope the literary work that will result will help a lot of people; perhaps inspire. That dedication will not be diminished. I have a distant ancestor with the same last name who was an admiral in the revolutionary navy. When called upon to surrender his battered vessel, he had a response that I proudly extend today. The spirit is hereditary.

 

I am also copying my own senators and congressman with the hope of inspiring constructive and productive prosecution of these banks. Great Good luck to you all. CHARGE!

 

Cordially,

 

Kenneth F. Jones

Pro Per

 

 

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol II Number 5

May 27, 2011

THE FARF

His pedigree name was Jean Paws Sartre.

I give all my dogs famous author’s names. Literature and Labrador Retrievers are held in equal esteem.

 

AN AFFIRMATION OF LIFE LESSONS

 

 

The day I got him, I had been wondering if the addition of a new second dog was the right move. I already had a two-year old yellow, Ginnie (AKC: Virginia Woof). Eight months before I had lost my first lab, a chocolate (AKC: Roof Waldo Emerson)…Waldo. I was leaving the Mid State Fair grounds, having paid my annual dues to the art exhibit and Polish corn dog and beer stands, pondering the wisdom of a deposit I had put down on a chocolate pup in a local litter that I was about to take home.

 

I said that I wanted a sign. I got one -- literally. There was a mock old west town near the exit to the fairgrounds. My attention was drawn to the blacksmith’s shop. The sign above the entry: it read: “WALDO’S .” Approval from the predecessor.

 

Waldo had been a terrific first Labrador, the smartest dog I’d ever had. And Ginnie was even more brilliant. Though maybe not the brightest light, Sartre settled in with what would become his greatest trait: his cool. Nothing seemed to ruffle him. He was almost aloof even as a pup.

 

He showed no homesickness. But also there was very little house breaking required. He took to the doggie door like a veteran, with a 3000 sq-ft run on the outside. He was an instant “part of the family.”

 

his pedigree name would cause problems. Veterinary staff and boarding kennel personnel apparently don’t read much  French Literature. “HUH?” was a frequent response to the pronouncement of his name.

 

I had to admit it seemed a little highbrow for the pup. The solution came from him. He had a way of resting his head heavily on the first step up to the kitchen, watching my demonstrations of culinary genius with just the movement of his eyes. His head remained perfectly still. It was reminiscent of the puppet dog in the old Nestles Chocolate commercials. A chorus would sing the spelling of the company name, “Nestles makes the very best…” and the puppet would sing, “Chawwwk-Lit” dropping his head heavily to puppeteer Paul Winchell’s shoulder, the way my dog rested his on the first step. FARFO was the puppets name, it fit: chocolate candy and chocolate lab.

 

It was shortened to “Farf” or “The Farf” as he displayed the cool like “The Fonz,” the classic Henry Winkler character from Happy Days television show, who could fix almost anything with a finger snap or the clap of his hands….”Heyyyy”

 

Except Farf broke things, including one of my teeth as I bent down to fill his bowl that was ill timed with one of his Snoopy -- happy feeding time --  leaps. It cost me $10,000 in dental repair. The tooth, of course, was a canine.

 

I think Labradors enjoy being nuisances. Farf used to trail behind as I carried the water dishes to the sink, catching the back rim of my slipper just enough to pull it from my heel. Then greet with an arm nudge as I was about an inch from placing the brimming bowl to the floor. Causing spills every time.,,“Heyyyy…”

 

Like his Happy Days role model, he was good with the girls and fathered a litter with Virginia just after his first birthday. He was a prodigy.  And slept almost the whole time during the delivery of ten.  On the rare break I would find him in the mud room flat on his back spread eagled and snoring. No paternal delivery room jitters. Rather oblivious bliss. He was, after all, THE FARF.

 

At the recommendations of the veterinarian and common sense, he was kept separate from his progeny. But there was one puppy jail break that brought the galloping brood under the dog run fence. The Farf was delighted like a big dumb kid, ears flapping as he danced among and on. The mad dash rescue mission left a well intentioned Godzilla sire bewildered. But the pups unhurt and twice as bewildered -- “What the hey was that?”.

 

I kept one of the litter, a black male, Hugo (AKC Vic “TAR” Hugo) and they were buddies from the beginning. They were great travelers. With the back seat of my Subaru Forester perpetually folded down, Farf would stand on the center console, shoulder to shoulder with the driver when French fries were aboard. He went on point at the Carl’s Jr. bag which had to be kept on the passenger floor to evade drool.

 

In his later years he grew to love to have his ears and belly rubbed, but in his youth, he was quite independent almost to the point of distaining any opinions of others. As in his response to one lady houseguest’s admiration of his handsome and distinguished profile as he gazed out the back glass door. After she had laid on a thick layer of praise of his nobility, he turned to face her straight on, producing a thunderous, guttural belch.

 

As he got older and was unable to jump up into back of the SUV, I had to lift his front legs up to the bed of the car, then we worked as a team wheelbarrow fashion, me on the back, hoisting the eighty-pound brute up. It was a compromise necessitated by the also aging master having pulled the devil out of his back trying to do the job solo. It worked…”heyyyyy.”

 

We had aging parallels.. He got a summer itch, I got a winter one. We both developed a little arthritis. He developed a lipoma, a non malignant tumor, as I also discovered a lump that was nicknamed “Lance.”  Mine went away, but his didn’t, though it never seemed to bother him. I made the decision against surgery as the risk of the operation seemed greater at his age than the lump. He was cool with it.

 

Four years ago, he got very ill. My guess it was something he ate. Considering that rabbit droppings were one of his favorite delicacies, it wasn’t a stretch of a guess. He was twelve then, which is getting up there for a Lab. Whatever it was, really put him down. Sitting on the floor next to him, stroking his unusually coarse fur, I made him a deal. I asked for two more years. I told him he was going to recover and I asked him then for two more years. He signed on and doubled the contract. A month ago, though, he finally left for good.

 

A section of the dog run fence had been pulled up as was their modus. Fences have to be made of titanium with Labs. And they seem to offer the dogs an almost hypnotic allure to be defeated. I often took the dogs with me to the sixty-acre lower vineyard. It is entirely fenced and if I lost track of the dogs for more than forty minutes, I would look up to see them scavenging outside the perimeter. With sixty acres to play in and they still have to go the other side.

 

I have a 160 acres and some of it is very heavily covered in brush. When he didn’t come back right away and his son returned, I assumed the worst.  First, he was getting pretty weak and on the 1/8 mile daily walks to water the green house, he would fatigue and occasionally stumble. That he was gone for more than an hour probably meant he was gone.

 

That didn’t stop me from trying to find him. I am fighting my own health issues right now and so my forays into the bush were feeble. But I tried to comb the nearby area, judging that he wouldn’t have gotten far. When it started to hail, I had to laugh hoping he was in some good heavenly vantage to view and fully enjoy the nuisance he had achieved.

 

The view from earth was bittersweet. I think he knew the pain he saved me from having to bury him. I would much prefer to hunt for him, hail and all,  and fail than to bury him. I have buried two now and hate it.

 

AN AFFIRMATION OF LIFE LESSONS

 

First, I have come to realize that death is inevitable. I have learned that with humans as well as with dogs. As it is normal to grieve, I also acknowledge that it is selfish. It is self pity for not getting any more. I have learned or am learning to use a loss as a time to celebrate what I have had. And have just shared with the reader. There just isn’t going to be any more from that source. This is an opportunity to give thanks for what I have had and have.

 

Secondly, it is also a call to show that appreciation to the living. When Farf was alive, I made sure that I let him know how grateful I was for the contribution he was to my life. I do that with Hugo and with all that are close to me. It is a daily ritual. With the dogs, I thank them every day for being my bubbas. I let them know that while it is a good thing to be a dog, they are more. And that I am grateful.

 

And finally, when I loose someone I cherish, I try to identify their greatest strength and then resolve to assimilate that. With Waldo, it was his gentleness; with Virginia her happiness; with my dad, my stepfather, it was his generosity; and with mom, her mettle. It is an attempt at perpetuation and at immortality. I am not saying I achieve 100 % success, it is enough to try. I am failing miserably with the most recent, with Farf’s loss… but I am trying....trying…to be cool with it.

 

 

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol II Number 4

December 24, 2011

 

A Christmas Rose

There aren’t many of them now with temperatures falling below freezing at night, still a few stalwarts have the fortitude and remain delicate. Setting a seasonal example

Some Spiritual Time of Year

 

 

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has always been one of my favorites. Second to Summer. It might have been explained in the early years as “school’s out.” A time to expand and test personal freedom, develop individuality.

 

The difference between Summer and this season is people. As a boy, the summer explorations were often solitary. Playing on a deserted beaches in Mexico or Ventura, going to Africa alone as a young adult. The “Holidays” were and are more centered around others. I loved to shop for loved ones and spent a lot of time and care at it. I was intense about it. It began with Thanksgiving and ended with a ritual Christmas Eve foray…closing down the stores. There is something special about being out then.

 

I always knew when I’d found the perfect gift. It expressed my relationship with the recipient. And on Christmas morning, I was much more interested in how these were received than what I got. It wasn’t uncommon to be the last opening presents. Not because I got more, but because I was enjoying them opening theirs.

 

I also took my gifts personally. Like the year I got my then wife a small and imperfect ruby and diamond ring. I just liked the setting. And so did my wife. Material gifts got her attention, and while the ring was intended to express an endearing sentiment, it was diamonds and a ruby to her. That year, I got three new pairs of Levi 501s that she had purchased on sale several months prior when they were on sale. I did need the jeans, and 501s are my preference. But they were just jeans. As I surveyed the pile of denim in contrast to the jewels, the sentiment scales seemed pretty out of kilt. The marriage was also.

 

This year has to be one of the most gratitude replete years yet. Two new friends, three actually, or five if you count Rosa Munoz’s husband Abe and their two sons. And I do. Rosa and Abe have a UPS Store in Salinas, California. They have been in business there eight years. I first met Rosa through my process serving of documents in the litigation I am currently waging with Wells Fargo (going well by the way, and don’t want to publicize prior to trial.). I often need papers delivered overnight and Rosa and her UPS experience have come through for me with extraordinary precision and reliability that may well have saved my life. Their address is 1522 Constitution Blvd, Salinas CA 93905 and their phone number is (831) 449-4999, email store4642@theupsstore.com . Also the gas in the station next to the store is ten to fifteen cents cheaper than any I’ve seen in three counties (if you have a Vons or Safeway card).

 

But that’s just the Levi’s of the story. In addition to all being personally likeable, Abe is an avid outdoorsman and he has brought his family to my ranch as they explored the 160 acres with respect and as a consequence are always welcome. But the real ruby ring of this story is that they bring carnitas and fresh corn tortillas. Now I have several weaknesses, and near the top of the list is the slow-cooked, melt-in-your-mouth, pork dish. GAWD!!! WHATTA FEAST.  Goes well with my Zin, too.

 

The other new friend I have for the holiday comes with a story that might be unrivaled in its poignancy in my history. I was shopping in Wal-Mart in Paso Robles one afternoon. I do most of my staple shopping there. And somehow got to talking to one of the floor managers, Mary Beth.  I tend to do that when out and about, often taking laughter where I go. The subject drifted to health matters. I mentioned my high blood pressure, and she revealed that her husband had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (this just days after Steve Jobs had succumbed to the dreaded disease).

 

I immediately thought of my book. It is funny and humor under the stress of combating cancer can be the second best medicine (he was an outpatient at Stanford). So I retrieved a copy from my car and brought it to her as a gift. Of all the responses I might have expected, “Oh, I already have that book,” would not have been one of them. It seems a friend had already given her a copy. “Well then give this one to your husband,” I replied. And she gracefully accepted the gift.

 

I happened to have just spent more on gas than I had meant to, so was short cash for milk and eggs. I asked if she might want to buy a third copy at half price as a gift for a friend, to which her response was to give me $2.50 for my milk and eggs. People just being good to other people.

 

Now that was just the Levi’s of that story. A week later I sought out Mary Beth with a video recommendation…a favorite comedy from years ago by Jacques Tati, entitled Mr. Hulot’s Holiday. Trying to administer humor as an antidote for chemo.  I first enquired how her husband was doing.

