Search Results for "fortuna"

WHAT IF Fortuna is More Than Just a Clever Name for a Cat?

As I’ve written before, the naming of our dogs and cats is a very important family ritual (and will be the focus of an upcoming blog).  One of my personal favorite names that we have not yet used for a cat is “Fortuna” – do I need to point out that most cats are “for tuna”?  Even though my topic today has nothing to do with naming pets, it has a lot to do with Fortuna.

Fortuna wheel1

The Roman goddess Fortuna and her wheel

It turns out that Fortuna, supposedly the daughter of Jupiter, was a Roman goddess who controlled fortune and capriciousness in human affairs.  If she were posting pictures of herself on Instagram she would be near a Rota Fortunae (wheel of fortune), signifying that our fate in life is determined as much by the spin of the wheel as by our own doings.  I must admit that Fortuna’s mythical wheel of fortune often seems to make a lot of sense to me.

Fortuna1

A Fortuna selfie for Instagram?

I was sharing my thoughts on this with our son Travis and he pointed out that Ignatius Reilly, that wonderfully quirky character from A Confederacy of Dunces, referred to Fortuna throughout the novel, something I had forgotten.  Curious, I did a search of the novel on my Kindle –  her name appears 31 times.  Even if you are not a Fortuna fan, I would highly recommend Confederacy – it is a one-of-a-kind classic.

Ignatius2

Ignatius mentioned Fortuna 31 times

I am prattling on about some obscure goddess named Fortuna because that’s what immediately popped into my head when Ann suggested a What If theme for today’s blog. The interventions of this mischievous goddess into our day-to-day lives leaves no option but to contemplate “what if.”   To illustrate, I want to to share one particularly significant what if moment for Ann and me.  It has to do with an army captain, whom I never met, the the military draft, and maybe a flu bug. 

1A notification

The sword of Damocles?

Here’s some context.  It was near the end of 1966 and I was a fledgling school teacher at Chino High.   Ann and I had just got engaged.  Shortly after our engagement I learned that I had been reclassified by the Selective Service System as 1A and was no longer guaranteed a deferment for teaching.  A 1A classification at that time was a sure ticket to being drafted with the near certainty of ending up in Vietnam.  I could see only one alternative to the mandatory draft –  join a reserve unit. 

So, I looked into the air national guard, the naval reserve, and even the coast guard reserve.  Nothing panned out until I learned of some openings in an army intelligence reserve unit based in Los Angeles.  I drove to LA to speak with the unit’s head sergeant. 

army intelligence

Some consider this to be an oxymoron; I considered it to be a way around the draft.

During the interview he asked if I knew any foreign languages.  Suppressing the urge to tell him that I was pretty good at Pig Latin,  I told him I had couple of semesters of junior college Spanish under my belt.  He said that’s great and asked me to put on some headphones and translate into English as much of a recording as I could.  I didn’t understand a thing I heard, jotting down some random notes about what I guessed was being said.  He glanced at my results and said that was close enough for government work (it wasn’t very comforting to learn that’s all it took to get into army intelligence).

fort Ord on the beach

Fort Ord was considered one of the most attractive locations of any U.S. Army post because of its proximity to the beach and California weather. I was already packing my suntan lotion and trunks.

The most exciting part was that as soon as I was sworn in I would be sent for training at the army’s Military Language Center located at Fort Ord on the Monterey peninsula.   All I needed to do was fill out some forms, pass a physical, and appear at the reserve unit’s monthly meeting in three days to be sworn in.  I completed the forms and passed the physical that day.  Then I rushed back to tell Ann the good news, not realizing that Fortuna’s fateful wheel would soon intercede.

The day prior to the reserve unit meeting the sergeant called to inform me that the commanding officer had come down with the flu and wouldn’t be able to swear me at the upcoming monthly meeting.  I would have to wait until the next meeting.

One week later I became one of the more than 300,000 American men that year to open an envelope with this statement inside: “Greeting: You are hereby ordered for induction in the Armed Forces of the United States.”  This meant that I was immediately ineligible for any other kind of military service.  My completed forms and passed physical were for naught.  I was had. 

