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Archive for the ‘Todd Walton’ Category

Todd Walton: Blame

In Todd Walton on April 26, 2013 at 6:00 am

Baby GoatsPhoto by Marcia Sloane

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“Blaming speculators as a response to financial crisis goes back at least to the Greeks. It’s almost always the wrong response.” Lawrence Summers

Speaking of speculators and the Greeks, hundreds of thousands of the most highly educated and technologically skillful people in Greece have fled that country in the last two years, and more are leaving every day. Why? Because the austerity programs imposed by the European Union in response to Greece’s speculator-caused debt crisis have created such a severe economic depression that there is little hope of an economic recovery in Greece for many years to come. Greece only has ten million people, yet in the face of this massive brain drain and the elimination of tens of thousands of public sector jobs, the European Union has just decreed that Greece must amplify her austerity campaign and get rid of tens of thousands more public sector jobs.

Here in the United States, our own government is treating the public sector, including state and county governments, as if they are Greece and the federal government is the European Union. More…

Todd Walton: Tenuous Grip

In Todd Walton on April 19, 2013 at 6:48 am

Desert Dance Nolan WInkler mix medDesert Dance by Nolan Winkler

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable
Mendocino

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat. “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.” Lewis Carroll

Have you ever had a day when you heard the same out-of-the-ordinary word or phrase over and over again from a variety of seemingly unconnected sources? Long ago when I lived in Sacramento, I wrote a piece for the Sacramento News & Review entitled Recurrence of Ninja, a true story of a single day in which I encountered the word ninja several times in a variety of contexts, spoken and written. Why ninja so many times on that particular day? I came to no conclusions, but I felt certain the unfathomable universe was trying to tell me something.

I was reminded of that day of many ninjas by what happened yesterday.

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Todd Walton: What Really Happened?

In Todd Walton on April 12, 2013 at 6:45 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable
Mendocino

“There are three things I always forget. Names, faces and—the third I can’t remember.” Italo Svevo

The very first course that Norman O. Brown taught when he arrived at UC Santa Cruz in 1968 was Myth & History and I was among the lucky people to hear him deliver that series of lectures. I was also privileged to meet with Norman in his office on two occasions to talk about various things, notably the fifty-page manuscript I composed in response to his lectures. I wish I still had a copy of that youthful creation—poems, dialogues, story fragments, essays, questions—with the notes Norman made throughout and his flattering words at the bottom of the final page, but I was only nineteen and saved nothing I wrote until I was in my twenties.

I have many vivid memories of Norman O. Brown, some of which I shared in an article I published two years ago. After that essay ran in the Anderson Valley Advertiser and was reprinted on the CounterPunch web site, I received a few emails and letters from people who thanked me for writing about Norman and wanted to share memories of him with me. I also received several angry missives from people telling me that my memories of Norman could not possibly be true, that Norman was nothing like the person I described, and how dare I misrepresent the great man. What I loved about these responses was that they absolutely confirmed the central thesis of Norman’s Myth & History lectures, which was that history is entirely subjective and over the course of time becomes indistinguishable from myth.

“In the Eskimo language there are four future tenses: the immediate future, More…

Todd Walton: Sane Man Walking

In Todd Walton on April 5, 2013 at 8:00 am

when-your-heart-is-strong72-300x300When Your Heart Is Strong painting by Nolan Winkler

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable
Mendocino

“ Solvitur ambulando, St. Jerome was fond of saying.  To solve a problem, walk around.” Gregory McNamee

After a severely stressful year of extreme physical challenges finally resolved by two successful surgeries, I am once again walking to and from the village every day, and slowly but surely building up my strength and stamina. The three-mile trip—downhill to town, uphill coming home—is invigorating now rather than exhausting, and the hour of steady walking is always a welcome relief from desk work and my connection to the electrical digital reality that underpins so much of my life today.

Spring has sprung, the plum trees and camellias and quince are in fulgent bloom, crab apples, rhododendrons, and cherry trees soon to follow with their outbursts of color, while Japanese maples spread their leafy wings and daffodils wave their trumpet-like flowers over the green grass that will never be so brilliantly green as when it first erupts from the flanks of Mother Earth. How sweet to walk through this riot of new life—what fun to write such purple prose.

“If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking.  Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” Raymond Inmon

Having just finished writing More…

Todd Walton: Uncle David

In Todd Walton on March 29, 2013 at 5:49 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable
Mendocino

My uncle David Walton died in China on March 8 at the ripe old age of eighty-seven, just a week ago as I write this, yet I have already received an email with photographs from the lovely memorial service that was held for him in Xichang where David lived and taught English for the last several years, his Xichang friends and students in attendance. And that memorial service email was just one of many I have received so far along with several phone calls from a tiny fraction of the hundreds of people who knew and loved David.

David was the youngest of three brothers, my father Charles the eldest, Robert in the middle. They grew up in Beverly Hills, their father a bookkeeper for movie stars and people who needed a bookkeeper, his most famous client Hedy Lamarr. The child movie star Jackie Cooper lived down the street and the Walton boys attended one of Jackie’s birthday parties when David was very young. The brothers graduated from Beverly Hills High, where my father met my mother, and David went to MIT, as did Robert, the alma mater of their father, while my dad broke with family tradition and went to UCLA after which he attended medical school in San Francisco.

Upon graduating from MIT, David returned to Los Angeles and went to work for his father as a bookkeeper for some years, and when his father semi-retired in the early 1950’s, David relocated with his parents and brother Robert, who was by then severely disabled, to Carmel and Monterey, which is when my firsthand memories of Uncle David begin.

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Todd Walton: Route 66

In Todd Walton on March 15, 2013 at 7:49 am

(Philanthropist painting by Nolan Winkler)

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable
Mendocino

“If you ever plan to motor west,

Travel my way, take the highway that is best.

Get your kicks on route sixty-six.” Bob Troup

As I peruse the many articles decrying the ruination of towns and independent businesses by big box stores such as Walmart, and I read about Ukiah groveling at the feet of Costco and wasting millions of precious dollars to bring that destructive horror show to town, I recall that the largest assault on the remarkably diverse and egalitarian America of the 1960’s (egalitarian compared to America in 2013) was the construction of the Interstate Highway System, without which many of the fast food restaurants and chain stores and big box stores of today, not to mention much of suburbia, would never have come into being.

A popular television show of my childhood (1960-1964) was Route 66, a weekly hour-long drama about two handsome young men driving around America on Route 66 and having adventures with all kinds of different kinds of people in small towns and big towns and cities connected by that particular ribbon of highway. What I remember most clearly about the show was that the two guys—Martin Milner as Tod Stiles and George Maharis as Buz Murdock—drove a groovy Corvette convertible through cornfields and deserts and towns accompanied by beautiful dreamy traveling music (composed by Nelson Riddle and performed by his dreamy orchestra.)

The actual Route 66 was a 2500-mile highway that existed More…

Todd Walton: Greed Redux

In Todd Walton on March 8, 2013 at 6:45 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.” John Steinbeck

This may be a stretch, but stretching is good for us, so… it seems to me that everything going on with our psychotic leaders in Washington these days is concisely echoed on the local level and in our personal lives. This week the propaganda peeps refer to the ongoing fiscal crisis as the sequester (how Medieval sounding!) as opposed to the fiscal cliff they scared us with a couple months ago, but the crisis is the same crisis: greed. And the emotion perpetuating this greed is fear: the fear of not having enough. The fear driving our psychotic leaders, alas, is very real, while the basis for their fear is imagined.

