Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The World at my Fingertips!

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Tuesday July 29, 2014
Sunny 78F/26C/ (Going up to 90F/32C) in Rancho Las Musket
Bonjour, mes amis! Aujourd’hui l’il est mardi!
Now, why am I talking like this? Because I have a poodle? To my knowledge, Lola speaks only English, with a smattering of Italian.
Mais non, mes amis! Because today is Tuesday, and Linda’s French class starts in a few minutes. That’s why. And it’s in the library, right around the corner from my apartment. So, how can I turn down the opportunity to learn something new, engage in a conversation about something other than “Obamacare” and how the country is going to hell in a hand basket, AND, maybe even hook up with some single chicks. How could I stay home and watch “Let’s Make a Deal,” with an opportunity like this staring me in the face. “Come on Lola, let’s go expand our horizons!” Hmmm! Lola is still in bed, feigning sleep. Looks like I’m on my own.
The French class is a new addition to the myriad of activities at my “55-Plus Living Center,” in the extremely-planned community of Rancho Santa Margarita, California. The community is very “Senior Friendly,” offering any number of special services for us “55 Plus” types. Rancho, as we locals like to call it, is a small city planted in the wilds of an old Spanish land grant some thirty years ago, and promoted by the developer as “The New Shangri-La of the 20th Century.” (I am not making this up!) Other planned activities include: the monthly free movie in the “Club Room”; something called “Wii Bowling” in front of the big screen TV, where active seniors emulate bowling moves to a video game, a la “the Big Lebowsky;” monthly field trips by bus on scenic outings to places like the Richard Nixon Birthplace and the Indian gaming casinos; the weekly shopping trips by shuttle bus to Super Wal-Mart and the Dollar Store and others; weekly senior water ballet classes in the pool, Tai Chi classes, and lotsa other stuff. In other words this is an ideal place for the kids to plant grandma or grandpa, so they don’t have to trip over them at their own house, and, where they can let them live nearby without the guilty conscience that sometimes comes when you put the elders “in a home.” Seriously, this place is great! Please don’t snitch me off to my ex-wife. She thinks I’m miserable.
So, back to the French lessons. When I told my son the other day that I had signed up for a French class, his question was, “Why, Dad?” I thought you were trying to learn Italian so you could talk to your in laws when you come back to Rome!” “That, too, my son. That, too. But they are offering the French class here for FREE!” Our teacher is a delightful lady, originally from the Philippines, who has traveled extensively and lived for many years in France. As it turns out, she is also trying to learn Italian for her upcoming trip to Italy. So, we also have that in common. So, I added the Eurotalk Immersion CD course in French to my extensive private library which already boasts Spanish and Italian. Lesson Deux (2) this morning. Il me faut un pneu neuf. (I need a new tyre).

Ciao, MikeBo

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Trip Down Memory Lane!

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Sunday July 20, 2014
Sunny (What Else? There’s a drought on!) 77F/25C in Rancho Las Musket