I can’t tell you how many times I have wondered “what if” about this.  What if that captain had not caught the flu that weekend and swore me into the reserves prior to getting my draft notice?  Would I have been able to continue teaching at Chino High?  Would I have still gone to grad school?  Would I have avoided Vietnam?  Would Ann and I have had children earlier?  Would we ever have met folks like the Davis family (see Ann’s blog)?  Would I have learned a language more useful than Pig Latin?

Anns Fortuna

It was no coincidence that a few years ago Ann chose this Fortuna image for her email profile picture.

Of course that is just one of many what if moments that have influenced the direction and substance of our lives. Even though we had dreaded the thought of my being drafted, the army’s disruption of the first couple of years of our married life strengthened our relationship and opened opportunities we hadn’t imagined. Perhaps the best way to think about Fortuna is to realize that when the Rota Fortunae deals us a not-so-desirable outcome it provides a potential opportunity to confront the hardship and become stronger for the effort.  

Here’s to good fortuna for all in 2019!

Jurassic Bark

I thought I had come up with a clever and unique title until I did some web surfing.

Anyone who has even remotely followed our blog is aware that we recently acquired a new puppy – a Cardigan Welsh Corgi we named WynnSome. We had anticipated that getting a puppy would be somewhat of a challenge, but we didn’t anticipate how much more than “somewhat” it would be. Don’t get me wrong, we love Wynn and she makes us laugh at least five times every day, a much needed boost in these trying times.

Coat of Arms for the Cardigan Welch Corgi Club of America. Naturally, they have lots of good things to say about Cardigans

Our decision to get a Cardigan Welsh Corgi was definitely influenced by some of the things we read about the breed. Who would not be impressed by their origins and history? According to one source:

A warrior tribe of Celts brought the corgis in their aboriginal form to Cardiganshire, Wales around 1200 BCE, which means corgis have been in Wales for over 3000 years… The Welsh used the short dogs as herders as early as the 10th century. … Because of their closeness to the ground, corgis had easy access to the cows’ ankles and were difficult targets of the retaliatory kicks of cattle… Some say that the corgi is an “enchanted dog” favored by fairies and elves. At night the magical creatures would use the dogs to pull their carriages and be their steeds in battle.

How special to think we would have an “enchanted” dog! But we didn’t carefully read the fine print when researching Cardigan Corgis. For example, we paid little attention to the fact that this breed has a proclivity to bark, quite piercingly and frequently, which we (and undoubtedly our neighbors) noticed right off the bat.

This clip from Jurassic Park just as well could have been a photo of our neighbors peeking over our fence to learn the source of the seemingly primordial barking.

Consequently, I have been spending a good deal of my time lately looking into the evolutionary origins of dogs and why they bark so much. About their origins, I learned from ThoughtCo.com that

Dogs were only domesticated about 10,000 years ago, but their evolutionary history goes back way further than that–as witness one of the earliest canines yet discovered, Hesperocyon, which lived in North America a whopping 40 million years ago… [Editor’s note: I was really bummed to learn that there were no true dog ancestors barking at dinosaurs during the Jurassic period – kinda makes my title misleading, but I still like it]

Hesperocyon, a prehistoric ancestor of today’s dogs. Unfortunately, no audio recordings of their barking from 45 million years ago have survived (keep in mind that this was long before Spotify).

What I discovered about modern dogs was also fascinating but not particularly encouraging, especially regarding Cardigans. Take for example a post on DogDiscoveries.com:

[Corgis’] large, sensitive radar-dish ears twitch almost constantly and seem to capture sounds that other dogs may fail to notice. It doesn’t help that a corgi’s barking has also” big dog” bark that means business and can pierce your ears… They’ll bark at the noise of wind, car doors opening and closing and even the T.V.

Wynn’s “large, sensitive radar-dish ears” can pick up the sound of dogs barking more than 30 miles away.