I’ve long been fascinated by statistics showing that my generation, the so-called Baby Boomers and primary beneficiaries of that mythic era known as The Sixties—a time renowned for sharing and love and connecting with Mother Earth—are the most materialistic, greedy, self-serving people who have ever lived. Of course The Sixties didn’t cause us to become so anti-Sixties in our behavior; our parents are responsible for that More…

Todd Walton: Homeless Forum

In Todd Walton on March 1, 2013 at 6:51 am

Photo by Kate Greenstreet

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

Unable to attend the forum on the homeless that was held in Mendocino near the end of January, I did read the three articles in the Mendocino Beacon that reported in some detail and with a certain us-against-them slant on the gathering attended by Sheriff Allman and Supervisor Hamburg and members of the community, including innkeepers, restaurateurs, business people, residents of Mendocino, and even a few homeless people.

The upshot of these three articles as I read them (and I admit to reading things differently than other people read things) is that one: the Mendocino Headlands need to be cleared of blackberry bushes so the homeless will have no place to hide or camp or ambush each other and hapless tourists, two: some people are afraid to walk alone at night in Mendocino for fear of being attacked by homeless people, and three: we need more posters telling people not to give money to homeless people because homeless people just use the money for drugs and then defecate in inappropriate places.

Now why would someone, even a drug-crazed homeless person, defecate in a planter box or in the grass adjacent to the sidewalk or even right on the sidewalk instead of, say, in a toilet in a public restroom? Oh. There are no public restrooms open at night in Mendocino. Could that be the reason the crazed homeless person chose to poop in a planter and thereby deeply offend the discoverer of the homeless poop? For the record, I am a tax-paying resident of Mendocino, a year-round resident, mind you, and I’d like to know why we don’t have a decent public bathroom in our village? Is there one mentioned in the new general plan? No? Why not? And why is the one hideous bathroom we do have now locked at night? To keep the crazed homeless people from taking shelter there, of course.

Speaking of defecating, how about the hundreds of dogs that our upstanding non-homeless residents and out-of-town visitors illegally let off their leashes to shit all over the headlands and Big River Beach? Where do innkeepers and law enforcement stand on the dog shit issue? As one who steps in shit all too frequently in our lovely coastal hamlet, I can tell you that the Mendocino shit I step in is always dog shit, not human feces. More…

Todd Walton: Muse Rides Again

In Todd Walton on February 22, 2013 at 6:37 am

Max Greenstreet in Ireland (self-portrait)

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled poets to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean.” Socrates

From the age of twenty-one until I was fifty, with only a few brief respites, I wrote many novels, most of them never published. The first dozen or so novels I wrote were related to the kind of poetry Socrates is describing when he says, “…who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean.” I wrote in a state of enchantment without knowing in the least what I had written until I came out of my writing trance, gathered up the pages, and read the words that had spilled from my pen. By the age of thirty-five, I had managed to publish four of those inspired novels, and then for reasons known and unknown to me, I was unable to convince publishers to take any more chances with my books; and shortly thereafter those marvelous states of enchantment ceased entirely to take me over.

“Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.” Vincent Van Gogh

As Van Gogh warned, I then became a slave to my model, which is to say I feverishly tried to think of what would make saleable novels, and I slaved away for years writing dozens of half-baked uninspired works that literally made me sick. Yet I continued to compulsively work at novel writing because I defined myself as a man who writes novels, which self-definition was how I knew, sort of, what I was or thought I was; and I desperately wanted to sell another book because I thought such a sale might save my marriage and cause my friends and family to like me again.

But my marriage collapsed before cosmic largesse might have prolonged the inevitable, and in that state of collapse and emotional free fall, the muse suddenly dropped in on me for the first time in many years and gave me Ruby & Spear, which, despite my not having published anything in a decade

More…

Todd Walton: Pass the Ball, Kobe

In Todd Walton on February 15, 2013 at 5:47 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Vince Lombardi

When I lived in Seattle in 1977, I played basketball almost every day in a gym at Seattle University, the alma mater of the great Lakers star Elgin Baylor who took the Seattle Chieftains (now the Redhawks) all the way to the NCAA championship game in 1958 before turning pro that same year. As a resident of Seattle, I was invited to use the gym and swimming pool of that esteemed university for a small annual fee, which made me feel like the luckiest guy in the world.

I usually played my two hours of basketball in the afternoon, mostly half-court games, but some full court, too, the players coming in all sizes and shapes and ages and colors, some quite good, many mediocre, a few dreadful. It didn’t take me long to get to know the excellent passers and the ball hogs, and whenever I assembled a team to challenge the winners of the game in progress, I picked good passers over great but selfish shooters every time. And when my team of passers played any team led by a ball hog, no matter how good that hog was, we almost always won. The winning formula was simple. Double-team the ball hog, fight hard to garner his misses, make good passes, and make open shots.

I bring this up because much is being written these days about the terrible season the Los Angeles Lakers have had so far, and how Kobe Bryant, one of the supreme ball hogs in the NBA, has actually started passing the ball to his teammates, and lo a miracle has occurred and the Lakers are winning again. What I find amusing about this startling development is that most of the so-called basketball experts continue to blame the coaches and other players on the team for the Lakers lack of success, when Kobe has clearly demonstrated that it was Kobe who was keeping the team from succeeding.

Anyone who has watched the Lakers play this year knows how deadly dull it can be, as it was in that Seattle gym, to watch one guy work so very hard to get a shot off over two or three defenders while his talented teammates stand around stifling their yawns and waiting to see if the ball hog’s shot will go in or not. And because Kobe is a super superstar, no commentator has ever dared shout More…

Todd Walton: My Big Trip, Part Three

In Todd Walton on February 8, 2013 at 6:30 am

Le Moulin de la Gallete by Pablo Picasso

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

Part One Part Two

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” William Shakespeare

My friend Scott made a good part of his living as a rehearsal pianist for musicals running on Broadway in the 1970’s and early 80’s, and he had all sorts of theater connections that gave him free admission to virtually any show on or off Broadway, a privilege he invited me to take advantage of multiple times on each of the ten trips I made to New York between 1976 and 1983.

In 1976, the reigning Broadway sensation was the play Equus with Anthony Perkins having just taken over the leading role from Richard Burton who had taken over the role from Anthony Hopkins. Scott knew the stage manager of the theater where the play was running and arranged for me to be among a few dozen audience members who sat on tiered benches onstage as a living backdrop to the play.

We were shown to our seats More…

Todd Walton: My Big Trip, Part Two

In Todd Walton on February 1, 2013 at 6:27 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

Part One Part Three

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” Tim Cahill

Staying with friends was the only way I could afford to make my trip to New York in 1976 last more than a week or so, and I wanted to stay in or near Manhattan for at least three weeks. When I left for New York, I thought I had two places to stay, one in Newark, New Jersey with Dan and Janka, and one on West 83rd Street in Manhattan with Scott and Richard, but when Janka’s mother learned I was planning to stay in the area for several weeks, she invited me to use the guest room in her apartment on West 94th Street, three blocks from Central Park.

When I tell longtime New Yorkers where I stayed in 1976, the usual reaction to West 83rd Street is, “A bit edgy in those days, but not terrible,” while the take on West 94th is, “I hope you didn’t walk around alone at night.” By 1983, the last year I visited New York, West 83rd had become a chichi high rent neighborhood and West 94th was considered relatively safe, but in 1976 Richard and Scott’s old apartment building on West 83rd was guarded by a big Puerto Rican guy armed with a baseball bat and West 94th…

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Todd Walton: My Big Trip, Part One

In Todd Walton on January 25, 2013 at 6:56 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

Part Two  Part Three

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan but also believe.” Anatole France

In 1976, when I was twenty-six and working as a landscaper in southern Oregon, my big dream was go to New York and meet my literary agent Dorothy Pittman for the first time, and also say hello to the magazine editors at Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, and Gallery who had bought my short stories; and to rub shoulders, I hoped, with others of my kind. For those of you unfamiliar with Gallery, it was a low rent offshoot of Penthouse with lots of raunchy photos of naked women and quasi-pornographic letters-to-the-editor and the occasional marvelous short story by Todd Walton. I was somewhat embarrassed to have my stories therein, but thrilled to be paid for my writing.