Just as I was turning the page on the Register’s Sunday comic section, Lola came up from under my desk and put both paws on my leg. I looked down into her pretty dark eyes as she asked me, “What are you writing about NOW, Mikie? Teabaggers and other political stuff? Your ‘Golden Years’ again? Or is it another obscure moment in ancient history?” I nearly “shushed” her, fearing what the neighbors might say if they overhead her talking to me, again, when I remembered that my conversations with my “Emotional Support Animal” are conducted psychically – no talking out loud. Looking into her eyes, I thought to myself, “No, my pet. I’m writing about how I learned to use chop sticks.” With that, Lola my pet poodle, aka Bichon Frise, curled up to hear the story.
                It was a sunny day in L.A. back in 19-ought-68. I was a newly hired reporter at KFWB Radio, which had just become a brand-new “all-news” radio station, and I was spending my first day covering City Hall. Since I had no specific assignment, I was just taking myself around on a “get acquainted tour” of the City Council offices and the Press Room. My first stop was the office of 14th District Councilman Arthur K. Snyder, who at that moment was just another name on the City Hall contact sheet. I would soon learn that he was one of the more colorful members of that august body. But, the receptionist explained to me that he was “unavailable at that moment,” but she would summon his “Press Secretary.” A short time later, another office door opened and out stepped “Mr. Goldberg,” looking a bit rumpled, necktie askew and a “five o’clock shadow” on his pudgy face. He shook my hand and welcomed me to the vortex of city government. “City Council is where it’s happening, and “my guy” is one of the main players!” Years later, after I became a “Press Secretary” myself, I would always refer to my boss the same way. He was always “my guy.” If another press secretary’s boss stumbled, I would commiserate with my colleague with, “Looks like ‘Your guy’ is having a bad day.” If my boss won his election, it would be, “Hey, my guy is on a roll.” Once “my guy” even wound up being convicted. But, that’s a story for another time. Back to Mr. Goldberg and the chopsticks.
                Jerry took me around City Hall on a whirlwind tour of everything a new reporter on this beat would need to know. I met all the press folks for all the city council members. Then, we walked through the Press Room. Whoa, that was a moment! I shook hands with one grizzled reporter after another. Names that had been legendary “by-lines” to me up to that point extended their hands and welcomed me to the City Hall Beat. In their eyes, L.A. Hall was the most important place a newsman could be assigned. The White House was a distant second. After meeting the guys from the Long Beach papers, The Daily Breeze, Valley News, Newhall Signal, City News Service and some others, Jerry took me into the “Holy of Holies.” The City Hall Bureau of the Los Angeles Times! I was truly in the presence of greatness! As Goldberg introduced me around, I got the feeling that I was being welcomed into a very special brotherhood by tribal elders in the Pantheon of still unfolding Los Angeles history. To punctuate the event, one senior reporter for the Los Angeles Times shook my hand and welcomed me. Irv Burleigh’s name had appeared at the top of his Times stories for many years. To me, he struck a resemblance to Col. Harland Sanders right down to the graying goatee on his chin, the glasses he wore and the white hair atop his head. Leaning down to the bottom drawer of his battered desk he reached in and came up with a half empty bottle of bourbon. “I think a little toast to your arrival is in order, Mike.” It wasn’t quite 11 o’clock in the morning, and I had remembered scenes like this from old B-movies, but this was for real. I quickly demurred, blurting out that I had to talk on the radio and my boss would know instantly if I’d been imbibing. But, I appreciated Irv’s gesture. It was part of the long standing legend of the “hard drinking reporter.”
                After a few more pleasantries, Goldberg looked at his watch and said, “Time for lunch, Mike. You like Japanese?” At KFWB in those days, field reporters didn’t get a set meal period. Most days were busy and I would be lucky to have time to grab a sandwich. When I tried to decline the invitation, my host said. “Hey, you are on assignment, and your assignment is to get to know ‘who’s who’ at City Hall and the next part of this assignment is to research how the City Hall ‘who’s who’ eats lunch. Besides, you are the guest of Councilman Arthur K. Snyder.” Who could argue with that logic, and, off we went, strolling out the south entrance, across First Street and left toward Little Tokyo. Along the way, Jerry pointed out the local architecture and landmarks in a never-ending commentary. “There is the Farmacia Hidalgo, as he pointed out a drug store we were passing. Very traditional pharmacy. You can even purchase leeches for medical purposes.” Gee, I thought, doctors haven’t done that since the turn of the century. “I know what you’re thinking,” Jerry said, as he read my mind. “But, very infrequently some old school doctor or medicine man will still apply leeches in his treatments.”
                He led me into a nearby restaurant. “Very down home,” I said as we settled in to our table. Since I had never eaten Japanese food in my life up to that time, I looked up from my menu and asked my host to make some suggestions and I would rely on his example. That worked out very well as it turned out. But, as I started to ask the waiter for a fork to eat with, Jerry asked, “Don’t you use chop sticks?” I replied that I had no idea how. He picked his up and said, “It’s really easy. With a little practice, you’ll get to be a whiz with them.” Since, this was an authentic “down home” Japanese restaurant, I really didn’t have a choice, since there was no silverware at our table. “This place caters to neighborhood folks,” he said. Then, I noticed that ours were the only pale faces in the restaurant and I hadn’t heard a single word of English since I walked in.
                With Jerry Goldberg as my role model, I did eventually get the hang of the chop sticks, and lunch turned into a really memorable experience. As we got up to leave, I thanked my host, and said, “This is one for the books for me, Jerry. Every time I order Japanese or Chinese or Korean or Thai and someone else at the table flinches and orders a fork and spoon from the waiter, I’m going to tell them the story of how I learned to use chop sticks. From a Jewish guy from Chicago named Jerry Goldberg, in a Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo, California.”  Even today, almost 50 years later, I think about that time that I first used chop sticks, and I tell the story.