 

“You wouldn’t believe it,” she said huskily. “The cancer is gone.”

 

I don’t usually like to admit it, but I like chick flicks. I have been known to tear at a poignant commercial (beer commercials kindle a special affection). It took a lot of discipline not to give Mary Beth a shower. We hugged. I pulled out my handkerchief and blew my nose. Some ruby ring.

 

I have read several in the great tradition of The Power of Positive Thinking, Creative Visualization, The Secret, and The Power of Now. I like to salt my life experiences with a little Synchronicity. As I started out the day before Christmas Eve, 2011, I thought about the process server who had done a lot of my early serving but whose service I hadn’t used lately. On our last meeting she had given me a discount and I had promised her a book (I probably give more away than I sell). I thought I ought to call her and reached for the totally disorganized stack of business cards that sits on my computer table, not even sure if her card was among them. Funny thing, hers was on top.  I smile at such events. I did call, wished seasons greeting and assured her that I hadn’t forgotten my book promise.

 

Books truly do reign in my life. The day before I had called my favorite bookstore in Morro Bay, Coalesce Book Store, 845 Main St  Morro Bay, CA 93442,  (805) 772-2880, email coalesce@charter.net .  This is the bookstore where I had my first signing of The Wrath. There aren’t many of them around anymore. I was looking for a copy of For Whom The Bells Toll in paperback. I had been looking for a used one for weeks. Lina, the owner, went to the shelves and said they had a new one for $15 or so. Since I was going have to pay full price, it would at least be at a bookstore I liked. Then Lina discovered a book that hadn’t been shelved. A used one, for four dollars. What a coincidence. I told her I would be in later in the week.

 

There are several ways to get to Morro Bay from Highway 101 going south. If you take 46 West, you can cut over at Cross Creek and it saves you about ten minutes. By far the most scenic route is to take 46 all the way to Hwy 1, then take that south right and drive along the ocean. The hills begin almost like Germany, with lots of trees and foliage, then as the wonderfully maintained 46 glides down to the coast, the vegetation becomes more sparse. NPR featuring Chanticleer makes for a perfection that is outright improbable as the ocean joins the symphony. One NOW not missed.

 

The bookstore is busy. Greetings and Good Will is exchanged with the ladies on duty. The book is purchased and more tidings exchanged as you leave. It is starting to feel a little more like Christmas.

 

One more stop: shopping for Christmas Dinner. There are three ritual feasts in my household. Thanksgiving Turkey, Easter Ham (and colored eggs and bleenies -- spicy potato pancakes from my Russian grandfather), and Christmas prime rib with Yorkshire pudding. Dare one hope to find prime rib within my budget? Two days before Christmas, it is sometimes impossible to find at all. I start my search at Albertson’s Paso Robles. They do have a terrific meat department. It is crowded and finding a parking space on the end closest to the store bodes well - the best space in the lot. The store is crowded. Standing room only next to the meat.

 

If Chanticleer on the radio as you head west on 46 is improbable, then the signs along the beef section are out of the question: PRIME RIB 50% off.

Half expecting to find none at all, there is roast after roast. Anticipating a couple of Jerky rejects, these are succulent, marbled cuts that Michelangelo might have dreamed up if had gone into meat instead of the marble business.

 

Starting to feel a lot like Christmas. A few accessories and garnish join the basket, then I nearly collide with a familiar face. Mary Beth, the Wal-Mart floor manager, spouse of the cancer survivor. With the possible exception of the holiday’s namesake himself, there are fewer people I would have preferred to have encountered. A quick and positively responded to inquiry on progress, then another opportunity to exchange hugs and to send out Glad Tidings. As I now extend in gratitude and with sincere blessings and great hope that all are…

 

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time…

 

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol II Number 3

April 27, 2011

 

What’s Wrong With

This Picture?

Too small to succeed strikes back at a Too Big to Fail

,

This is supposed to be a wine and writing Blog but early on I said the scope would include a variety of topics. For starters, one in keeping with the mission on writing. I finally read the first in the Harry Potter series. I try to stay true to Emerson’s (RW) advice not to read books less than two years old. It eliminates some wasted time on less than superior publications. Ms. Rowling, the Potter author, deserves all of the accolades and profits she has received. She is imaginative, creative, and presents a story by showing not telling. I just wish my book would be listed on Amazon.com as one of those who bought hers and also bought mine. I will say, if you like my books and writing and have a youthful spirit, you will like hers (now watch her sales soar). She just proves that people will read books that don’t rely on sex and violence. Mine don’t either and the lack of violence is by choice.

 

I did notice though that she identifies a majority of the world as second rate unconscious beings (Muggles) and also that evil exists even in the first rate world of Hogwarts School (the Slytherins --snakes in the grass). JK Rowling’s work is fanciful, but maybe not as fictitious as some might believe. Living here on the Volo Del Corvo for twenty years, I have experienced a reality that does border on the magical. And unfortunately life here has not been insulated from the wicked and destroyers. Whose has been in the last two years?

 

A few days ago, I received an email from a single mom of three sons in the Pacific Northwest. She had lost her small ranch to foreclosure and wrote me, seeing that I am struggling, offering an exchange of labor for a roof over their heads. She has a treasure trove of innovative green ideas and solid plans that didn’t come to fruition due to the economy. She had products to sell if all the buyers hadn’t been driven off the game board. Do not pass go.

 

"The Federal Reserve Board on Monday said it is preparing to release sensitive emergency lending data from the peak of the 2008 financial crisis after the Supreme Court rejected a bid by major banks to keep the information secret," Dow Jones Newswires writes. March 23, 2011

{Gee, we might learn that they had been involved in one giant Ponzi scheme and we all know those are illegal. Right, Bernie? KFJ}

 

I wrote her back and told her that I sure supported her efforts, that I could have used the help two years ago, but that I currently have the ranch on the market for sale and didn’t know how much longer I might be here.  I said I would inform any buyers of the offer. A potential labor source would be welcome.

 

Then, through one of those coincidences that have come to be common place here at the Volo Del Corvo, I met someone looking to start a project much in keeping with the above mom’s expertise. I put them together. I don’t know how that will turn out but if any of the other readers might have similar aspirations along the lines of a GREEN co-op, I would be glad to forward the information on to her. Just use the contact-us link.

 

225,000 filings of foreclosure during the month

money.cnn.com/2011/03/10

{And that’s a huge improvement. KFJ}

 

When the mortgage loan problem was new, it was identified as a dual problem: bad lenders and bad borrowers. So how come only the borrowers are the ones paying by being foreclosed? Or now almost four years later is a new foreclosure a result of a bad borrower or a victim of the worst economy in a century? One created by wholesale bad loans/Ponzi scheme perpetrated by the banks?

 

One observation: when BP created the oil spill off of the Gulf Coast. They undertook to clean up the mess they made. Spent billions and continue to do so to assist its victims. If they had followed the solution the banks have adopted, they would have been scooping up oil slicks and dumping them on the boats and homes and heads of the fishermen. Most recently Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced that they would be paying $12,000 to every household forced to evacuate because of leaking radiation. WHAAAAT? They didn’t cause the earthquake or the tsunami. If they had just followed the example of the banks, they could have confiscated those abandoned properties. They could make a killing.

 

Some Banks Start Restoring Dividends After Fed Approval

Published: Friday, 18 Mar 2011 | 2:05 PM ET

By Reuters with CNBC.com

 

I would like to see this site become a center for assisting the victims like the young mother above. I invite those in difficulty because of their mortgages or foreclosure to write. Perhaps I can do more matching with those able to help. I am dedicated to that purpose. And to truth. Let’s wash some yams here in a constructive dialogue. (For an explanation of “washing yams” see Blog Vol II Number 1 January 28, 2011)

 

 

The past almost three years have not been bliss here. My personal history has already been recounted (link to banking Blog) 1. I am forced to sell a ranch I have spent nearly a quarter of a century building. If the loan officer had been truthful, I wouldn’t be in this position. I recently heard an interview with a blind elderly lady who had complied fully with her loan renegotiation and was still foreclosed. I am not a blind old lady. 

 

Too Small to succeed STRIKES BACK at

Too-Big-For-Their-Britches…

 

On March 24th, Wells Fargo and the loan consultant who told me the reverse mortgage program ended when it didn’t were served notice of a lawsuit for violations of the laws governing truth in lending and equal opportunity in lending. Oh good, another full-time job.

 

The contrast between where I could be if that loan had been made available and where I am now is dramatic. It is the stuff that good books are made of, and will be my next. The damage inflicted is not small. Not least of which is my health. I have simply worked myself into exhaustion for which rest or even hospitalization is prescribed. A regimen that has proven slowly successful has been adopted: When I feel tired, I just rest (Not always, sometimes I lapse and find that it’s 7:00 P.M. and I haven’t eaten yet that day. And I pay for it for three days.). I read (glad for that renewed friendship with books as I cancelled my satellite TV service), and I sleep. Renewed and refreshed, I get back to a variety of work that makes for a gratifying life: vine trimming, writing, wine making, and now legal education. I have been disappointed by some well intended attorneys (maybe some not so well intended), and once again rely on the one sure standby -- myself. I have gone pro per.

 

{SOME USEFUL HEALTH CARE TIPS FOR BOOMERS}

 

It isn’t for sympathy that I mention my health, it is an explanation for being willing to part with this Eden. Just facing facts. I love the work to balance the creative/mental activity of writing. The chassis just isn’t up for it. When I am fatigued, I rest. And now nearly two years later, the regimen has met with some success. Most recently, I have discovered that cardio workouts, walk/running help immensely. An ex marathon runner who had given over entirely to working outside rather than work outs, I probably should have realized this sooner. Cardios do it. The lower legs and feet don’t swell as rapidly (a result of the leg injuries).

 

I have also discovered that I can mentally control my blood pressure. The exercise is to visualize that bar on internet maps for zooming in and out. Mentally clicking on the minus sign combined with relaxed breathing and relaxing the abdominals produces a twenty point drop in blood pressure in minutes. It isn’t sympathy I wish to cultivate. I wish my life even now to be an inspiration. Rocky coming off the canvas bloodied but not defeated. Uh, uh, no. I have read about what depression is. This isn’t it. Yeah I am tired a lot, but at 64 I still manage to do the work of two 32-yr-olds. And I laugh too frequently to be depressed.

 

Laughing at adversity: As in the fact that with almost a million dollars in equity I have to budget for batteries for my blood pressure cuff.  Or that the “W” key isn’t working all the time on this keyboard right now. Or that a rat devoured the electric lines to my car’s alternator, but fixed now and got the rat (all rats take heed). And one other thing: I asked the question at the beginning of this Blog about what was wrong with the picture.  Never claimed to be pretty, but two mild skin cancers are gradually healing on the forehead. There were three others in less visible locations that have come and gone that left no mark at all. But the ones on the forehead are going to leave a combined, single, faint scar. It bears a slight resemblance to…a lightning bolt.

 

 

And Now a word from our sponsor:

 

160 Acre View Estate, 3000 sq. ft. Home, 20 Acres of Grapes, 100 more plantable, licensed boutique winery with big league, full-blown, world class potential, the infrastructure is in place. Original asking was $2.8 Million, reduced to $1,588,000 -- Reasonable Offers Considered, Investor Inquiries Invited

 

Location: ˝ hour N. of Paso Robles, CA; a little over an hour south of Monterey/Carmel, a little over two to San Francisco. Health forces sale.

 

 

There is still hope for plan “A”: Do you know Tom Hanks? How about Bill Murray?

Three different visitors to the ranch have professional and/or personal associations with Tom Hanks. They have all said that a movie should be made of the book and that he should do it. They have all sent him copies of my book. Haven’t heard from Tom, though there are rumors he has set up a card table in his front yard and is selling books (I am sure these are unfounded). Still, if you know him, have your people call my people.

 

I had considered the book to be Cast Away meets Turner and Hooch but now with the court room drama, it would add a third dimension: Philidephia? Erin Brockovich?

 

Actually, I thought Bill Murray was brilliant in Lost in Translation and he was more apt, so if you know him, be glad to send on a book to forward.

 

Writer Will Write for Food:

Writer/Editor with broad background and experiences would like to discuss your project. Ransom Notes a specialty (just kidding, but serious about taking on projects as ghostwriter). PR or Advertising also of interest. Knowledge of computer graphics (I do my own labels and book covers).