Standing in the way of my dream was lack of cash. When I worked as a landscaper, I made six dollars an hour, which was good pay for physical labor in those days, but the work was sporadic and I often made just enough to cover my rent and groceries. Then one day my boss called to say he’d landed a contract to landscape both sides of a freeway overpass in Medford and would need me fulltime for two months, and since it was a state job More…

Todd Walton: Four Hundred Thousand

In Todd Walton on January 18, 2013 at 6:33 am

I Never Heard The Warning (mixed media on wood) by Nolan Winkler

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need, if I die by four o’clock.” Henny Youngman

Do you earn four hundred thousand dollars of taxable income in a year? Have you ever earned four hundred thousand dollars in a single year? Do you have friends who earn or have ever earned four hundred thousand dollars in a year? I thought not; nor do I have friends earning that kind of money, though I do know some certifiably wealthy people. Earning two hundred thousand dollars is a different matter. According to government statistics about 1.5% of American households make two hundred thousand a year, and I can think of three or four couples out of the hundreds of people I know who might earn as much as two hundred thousand dollars in a single year.

So…households earning more than two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars per year were the lowest income earners President Obama said he was going to tax at a wee bit higher tax rate if only we would re-elect him. So we re-elected him and now he has chosen to go along with the certifiably insane Republicans More…

Todd Walton: Unpublished Work

In Todd Walton on January 11, 2013 at 7:05 am

Multiple Moons painting by Nolan Winkler

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Toni Morrison

They haunt me, the dozens of novels and novellas and stories I’ve written that have never been published—those relatively few survivors of my periodic assaults on bookshelves freighted with my collected unpublished fiction, each manuscript a Sleeping Beauty, alive yet so deeply asleep she might as well be dead; her only hope the kiss of some fairy tale publisher prince or princess who discovers the comatose fable despite the impenetrable forest surrounding her and despite the curses of the wicked witches and sorcerers and evil schmucks who rendered her, for all intents and purposes, lifeless.

“Why do you think we chose to speak ourselves through you, Todd?” ask the stories and novellas and novels and plays and screenplays. “So you would give birth to us and spend years shaping us and then pile us on your shelves to collect dust until you murder us? No! We chose you to bring us into the world so we can do our work—the work of inspiration More…

Todd Walton: Rewriting Kerouac

In Todd Walton on January 4, 2013 at 6:56 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.” Jack Kerouac

More than fifty years after his novel was first published (in 1957), a movie has finally been made based on Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. I have not yet seen the film, but because the movie was written and directed by Walter Salles, the brilliant Brazilian filmmaker who made the most magnificent Central Station, I wager his movie of On the Road will be beautifully made. I will also wager that On the Road, the movie, will owe much more to Salles’s genius than to the text after which it is named.

“I have suffered a great deal from writers who have quoted this or that sentence of mine either out of its context or in juxtaposition to come incongruous matter which quit distorted my meaning, or destroyed it altogether.” Alfred North Whitehead

Any meaningful discussion of Kerouac’s On the Road must take into account when the book was written and published. The book is a loose-knit rambling account of male friendship set in America in the immediate aftermath of World War II, when automobiles and the advent of suburbia were swiftly reshaping the physical and social landscape of the country and accelerating the breakdown of the social mores that had defined America for generations. Outside of this specific historical context, much of the novel will have little or no relevancy for most contemporary readers.

I think many of the complaints (and they are legion) about On the Road being badly written, boring, misogynistic, juvenile, shallow, and a colossal waste of the reader’s time are the result of readers hoping the book will reveal itself to be a timeless masterpiece More…

Todd Walton: Why Bother?

In Todd Walton on January 2, 2013 at 6:00 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“Isn’t it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties? Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope; perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity.” Vaclav Havel

Dave Smith’s invaluable Ukiah Blog pointed me to a sobering presentation by Guy MacPherson on YouTube entitled Twin Sides of the Fossil Fuel Coin. MacPherson is a prominent conservation biologist who argues clearly and concisely that the only hope for the survival of humans beyond another couple of decades is the complete collapse of our global industrial society right now, today, and even that probably won’t be soon enough to stave off fast-approaching human extinction and the extinction of virtually all living things due to increasingly rapid global warming.

I watched the nearly hour-long presentation alone and then I watched it again a few hours later with Marcia, and then I spent a sleepless night wrestling with the overwhelming evidence that, barring a confluence of major miracles, we are about to experience massive economic and environmental collapse, and when I say “we are about to” I mean any day now, with some very reputable scientists suggesting the earth will be uninhabitable by humans in less than twenty years.

That’s right. Twenty years. Why? Well, in a nutshell, all recent data suggests that the warming oceans and the concurrent melting of arctic ice and the thawing of previously frozen bogs of Siberia, Canada, and Alaska are combining to release so much methane into the atmosphere that earthly temperatures will soon rise More…

Todd Walton: The Gift of the Old Guy

In Todd Walton on December 21, 2012 at 6:30 am

bb

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

1

Ray, a slender man of eighty-two, his white hair sparse, gazes out the bus window at the passing fields. He is lost in thought, truly lost, unaware of who he is or where he’s going. Ray’s wife Vera, on the other hand, knows exactly who she is and where she’s going. A buxom gal of seventy-nine, her fantastically curly hair tinted pinkish blond, Vera is Flo’s mother and Otto’s grandmother, and she and Ray are on a Greyhound bus going to Ukiah to be with Flo and Otto for Christmas, which is only two days away now. She sits so her shoulder touches Ray’s as she knits an orange and black afghan, her mind crammed with gift lists, recipes, and words of wisdom for her grandson.

“We should have driven,” says Ray, frowning at Vera. “How are we gonna get around without a car?”

“We don’t have a car anymore, dear,” says Vera, smiling at her husband. “Remember? We sold it three months ago. Since I don’t drive and they took your license away, there wasn’t much point in keeping it.”

“Must you remind me?” he says with mock indignation. And then, straining to remember, “Why did they do that?”

“You had another accident. And thank God no one was hurt.”

Ray frowns. “The light was green. The light was not red. I don’t care what anybody says. The light was not green.”

Vera nods. “Yes, dear.”

More…

Todd Walton: Receiving

In Todd Walton on December 14, 2012 at 7:30 am


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Jesus, Acts 20:35

John Steinbeck’s preface to his wonderful The Log From the Sea of Cortez is a celebration of Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck’s friend and mentor and co-author of that fascinating record of their marine biological expedition to the Sea of Cortez—the text rich with philosophical asides. Steinbeck felt that Ed’s great talent and finest gift to his friends was his ability to receive, and in receiving with grace and delight and heartfelt gratitude, he gave the givers priceless gifts. The idea that receiving can be a gift contradicts hundreds of famous directives, Biblical and otherwise, but it seems deeply true to me.

Einstein said, “The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.” But I don’t think Einstein really meant receiving, I think he meant getting or taking. Receiving involves surrendering, and that is the gift—opening our hearts to the giver.

One of my favorite books is a little tome entitled Love Is The Wine: Talks of A Sufi Master In America, the master in this case being Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak. Here is the beginning of his talk on Generosity.