Ciao, MikeBo

Thursday, July 17, 2014

About them "Immigrants!"

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Thursday July 17, 2014
Sunny (Again, grrrr!) 80 F/27 C in Rancho Las Musket
Answering phones. Checking the news on the Internet. All the signs point to a big news day. Jetliner shot down…295 killed. Fingers pointing. Refugees still swarming our borders. Rick Perry still shocked. But, Ted Cruz has a solution and people are asking him to go back to Canada and think it over some more. New pins in the “Impeach President Obama” doll.  And, my hometown newspaper, The Riverhead News Review has a headline, “Border Children Reunite in Riverhead.”
It’s the heartwarming story of two young boys who trekked from Guatemala through Mexico and skirted Rick Perry at the Texas frontier to be reunited with their family in my home town out on Long Island. Riverhead, New York. Here, we won’t even let our kids walk to the store by themselves, but these boys walked from Guatemala and Mexico to get here. Estabon, 16 and Pedro 14, were first cared for by the people of the former “Bear Flag Republic,” (yes, gentle reader. The Golden State of California was once an independent nation, kind of like Texas, but richer and more enlightened!) This news from my home town warmed my heart. Imagine. Card carrying New Yorkers helping “immigrants.” Especially friends of my family’s from Riverhead. How dare they! Commies! And, they put it in our local paper. The nerve of them! Now, Estabon and Pedro are awaiting a decision from those warm hearted souls a “La Migra” if they can stay with their mom.
Even from a distance, I’m optimistic, because I’m old enough to remember going to grade school in Riverhead and seeing all the new kids that flooded in after World War II. Most of them were Polish kids; a few were German kids, Dieter and Garth, and an English one or two. There was one Swiss boy, Helmut and a pretty, I think, Russian girl - Valeria. I remember the Polish kids best, because there were quite a few of them. Mary and Paul were two that I recall. Plus the fact that a lot of people from Poland had settled around my home town. The new kids had people who spoke their language. Lately, I’ve run into a few of them at class reunions. They all speak pretty good English now. You’d never know that they were once “D.P.s.” Huh? You ask? What’s a D.P? Just like I explained to my son Mike one night over a drink at Doc’s Tavern in “Polish Town.”
“D.P.” was an abbreviation for “Displaced Person.” It was the official United Nations designation for those Europeans who had been left homeless by the war. Some were orphans, sole survivors of entire families that had been killed by the Nazis. So after the war, America opened its borders and its heart and welcome thousands of these refugees. And you know what? The kids that started at my school, the ones who couldn’t speak a word of English when they arrived learned English and studied, math, and spelling, played in the school band and in a little while, fit right in. After a while we forgot that they were once “DP’s”. Now, if you ask somebody around those parts what a “D.P.” is, they won’t know what you’re talking about.
So, if Ted Cruz and Rick Perry and their friends would just shut the hell up and get out of the way, America could get on with the business of being America again.