 

Help to mortgage and foreclosure victims:

Write us here. Be glad to assist if we can. If anyone has a project that can benefit from the industry of the single mom in the Blog, we would be glad to forward on the information to her.

 

Seeking Attorney/Attorneys to assist in Civil Suit with Wells Fargo. Will pay on sale of home                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Currently the wealth is spread around several consultants. More help is welcome. Knowledge of California Real Estate and lending laws, Calif. Civil.

 

[Note: readers can send comments via the contact link. They can also buy books and wine…just a thought. I make a wine that goes well with yams.]

 

And finally, a prayer for the victims in Japan, from the song Sukiyaki:

Ue o muite arukoo

Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni

 

I look up when I walk

So the tears won't fall

 

 

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol II Number 2

February 10, 2011

 

TRUTH II

(Continued from last month)

 

I left off on the last blog talking about slogans and the untruths they mask. First a little truth about the so-called MEDICAL CARE REFORM BILL. There are few industries in our society that are more in dire need of reforming.  Medical, Dental and Veterinary business in America border on fraud. Just because they wear white coats and have a wall full of diplomas certifying that they have completed instructions given by others wanting to perpetuate the deception of their legitimacy, doesn’t excuse the fact that they so often -- most often? -- fall very short of promoting better health. The bill (Law?) doesn’t reform medical care; it reforms how the bad medical care is paid for. It doesn’t reform medical care, it perpetuates bad medical care. It just changes how the perpetrators of bad medicine are paid. And the more bad medicine, the more they are paid. They are rewarded for the numbers of procedures they perform, not on the success of those procedures.

 

I heard recently that America is somewhere around 40th in the world on promoting longevity.  I hope we can improve that, not continue it. I will do a whole Blog on the subject. A biology major with a BS (yeah, I know), sometimes pre-med, a brief stint in charge of a university physiology teaching lab, and a medic/surgical scrub specialist in the Army are some of my qualifications to speak on this subject. I have witnessed some great, artistic medicine (medicine is art, not science) I have also been a victim of bad medical, dental and veterinary care (for my dogs). It doesn’t take any qualifications to see the truth in the fact that there are forty some other countries where people live longer.

 

There is one area of medicine in which the US might claim to excel: Trauma Care. I haven’t seen any comparative studies on it but advances in treatment of the broken and maimed come as a result of successful treatment of the broken and maimed. War produces great quantities of broken and maimed, and the US has been in some war almost non-stop for the last seventy-five years. War may be medicine’s most productive laboratory. There is a congresswoman in Arizona that has a chance to live because of it. This is a good thing. One benefit of war. This should not be undervalued: Godspeed, on your recovery.

 

Did anyone else notice, though, that the first charges filed against the shooter were attempted assassination of a member of congress and then killing those who were government employees. No mention was made about the tragic death of a nine-year-old little girl. It just sounded to me that government employee’s lives have been elevated above private citizens. Those governing have declared themselves a new elite class…American Royalty. 

 

When I was nine, I had a paper route. While I folded my papers and wrapped them with rubber bands I would read the front page and the sports section. I remember Khrushchev taking off his shoe at the UN and pounding the table, and VP Nixon telling the world that his wife wore cloth coats. I was a young devotee to current events and have been all my life.  At about this time I was also a frequent movie goer. One movie made a lasting impression based on George Orwell’s 1984. It is a futuristic movie (thirty years before 1984) about how government controlled everything in the lives of the citizens, to the point of fabricating history and the truth. The citizens just followed along blindly, accepting what they were fed. There was an enemy of the state whose picture they broadcast on big screen televisions (this was in the early days of T.V.).  The citizens were told --brainwashed -- that “Big Brother” (the coinage of the term) was protecting them.

Recent broadcasts of Bin Ladin and the establishment of homeland security are reminiscent. Eisenhower was president then. An excerpt from the US President’s retirement speech:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. “ 

Ike had a lot of military experience.  He also warned:

“Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

The citizens in the movie were neither alert nor knowledgeable. In researching this Blog, I came upon an interesting tidbit of information.  The CIA now owns the publication rights to Orwell’s 1984.  I guess they are concerned about being sued for infringement on intellectual property rights (plagiarism). A more recent version of the movie was made that was vastly different (I haven’t seen it) from the first. Such information leads me to doubt the veracity of claims that Wikileaks is jeopardizing our troops or national security.  And if it did, I hope our military leaders are astute enough to make the required adjustments. What makes anyone think that the other side didn’t already know first.  Maybe the other side is the source of the leaks. Such claims of damage to security have, however, served to deflect attention from the contents of the Wikileaks publications.  Such claims are analogous to what a dog does by kicking grass and dirt over their business. They do it to hide their business. I believe that truth about our government is welcome. The revelations are contributing to our alertness and knowledge. They are an antidote to brainwashing, a prescription for blankly accepting platitudes from public officials like “Weapons of Mass Destruction” or “Healthcare Reform.”

Truth

In the previous Blog I described an anthropological phenomenon, Critical Mass, observed in monkey populations. The writing of these two blogs has been a profound spiritual experience for the writer.  Topics and information are appearing serendipitously. At the time of writing the previous, I had been discussing with a friend the self-immolations that had occurred in Tunisia and then Egypt. I expressed an opinion then to my friend that it might be awhile before touring there would be advisable. What has happened in the weeks past borders on the surreal. Egypt has undergone a revolution and now Libya. Moammar Gadhafi is about to be deposed and is being accused of crimes against humanity. It is like the world has gone on stage to demonstrate YAM WASHING.

In the previous Blog, I came up with the analogy of truth telling being like driving on the right side of the road. I don’t know where that idea came from but it was celestially apt for this discussion. I said that I don’t make a practice of driving on the wrong side of the road, but then, now I recall a recent visit to Carmel, California where I encountered a driver coming at me on my side of the road. Before I could express my displeasure, I noticed that cars parked at the curb on my side of the road were all pointed in the wrong direction. Indeed I was the one going the wrong way. I had missed the one-way street sign when I turned onto that street. I braked to a dead stop, suffered the justified expressions of displeasures (far less vocal than I would have been) as drivers went around me, and when the cars had all passed and the road was clear, I made a U-turn into the correct direction, just as a motorcycle patrolman came into the intersection. I think my maneuver was completed before he saw me, so I escaped without incident. Correcting untruths can be a little more difficult. One element is consciousness. You have to be aware that truth is desirable and then subject statements to the question, “Is it true?” All statements, no matter what the source. In a recent report on NPR, the pro-Gadhafi troops were described as mercenaries because they were being paid. Is that true? Is the definition of a mercenary one who is paid to fight? Are our troops fighting without compensation? I don’t consider them mercenaries. Do you? Just an example of yam washing. The point is that like wrong-way driving, the telling of untruths and their acceptance can be turned around. And is turning…on a global scale. Critical Mass: Wash The Yams…TRUTH!

 

{As I was writing this it was announced that George W. Bush has cancelled his first trip to Europe since leaving office. The reason for canceling is that international human rights attorneys threatened to take legal action against him for sanctioning the use of torture and are seeking his arrest. Readers might find it interesting to Google Bush purchase of land in Paraguay, where they do not have an extradition treaty. My guess is that he doesn’t want to be cellmates with Gadhafi. There might be a Broadway hit in that scenario.

 

Also a federal judge in Florida has just declared the Health Care Reform Bill unconstitutional.

 

You think someone has been washing yams?}

 

[Note: readers can send comments via the contact link. They can also buy books and wine…just a thought. I make a wine that goes well with yams.]

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol II Number 1

January 28, 2011

 

TRUTH

 

"George Washington was better than me. He could not lie. I can lie, but choose not to."

Mark Twain

 

 

I have just finished reading The Kite Runner. Given my current circumstances, it probably wasn’t the best book to be reading now as it describes fatigue as a symptom of cancer and the story is about displaced persons and the hardships encountered. Earlier blogs explain the personal relevance.

As a writer, I particularly appreciated the author Khaled Hosseini’s keen observations of human strengths and weaknesses. There was one observation he made that especially struck a chord. The author describes the protagonist’s best friend as, “Always meaning everything he said, and believing that all others do too.” Implied was that the protagonist was not always truthful, and didn’t much care that he wasn’t.

 

That passage got me thinking, which is the real point of literature. My personal assessment: I always mean what I say but I am different from the kite runner. I know that most don’t hold to their word. I always hope they do, but experience has taught me otherwise. Still I hope, and only when the personal cost becomes too high do I abandon that hope.

 

Then I began to wonder why the protagonist embraced his stance (a popular one, I have observed). I find it puzzling. Isn’t truth like driving on the right side of the road? You just do it. In discussions with friends and associates, it was often suggested that people don’t tell the truth because it is easier. I have a problem with that suggestion. Truth isn’t difficult, you just do it. One difference in wrong-way driving is that it is hazardous to your health. There is a clear and present danger from it. Not so obvious are the hazards of lying.

 

Indeed, in one highly publicized example today, the hazards seem to be set for those telling the truth. I am referring to the Wikileaks publications and the arrest of its head Julian Assange. CNN is carrying a story today that he could get the death penalty.  For telling the truth.

 

A great smokescreen has been thrown over what he has really done. Statements that he has jeopardized our national security raise questions that I haven’t heard articulated.

1. How secure is our nation if he got such information in the first place?

2. What evidence is there that the bad guys didn’t already have the information?

3. What specifically was jeopardized?

 

Nor have I seen some of the benefits of those publications articulated.

1. Security of our nation has been enhanced. Hopefully information vital to this country is now better guarded.  If it isn’t, I hope it is publicized.

2. The husband is always the last to know. In this case, the American people. We know the truth…or more of it. One of the greatest truths is that war is mankind’s worst endeavor. Dig the deepest pit, and at the bottom you will find war. Put an outhouse over the pit, and still at the bottom is war. The truth is that sometimes war is justified. It is that truth that stopped me from signing a paper that could have prevented my being drafted forty years ago. But maybe knowing the truth about war will make people a little more cautious about waging one.  Gee maybe if everyone is a little more cautious there won’t be any wars at all and what would all the generals do then, poor things. Or all of the bomb makers?

 

What Wikileaks has exposed is that we are doing some dirty things in waging war. Truth. War is dirty. Truth. When you are in a war, the wagers of it do dirty things.  Both sides, or all three sides when you are waging two wars.  We are being dirty in two places.  But you know, that is how you win a war. This isn’t tag or flag football.  You don’t wave a hankie and call, “Tag, you’re it.” This is tag, you’re dead or maimed or mutilated.

 

World War II was finally won when we decided to fight as dirty as the enemy. For years they had been bombing cites -- London, half of England -- and we had held to our rule that we don’t bomb cities, don’t kill civilians …intentionally.  Then we fire-bomb Dresden, turned the whole place into an ash heap. Some of those ashes had been innocent civilians, guilty of only having taken up residence in Dresden.  Then of course, we used the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then we won the war.

 

Today the enemy is fighting dirty wars.  They capture civilians as well as military and lop off their heads on video.  “Fowl!!!” we cry.  Just like the British did in our revolutionary war.  They were playing by the rules of their day where soldiers marched in bright red uniforms in straight rows and columns. We hid behind trees and won the war fighting dirtier then the other side. One feature of trying to fight a “clean war” is that you will loose more of your troops in doing it. So the British found out.

 

I should admit here that I am not a military expert. I served two years of active duty as a draftee. Which is more than the White House occupants for the past 18 years have done. I knew before we went into Iraq that war is dirty and did not or do not now believe this is (these are) war(s) that are justified. The point I want to make is that it is a good thing that there is a greater awareness of the filth. So that when we do enter a war, those that we engage know we will do that. It might temper enthusiasm from the “evil doers” for doing evil. Also, maybe fewer will be seeking military actions without more forethought...waiting to fight a war they are willing to fight dirty for. Here’s a thought: publish a list of transgressions that would be met by military response. Dirty military response if need be. Like taking innocent Americans Hostage. Teddy Roosevelt did it in Tripoli, I wonder if our standing in the Middle East today might be different if Jimmy Carter had done the same.