Many years ago, a traveler came to a small town. More…

Todd Walton: Fiscal Cliffs

In Todd Walton on December 7, 2012 at 6:55 am

f

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.” Bo Derek

So…immediately following and ever since the re-election of President Obama, we have been told day and night by the various media that we, America and her people, are approaching a fiscal cliff. Are we approaching this cliff from the bottom and looking up? No. According to the latest diatribes, we are moving inexorably toward the edge of a cliff over which we will fall to our fiscal doom if the Republicans and the Democrats can’t agree on how to proceed with taxing the American people (while barely taxing the corporations who have most of the money.)

Hmm. Whenever our overlords trumpet something like an impending fiscal cliff or constitutional tsunami or economic donnybrook, I think of Dorothy and Tin Man and Lion and Scarecrow trembling before the scary projection of the Wizard on the gigantic movie screen in Oz, trembling until they discover the projection is the creation of a wimpy old man hiding behind a curtain bellowing, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” Which is to say, I wonder what we’re not supposed to be paying attention to while the mass media and her propaganda pundits scare us with fiscal cliff hocus pocus, and by hocus pocus I mean illusion.

America is awash in money. Last week a new kill-as-many-people-as-you-can video game was released and took in close to a billion dollars in just a few days. More…

Todd Walton: What’s New?

In Todd Walton on November 23, 2012 at 7:49 am

Hungry For Color note card by Todd Walton

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“Life is full of obstacle illusions.” Grant Frazier

A recent San Francisco 49ers game ended in a tie with the St. Louis Rams, the first professional football game to end in a tie in four years. I’m still not used to the Rams being the St. Louis Rams because they were the Los Angeles Rams for all of my youth and for decades thereafter, which made them our dread rivals along with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Lakers and all things Los Angeles. The Lakers, by the way, are called the Lakers because they were originally the Minneapolis Lakers, Minnesota having lakes whereas Los Angeles has viaducts; but the Los Angeles Viaducts would have been a silly name for a basketball team, so… the Dodgers were originally the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Golden State (Oakland) Warriors were originally the Philadelphia Warriors, and soon the San Francisco 49ers will be playing their games in Santa Clara and… nowadays professional sports franchises move ever more frequently from city-state to city-state at the whim of their billionaire owners.

This year, for instance, the Brooklyn Nets played their first games with that moniker having been moved to Brooklyn from New Jersey by their new multi-billionaire Russian owner who just built a billion-dollar sports complex in Brooklyn to house his new team. The Nets are the first professional sports franchise to call Brooklyn home since the Brooklyn Dodgers fled to Los Angeles in the 1950’s, and now New Jersey is without a professional basketball or football or baseball franchise. Oh well. More…

Todd Walton: Nature Bats Last

In Todd Walton on November 16, 2012 at 7:08 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“Deer have been around for five million years and must know what they’re doing.” Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Our new home turns out to be a deer park, the resident deer so numerous and hungry that only rhododendrons and redwoods and ferns and huckleberries (the bushes not the berries) and a few other large trees can hope to survive the ravenous hordes. A crumbling wooden fence surrounds our property, and here and there remnant strands of barbed wire speak of a time when the previous owners may have experienced a modicum of deer-free living. I am a vegetable and herb gardener and hope to have a large garden growing soon, as well as berries and fruit trees and flowers, with a few raised beds off the deck outside the kitchen, none of which I can have until we transmogrify the deer situation.

To that end we have engaged the services of a deer fence installer, and at the moment he arrived last week to give us a bid, there were not four or five deer, but seventeen of those hungry animals browsing the shrubs and lower branches of trees and vacuuming up the golden leaves fallen from a very tall plum tree and devouring lilies and daisies, and shitting profusely everywhere around our house. And the deer fence guy, scanning the assembly of does and bucks and fast-growing fawns, quipped, “I see the problem.” More…

Todd Walton: Precious Dream

In Todd Walton on November 9, 2012 at 7:05 am

Marcia and Stella at the Mendocino Coast Hospital

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

Last night I had a precious dream,
dreamt I woke into the dawn,
walked out of my little cottage,
found a newspaper on the lawn
When I picked up that morning tribune,
and it opened to the very front page,
the headlines they told me
it was the dawning of a brand new age

Several years ago, I wrote the song Precious Dream, and three years ago when Marcia and I recorded So Not Jazz, our CD of cello/piano/guitar/vocal duets we included the song on the album. A few months after the CD was released, a DJ in Astoria, Oregon used Precious Dream as her theme song for several weeks, and that about sums up the commercial life of the song.

I wrote Precious Dream to elucidate my hopes for the world and human society, and I like to think of the tune as a campaign song in search of a candidate. I have yet to find such a candidate, though the Greens come closest to embodying the gist of my reverie; and since we are about to find out who our next President is and how far to the right of the mythic center our Congress and state houses will be, I thought this would be a good time to share the lyrics with you.

Yeah, the rich folks had all decided
to share their money with the poor

The movie that most influenced my thinking about the human world More…

Todd Walton: Yard Sale

In Around Mendo Island, Todd Walton on November 2, 2012 at 5:41 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

We just had a big yard sale to move along the myriad things we did not wish to keep in our new life in our new house. This was my fourth such undertaking and Marcia’s first time trying to sell stuff we no longer care to possess. I keep wanting to call the event a garage sale because the things were first stored in our garage, but the category heading in the newspaper where we ran our ad was Yard Sales, and the sale did take place in our yard, so…

Because the universe is mysterious and seemingly a bit sadistic, as well as loving and miraculous, Marcia came down with a bad flu cold a week before the event and was just starting to feel better as the blessed day dawned, whereas I was just entering Zenith Flu Cold Symptom Time as the alarm clock sounded at 6 AM on the dreaded day. Oh, joy. Had we not advertised the bloody sale in the newspaper I might have stayed in bed battling exhaustion and sleep deprivation and tides of snot, but such was not the case, the hordes would soon be descending, and so I rose from my warm nest and went out into the frigid dawn to help Marcia empty the garage onto our driveway.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the aforementioned possibly sadistic and certainly ironic universe had, just two days before the event, seen fit to break our two-car garage door, a folding fiberglass contraption More…

Todd Walton: Zero Population Growth

In Todd Walton on October 26, 2012 at 5:25 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“The chief cause for the impending collapse of the world—the cause sufficient in and by itself—is the enormous growth of the human population: the human flood. The worst enemy of life is too much life: the excess of human life.” Pentti Linkola

Decades ago I joined an organization called Zero Population Growth, a group founded by Paul Ehrlich dedicated to educating people and elected officials about the dire need to take political and educational action to combat overpopulation in America and around the world. I liked the name of the organization because it said clearly what we wanted to do: intentionally reduce the human birth rate so human population would begin to decline and the earth might be saved. However, some years ago during a time when Republicans controlled both Congress and the White House, funding grew scarce for organizations espousing such radical ideas as limiting population growth, and in order to survive, Zero Population Growth changed its name to Population Connection.

Did the name change help? Apparently so, because the organization lives on and continues to do valuable work. The Reporter, the magazine of Population Connection, dedicates one issue per year to an extensive Congressional Report Card wherein the battle lines are clearly drawn and readers are shown a Congress very much under the sway of ignorant morons who routinely vote against any legislation to fund or enhance family planning or birth control both here and abroad. Ignorant morons doesn’t quite do these particular hominids justice. Evil malicious poopheads would be more accurate; and it is both fascinating and sad to see that the vast majority of these EMP’s are from the South and Midwest; which is not to say that the South and Midwest are hotbeds of ignorance and misogyny and the rest of the country is enlightened, but to suggest that the South and Midwest are hotbeds of ignorance and misogyny.