The question of why dogs bark is the subject of a number of scientific publications I came across. One that caught me eye was published in Bioacoustics – The International Journal of Animal Sound and its Recording, which I imagine caters to a large audience. It was entitled A bark of its own kind – the acoustics of ‘annoying’ dog barks suggests a specific attention-evoking effect for humans (yes, that’s the actual title). I plowed through the article and understood the part about dog barking being annoying to humans. The rest of the article was over my head.

So you can imagine how relieved I was to come across an analysis of dog barking that I could actually relate to. Furthermore, it turns out that it was written by one of my all time favorite columnists, Dave Barry, who wrote a nationally syndicated humor column for the Miami Herald from 1983 to 2005.

He often wrote about his dogs and their antics. In this particular column he tells about Earnest, his “large main dog” and Zippy, his little “emergency backup dog.” He claims that their most important “duty” is barking:

They use the energy-conserving Two-Dog Alternating Bark Procedure: a deep BARK from Earnest, followed immediately by a high, irritating yip! from Zippy, followed immediately by another BARK, and so on BARK yip! BARK yip! until morning.

They implement this procedure whenever their keen senses detect that one of the following Danger Red Alert situations has occurred:

1. Someone is at the door.
2. No one is at the door.
3. Another dog – any dog, anywhere in the universe – is barking.
4. None of the above.

But what I appreciated most was Dave Barry’s explanation of why dogs bark:

Dogs employ barking as a vital means of communicating important messages, such as: “bark.” Barking also serves a vital biological purpose: If a dog does not release a certain number of barks per day, they will back up, and the dog will explode.

This got me a bit concerned. What if our efforts to suppress Wynn’s barking is putting her in harm’s way? Given the volume and frequency of her barks, coupled with the length of her body, even a short period of suppressed-bark-backup pressure could be fatal. And we certainly wouldn’t want to be responsible for her exploding in her crate one night. This convinced me that our best strategy to deal with Wynn’s excessive barking is, to paraphrase and old idiom, let barking dogs bark.

Now I have to work on getting our neighbors to go along with that strategy.

You Win Some and You Lose Some

I won this one. Or maybe to win is to lose. Or to lose is to win. It remains to be seen. But WynnSome, a 10-week-old brindle and white Cardigan Welsh Corgi, arrived at our home on August 31st. And she is indeed winsome.

WynnSome D

Suddenly Senior says 70 is a good age to adopt a pup (we’ll let you run the numbers to figure out why). Let’s just say we overshot that by a bit, but we were seizing the “Wynn-dow” of opportunity.

It’s been almost 2 years since Ancho Antwerp Walden Hill was to arrive at SFO – bound for our Sonoma home. A red merle Australian Shepherd puppy, with much the same bloodlines as our beloved Oakley Devine. But Fortuna intervened and she went to Maine instead of Glen Ellen. So we’ve had two years of “should we?” “could we?” “maybe yes?’ “maybe no?” There’s been many talks around our dinner table….about puppies.

Even after 54 years of marital bliss (if you believe that, I’ll tell you another funny story), Andy and I still manage to have some pretty tense exchanges. And getting a new pet is certifiably guaranteed to cause a little huff and puff and drama with us both. Our cat ChocoLatte’s entrance into our family is a case in point. After we had put him – a scrawny 8-week-old kitten – back into his cage at Sonoma’s Pets Lifeline, having decided he wasn’t something we were meant to have, we turned and walked, slowly and sadly and sans new kitty, back to our car. And then I burst into tears. And then we went back and got Choco.

ChocoLatte – at our home and no longer a kitten

Of course you know that there are two kinds of Welsh Corgis – the Cardigan and the Pembroke. And, of course you know that Queen Elizabeth is famous for her Pembroke Corgis. And Queen Elizabeth was WAY over 70 when she got her two most recent Corgi puppies. Guess you could say we’re just living like royalty!

2016: Queen Elizabeth II at 90 years young
1936: Queen Elizabeth at 10 years of age; kind of fascinating to note the difference in appearance between the 1936 Corgis and the 2016 Corgis.