 

3. I hope, too, that empty slogans will someday be identified for what they really are: Untruths.

 

In writing this blog, I did a little fact checking and found that about three percent of traffic deaths can be attributed to wrong-way drivers. There are no truth statistics that I could find but it does seem to me that lying is epidemic. Perhaps there aren’t many deaths you can attribute to them. Except maybe the one about weapons of mass destruction. A lot of people have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. On both sides. 

 

I wonder if anyone else is as repulsed by the statements of those in power (Congress) who voted for the invasion into Iraq and just dismiss their support as having been deceived. This includes our current Secretary of State Clinton who has a long track record of being deceived. Hopefully the exposition by Wikileaks will make us all less prone to deception and alert to untruth. Especially Mrs. Clinton, who is in this nation’s key office for international affairs (perhaps an unfortunate choice of words).

 

I was on a Google trip the other day. I wanted to use the Atomic bomb concept of critical mass in something else I was writing and wanted to be sure of the term. The search took me in a serendipitous direction to the anthropologic theory by that name. It seems that a study of an island population of monkeys revealed a fascinating phenomenon. There had been an interruption of their normal food supply and the scientists started supplying them yams. The monkeys liked the yams well enough, but they got covered with sand, and the monkeys didn’t like the sand. One of the monkeys started rinsing his off in a stream. Another monkey started copying him.  Soon a lot of monkeys were doing it.  And a funny thing: when 100 monkeys were washing their yams, monkeys on a different island started doing it spontaneously…no communication with the two islands.  The scientists theorize that when sociological phenomenon becomes accepted by a large part of the population (critical mass), there is a mechanism whereby it is transferred to the whole. Like accepting slogans as gospel. Just something in the air. Like accepting untruths. But I believe that Truth will out. It is a basic law of physics.

 

{I try to keep these blogs to three typed pages. So this will carry over to the next blog.  I will post it in about a week. Oh wait until you see what news tidbit just came across my desk. There is something in the air. Truth.}

[Note: readers can send comments via the contact link. They can also buy books and wine…just a thought. I make a wine that goes well with yams. Readership is picking up. If you like it, tell your friends. If you don’t like it, tell your enemies.]

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol I  Number 11

December 24, 2010

 

 

The A,B’s of Winemaking

 

 

First an apology for having been so long in adding to the Blog.  The graphic here is part of the explanation (excuse).  The Harvest Moon.  Harvest of the grapes. A busy time for a winery.  The grapes have never looked so good.  This year, the full moon coincided with the autumn solstice.  A rare happening and if the heavens have a role in determining subsequent events there has been no disappointment in the moments that have since passed.  I will get to those but for now a break to some things a little more light hearted, a photographic tutorial of the basics of winemaking.

 

Note that the “C” is missing from this Blog’s title. The reason is I don’t know everything there is about making wine. I may be the only winemaker (or wine reviewer) you will ever meet who admits he doesn’t know everything. Let alone everything about making wine. I have already stated that I don’t really make wine at all. I am reminded of the story of the genetic scientist who bragged to God that he had discovered how to make life. 

 

“Is that so?” an interested God replied.

 

“Yes,” the scientist boasted. “Give me a couple of shovels of dirt and I will make you life.”

 

“Uh, uh,” God responded. “Get your own dirt.”

 

I don’t make grapes and I don’t make yeast (the only ingredients you need). I only nurture them. The growing of the fruit and the selection of the clones, I believe, are the essential element in winemaking. So….

 

 

FIRST YOU TAKE A GRAPE

 

 

(I have similar recipes for making pea and leek soup)


 

Grapes are tested in the field for ripeness.  A rule of thumb is that you want fruit of about 24 degrees brix.  This will theoretically give you a wine of 12 percent alcohol.  A telescope like device called a refractometer measures sugar in the field.  Juice from several bunches of grapes needs to be tested.

 

It helps immensely if you have additional pickers.  Shown are two of the greatest guys I know: Beto (right) and his younger brother, Aaron. They have been working for me on their days off or when they can’t find other work with the trust that I will pay them upon sale of the ranch or when I obtain financing.  They are hard working, work with their heads and their hearts, and are the greatest asset this vineyard has. While I have done everything in my arsenal, I still haven’t succeeded in either sale or refinancing.  Aaron and his wife, Nellie, are expecting their first child any day.  On this day before Christmas, I have opted to extend a small portion of what I owe them at the expense of my mortgage payment. They aren’t my employees, they are coworkers and friends. The compensation that I extend, and will extend, does not represent my gratitude.

I am as disgusted as anyone with the failed policies of our government and their guarding of our borders, these guys are here legally, not only assets to my life, they are assets to this country.

 

Then You Smash It

 

 

The crusher-destemmer is an Italian design.  Grapes and stems from the field are dumped into the hopper and then feed into two rollers that crush and destem.  The stems are pushed out to the trash bucket and the crushed grapes and juice fall into the bin below.  Yeast naturally occurs on the skins of grapes in the field.  I have a wonderful, aggressive naturally occurring flora and elect to not add commercially prepared yeast.  I want to express the land.  I don’t fertilize, use any pesticides or herbicides, don’t even add sulfites during fermentation.

 

And You Wash Buckets and Fermentation Tanks

 

 

The buckets and primary fermentation vessels are food-grade plastic or stainless steel.  I like a Sodium Percarbonate solution (oxiclean) for cleaning and sanitizing. The fermentation vessels are sanitized with a Potassium Metabisulfite solution.

 

When making red wine, you pour the crushed grapes and juice into the primary fermentor, skins and all (a few stems).  The color of red wine is derived from the color of the skin. During the week to two-week fermentation, the cap forms on top, floating grapes and skins. Several times a day, the cap has to be punched down so that the color and tannins can dissolve in the liquid.

 

 

Red Fermentation

 

 

 

Fermentation can be almost violent.  It sounds like a giant bowl of Rice Crispies.  The tank is warm to the touch.  The yeast converts the sugar to alcohol.  A hydrometer is used to measure sugar.  When it gets near zero, it is time to press and send to secondary fermentation.

 

And You Wash Buckets and Fermentation Tanks

 

 

The Press is Italian Design Dating to the Romans

 

The “must” is scooped out of the primary fermenter and dumped into the basket of the press.  The modern press has a bladder in the center that is inflated when the press is full and lid in place.  The juice that runs out without pressing is called free run. The pressed must offers more tannins and gives wine its character.  Free run is smoother and some wines are made exclusively from it.  Not mine.

 

White wines are pressed after coming out of the crusher. You don’t want the skin color, although one winery I respect does ferment their whites like their reds.  The result is a little more amber than clear. White Zin lovers might enjoy the fact that their wine is made from the same grapes as red Zin, it is just pressed after crushing to avoid color extraction. I don’t make white Zin.

 

Secondary fermentation can take months or years. The wine is “racked” several times.  “Racking” is just pumping off the wine from the “Lees” (yeast, seeds, solids left from pressing).  Some wineries will filter.  I haven’t yet, but reserve the right. The result of filtering or “fining” (using clearing agents) is less sediment. This is where personal preference comes in.  My wines will often have a little sediment in the bottle and may need decanting. I use the analogy of coffee. I like espresso coffee with its full rich flavor and make my wines according to that preference. I just think that filter and fining takes away from the wine and its ability to enhance and be enhanced by food. I do use a filter in my daily coffee, however.

 

I do like the effect of oak on my reds but not my whites.  Most of my reds do spend part of their life in oak barrels.

 

The Finished Wine is then bottled…oh and consumed.

 

That’s it.  Except….

 

 

You Wash Buckets and Fermentation Tanks

 

 

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol I  Number 10

July 31, 2010

 

A short Happy(?) History of Banking in America

PART 4

 

 

This is the fourth of a four-part segment about a particular wrath encountered during and after the publication of WRATH. Little did I know then. You may want to scroll down and start with PART 1

 

The words of that second reverse loan officer still give me chills. I did query her on my particular situation and all of her replies were positive. I could have gotten the Jumbo Reverse.

 

The loan officer that turned me down for a reverse mortgage had now left Wee Fleesco. He was in private practice doing reverse mortgage brokering. I approached him openly with a phone call and office visit. I presented a two-fold agenda :(1) I wanted to find out if there was anyone with a jumbo reverse and (2)get his explanation for turning me away in light of what the other Wees Fleesco agent had told me.

 

Fortunately for me, I was out in the field when he returned my call as all was recorded on my answering machine: There were no real jumbo reverses now available, and Wees Fleesco “STOPPED MAKING JUMBO REVERSE MORTGAGES IN FEBRURARY OF ‘08” He went so far as to state that the other loan officer was mistaken. All recorded as evidence on my answering machine (and now copied on to a tape recorder). I have subsequently gone to the county recorder’s office and pulled recordings of Wee Fleesco Jumbo Reverse loans in August of 08 and even one in September. I am dumbfounded. Particularly in view of what has happened this last year.

 

By late Spring of 09, I saw the situation as potentially serious but was hell-bent to not be defeated by it. In my third blog, I talk about taking on traits of loved ones who die. I would like to think that I have my mother’s TRUE GRIT. There are history books that cite my ancestors preceding William Penn to what is now Pennsylvania. I would like to think that when I leave this planet there is more than if I hadn’t been here. And that it’s better.

 

But I just get so tired. The cure for exhaustion is not exhaustive work. As I would be educated one evening as I tried to milk the last of daylight to mow the dog run. It isn’t lawn, it is native grasses and weeds that dry up by summer. But in the Spring, the foxtails come out and if I don’t keep them down, they have a nasty way of finding their ways into canine nostrils and ears.

 

I had already put in a full day, and was typically exhausted. I have a riding lawn mower, so the activity isn’t so strenuous. If the battery is charged. But on this evening, there was no response to the turn of the ignition key. I proceeded to push the “tractor” to the front of the garage. Not a small feat as it is a 35 horse -- one of the biggest Sears sells. As I struggled on the dirt driveway, my feet slipped. The aggressive treads of the tractor dug into my shins. Fortunately I was wearing long pants. It hurt a little but my adrenalin was up, angry at my own clumsiness. That helped move the tractor, too. It wasn’t until I climbed into the seat that I noticed the damage. My socks were full of blood.

 

In the interest of expediency as it was getting dark, I flushed my shins with peroxide. The skin was gone from both in wounds the size of a softball. I then completed my mowing, in a state of shock. That was the moment that I realized then that I was going to have to sell my ranch.

 

That wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I was on a direct path of severe injury if not death. It took three months for those legs to heal. In that time, I wrote to the president of Wee Fleececo. There was a big drive on renegotiating loans for those companies that had received TARP funding. I hoped and initially thought that I would get some help. It took over a month for anyone to call back. The message I got on my answering machine was from “THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT (of Wee Fleesco).” I was told somebody was being assigned to assist. From the time I sent the letter to the time I talked to my “assignee” nearly two months went by. For the first time in my memory, I missed a payment on a credit card, then another. Then my mortgage payments. I had been trying to sell the Porsche at that time and four different buyers who had promised to appear with cash, cancelled out on the night before we were to transact.

 

The sum of the assistance from the “OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT” was phone calls not returned, phone appointments not made and finally an explanation of the current reverse mortgage program (which was half of the one offered in ’08) which I could have gleaned off of the internet in 15 seconds. Actually I had found it on the internet, and the information the “OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT” provided was slightly inaccurate. In truth, they didn’t give a damn about negotiating. I hadn’t taken out loans beyond the value of the property. They would have no trouble selling my ranch for their money. Real worth, and 19 years of my hard work wasn’t their concern. They would get their money.

 

There was one kernel of golden information. In my discussions with the “OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT’S REVERSE MORTGAGE EXPERT,” I asked when they stopped making Jumbo Reverses. He wasn’t sure of the exact date but his memory said “Late June or Early July.” I asked him if there could have been a sixty day closing. He answered in the affirmative. I could have filled out the paper work in late June, and signed on my birthday.

 

My credit rating had gone to hell in the meantime. I was having a hard time selling anything. I was late with my payments, but eventually caught up with the car and tractor sales. The asking price of the ranch was dropped. Then dropped again. It went from $2.8 million to under two. I was priced below replacement by nearly $500,000. And still no buyers. My blood pressure medication was doubled and even at that, I have days when it spikes to 200 over 120. If I can get a siesta, I can squeeze out two four-hour work days. I also applied for social security at an earlier date than I had wished.