Say what I will about there being little difference More…

Todd Walton: Inventing Ourselves

In Todd Walton on October 19, 2012 at 6:00 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“You don’t have to suffer to be a poet. Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone.” John Ciardi

My last few trips to the village of Mendocino have coincided with the lunchtime release of the children from the high school on the hill—dozens of young ones wandering singly and in groups down into the miniature commercial district to buy food and drink and to escape the air of confinement and regimentation that is so antithetical to the spirit of the young.

Some of the kids wander as far as Big River Beach to smoke pot or sunbathe or commingle with scruffy older boys and girls, some of whom are homeless, some simply at loose ends as they haunt the beach and headlands, waiting for Godot. But most of the high school kids go straight to their chosen food sources—Mendocino Market & Deli (across the street from the post office), Harvest Market, Frankie’s, the bakery, Moody’s, Mendo Burgers—purchase their goodies and boomerang back to campus where they scarf their food and socialize until the bell tolls for them to resume what we hope is meaningful education but fear is mind-numbing incarceration.

Watching this lunchtime parade of teens often puts me in mind of my own time in high school (1963-1967), a death-defying adventure in communal insanity, the insanity of puberty in America and the desperate search for a workable way to survive the frightening world of our parents and their fellow adult imbeciles who seemed hell bent on destroying the planet before we had a chance to write a good song or get laid.

I think it must be the costumes the Mendocino teens are trying on these days that most remind me of my own high school experience—that search for the perfect apparel to capture the essence of who we hope to be. Look! Here are three lovely young women walking shoulder to shoulder, each clutching a cell phone—a full-blown hippy, a quintessential geek, a scantily clad prostitute. More…

Todd Walton: City-States

In Todd Walton on October 12, 2012 at 8:41 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

My brother, a successful Internet Technology person living in San Mateo, recently wrote, “I know the Bay Area is back because for about three years no one was going out to dinner and a concert, so almost no one was playing at Yoshi’s; it was almost all spillover comedy acts. Now, all the ancient jazz/funk/smooth jazz/new age artists are performing at Yoshi’s again, and come to think of it, we just saw Liz Story there a few months back. The aging Yuppies, or as I like to call us, the sachems of the lower-reaches of the 1% are back in the tall cotton. Unfortunately it’s still not very recovered at all for the other 99%.”

My brother’s observation of those important economic indicators—going out to dinner and a concert—reminded me of something else he hipped me to a few years ago: the Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index, a remarkable and telling project funded by MasterCard. This fascinating study culminated in a multi-dimensional ranking of the top seventy-five city-states in the world, and has not, as far as I know, been updated since 2008. Nevertheless, if you are interested in how the giant multinational corporations develop their global game plans, I highly recommend you hop on a fast computer and check out the Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index. The revelatory information in the study confirms everything Buckminster Fuller wrote about how the supranational powers operate on spaceship earth.

Long before the rise of large and powerful nations came the rise of powerful city-states. Venice, for instance, known for several centuries as the Republic of Venice, was one of the most powerful city-states More…

Todd Walton: Walking To Town

In Todd Walton on October 5, 2012 at 6:20 am

 From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” Steven Wright

Last night by the fire, our new (old) house enshrouded in dense fog, I said to Marcia that I didn’t feel we were on the land where this house sits but rather on a boat, or possibly a raft, floating somewhere on the ocean of existence. I was not yet anchored anywhere except in my own interiority, except I didn’t use the word interiority because I didn’t think to use it until today when a letter came from my friend Max that said, “While it’s fun for me to say I’m on the Riviera, I notice this: in a certain way I am always in a room and inside my interiority when you and I are talking to each other. Wherever I may go, I’m always coming from that same place.”

Speaking of interiors, yesterday we had one of those spatial breakthroughs that amaze and gladden the spirit. On the east-facing wall of our new living room, two feet above the top of the doorway, sat a massive room-spanning shelf, a single piece of old growth heart redwood sixteen-feet long and a foot wide and two inches thick—an amazing slab of wood. And because the shelf was there and so massive and commanding and impressive, we kept trying to figure out what to put on it. We tried statues, books, driftwood, stones, gongs, drums, and pottery, yet nothing seemed quite right. But we had to find something to go there. Didn’t we? More…

Todd Walton: Connections

In Todd Walton on September 28, 2012 at 5:22 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Woody Allen

The stock market was way up yesterday on news that Bank of America announced that he (being a gigantic person according to the Supreme Court) plans to cut sixteen thousand jobs by Christmas. How nice. What a fine and humane time to fire sixteen thousand people in order to increase quarterly profits for a quarter or two.

“Everything in life matters and ultimately has a place, an impact and a meaning.” Laurens Van Der Post

So I was in the hardware store buying screws and varnish and masking tape and grout and glue, and having a laugh with the fellow helping me find things (about the trials and tribulations and triumphs and compromises of fixing things), when a couple entered the store and my Super Wealthy People alarm went off. That is to say, having grown up in Atherton, a town that is not really a town but an enclave for super wealthy people and those who serve them, a shiver passes through me when one or more of these folks comes near, and then I try to get away as fast as I can.

The woman was elegant and beautiful and perfectly coiffed and wearing a gray silk dress and a strand of fat white pearls and these amazingly svelte red leather boots, an ensemble that probably cost as much as most people’s cars, and the man was wearing a shirt and trousers I would more likely frame and put on the wall than wear. As is the habit of many super wealthy people, the woman walked up to the fellow helping me find things More…

Todd Walton: Moving Experiences

In Todd Walton on September 21, 2012 at 6:13 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

Marcia and I are moving from the house we’ve rented for the past seven years into a house (five miles away) we just bought. Miracle of miracles, the little gem came to us as if in a dream, and in the dream we could afford to buy her, so we did. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the new (old) house has required a great deal of work (eight weeks every day from morning until night) to be habitable when we make the great leap to living there this coming week, and the worse news is that we have to leave this house we have become so deeply attached to, and in so moving deal with ALL OUR STUFF!

Moving Experience #1: I confront a heavy cardboard box I dragged from Santa Cruz to Sacramento in 1979, Sacramento to Berkeley in 1995, Berkeley to Mendocino in 2006, and now Mendocino to another place in Mendocino in 2012. In faint felt pen on the outside of the box are the words Todd stories, go through. And I realize that I have never followed the dictates of that bygone felt pen but have continued to schlep this fifty-pound archive around with me for thirty-some years because…

Maybe I had better things to do. Maybe I had more room, more time, more tolerance for mysterious stuff taking up space. In any case, now I open the box and spend a couple hours skimming through dozens of short stories, two plays, and two novels I have only the vaguest memories of writing, though each novel consumed a year or more of my life. I end up saving a few of the stories and the two plays because a few of the lines grab me and hint they might lead to something good and new. The rest I dump into the recycling can to be picked up tomorrow, and as I dump those thousands of pages I feel a brief twinge of sorrow followed immediately by stupendous relief. More…

Todd Walton: Going (a short story)

In Todd Walton on September 17, 2012 at 6:08 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“We were all on this ship in the sixties, our generation, a ship going to discover the New World.” John Lennon

“Things have changed,” says Caroline, thirty-three, tall, slender, beautiful. “Love would be nice, but my window of opportunity is closing fast, so…”

Marjorie, Caroline’s mother, sixty-five and six inches shorter than her lovely daughter, waves for the waiter to bring more coffee. A few pounds heavier than she likes to be, Marjorie is vibrantly healthy, her long brown hair streaked with silver and gray, her green eyes sparkling with life. She wants to say to Caroline, You think I don’t know things have changed? We’re going backwards! The 50’s are here again, the 30’s close behind, then 1900, the Dark Ages, witch-hunts, slavery! But instead she says, “Of course things have changed. Things are always changing. But love is still the reason we’re alive. To love and be loved.”