Ciao! Mike Botula

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Wednesday July 16, 2014
June Gloomy 76F/ C in Rancho Las Musket
Buon giorno,
“June Gloomies” in July? Hey, blame it on Global Warming! Or maybe same sex marriage! Better yet, let’s blame it on OBAMA!
                June Gloomies, gentle reader is a meteorological phenomenon that befalls Southern California every year, just about. If March roars in like a lion and April brings May showers. Then, June creeps in on little cat feet. (Thank you, Carl Sandburg.) “Daylight come, an de overcast crawls in,” Harry Belafonte could have sung if he’d lived in Rancho Santa Margarita in the 1950s. But, he lived in Jamaica, mon, and sang about other stuff. No sir! June “Gloomies” is a condition that sees seemingly endless days of low clouds and overcast along the coast. Sometimes extending far inland. After a few days, it can give you the “willies.” One Saturday long ago I woke up on another overcast morning, rolled over and said to Donna. “Brush your teeth and pack your weekend stuff, we’re getting the hell out of Dodge.” Naturally, she asked me what I was thinking. “I have had enough of ‘June Gloomies, my beloved. We are getting in the car and heading east until the sun comes out. Wherever that is! And there we will spend the weekend. Be sure to grab your swim stuff.”  And, away we went. East. Until we arrived in Palm Desert, California, more than 100 miles away from “June Gloomies.” And there, it came to pass, that we had a wonderful weekend, just the two of us. And, that, gentle reader is the old Bohemian folk remedy for June Gloomies. Pretty lady. Travel. Lots a sunshine.
                That’s what I thought about when I woke up this morning, and that’s what I’m grateful for today, a memory like that.
                On this day in History: (Thanks to Historyorb.com)
463 - Start of Lunar Cycle of Hilarius. He was Pope until 468. Nothing in his history would give you the slightest feeling that he was funny.
622 – This is a biggie! Prophet Muhammad begins flight from Mecca to Medina (Hegira). The rest is history.
1439 - Kissing is banned in England (to stop germs from spreading). Today we call it “abstinence.”
1618 – Capt. John Gilbert patents 1st dredger in Britain.
1945 - 1st test detonation of an atomic bomb, Trinity Site, Alamogordo, New Mexico
Famous Birthdays include these great names in history:
1887 - "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, black sox player (“Say it ain’t so, Joe”)
1888 – “Pa Kettle,” Percy Kilbride, San Francisco CA, actor was born. (Egg & I, Ma & Pa Kettle)
1907 - Orville Redenbacher, Brazil Indiana, American popcorn King (Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet)
Also, let us not forget:
599 - Monulphus, bishop of Tongeren-Maastricht (St Servaaskerk), dies. Tongeren-Maastricht hasn’t been the same since.
And, so it goes. I think I need another cup of coffee.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Sunday July 13, 2014                                        
Sunny Day Again 78F/ 26C in Rancho Las Musket going to 90!
Buon giorno, amici,
There’s been a lot on my mind lately, but I’ve hesitated to say anything out loud, because it will piss some people off, and they’ll start calling me “Leftie,” or “Obama Lover,” or even Nazi or Commie or maybe “Damnyankee!” Hell’s Bells, even my childhood friends call me a (GASP) “Liberal.” But, I’m OK with that! I’ve got my call blocking set up, and can switch this computer off with the last key stroke and pull a bag over my head.  So here goes.
                I can’t turn on my TV or radio or open Facebook anymore without hearing the anger and prejudice of people who shout about being “god-fearing American CHRISTIANS.” There’s Rick Perry with his Texas-size mouth and acorn-size intellect to join the tumult. Suffice to say the coverage of that demonstration this past week in Murrieta, California really got my cork out. That, and similar scenes that played out all along our southern Mexican border as thousands of young refugees fled north to escape the violence back home and seek a safe haven here. Most of them are young children who have traveled by themselves for long distances to get away from the violence and death they hope to leave behind. I was appalled at their reception here. After I heard what the mayor of Murrieta, California had to say, I was, frankly, ashamed at what my country is becoming. I hear this right wing clack and clatter, and I can’t help but remember what I heard in my Sunday school class when I was about the same age as these children. In the King James Version of the New Testament, St. Matthew tells us, “And, Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’” Rev. Brown used to quote Jesus’ saying every time a little baby would interrupt the Sunday sermon with its screaming. Rev. Brown use to say that not only to reassure the mother that it was OK, all were welcome there, even hungry, screaming infants; and to remind the entire congregation that children held a very special place in Jesus’ heart. At least that was how I recall St. Matthew, but they’ve revised the New Testament since then, and the screaming in Murrieta comes from the revised edition, I guess. But, back to my original point.