 

As I sit at the computer, responding to potential buyers, I have to wonder what happened to Truth in Lending, or Equal Opportunity Lending. When you are turned down for no good reason isn’t that discrimination? There are laws against that in mortgage lending. Bernie Maduff went to jail because he lied to his clients. Where’s the difference? I have been a customer of Wee Fleececo for forty years. As far as I know, I have always told the truth. Am I not entitled the same from them? At present, I can’t get a loan because I don’t have proof of income. When I sell my ranch, even at the below value price, I will pay taxes on a Million Dollars. Some proof of income.

 

Money is so tight, I don’t have funds for any but the bare essentials. In this vein, I believe the experience is a spiritual one. I am experiencing what it is like to be poor. The difference is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel: HOPE. I will get out of this. There are a lot of people out there in my same situation but they don’t have an end to the tunnel. I can only imagine how that must be. Three months ago the initial filing for a suit against Wee Fleesco was made. This month, I will confront them in court. I may be representing myself in this. Should I prevail, some portion of the proceeds will go to assist someone else victimized by Wee Fleececo. I know it will be a drop in the bucket. But better than no drop at all.

 

In my blog of July 4th, I talk about forgiveness. It may seem that I am going against that sentiment in this case. But I see this as self defense not as vengeance. After forty years of being a good and honest customer, they have not performed in kind. They have made a lot of money from my finance and interest charges. And now they wipe out the work of 20 years of my life? I gave them the opportunity to correct their mistake. They ignored it. I am asking $3 Million in damages.

 

In that blog on forgiveness, I acknowledge the extra weight one carries with resentment. Being conscious of this is helpful. I have focused on the sweetness of the life here. I am doing what I can. And when I get tired, I rest. The grapes have never looked so good. I just topped up the oak barrels after a prolonged dereliction of this task. I had feared the worst, but not everything defaults to the worst. The wine is wonderful. Ready to be racked (another fire to put out) and bottled. There is going to be some great wine come out of here. I am also spending more time with the dogs, including them on walks. I sold my ATV so I am walking more. The chocolate, the father of the other, has a lipoma that has worried me. I don’t have money for a vet right now. He doesn’t seem to be in any pain, has a good appetite and is playful. I probably wouldn’t do anything surgically anyway (subject of future blogs: medicine). In fact I do think that it might be in remission. What great gifts dogs are. I thank them every night. Show them every day. And above all, I do eat well. Somehow I am managing to bake my own bread, cup cakes and cookies. And of course, I have some pretty fine wine to go with them. I don’t think of this as a failure. I didn’t strike out, I was hit by a pitch. Intentionally. Sometimes pitchers that do that get thrown out and fined. I am doing my best. You can bank on it.

 

Text Box: This is not an emperor-has-no-clothes insert, rather it is an account of a happy event that came about as I am editing this. OK it starts with a negative, but only to serve to illustrate how a good event can be the result of the opposite. Almost a year ago, I submitted the events that appear in the previous blogs of this series to an attorney I have used from time to time. He said that it would be a tough case but I had a complaint and he would take it on, to be paid out of the proceeds of the sale of the ranch.  Last March, we filed the complaint, but about three weeks before the first court appearance, he bailed on me. I hadn’t sold the ranch, not without trying (three different brokers, I have done better on my own bringing in buyers, but still unsold).  Either not remembering that it was his original offering or changing his mind, he wanted to be paid in advance.

This sent me scurrying for a new attorney. I wasn’t able to get one before the court date, so appeared alone. The judge was sympathetic and granted an extension. I continued my search, talking to some very helpful and compassionate attorneys who did not practice this kind of law: a combination of personal injury and real estate law.

I did locate one who, after several emails and phone conversations, invited me to meet and present my evidence. She is energetic and life enthusiastic. Also knowledgeable and bright. She agreed to help me get ready for my first court date. Move over Myra Breckinridge. I’m going to fight this one out. Oh, and one more important detail: the attorney hadn’t posted a photo in the directory. If she had, I would have contacted her first. There is a God.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol I  Number 9

July 24, 2010

 

A short Happy(?) History of Banking in America

PART 3

 

This is the third of a four-part segment about a particular wrath encountered during and after the publication of WRATH. Little did I know then. You may want to scroll down and start with PART 1

 

 

The jumbo reverse now doubly unavailable, I proceeded to get the line of credit with a different institution. It was a low interest rate, but not as good as a payment-free reverse. I was about 50% loan to equity for five acres (the appraisal the banks use), about 25%, if you counted all the land. I didn’t like borrowing, but thought I was well in the confines of prudence. And if worse came to worse, I could always apply for an additional loan.

 

It was a wonderfully crazy time; divided between the vines and the manuscript being readied for the printer. I was really hitting Dan Poynter’s website hard. Dan is a small press publisher that offers all kinds of publications to assist with book production, promotion and sales. If you are interested in publishing, you will want to know about his site, http://www.parapublishing.com/sites/para/ .

 

I was dealing with the back cover design. I hadn’t sought any endorsements. I had a couple of great ones for WALDO that had come during the course of writing. My first request went out to Tom Seaver, the Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher. I like to include baseball in my books. Waldo begins with the time I met Joe DiMaggio, and how he had stood to shake my hand. The prologue in WRATH tells how I made a fool of myself as a college freshman when I went up against then senior pitcher, Seaver. Suffice to say, Mr. Seaver and I were on different orbits and probably still are. I doubted that he would remember the incident. And considering all of the baseball batters he faced, he may well have forgotten our confrontation. Still, he wrote back generously with the quote I will cherish for life, as a writer, as a baseball fan, as someone who is always grateful for kindness bestowed.

 

And then I got the quote from Margrit (Mrs. Robert) Mondavi. Good Gravy, I am still humbled by the generosity. That all those people took their time to respond, and then to do so with such generosity. The book was off to a great start. And though the sales are mainly local and consistent, it continues to live up to its promise. I hope to be able to announce soon a movie deal. Then in August I got a call from BOOKLIST, probably the foremost publication of book reviews. WRATH  had been selected for review. I am still in awe and humbled. Of course they could have panned the book. There was no guarantee that the review was going to be positive, but it was. It was glorious.

 

In August I also had T.V. and bookstore appearances, and my first wine festival. Wine started three years earlier was showing promise. But I hadn’t even bottled any. In fact I was up late the night before drawing a few cases from stainless tanks. I knew that the wine wouldn’t be shown in its best light, but I hoped it would kindle a few advocates. And I did get some positive feedback. I did sell a few books (alcohol sales were banned at the fest). But sales weren’t forthcoming the next week. As I was waiting for the phone to ring off the hook with orders, I was browsing through the program from the wine fest and noticed that they had put the wrong number for my winery. So, four cases of wine given away, a day and a half spent and no new orders. But I did get hit on by several comely damsels, so we could call it even.

 

I have described my life here on the ranch as a never ending series of firefights. As I lived in the little trailer without electricity, the fire was to get the roof on the house. Then to keep up with the building and get out of that trailer. When I got the final inspection on the house, there was a lot of finish work, mainly painting walls, and having carpet installed. But then I started planting wine grapes, and their care became a priority and the progress on finishing the house was negligible. I had a kitchen that had two sinks and was virtually finished, and the choice of four bathrooms in various stages of completion, and a bedroom/office/war room that was in unfinished, but taped dry wall. There is a primitive coziness to my home. And if I don’t keep after them, it is shared by the persistent Daddy-long legs, who are innocuous save for the webs they weave in my beamed ceilings.

 

I am of that school that believes you should try to do more than you possible can so that you do as much as is possible.  I felt I was pretty close to being there. Doing the dishes is luxury time. I say that I leave the vacuum out just so people know I have one. I have a sign on my car that reads, “I know my car is dirty. I grow wine grapes and just like to take a little of the vineyard everywhere I go.”  I have been living like that for eighteen years and it was starting to catch up to me. I went to the doctor because of the perennial fatigue. After a battery of tests he diagnosed that I was exhausted. I thought that was what my complaint had been before paying for the tests and office visits. But he did prescribe some blood pressure medication. Just to make me feel better.

 

I was becoming increasingly aware of the drain on my financial reserves. It isn’t easy starting any new business, let alone two. I didn’t know how much the events in the economy influenced it. I had no basis of reference. I had always been gainfully employed with a salary during past recessions. What hilariously poor timing. I bring out my new book and first wine as the world’s economy goes into the toilet. I just hoped someone wouldn’t get the idea I had caused it and blame me for it.

 

My book was selling everywhere I placed it. Placing it wasn’t as easy as it will be when the movie is announced. The wine is slowly gaining a following, which is how I understand Boutique Wineries start out. I tried to emphasize wine sales because there was more profit in it. And when the line of credit ran out, I tried to sell off some superfluous assets, like a ’53 MGTD that I had started to restore, and then the ’74 Porsche Targa that I had restored. I managed to keep up with my mortgage payments. But was doing so at the expense of building my business.

 

I realized that I was going to need a shot of capital. But by early ’09, it wasn’t so easy to find financing. I did enquire about reverse mortgages. I wasn’t able to find any on line, so I called a different branch of Wee Fleesco than I had the previous year. The loan officer was bright, affirmative, well informed. I told her of my situation. “Gee, it’s too bad you didn’t call last year,” she said. “We had a Jumbo Reverse that ended last August that would have been exactly what you are looking for.”

(To be continued)

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol I  Number 8

July 17, 2010

 

A short Happy(?) History of Banking in America

PART 2

 

 

This is the second of a four-part segment about a particular wrath encountered during and after the publication of WRATH. Little did I know then. You may want to scroll down and start with PART 1

 

 

A year after taking out the mortgage with Wee Fleececo, Lou, the mortgage manager (not his real name), called to offer an even sweeter deal. The interest rate was more attractive and it would not reset for an additional year. My mother had recently died and I was appointed executor of an estate that made it possible to pay down the loan or add a solar generator that would make my meter run backwards. I chose the investment in the ranch and the new mortgage for the same amount.

 

Two dry years later, water was becoming a concern. The small domestic well was still putting out but when the pump went out, it prompted consideration of drilling a second well. The county was spiraling permit fees and there was even talk of metering private wells. I bit the bullet, though it would put my liquidity low.  I wanted a 35 gallon a minute well and got a tad better. A week later, we got a rare late summer rain. It wasn’t so heavy to damage the grapes that were nearly ripe, just enough to tamp down the dusty roads and let me know the gods were laughing. I wasn’t aware of it then, but they were just streaming in, lining ringside with a distinguished litany of deities.

 

2007 was a wonderful year. I was rewriting THE WRATH, which is the most fun part of my most cherished activity. Getting the first draft of anything down borders on hard work. But refining it is joyous. The wine in my hobby winery was also coming into its own. But I was disturbed by world events, particularly the invasion in Iraq. The real estate market was also showing signs of bursting a bubble. I did some test marketing of my ranch/winery, based on realistic comps, priced at $3.4 Million and got mild response and no offers. I didn’t want to sell it but was enough of a market realist to know that as JWB was boasting that home ownership was at an all time high, everyone who had the slightest desire to own a house probably had one. But I had no idea where I would live if I sold. I had traveled around the world and at the time I bought this property, was pretty sure that I wanted to live on the left coast of America. I then did exhaustive studies and made personal trips from the Mexican to the Canadian borders. Now here nearly twenty years, I can attest that it is truly a wonderful place to live. I had done my research well.

 

But I was really fed up with American politics, the lies, and deceit (see July 4 Blog). We were was not justifying the sacrifices I refer to in my Memorial Day Blog of May 31. The emperors have no clothes, and I fear the emperors are us.

 

Through some complicated circumstances, I had enough frequent flyer miles with British Air (that I got through ATT long distance miles in the ‘90’s) to go to New Zealand. And they were about to expire. It was winter and the vines were in dormancy. And by getting up really early, I could have the book in good enough condition to send off to my editors/proof readers before I left. I was pretty exhausted from the recently completed harvest, but writing requires a different kind of energy.  Long story short, I booked a flight to Auckland with my frequent flyer miles and on the way to the airport, sent off my manuscript to Katy Meigs (note: she is a real pro. If you need any editing. She lives in Ojai and her email is katymeigs@sbcglobal.net .)