“Oh, please,” says Caroline, rolling her eyes. “The sixties are over, Mother. Forty years over. Look where love got you”

Marjorie thinks back to a sunny day in 1967 when for the first time in her adult life she wore no bra, her nipples caressed by the thin cotton of her tie-dyed blouse. She was twenty-two, a graduate student at Berkeley, tripping down Telegraph Avenue looking for love—and finding it in the person of Hal, Caroline’s father, playing Frisbee in People’s Park.

“I admire Jeremy,” says Caroline, gazing up at the ceiling as she always does when stretching the truth. “He’s really quite nice and very bright, and he absolutely mints money. He just sold his third start up company for sixty million dollars. He dresses impeccably, knows everything about wine, owns a fabulous house in Hillsborough, a condo in Maui, a vineyard in…” More…

Todd Walton: Cheating Heart

In Todd Walton on September 7, 2012 at 6:48 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“It’s like deja-vu all over again.” Yogi Berra

My recent essay Cheating elicited several responses from readers wishing to share more examples of cheaters in high places, cheating as an integral part of our economic and political and interweb reality, and tales of people who don’t cheat being routinely victimized by individuals and corporations who do cheat. So the word cheating was on my mind when I remembered…

Long ago in Santa Cruz, circa 1973, I fronted a jazzy folk rock group called Kokomo, and for the better part of a year we were the Friday and Saturday night band at the popular tavern Positively Front Street, a stone’s throw from the municipal pier. One of my favorite things about that gig was emerging from the smoky confines of the pub in the wee hours of morning and filling my beleaguered lungs with cool briny air as sea lions arfed to each other in the near distance and the somnolent fog horn lowed with reassuring regularity—little waves lapping the white sands of the Boardwalk beach.

In the beginning of our entrenchment at Positively Front Street we— sometimes a duo, sometimes a trio, rarely a quartet—played only my original songs, and to this day I am amazed that the owner of that commodious tavern allowed us such artistic freedom, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when the place was packed. On the other hand, he only paid us twenty dollars for four long artistically free sets (us being the entire band), plus complimentary fish and chips and burgers and beer and whatever tips we could entice from the tipsy crowd. Thus if we wanted to make more than five bucks a set it behooved us to play requests, and to that end we learned to play a handful of standards, two of which were Hank Williams songs, far and away the most requested tunes in that blessed watering hole patronized by many men and a much smaller number of brave women. More…

Todd Walton: Cheating

In Todd Walton on August 31, 2012 at 7:05 am


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.” Woody Allen

So… Melky Cabrera, the star outfielder of our San Francisco Giants, has been suspended for fifty games for using performance-enhancing drugs, which means all his game-winning hits and spectacular catches are now suspect and this year’s success of my favorite team is suspect, too.

“Everyone cheats,” said Carlo, when I called him to commiserate about Melky’s suspension. “You think he’s the only one cheating? Guys on every team cheat every day because if they don’t cheat they’re out of work. That’s why they risk getting caught, because at least when they’re on the juice they’ve got a chance as opposed to no chance. And it’s not just baseball and football and the Olympics. This whole fucking society is built on cheating. Look at the toxic derivatives the Wall Street cons use to bankrupt the world. More…

Todd Walton: Helen Gurley Brown

In Todd Walton on August 24, 2012 at 6:15 am


Photo of 1978 Cosmopolitan by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“How could any woman not be a feminist? The girl I’m editing for wants to be known for herself. If that’s not a feminist message, I don’t know what is.” Helen Gurley Brown

Why am I writing about Helen Gurley Brown, famed editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and a champion of sexual freedom or a promoter of sexual enslavement, depending on your particular socio-political orientation? Well, because Helen Gurley Brown just died at the age of ninety, and though many people consider her a traitor to feminism, and many others see her as a pioneering feminist and social revolutionary, Helen was one of the very few magazine editors in America in the 1970’s and 80’s who would publish my short stories about the challenges facing men and women in the chaos of sexual and social change that arrived with the birth control pill and the dawn of the feminist epoch; thus I have no doubt about where I stand regarding Ms. Brown’s place in the history of psycho-sexual discourse.

Ironically, or appropriately, I intended all eight of my stories that were eventually published in Cosmopolitan to be published in other magazines, notably Esquire and The New Yorker, for I did not read Cosmopolitan or have any great desire to be published therein. But I was not famous, nor was I a member of the literary society with access to the editors of those seemingly more sophisticated magazines, and so despite the valiant efforts of my incomparable literary agent Dorothy Pittman, I was never able to publish a story in either Esquire or The New Yorker, though we received many flattering rejection letters from editors at both magazines.

The very first short story I ever sold for actual money (as opposed to the mere glory of seeing my name in print) was to Cosmopolitan in 1975 for the staggering sum of one thousand dollars, with ten per cent of that fortune going to Dorothy. In one fell swoop I was lifted out of poverty, for in those days my monthly nut was seventy-five dollars: thirty dollars rent (I was living in a garage in Eugene, Oregon), thirty dollars for food, fifteen dollars for everything else. One day I was surviving on rice and beans and barely making ends meet with minimum wage work, the next day I was writing full-time and buying the occasional chicken to round out my menu.

Naively, I thought the publication of Willow, a provocative tale of a woman boxer who gets a shot at the male welterweight crown,would quickly be followed by more sales to Cosmopolitan and other magazines, but the gods did not so smile on me again until those nine hundred dollars were long gone and I had moved to Medford, Oregon to work as a landscaper. But oh how I relished that year of unfettered scribbling, a twelvemonth that saw the completion of my novel The Gimp that would be published three years later as Inside Moves, which publication procured for me More…

Todd Walton: Civil War

In Todd Walton on August 17, 2012 at 6:56 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” Abraham Lincoln

I was on the phone with my old pal John Grimes, a cartoonist with funny and provocative insights about American society, and John said, “It’s 1850 all over again. The nation is as deeply divided as we were right before the Civil War.”

My initial reaction was to agree with John—visions of red states versus blue states dancing in my head—but the more I thought about his idea, the more I disagreed. I don’t think America is divided, except that six people with my last name (no relations) have more money than forty-two per cent of all the people in America. More…

Todd Walton: Goff & Krishnamurti

In Todd Walton on August 10, 2012 at 5:29 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“Conventional education makes independent thinking almost impossible. Conformity leads to mediocrity. Conventional education puts an end to spontaneity and breeds fear.” Krishnamurti

I spent my two of years in college at the University of California, Santa Cruz from 1967 to 1969 when the school was considered an experimental college because professors were supposed to write evaluations of students rather than give grades, and students were invited to invent their own programs of independent study.

One guy in my dorm did an independent study entitled Surfing Poems. He went surfing for ten weeks and wrote poems about his experience. Another fellow (he loved to play his guitar in our resonant dorm bathroom) did an independent study entitled Songs From My Life for which he wrote three songs melodically indistinguishable from Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right. More…

Todd Walton: Jehovah’s Witness

In Todd Walton on August 3, 2012 at 7:10 am

Mixed media, Shall We Dance, by Todd

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com
Mendocino

A friend recently wrote to me about his philosophical discussions with a Jehovah’s Witness, and his letter brought back boatloads of memories of my friend Woody, an African American Jehovah’s Witness, an elder in his church, who visited me every month for the eleven years I lived in Berkeley.