WynnSome is a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, unlike the Queen’s. These little Welsh herding dogs, who always have a tail, date back centuries and are descended from the Dachshund family. What a surprise! We’re already impressed with Wynn’s intelligence, speed, and determination – and her love of good (or even bad) food! She’ll clearly fit in well to this foodie family.

As for her name, read today’s Andy’s Corner. It reveals the complexity of animal-name-choosing in our family. The fact that “Wynn” is an old Welsh female name – which some sources say means “joy” or “friend” – certainly influenced our decision-making.

from the AKC: Cardigan above, Pembroke below

As we enter into this new phase of our life, with fingers crossed, I want to dedicate this “Cat” Stevens song not to our cats but to Andy (and to WynnSome). Here’s hoping “I love my dog as much as I love you.” You’ll have to listen to the next line of the lyrics to fully appreciate the message. 🙂

Our recipe choice is an obvious one – in many ways. We’re SO looking forward to traveling again, and New York is our favorite destination – followed closely by Mexico, but we’ve done lots of Mexican recipes. And New York adoptable dogs are being seriously looked at by our New York kiddos. May their next dog be a winner – not a wiener. (OMG – save me from the corn – but keep the corn dogs!)

Our New York Dog
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Pluck and Luck and Cluck (and Andy is doing F***)

Franz Kafka may not be classified as a philosopher, but he was hugely more philosophical in his writing and thinking than I am. When our friend Lynne started discussing Kafka with Andy and me at lunch the other day (and she made another great sandwich for us – not an Italian Sub this time but a pastrami…more on that below.), I had to admit that I neither knew nor understood anything about his writings. (My ability to discuss philosophy is not dissimilar to my ability to describe wines. I know “big” and “fruity” – and that’s about it, which is pretty embarrassing for someone who lives and drinks in Sonoma.) When Andy and Lynne zeroed in on Kafka’s puzzling depiction of a man’s metamorphosis into a cockroach, I started to get brain fog.

Nonetheless, I like to contemplate life and how one manages it, especially given today’s environment. Maybe that’s why I was recently so pleased with myself. Andy and I were talking about our 85-year-old gardening friend who came for brunch (Andy made his famous Sour Dough Belgian Waffles). In describing why I found her so impressive, I mentioned that she had a lot of “pluck.” But then I went deeper. – and more philosophical. I realized it wasn’t all just “pluck.” Some of it had to be “luck.” And there you have it: the metamorphosis of today’s blog.

Pluck and luck. Unfortunately, a little googling shows that my descriptors – pluck and luck – are not that creative or novel.

Maybe you’re familiar with the Japanese manga series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, which was introduced in 1987 (not surprisingly, I had never heard of it until last week). A main character’s sword, originally named “Luck” ultimately has a “P” added to it to become “Pluck.” Most likely that idea came from a 1898 “dime” novel series entitled Pluck and Luck: Complete Stories of Adventure. Jack Wright, the main character in Pluck and Luck, embarks on adventures which range from engaging the “Bushmen of Australia,” confronting ghosts, fighting fires, searching the bottom of the sea for gold, and even dealing with Wall Street! All in all 1,605 issues were published, ending in 1929.

Circa 1924. Clingy woman. Aggressive White man. Threatened Indian. Lots to philosophically contemplate here. And, yes, there’s that title!

Pluck: courage and resolve in the face of difficulties

Luck: the force that causes things to happen to you by chance and not as the result of your own efforts or abilities

Cluck: the low interrupted noise a chicken makes

And how did “cluck” and “f***” get pulled into this intensely-philosophical blog? Since neither Kafka nor the adventure series inspired me with food ideas or suggestions for Andy’s Corner (we haven’t ventured into eating cockroaches…yet), I had to resort to a more simplistic approach: continue with the rhyme. Pluck…luck. I don’t eat “duck,” so that was not an option. And we do have a favorite new egg recipe to share. Cluck, cluck, cluck.

As for Andy’s Corner, well, he couldn’t resist the wild and crazy opportunity to write about F***!