 

What a luxury it was to sit in the terminal restaurant at LAX. I marvel at it now. I was exhausted. I had only taken two vacations in the nearly two decades of living here. The last one was to NYC to fly in the face of the idiot who proclaimed Americans were afraid to fly. And now some seven years later, I am contemplating leaving my country permanently. Something I didn’t even consider during Viet Nam, in fact I came home for that one …from Africa (perhaps a reason for the contemplation now).

 

New Zealand was wonderful. Most notably the people. There was a work ethic and just an open attitude: they walk with a stride. I think in America, we have started to trudge. It reminded me how America was in the ‘50’s. It was a working vacation. I was researching real estate. In the week that I was there, I covered most of the length of the North Island. It was crowned by an upgrade to business class on my return trip. It is a fourteen hour flight, and imposed relaxation in a chair that makes you never want to leave. As I sat in bliss, drifting in and out of sleep, I articulated a profound conclusion: “New Zealand is terrific, but it’s just too far from San Francisco.”

 

I am an American.

 

I needed to rest from that vacation, but there was little time for it. The book was back from the Editors, the vines needed pruning, and I was going to have to start bottling some wine. Oh, and I saw signs in the economy that maybe I ought to tie down another source of funds. I called Lou at Wee Fleesco and asked about reverse mortgages. He then put me on to the reverse mortgage specialist in that office. I was going to be sixty-two in August, eligible for the program as I understood it. “We have a jumbo reverse mortgage but it ends in August,” he informed me. (For those not familiar with reverse mortgages, they are loans made to senior citizens, where only age and equity are the basis of qualifications. Payments are deducted from the equity. The borrower is payment free, only his equity is reduced.)

 

I about leapt out of my seat. I knew I had the equity from past appraisals. I could pay off all my loans and have a tidy sum left over, with no future mortgage payments.  I had no other debt. Social Security could take care of the rest.  “I will be 62 in August,” I exclaimed. “Can we fill out all of the paperwork and on my 62nd birthday come in and sign the documents?”

 

There was a brief pause. Maybe more than brief, “Nooooo. We caaaan’t do thaaaat.” I was a little taken back. I kinda wondered why they couldn’t. And was also surprised by what seemed a surly attitude.  I had either asked him a stupid question or made some transgression. But that was that. They couldn’t do that. He was the reverse mortgage specialist and should know. He said they couldn’t do it. End of story.

 

Well not exactly end of story. I went to other institutions looking for the program like Wee Fleececo’s and couldn’t find one.  I was given an offer for a generous line of credit through a different institution. It was an attractive package but before accepting it, I went back to the reverse mortgage officer at Wee Fleececo hopefully to motivate him to try to do what he thought couldn’t be done, or at least find out why it couldn’t be done. “Oh that program ends in March,” he told me. “I thought you said August,” I replied. “No, uhhuh. March.”  And that was end of story. Or so I thought.

 

(to be continued)

 

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol I  Number 7

July 10, 2010

 

A short Happy(?) History of Banking in America

Part 1

 

 

 

This is the first of a four-part segment about a particular wrath encountered during and after the publication of WRATH. Little did I know then.

 

I got my first credit card in 1970. It was the Year of the Dog, which is also my birth sign. Reliability is one of the key characteristics that are ascribed. I do believe it is apt and over the next forty years do not believe I missed a single payment. Though I would test the limits in that early year. I was 23 and had very little banking experience. I had been recently introduced to the stock market through my stepfather. I had even less qualifications as a stock trader than I did as a credit card holder, but as it would turn out, the two would become intertwined.

                         

I had purchased two hundred shares of a two-dollar silver stock that my step dad, a sage investor, had put me on to. After watching the quotes in the newspaper (Los Angles had a financial TV station but my stock was too small to be featured. An interesting aside, two of the commentators on that station had come from local TV. One had been the host of a kiddie show as Sheriff John, and the other was host of a weekly Polka parade. Chucko the Clown was left out, though I think I have seen him recently on CNBC.)

 

As an aspiring stock market tyro, I observed that particular stock would often bounce back and forth seventy-five cents in just a few days. As it did this several times over the weeks, I finally decided to take the plunge and bought two hundred shares. In those days the commissions were a lot higher than they are now (anyone remember the $29.95 revolutionary commission first offered by Charles Schwab?) My plan was to catch that seventy-five cent move, I would net something like $50 after commissions. My plan was to buy it, sell it before the week’s settlement date of the purchase, and rake in the profits.  I was prepared for as much as a fifty-dollar loss and stood ready to pay the difference if the trade went against me. What I didn’t understand was that there was a week’s settlement date on sales, also. As I had interpreted the procedure, the settlement on purchase was to allow time to bring in the funds. I had thought since the broker had the funds, the closing position would be immediate. In fact, the settlement on the sale of the stock was the same five business days as the purchase, and would be coming several days after settlement on the purchase.

 

When the broker requested the payment, I was panic stricken. My step father, who was not a trader, declined to come to my rescue. I got myself into this mess, now it was up to me to get out of it. He was a great dad. As the trade had gone my way, I was even more anxious to reap the profits. I went to the bank with the hope I could get a short term loan of some kind.

 

Banks were different in those days. And so were bankers. The fatherly manager listened with amusement about my dilemma. He explained that bank loans required some sort of collateral. As a specialist-5 in the Army, I had job security, though my wife’s income was probably more influential.  In those days, I think a spec-5 took home a little over a hundred dollars a month. While we didn’t have any tangible assets to qualify as collateral, a relative newcomer to the financial scene could offer the solution. It was a MasterCard. Long story short, the margin call at my brokerage was satisfied by taking a cash advance on my new credit card. Although with the finance charges on my cash advance, my profits were greatly diminished.  Just enough to take my new wife out for a spaghetti dinner.

 

I used the credit card to pay for it. My first charge. And when I got home, I realized that I had left the card at the restaurant. I was there promptly the next day at noon to retrieve it after a night of little sleep.

 

Since that first credit card (and brokerage dealings), my education with finances has progressed through the last four decades. I bought my first house with the GI Bill, and then with the profit from that house, bought a larger one, but not before I added on a master bedroom and bath, doing all the work myself. I also added on a family room and office to that new house. During all of these years, I maintained an account with that bank. It went through a series of name changes and acquisitions until Wee Fleececo bought it. During that time, I do not believe I ever missed a payment of any kind: credit card or mortgage. I have held my credit rating as a sign of my word, and assumed the same integrity from those I dealt with. I was born in the year of the dog.

 

In 1991, I purchased the land that I now live on. The book WALDO chronicles the exploits as I lived in a little camp trailer without electricity for five years as I built the house. With final building inspection, I started planting wine grapes.  By the year 2003, I had built up a sizable equity.  It was made more sizeable by the real estate boom. Adjacent land was going for ten times what I had paid for mine.  I had lived hand to mouth as I developed the ranch. It was a labor of love, to be sure. I have said that I would rather plant a row of grapes than play a round of golf. I do love the work. But I was getting awful tired of worrying about money.

 

If only I could even get a small loan. But I knew that what I didn’t have was proof of income. I had been building this ranch for twelve years. If I sold it, then I would have proof of income and every loan broker in the universe would lend me money. I didn’t want to sell here, though.

 

While in the branch office of Wee Fleesco, I happened to articulate these thoughts to the assistant manager, who has been a most reliable contact when dealing with nearly all bank questions. She is also cute as hell (and respectfully, a happily married mother of three), so directing all questions to her is usually a pleasant experience. 

 

She listened for a moment, then asked me to follow her to their real estate office next door. The story was briefly repeated to the manager of the real estate lending arm. One of the things he said was rather strange: it was that assistant manager had “vouched” for me. I felt flattered, but also like I had passed some sort of screening into a secret society. I was given an appointment time, and dismissed.

 

Several days later, armed with comp sales, and financial statements, I appeared for my appointment. I was given a form to fill out, and did so expediently, asking for clarification on a couple of points. I wanted to be sure that there weren’t any misunderstandings like the one involving settlement dates for stocks sold.

 

I was prepared to make my case for proving income when the loan officer told me it wouldn’t be necessary. My word was good enough. Just as long as the appraisal would back up the loan. I believe I was told that the appraisal would have to come in at $500,000. It would be based on just the house and five acres. The loan was a residential loan, not an agricultural or ranch loan. The house on bare five acres (the ranch is 160 acres) was appraised at a million dollars.

 

I was proud that my efforts and last twelve years had born fruit. It was gratifying. But my thoughts went back to the loan officer’s statement that my word was good enough. I was flattered but also disturbed. I do regard my word as being better than any contract. But there was no way for him to know that. Had the introduction from the adorable manager from the banking side been the key? I didn’t know.

 

I voiced my appreciation but also my apprehension: “You know, Lou, I am telling you the truth, but there are a lot of people out there who won’t be. This is going to cause a lot of problems.”

 

(to be continued)

 

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol I  Number 6

July 4, 2010

 

WAR…What’s it good for???

 

 

The holiday spirit is a little different than a few weeks ago on Memorial Day. It is more festive, fireworks and light shows. A celebration of the rockets red glares and bombs bursting in air. This particular celebration is for the end of the war that gave this nation its independence. Most wars have a good purpose attached to them by the winners. History is those lies we all agree upon. You hear about taxation without representation as one of the war cries. Kinda think that we have that now.

 

The American Civil War wasn’t to free the slaves (it was being done on a wholesale basis before the first shots were fired); the civil war was about establishing Federal power supremacy over individual States rights. And the good people of Germany were trying to take out that runt with the bad hair and mustache. Truth!!! Like, “Mr. Gorbechev, tear down that wall.” Truth won the cold war without firing a shot. One truth, those wars that were supposed to have ended all wars, didn’t work.

 

I have done a lot of thinking about war, even did a little research. One common denominator and the answer to the rock-n-roll song’s question: “IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID.” War motivates, has us all working like little ants in that cause. Alexander the Great found that out. All conquers know it. Hitler took a terribly depressed economy and made it one of the great world powers. WWII certainly got us out of the depression.

 

Several events occurred during the week that seem relevant. Again, the sources were interviews on Public Radio. There were two, in fact, on two very different subjects.

 

One was the reporter who had interviewed Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela. I am not one of his fans. I think he is a little man with a big mouth. But I am also aware that what I know of him comes from the American press. To digress a moment, I would like to mention a phenomenon I have observed that I call the “Home Team Thing.” I became aware of it while visiting Ohio State University and the state of Indiana. I was astounded by the support Woody Hayes and Bobby Knight had in their own states. To me they were diabolic archetypes. But on their home turf, they were revered. I was then given support for the locals’ opinions with stories of how they had done extraordinary community service or saved individuals from lives of crime. I try to remember this when forming negative opinions of anyone.

 

Going back to the Hugo Chavez interview, which was more generous than most, Chavez is alleged to have been in conversation with GW Bush concerning economic recovery where GW supposedly made the statement that WAR was the best medicine for a slogging economy. The reporter then went on to cite the wars started by Republican presidents, leaving out Korea and Viet Nam. PEOPLE!!! THERE SHOULD BE NO HOME TEAM THING WHEN IT COMES TO OUR COUNTRY. Such divisiveness detracts from the real issue. We are engaged in war to sell more toasters. I don’t want a child of mine killed for that reason. And I don’t want one of yours killed for that reason either.

 

The question then comes to mind, “Is there an alternative to the war galvanizer?” One was the internet boom. Another might be global warming. I acknowledge that there is a common denominator here: Al Gore. I am not a believer in global warming, but do support the cleaning up of our act that is the result. If he is consciously seeking war alternatives to economic stimulus, then he deserves his awards. He is just so boring. Another alternative might be home ownership, but that will take some creativity now with the mess the banks have made out of what is traditionally the best single investment.