The first time Woody came up my stairs and knocked on the front door, I intended to say to him what I had been saying to Jehovah’s Witnesses since I was a boy. “No thank you. Please don’t come again.” That was the little speech my mother taught me to say to Jehovah’s Witnesses when they came to our house, and those were the words I dutifully repeated to every Jehovah’s Witness who called on me until I was forty-five and opened the door to Woody and the young man accompanying him.

More…

Todd Walton: Cautionary Tales

In Todd Walton on July 27, 2012 at 6:56 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com
Mendocino

“My stories run up and bite me on the leg, and I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.” Ray Bradbury

Before the advent of personal computers, CDs, digital cameras, digital recordings, the interweb, cell phones, e-books, cyber pads and downloadable everything, long before Amazon and Google and Microsoft, when manuscripts were still typed on typewriters and editing was not instantaneous (which may have been a good thing) I met a man, a writer, who told me a cautionary tale I will never forget.

I was in my early twenties and hoping to become a successful writer and musician, though at the time I had yet to sell a story and was making peanuts More…

Todd Walton: Humility

In Todd Walton on July 20, 2012 at 6:14 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com
Mendocino

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” T.S. Eliot

Several recent conversations with friends focused on how might we counter the cyber takeover of our society while at the same time fomenting positive change and a more vibrant local community; and the answer seems to be to invite people over to share a meal and talk.

“Four things come not back: the spoken word; the sped arrow; time past; the neglected opportunity.” Omar Ibn Al-Halif

A friend wrote that in an effort to regain the souls of her husband and children she instituted a rule that cell phones and cyber pads were not allowed at the dining table. The initial response to this rule was that her children and husband wolfed their meals and rushed back to their devices. So she instituted a second rule that dinner had to last half an hour. After a week of dismal dining experiences filled with complaints, her children and husband adjusted to the brief nightly respite from tweeting and staring into little screens and “there have even been some nights when the family lingers at the table after the half hour is up because we are so engrossed in conversation.”

More…

Todd Walton: Salt and Song

In Todd Walton on July 13, 2012 at 5:46 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com
Mendocino

“Things filled men with fear: the more things they had, the more they had to fear. Things had a way of riveting themselves on to the soul and then telling the soul what to do.” Bruce Chatwin, from The Songlines.

Marcia and I recently watched the marvelous documentary The Salt Men of Tibet, and if you’ve been feeling jangled by modern life, I think you will find this movie a helpful antidote to that jangling. The pace of the movie reflects the pace of life for these nomadic salt men who leave their womenfolk and children to walk with a great herd of yaks, forty yaks per man, to a remote salt lake from which they harvest salt to trade for barley so they and their people may survive another year. Walking to the lake takes the men and their yaks a month or so, with the return trip—each yak now burdened with two large sacks of salt—taking forty-five days or more. Thus three months of every year in the lives of these men is consumed with going and getting salt, and each minute of those three months is part of an all-encompassing sacred ritual.

The film begins in a hut in a mountainous wilderness in which there are no trees. A woman is singing to the salt men, her song the story of Lord Buddha and the events composing the spiritual basis for the reality these men and their families inhabit. The salt people are devout Buddhists and believe their salt lake to be an intelligent and emotionally sensitive being who is deeply influenced by the actions of those who wish to gain the boon of salt from her.

At the conclusion of the woman’s song, the spiritual stage now set, preparations for the incredible journey begin. What we soon realize is that these people live without electricity and motors, their fires fueled with yak dung, their clothing and rope and blankets made from yak wool, and that every aspect of their lives More…

Todd Walton: Apes

In Todd Walton on July 6, 2012 at 5:55 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com
Mendocino

“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.” Francis Bacon

Sometimes it helps me to remember we are apes. Before the advent of clothing and tools and weapons and religion and cars and nuclear power and nations and money and vast social and economic inequities, we were naked apes looking for sustenance, shelter, safety, and love. We foraged for food, made nests for sleeping, and hung out in groups large enough to dissuade leopards. We had mates and children, we changed locations when our favorite foods grew scarce, and we socialized with family and friends every day. We did not, I think, have long term goals. We lived wholly in the moment because we didn’t have anything other than the moment to live in. We had nothing to carry, nothing to hide, nothing besides each other.

Okay, so that is a gross oversimplification of ape reality More…

Todd Walton: Giants and Greece

In Todd Walton on June 29, 2012 at 6:27 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“We don’t have to look far to see how pervasive suffering is in the world.” Joseph Goldstein

Matt Cain recently pitched a perfect game for the San Francisco Giants while Greece is in the midst of a massive economic collapse. Gregor Blanco made one of the great catches in Giants history to preserve Cain’s perfecto while Spain is in economic freefall with over 25% unemployment and Spanish real estate prices falling falling falling. Cain gave his catcher Buster Posey much of the credit for the no-no while Syria is in the midst of a horribly bloody civil war with thousands of casualties, many of them women and children.

Cain’s perfect game is only the twenty-second perfect game in the 130-year history of baseball while the Japanese government has ordered the restarting of several of their dangerously unsafe nuclear power plants despite a vast majority of the Japanese people opposed to nuclear power in the wake of the ongoing catastrophic meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plants.

And how about Melky Cabrera, the Melkman, leading the National League in hitting while the American economy is collapsing around our ears. True, Tim Lincecum is having an awful year so far More…

Todd Walton: Bird In Hand

In Todd Walton on June 22, 2012 at 5:38 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive.” D.H. Lawrence

Three days ago I was settling down on the living room sofa for a much-anticipated afternoon nap, when a bird smacked into one of the seven big windows that make our living room feel so light and airy. Alas, this sickening thud usually presages a dead bird or one so stunned that our cat, if he can get outside in time, makes short work of. And so it was with some trepidation that I got up to look out the various windows to see what I could see.

To my surprise and chagrin, the bird in question had not smacked the outside of a window, but had flown through our open sliding glass door and struck the inside of a pane; and there she was, a little gray sparrow with pretty white markings, standing stock still on a window sill.

“Hello beautiful,” I said to the bird, hoping to catch and release her without hurting her and without causing so much commotion that our cat would come running to capture this high protein snack.

But how could I catch the bird without scaring her into frantic flight? I picked up the big straw basket I use for shopping and thought I’d somehow put the basket over the bird and then… then what? Wouldn’t the bird just fly out from under the basket and zoom around the room and smack into another window and break her neck or bring our cat running or…

Yet even as I was entertaining such unpleasant scenarios, I got closer and closer to the bird until I was right beside her and she remained standing absolutely still. So I slowly reached out and gently encircled her body with my fingers, carefully gripped her just tightly enough More…

Todd Walton: Homelessness

In Todd Walton on June 15, 2012 at 6:18 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

I am currently in the throes of rewriting a novel I first completed in 2003, rewrote entirely in 2006, and then did not touch for six years. I have only undertaken this kind of extended creative venture a few times in my life because most of my long dormant creations do not stand the test of time for me; so I have no interest in spending another thousand hours remaking them. Nor would I have had the opportunity to rewrite any of these long slumbering works had I been a more successful writer with publishers and producers clambering for my works as I completed them the first time. In any case, these books and plays and screenplays I remake multiple times over the course of many years are my favorite creations, regardless of their commercial fates.