And as for Lynne’s d-lish Pastrami sandwich, the key is this Russian Dressing from Epicurious.com. To make it, butter one side of a good Jewish rye bread; with the buttered side down, add a layer of Swiss cheese, coat the cheese with the Russian dressing, add the pastrami and RAW sauerkraut (looking for probiotics here), then top with another buttered slice of bread, this time with the buttered side facing up. Toast on a griddle, turning once. Oh my. (An aside: Kafka was Jewish but not Russian – so this sandwich ties into the blog…existentially…maybe).

And now for the baked egg!

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Is 82″ Big Enough?

For $2600 Andy and I can get a Samsung 82″ TV at Best Buy. For $200 to $400 – and possibly much more – we can buy 2 tickets for a Broadway musical. For $25 – or less- we can get 2 tickets to our favorite movie theater (The Summerfield Cinemas in Santa Rosa, CA).

What do you think? An ad for the 82″ Samsung

Why the dilemma? We’re deep into watching past and present musicals and wondering if our 40″ TV will provide the proper experience.

Why musicals? Perhaps it was the TV/movie theater release of In the Heights. Maybe it was the release of the new musical/comedy TV series, Schmigadoon – a parody, obviously, on the 1947 Broadway musical Brigadoon. Or was it that having just watched Daveed Diggs in the movie Blindspotting, we were reminded of his role as Thomas Jefferson in the musical Hamilton? More than likely it’s because we’re looking forward to a return visit to Brooklyn in the very near future and wondering what NYC musical we’ll be able to see (and afford).

As part of this research, we decided the other night to watch Brigadoon on our 40″ Samsung TV (which recently replaced our old 26″ Samsung TV). The movie was released in 1954, so Andy and I were 11 and 10 years old – and I’m sure we must have seen it then. I would have gone to the Aggie Theater in Fort Collins, CO, and I’m guessing it was pretty awesome to see such a romantic (if schmaltzy) musical.

Fort Collins, Colorado’s College Avenue and the Aggie Movie Theater, circa 1950’s. Attack, the movie then showing, was released in 1956.

Brigadoon, Schmigadoon.In the Heights, and then ???? Will there be a parody of In the Heights released around 2090? And what might it be called? A fun thought-game for your next free moment.

After an aborted attempt to get HBO Max just to watch the Lin-Manuel Miranda production – and an unenthusiastic response on our part to the TV trailers for In the Heights, and after I fell asleep in the middle of Brigadoon, I’m convinced that musicals – to be enjoyed to their fullest – must be on the big screen or best of all, live, in a theater. Better yet – on Broadway or in London!

Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse in Brigadoon. I stayed awake through this scene.

When I was talking to Andy about seeing musicals in person, he quickly reminded me about the time we saw the anti-Vietnam musical Hair in San Francisco; it was a logical jump from that to today’s Andy’s Corner…about a very funny/sad Vietnam experience Andy had.

And – looking forward instead of back – what can we look forward to in New York this year? How about Girl from the North Country with vintage songs from Bob Dylan? It’s re-opening in October after being forced to close the Broadway production a month after opening because of COVID. It’s almost eerie to read what Ben Brantley wrote in his glowing NYTimes review of the production in March of 2020 – that most ominous month:

A nation is broken. Life savings have vanished overnight. Home as a place you thought you would live forever no longer exists. People don’t so much connect as collide, even members of the same family. And it seems like winter is never going to end.

Sounds like the perfect uplifting and upbeat pray-that-it’s-post-Covid musical! But how can we resist Bob Dylan? And, when you read more of Brantley’s review, you may be standing in line at the box office with me!

Yet while this singular production, which opened on Thursday night at the Belasco Theater under McPherson’s luminous direction, evokes the Great Depression with uncompromising bleakness, it is ultimately the opposite of depressing. That’s because McPherson hears America singing in the dark. And those voices light up the night with the radiance of divine grace.

And now back to food. The purported subject of this blog. In honor of the amazing Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose Hamilton AND In the Heights Andy and I were both fortunate enough to see on Broadway, we have two Puerto-Rico inspired recipes – Ropa Vieja and Natillas. When I find some unique and d-lish recipes from “The North Country” – Dylan’s home state of Minnesota – I’ll include them. 🙂

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