 

I mentioned that there were two radio broadcasts that caught my ear. The other was also from a PBS interview with a Holocaust survivor who was speaking on forgiveness. Boy that’s a tough subject. Resentment is such a malignant intruder. I have a lot of it and some very justified. But even the justifiable ones weigh disproportionately -- intrude. I am sorry I didn’t get the survivor’s name, but he had made that observation and by not forgiving, was spending more and more of himself as a result. By forgiving, he wasn’t saying that the Holocaust was alright, he was just saying he wasn’t going to pay any more for it. To those who create the resentment, you can just hope that they will get better. Not do it again. Maybe even atone for having done it. Whatever, it isn’t my job to oversee; I’ve got other activities with which I would rather be involved.

 

An interesting observation that goes along with this release is that often justice comes to those that create the resentment. Hitler didn’t live happily ever after. One who transgressed against me died soon after of a heart attack, another had a severe stroke. One of my favorite citations comes out of my military service days. Those days in the army were not my favorite. I say that I was a prisoner of war: I was drafted. I do take heart in the observation that Fort Ord, where I spent twelve weeks in basic training, confined to quarters as were all draftees (because so many were deserting), with weekly PX privileges (if we were good), has been decommission. It is no longer there as a military installation. But I am. I drive by frequently on my way to Carmel and Monterey. The warehouses where we lined up for days getting our duffle bags filled with army issue are part of a ghost town. The 100-year-old Douglas fir floors in my home came out of the barracks there. Great way to relieve resentment…lay floors.

 

I have taken the path of resentment release successfully with a number of businesses and individuals. It occurs to me that the forgiver might have one more responsibility. That to warn others of the transgressions. Whether it be death camps or a faulty product or service. I do not want to make the blog a bitch session. One element of forgiveness is just letting it go. Probably also one of the biggest benefits. My desire here is to contribute constructively to people’s lives. For those that don’t want to hear my bitching, you can skip right around it. I will try to confine it to a colored box labeled, THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES.

 

Like this.

The Emperor’s New Clothes:

I am not sure how many years I have been a customer of Dish Network. I do remember seeing 911 live with Katie Couric, so at least a decade. Recently, experiencing cash flow problems, I have been paying a little late, usually when they start calling with threats of cutting off service. Yesterday, I got such a call and as I have money coming in ten days, requested that I be able to pay then. I was surprised when they said “NO.” When the current bill is for service not yet received (they charge a month in advance)?

When the service was cut as they threatened, I called to cancel altogether. As the recording box is rented, they say I will have to pay shipping to return it. Also they want the channel changer, too. Supposedly that is also rented. Funny thing, three years ago when it stopped working, they said I owned it and that they would charge me for repairs or replacement. Now it is their channel changer. I still have it, and will send it back. You know, it is funny how much I don’t miss T.V. Oh and the bill due has been reduced by about $50 because I was being billed in advance. FYI in case you are looking for T.V. provider. I forgive them, hope they get better, and will live happily without their service and they will live without my money.

 

 

 

 

Finally on the subject of forgiveness. Have you heard about Detroit Tiger baseball pitcher Armando Gallaraga pitching a perfect game (every batter he faced made an out) until the last inning and then loosing it to a missed call by the first base umpire? But instead of going ballistic, he was generous and F-O-R-G-I-V-I-N-G. To those not interested in baseball, a perfect game is about as rare as two holes-in-ones in a row in golf. And to have it taken away by a mistake: hey, I’m inspired. Oh and by the way, for whatever relationship that might have, he is also from Venezuela.

 

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol I  Number 5

June 22, 2010

 

Free-range grapes

 

 

It doesn’t matter about clones. A good winemaker can make good wine from any grape.”  - Unidentified head of vineyards at leading agricultural university during a class he conducted on clones.

 

In my first planting, I planted three different clones of Zinfandel and two of Sangiovese. I’ve done a lot of personal experimenting, and I can tell you that clones do matter. I’ve since added several more clones of each and now only plant new rows in only one variety of each. Of course, the sip and spit guys will point out that the operative word was “GOOD” wine maker. And that’s why some of those good winemakers pay twice the price for some grapes than for others. Why some vineyards are sold out years in advance and some vineyards have fruit hanging in December.

 

That instructor did say that certified vines from his university produced better grapes than uncertified vines. Yet, the winemakers whose wine I respect have contrary opinions. In fact of my four favorite local wineries, not one has certified vines. Some even advocate that the vines that are mildly diseased produce more interesting fruit and wine. If there is one true statement about wine and winemaking it is: “For every opinion about wine there is an equally qualified opposite opinion.” Often both are right.

 

The vines in my vineyard are not fertilized. I do not use herbicides. In 2001 I used some organically certified insecticidal soap on some leafhoppers, and tried unsuccessfully some organics against the grasshoppers. The bait I have subsequently used on these is organically approved, but not considered a pesticide. I would have no problem being certified organic, but I choose not to. I don’t like being “inspected” and have other people verify what I already know to be the truth. I don’t like the intrusion of having people come in with their tools that might have been used in diseased vineyards, spreading that disease to mine. And if not from their tools, their shoes or vehicle tires that have been god-knows-where. I also don’t think that organic wine adds to the salability. It might even hurt it. You can not even use the term in advertising if you are not certified. I hope the use of the “O” word in this paragraph does not violate that. It might.

 

I like the term “free-range” it gives a cavalier, note to the vineyard. I do love free-range eggs, and hope the use of the term also doesn’t violate some ag legal definition.

 

My intentions are two fold. First I don’t trust chemicals. In my boyhood, my grandfather kept a flint gun full of DDT on the back porch. I used to hunt spiders and flies with it as a boy, shooting ‘em down like the Red Barron. Later in life, I used an anti termite spray on a new deck I had made in my family’s first house. A month later it was banned. I remember one vegetable growing mentor extolling the virtues of an insecticide that she swore was safe. I tried not to notice the terrible rash she had all over both arms. My distrust extends to pharmaceuticals, but that is for a different blog. But I will digress to mention that I used to be a great early supporter of sun block, but I am not anymore. The product I used turned the skin on my nose and forehead into a crusty sluff. It was eventually banned as carcinogenic. Today, I have several minor skin cancers in that location.

 

I just don’t want to screw up the environment. I have a great respect for the land and want to leave it in as good or better condition than when I found it. I also want my grapes to express the land. I do believe that the wine making starts here. There is an old Italian saying that the poorer the soil, the richer the vine will make you. I am waiting. (But not idly)

 

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol I  Number 4

June 14, 2010

 

But when it does “Have that Swing…

 

 

I was listening to Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz on NPR recently as I worked with some Zinfandel vines (aha…finally, grapes). The vines have never looked so terrific. It is early June, and the vines are hell-bent to over crop. It is the first year since Al Gore got his Academy Award that we haven’t had a brief but punishing frost in April. I have suggested that he give back the Nobel, but keep the Academy. The year he won them, I lost PVC Irrigation pipe to freezing. The result had been more destructive to the younger vines than the old, which merely had a little less fruit. I trimmed to two buds this year and still have to thin. Shoots are putting out three bunches where you really only want one. Two is sporadically acceptable.

 

It was a fine day. Warm, not hot. Bright. And the music reflected that. Ms. McPartland’s commentary also gave me a lift. She was contrasting Jazz to Classical music. I like both equally, and when doing rolled up sleeve work, like planting or pounding posts, Country Music is more appropriate. But I was fine tuning the vines, and Jazz was appropriate. What Ms. Parland said in contrasting Jazz to Classical gave me pause. In Classical, the musician spends hours getting the music just the way it had been written by the composer…coloring within the lines. Whereas with Jazz, a musician kinda follows the composition, sometimes taking off on a little spur or trill of improvisation, maybe even running along parallel to the original. The rules are not as concrete, and probably a little different every time. It dawned on me:“THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT MY WINE!!!”

 

I have already freely admitted to be outta sync in life and have just come to realize that my wine probably is too. I also like art, particularly the Impressionists and also the Plein-Air and Fauvists. I have even come to accept Picasso. What is amazing is their history. These great works of art that now command millions were shunned by the art establishment of the day. Van Gogh sold one painting in his life time. He also did a painting of a bunch of old muddy shoes. It isn’t pretty. Such works caused a lot of snickering when executed. But wouldn’t you love to have that painting displayed in your home now.

 

I think that wine is going through such an evolution now. The classicists -- who I refer to as the sip-and-spit-school -- have their prescription for their wines and they judge wine according. They do make some terrific wine. There is also a lot of way overpriced wine that gets that way because of support of the classicists. The wine snobs are in there somewhere, who believe in intimidation. I wince at the pretty little damsel who begins her wine conversation with, “I don’t know very much about wine…” I point out my maxim that, “WINE IS LEARNING WHAT YOU LIKE, NOT BEING TAUGHT WHAT TO LIKE.” And that has gotten me into trouble with the sip-and-spit guys who have a vested interest in selling their opinions. My reply to the damsel is that you know what you like, and that’s what’s important…enjoy it.

 

I have never been much impressed by arrogance. I think it is a defensive response that reveals insecurity or ignorance. The people I have met who might be most entitled to the vice have been entirely devoid of it, and that includes Joe DiMaggio and Clint Eastwood. An early encounter with one wine steward comes to mind. I had just passed the drinking age and my stepfather, a generous, and nurturing and conscious man, had taken the family to dinner at a very exclusive San Francisco restaurant. He offered me, freshly back from my first trip to Europe, the assignment of selecting the wine. Picture Andy Hardy and his father in this scene. I made a selection, and when the sommelier brought the bottle, I dutifully examined the label, then the cork, then sampled the wine. I rejected it.

 

The steward made a muffled sound like a corked volcano but did take the bottle back. I was working under the assumption that acceptance was based on liking the wine. I really didn’t like the wine. But when I rejected a second vintage (I didn’t like it either), the steward turned beet red, nostrils flared, chest swelled. I know how the ancient citizens of Pompeii must have felt. And only then did my very patient father intercede. First he asked to be poured a taste of the new wine. He considered it, wrinkled his nose, then addressed the wine server. “It really isn’t very good, but we will pay for both bottles.” He then made a suggestion of a wine he knew. What a graceful man he was. Generosity was the trait I have tried to adopt from his leaving this life. Still working on it, too, with his example as a template.

 

One step in that direction is to allow others their preferences. Perhaps somebody liked those wines I rejected. I won’t condemn them for that anymore than if someone has an ice cream preference different from mine. Merlot is one grape that I don’t care for. I don’t grow Merlot grapes. I don’t make the wine. I have to admit that I enjoyed the characters in the movie Sideways when they denounced that wine, but I would not make such proclamations myself. If you like Merlot, it is all right with me. Hope you don’t mind if I don’t.

 

My second wine maxim, and I really do try to keep my maxims to a minimum: “WINE IS MEANT TO ENHANCE AND BE ENHANCED BY FOOD.” I just love to eat. I love all kinds of food, except for okra. And I love to pair that food with wine.

 

Here is the experience I seek: First take a sip of wine…to size it up. Then take a bite of whatever food you are hoping to pair it with. Now take a second, more substantial sip of wine. Has it changed (been enhanced)? If you can’t even taste the wine (I find it happens with some very highly rated classical wines), then the pairing isn’t the best. It hasn’t stood up to the food. You also don’t want a wine that drowns out the food. You wouldn’t want my Zin with delicately poached sand dabs for example (but oh, try that Zin with BBQ ).

 

My 2006 Sauvignon Blanc is a good case in point. On first blush, it is a little overly tart, lemony, with an odd almond aftertaste. But with lemon chicken or Ahi with wasabi, it looses its oddity and the tartness is diminished to graceful refreshingness. The great discovery: it is marvelous with Chinese food. My first wife was Chinese (actually I guess she still is), and my education in Chinese cuisine was one of the best benefits of our marriage (had a great marriage for fifteen years -- but it lasted twenty). Mushi Pork gains a notch in my esteem, or pork chow mein. And what that wine does to these dishes should almost be illegal. The flavors of the main ingredients as well as the seasoning sparkle on the palate. The acidity cuts through the heavy oils. Wine enhancing food, food enhancing wine. Wine is fun, enjoy it. You know that Mark Twain saying, Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth. I think he wouldn’t mind if I added, and “Drink wine with the same personal confidence, with abandon (or maybe just short of. ).”

 

 

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol I  Number 3

June 7, 2010

 

King of the wild frontier.

 

 

I know that wine is supposed to be one of the topics here, and I promise that the next one will offer that, specifically some insight to what I am trying to do with it…outta sync and into the sink…well, sometimes.