This novel I am rewriting is a quasi-autobiographical tale about a middle-aged man who invites a homeless woman and her four-year-old son to live with him. His relationship with the boy is loving and parental, his relationship with the woman in no way sexual, though sexuality is one of the larger subjects of the novel. And though I am still keenly interested in the book’s exploration of sexuality, I am most interested (at the moment) in the subject of homelessness, for I was reminded when I read this manuscript that homelessness has played a central role More…

Todd Walton: No Honeybees

In Todd Walton on June 8, 2012 at 6:04 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“The busy bee has no time for sorrow.” William Blake

I am not a master gardener. I’ve been growing vegetables and flowers and herbs for fifty years, and at various times I’ve made my living as a landscaper, gardener, and pruner of fruit trees. A renter for most of my life, I have moved many times and had many gardens ranging in size from quite large to very small. I have gardened in cool climates and moderate climates and hot climates, in sandy loam and rich black earth and barely arable pygmy; and I’ve made a habit of picking the brains of other gardeners about the how’s and why’s and do’s and don’ts of growing things. Which is all to say, I know something about gardening, but would not describe myself as an expert.

People exploring my gardens used to ask, “How do you attract so many honeybees?”

And I used to reply, “Borage and white clover.”

I was twenty-one and the proud creator of a big vegetable garden in Santa Cruz when I discovered how incredibly attractive borage is to bees, and I have known about the bee-seducing power of white clover since I was a boy and had the arduous task of mowing a large lawn of white clover with an old dull steel push mower, a weekly chore that gave me bigger muscles than most of my friends and made me the dreaded enemy of hundreds of happily grazing honeybees. More…

Todd Walton: Children

In Todd Walton on June 1, 2012 at 7:22 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“I would suspect that the hardest thing for you to accept is your own beauty. Your own worth. Your own dignity. Your own royal pedigree. Your priestly identity as one who blesses and is blessed in return. Your own calling to learn to love and allow yourself to be loved to the utmost.” Alan Jones

I was in Corners a few days ago, perusing the bananas, when a little girl, four-years-old, came right up to me and said, “Know what?”

“What?” I replied, never having seen her before.

“I made up a special song.” She nodded to affirm this. “Do you want to hear it?”

“Of course,” I said, delighted by her. “Who wouldn’t?”

And without a moment’s hesitation she began to sing about how beautiful the day was and how happy she was and how much she loved her mother and having chocolate milk. The melody was something of a hybrid, Mary Had A Little Lamb meets Oh What A Beautiful Morning, and the tune changed key several times throughout her rendition. In short: a masterpiece. Oh, and she danced as she sang, a subtle shimmying hula. Brilliant.

“That was fabulous,” I declared, applauding. “I loved it.”

“Do you want to hear another one?” she asked, frowning quizzically More…

Todd Walton: Austerity

In Todd Walton on May 25, 2012 at 5:09 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“When we deeply understand that actions bring results, it can motivate us to take active responsibility for our actions and our lives.” Joseph Goldstein

Planting time: kale, lettuce, carrots, peas, beets, broccoli. Hearty potato plants rise from the ground and promise a good harvest of spuds in a month or so. Look! A hundred and eight beautiful garlic plants are nearing fruition after many months of growing. As I work in my little garden, I think about the lunatics running our state and national governments, advocates of what they call austerity (but what is actually senseless cruelty and greed), and I imagine a gang of these crazy people surveying my garden and proclaiming, “These seeds and plants aren’t producing anything we can eat right now. They need to be taught a lesson. They need to tighten their belts and pull themselves up by their own root straps. Stop watering them. Stop feeding them. Don’t give them anything until they learn to grow without any assistance from anyone.”

“But…” I try to argue, “…vegetables require time and nurturing to eventually…”

“No buts,” say the lunatics. “No time. No nurturing. Look at those redwood trees over there. More…

Todd Walton: Laughing

In Todd Walton on May 11, 2012 at 6:20 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“Humor is just another defense against the universe.” Mel Brooks

Once upon a time, so many years ago it might have been another lifetime, I got two kittens, a boy and girl, and after much thought and research named them Boy and Girl. Boy was an orange tabby, Girl was a gray tabby, and in the hallowed tradition of kittens, they played and slept and mewed and ate and clawed things and were wonderfully cute.

When they were about four months old, Boy and Girl played a particular game that made me laugh until I cried. No matter how many times I watched them play this game, I laughed until I cried. Sometimes other people would watch with me as the kittens played this particular game, and some of these people laughed, too, and a few of them even laughed until they cried; but there were other people who watched the game and did not laugh at all, which was amazing to me, and troubling. Here is the game the kittens played.

A heavy brown ceramic vase about fourteen-inches high, round at the bottom and narrowing somewhat at the top, stood on a brick terrace. Girl would chase Boy onto the terrace and Boy would jump into the vase. Girl would sit next to the vase, listening to Boy inside, and when Boy would pop his head up out of the vase, Girl would leap up and try to catch him, and Boy would drop back down into the vase. Then Girl would stand on her hind legs and reach into the vase with her forepaws and Boy would shoot his paws up to fight Girl’s paws, or Boy might leap out of the vase and the chase would resume. Or Girl would be inside the vase with Boy outside and the vase would tip over in the midst of their roughhousing and out would spill Girl.

Why were their antics so hilarious to me? More…

Todd Walton: Sources of Wonder

In Todd Walton on May 4, 2012 at 4:57 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“Our soul is cast into a body, where it finds number, time, dimension. Thereupon it reasons, and calls this nature necessity, and can believe nothing else.” Blaise Pascal

Marcia and I watched the movie Source Code last night and I loved it. I very rarely watch American movies and almost never watch films containing more than a suggestion of violence, and this movie was made by Americans and is full of violence; yet I did not feel I was watching a violent movie, nor did the film seem remotely American. I will not spoil the show by telling you the plot, but I will say that for me Source Code beautifully and skillfully explicates the Buddhist notion of karma and how through our actions and intentions we create our future.

I was thinking about Source Code this morning while walking on Big River Beach, amazed by how vivid everything looked and felt to me, as if the movie had somehow altered my perceptions. And then I realized I was in a state of wonder, that my personal cares and woes were no longer holding sway as they so often do these days, and I was inseparable from the wind and the roaring of the waves and the ravens gliding through the air and the sand underfoot. I was only there, it seemed, because all these other things were enlivening me, and in their absence I would disappear.

When I got home from the beach, I sat down at the piano and played with such ease and fluidity I was in heaven, and I knew the movie was working in me More…

Todd Walton: My Father

In Todd Walton on April 27, 2012 at 6:12 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

When my father died five years ago, my siblings and I did not hold a memorial service in his honor. We were each of us so wounded by our father’s incessant criticism and disapproval of us that his death unleashed our long suppressed anger toward him, and being so angry we could not see our way to put on a show of loving memories. But now I wish to speak of his goodness and the gifts he gave me. I wish to propitiate his ghost, something my father would have scoffed at, and to communicate my gratitude for his presence in my life.

When my sisters and brother and I were little kids, my father told us the most wonderful bedtime stories, and sometimes we would be the characters in those stories, which was especially thrilling to me. Imagine being a character in a story! My father would just make up the stories without the help of a book, and my brother and sisters and I marveled that he could do that. I am certain that my fascination with stories and story telling began with listening to my father invent those magical stories for us.

My father taught me how to plant trees when I was six-years-old, and we planted many trees together over the years—fruit trees, redwoods, birches, and pines. He would show me where to dig the hole, and I would dig as big and deep a hole as I could. Then he would deepen and widen the hole considerably; and I would admire how strong he was and how easily the ground yielded to him. Then we would refill the hole halfway with a mixture of peat moss and compost and soil. I remember we stirred this mixture in the hole with our bare hands, and then we would place the baby tree atop this mixture and fill in the hole. With the leftover soil, we would construct a circular basin around the tree and I would fetch the hose to fill this basin with water More…

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