 

But first I wanted to pick up on a thread from the last installment. It has to do with the memories of those who have given their lives in the service of this country. Actually it pertains to the loss of any kind: a loved one, a spouse, a relative, I have found it to also even pertains to cherished pets. I mention this in WRATH. First, death is a natural and, so far as I have been able to find out, also inevitable fact of life. But to label it a loss, I feel, is to put a negative definition on life. I seek not to do that. Death is just not getting any “new”. It is a time to be so grateful for all that you had, to give thanks for that. It helps to have a spiritual basis that supports it not being the end for the deceased. I know it isn’t.

 

You can’t help but be sad at the event, somehow even in cases of severe pain or suffering that might be a relieved by death. I have found it helps immensely to identify a trait I most cherished in the departed and I vow to make it my own, to concentrate on developing and expanding it in my own character. A gesture at immortality, in memory at least.

 

A case in point, movie actor/icon Fess Parker died recently. I didn’t know Mr. Parker personally, though you will note a contribution he made to the cover of WRATH. In that book, I recall a quote from Davy Crockett (played by Parker) that my mother had me memorize when I was eight years old: “Before you act, think twice. Be sure you are right, then go ahead.” In 1955, there was a national -- international -- Davy Crockett frenzy. It was the early years of television (we had an 8-inch black and white), and the Walt Disney show popularized Davy Crockett to the likes of Elvis Presley a couple of years later. Most notably was the coon skin cap that became so popular that the national population of raccoons was nearly wiped out. The image of Davy Crockett was on everything from drinking glasses to t-shirts. The Ballad of Davy Crockett was on top of the hit parade. He was my boyhood idol.

 

More recently Fess Parker developed a world-class winery in Santa Barbara. He had become my adulthood idol as well. As I was preparing to send the WRATH manuscript off to the printers, I thought he would get a laugh at my misadventures, and even hoped he might respond with a comment. A couple of days after sending it off, I got a call from his secretary. Mr. Parker had indeed enjoyed the book (I always love it when I can give back to people that have given me joy.) She was calling to notify that a comment was forthcoming. And indeed it did: hand written, as you can read on my back cover.

 

In one of the many tributes that Fess Parker was given, I read that he was respected and highly regarded among those who knew him, and that he was known for his gentle kindness. I was certainly the beneficiary of that kindness, and added “kindness” to the top of my priority list: pay it forward. Kindness. I mention it here in the hope that a few others might be inspired to do likewise. Might even be contagious: a pandemic.

 

 

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol I  Number 2

May 31, 2010

 

Where have all the flowers gone.

 

 

I believe it is appropriate that I am writing this blog on Memorial Day. I will probably be misunderstood for a lot of things I say here. And a lot of things I say will offend some. But I want to make one fundamental truth very clear: I am a patriot. I love this country and the principles on which it was founded. One foremost: Freedom. It is the fundamental one. (An editorial aside: those who are familiar with my writing, know the regard I hold for synchronicity. Those happy little coincidences that I consider road signs that you are on the right road. As I am writing this, I have CNBC on mute, which is the best way to watch that channel. Say aren’t those CNBC girls, hot? Anyway, I had to laugh, having just typed the word, a quote for Patriot Oil went by on the ticker tape.)

 

When I was twenty two, about to go to Africa, I called my draft board to inquire about the legal requirements. It was 1969 and Viet Nam was in full bloom. I was told I had to ask permission. My response was, “Bull Shit. I am an American. We don’t ask permission from our country to go anywhere.” The clerk backed down and said that they needed a contact address. I gave them my parent’s address and proceeded to Nairobi, Kenya. As the draft was illegal, I presumed that “permission granting” probably was too. I also thought that such applications might incite the draft board to action and precipitate an induction that was not at that time totally a sure thing. However, several months later, I got a telegram from my mother when I was in Nairobi that I had in fact been drafted and I had two weeks to report for duty. I was back in the U.S. five days early and reported on time.

 

The two years in the army were not the most treasured. They made me a surgical tech, which, given my biology and premed major in college, defied conventional military logic. I was not without gratitude and was dedicated to do the best I could at it. I was in training for over a year and graduated at the top of my class. As a reward, I was given my choice of on the job training sites, and chose San Pedro, California. I ended up doing my entire tour there, and though I wasn’t the greatest warrior, we were never once overrun during my tenure.

 

I did not have the greatest military bearing, but I did develop great respect for some that did. The Hawaiian drill sergeant -- veteran of Korea as well as several tours of Viet Nam -- who was built like a bowling pin and though not the biggest man, he turned some of the biggest trainees from St. Louise every which way but sideways in his hand-to-hand demonstrations. Or the WAC specialist who used the army training to lift her life from poverty who helped me be better at my job there. I hope she used her GI bill to get her RN. Or maybe MD?

 

I did start my writing then, or rather my writing started getting published. I have always written. WESTWAYS MAGAZINE, the Auto Club publication in Southern California, published the account (complete with photographs) of a weekend trip my wife and I took to a lumberjack competition in the Eastern Sierras.

 

I digress here to add the Auto Club to the good-guys list. I was a member then and have been ever since. On several occasions they have come through in spades, but never more beyond the call than one night when I was on duty in the Army Hospital. I made Specialist 5 in a year. In addition to the extra twenty dollars a month, the grade also included occasional night duty as Non-Commissioned-Officer-In-Charge of the hospital. That assignment meant collecting and accounting for the mess hall money and also custody of the ambulance keys. Not much else, except making sure that the doors were locked.

 

The ambulances were rarely ever sent out at night. But one night, the doctor on duty requested the keys to retrieve a retiree in medical distress. I handed him the keys, and the ambulance dutifully bounced out of the driveway. Several hours later, it had not returned. I was responsible for that ambulance. Finally, a call came in from the driver. He had gotten lost. And the ambulance had broken down…in the middle of Watts. He had gotten miles lost. He was calling to tell me that he was leaving it there. Oh good. There were medical supplies, oxygen tanks, not to mention good tires and engine. I envisioned them all gone before morning.

 

I called the auto club and was connected to the driver of a tow truck. “I am in the army,” I told him. “I was drafted. And I am in charge of the ambulances. And I am also a member of the AAA. Is there any way you could use my club card to bring the ambulance back to the fort? (Note: the Army also had tow trucks but they didn’t answer the phone.).” The civilian tow truck driver, took pity and agreed to do it. But it would be an extra twenty dollars because of the distance. I had the mess hall money, so agreed gladly to pay it. The way I saw it, for twenty dollars, I was probably saving the Army an ambulance. An hour later, the ambulance was delivered to the post motor pool. The next morning, I turned in the mess hall money short twenty dollars, with receipts from the Auto Club Driver. I thought I had done a good thing.

 

But later in the day, the hospital sergeant in charge called. He was furious. I had taken the mess hall money without authorization. I was going to jail. I was…Going to be fired? I hoped… Eventually I was forgiven. I didn’t go to jail and I didn’t have to pay the twenty dollars out of my own money and they let me stay in the army.

 

Since the army tour, I did a lot of work for WESTWAYS, and other travel publications. On this memorial day, I can recount standing at the gates of the Alamo in the sweltering heat of summer, as well as driving up the frigid Maryland coast before day break to photograph the flag at Fort McHenry at dawns early light where it had inspired our national anthem. I have visited the shores of the Mississippi north of New Orleans where Col. Jackson “took a little trip” against the bloody British in 1814. I have also stood at the memorial above the Arizona in Pearl Harbor, and I tried not to notice the similarity between vine rows and the cemeteries of France with their more macabre harvest. I won’t go to the black wall in Washington D.C. not out of lack of respect but because of the magnitude of it and the anger at the deceit that put them there. On this memorial day I want to honor the sacrifices of all with the hope that we in this country will be inspired to live up to the responsibility of them -- to be a better people, to be a better country. I have to admit great daily disappointment with evidence of the antithesis. I think for some, it is just a matter of consciousness, of people not seeing with perspective. Of being so immersed in their own lives that they don’t see their impact. On a personal and national basis. We have such a rich culture, with potential that is majestic, but as the man said, “Lucy, we have a lot of esplenning to do.”

 

When I was frantically coming home to report for to the military, I made some frenzied forays into the bazaars to buy souvenirs for friends and relatives. Coming home I had a carry-on straw bag full of them. Threaded through the handles of the basket were two spears I had purchased from a Masai. My luggage brought laughter from the flight attendants. On a more recent flight, I had an overly large bottle of shampoo confiscated. Are we more free? The emperors have no clothes. But I will finish this blog with the same two words with which it began, “I believe.”

 

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Outta Sync

The Wine and Proses Blog

Vol I  Number 1

May 17, 2010

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the first installment of Outta Sync. To begin, a statement of scope/purpose/why the devil I am doing this.

 

I am a writer. Writing is my calling. I have been doing it for forty years. Some very great people whose opinions I respect have said that I am good at it. Which is one of the reasons I respect their opinions. The topics covered will center on wine and prose and will draw from a lifetime of experiences and adventures as a writer, as a computer programmer, as a builder, as an investor, as a citizen of the United States of America, and as a world citizen, having traveled extensively. Sex, politics, race, and religion will be topics. Truth and Ethics will be common ingredients. Hopefully there will be some laughs, hopefully frequently. I have stories to tell. True ones. This blog will also be the genesis of my next book. Readers here will have a front row seat in the development. A lot has transpired since the final chapter of my last one, The Wrath, and in retrospect I finished it too early. I had no idea what “wrath” was until in October of 08 as I bring out my book and first wine to be met by the bank surprise party that precipitated the worst economic crises in nearly a century.

 

If there is one common thread to my whole life, it is that I do seem to live out of step. In the 60’s when it was cool to be a hippie, I was a yuppie with my Bass Weejuns and khaki ivy-league trousers and blue pin chord shirt with the button-down collar. Now that it is cool to be “metro,” I wear flannel shirts, stocking caps and a variation of a clog (Still from Bass. Editor’s note, I would be glad to rent a link to that fine company here, if anyone knows who to contact. I am new at this Blog business. Also to W.W.Grainger who’s great industrial supply catalog keeps my life humming with replacement parts for home and ranch. Sears might be another of those companies invited, all having provided quality products to me for decades. I mention these now to lend balance to stories that will be told of less satisfactory dealings which at times seem to number ten to one. Suffice to say, I will not solicit links from the ten, and will refer to them by hypothetical names, particularly a bank who will be referred to as Wee Fleececo as I launch a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against them. A portion of the proceeds, if successful will go to aid those whose lives have been destroyed by them.) I think this country needs to do some “Emperor Has No Clothes” recognizing. I will assist and as for those “Too Big to Fails,” they are only too big for the britches that they don’t have on, and THEY HAVE FAILED!. Miserably. What they have done to millions of people’s lives is no different than what BP did to the Gulf of Mexico, except the oil spill was an accident. Instead of foreclosing, they should be paying for clean up.

 

Fifteen years ago, I started planting wine grapes. A secondary (to writing), but powerful, passion is my wine making. Wine and food will be featured topics. What ever else, I eat well. Bad news to my detractors, if living well is the best revenge. Unashamedly, I would like to see sales of my books and wines be generated from this effort: BUY MORE BOOKS AND WINE!!!

 

As I am writing this, I am also offering my entire ranch, winery, vineyard and home for sale, forced into this position by the economy and Wee Fleececo specifically. And I am not particularly happy about it, as there are forty-foot oak trees in my back yard that I planted as acorns. I designed and built 90 % of the house myself, planted and maintained 90% of the 20 acres of vineyard, and have made 100 percent of the wine in inventory myself. In the process, as I now approach my 64th year, I have torn my health up trying to do the work of three men a third my age. The math just doesn’t work out here. One sixty-year-old can’t do the work of three twenty-year-olds. Except maybe when it comes to sex, where there is just no substitute for experience. Fortunately the health issues have not extended (perhaps an unfortunate choice of words) to that area. I have thought of assembling a harem to help out here as a solution to the labor problems. (All candidates’ applications given careful consideration.) I wonder who came up with that saying about living well being the best revenge. May you all have the same. And may this blog assist.

 

Oh, and if you like the blogs, tell a friend. If you don’t like it, tell an enemy.

 

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