The folks coming from the south have stories have similar to those of my own grandparents: They are fleeing the Imperial ambitions of and oppression by their leaders, the never-ending wars, starvation, poverty, and persecution. But, here’s a major difference between my grandparents’ story and these refugees. The robber barons of the 19th century at least, exploited their workers, but they followed a set of rules that everybody understood. My Grandpa had a contract, a steerage ticket for the boat ride to America, a job, and a place to live and raise his family. Others have had it differently. When my friends’ families and even some of my in-laws’ families came north, guided by the glow of “The City on the Hill,” they swam or traveled on rickety, leaking boats; some hiked across the desert after climbing fences; others hid on trains or in car trunks. A lot of them died on the way, killed by bandits, shot by border police, assaulted by misguided “patriots” or dying of thirst and heat, exhaustion or drowning.  
I don’t know what my grandfather’s job was in the “old country,” but here he got to be a pretty good coal miner. As I grew up, I noticed the two fingers missing from his hand. “Mine accident,” was all he’d say in his broken English. After “the accident” he moved his family to Pittsburgh so he could get away from the mines and keep his sons out of them. He found a good job and he and my grandmother raised their nine kids and settled in for the rest of their lives as American citizens.
                Today’s children have to pass a different type of entrance exam. Their journey began with the “coyotes,” the human traffickers who lied to them about being welcome in Los estados unidos and charged them dearly for their tickets north. The smugglers showed them how to ford the rivers and where the paths across the border were and they went wherever the coyotes would tell them, and for another price, where the jobs were. The “coyotes” would also be paid by the companies who were looking for cheap labor that wouldn’t complain about the rotten conditions and then could be discarded when they outlived their usefulness. They do the types of work that no self-respecting “American” would be caught dead doing. If they got jobs as farmworkers, the companies they worked for pushed them into very long days, low wages and hard stoop labor in the fields. If they were lucky, they were able to squeeze into an absentee landlords’ slum. Many of the farmworkers had to camp out in the fields where they worked, forced to defecate and urinate among the vegetables they tended. Think John Steinbeck’s writing during the Depression.
Well, I could go on. But I’m done here. Bottom line? I was infuriated and shamed by what I’ve seen and heard in recent days. The airwaves and newspapers are filled with the kind of claptrap the Mayor of Murietta spouts. Absolutely unconscionable are the statements by our public officials, like Governor Perry, and the entire Republican leadership in Washington. They’ve turned the “Party of Lincoln” into something I haven’t seen since Il Duce strutted around on his balcony.
In all of the shouting and displays of prejudice and hatred in recent days, the only really “Christian” note struck was news that Catholic Charities is helping with badly needed assistance to the children being detained.
Instead of continuing to grit my teeth and unplug the TV until my anger and shame subsided, I went to the Catholic Charities web site and made a donation to their relief effort. For me, it was the Christian thing to do. (And I was raised as a Methodist); plus, I was a Boy Scout; (a Scout is helpful). Here is the web address if you feel so inclined: http://catholiccharitiesusa.org The warm feeling you’ll get will last for days or until you watch the next news cycle!


Friday, July 11, 2014

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Friday July 11, 2014
Sunny 80F/ 27C in Rancho Las Musket
Going through my mail this morning, I came across a flyer from nearby Saddleback College. Since I’m still one Algebra class short of an Associate’s Degree in History, I looked up Saddleback’s web address and started trolling. They do have the math class that I need, and, they also have a variety of classes for those of us who want to learn……….ta dah…….ITALIAN! Both are offered on line, which would give me a work around, because I’m hoping to be in Italy this fall behaving like an Italian. You know, ignoring stop signs and traffic lights and taking your dog into the restaurant with you, drinking espresso night and day and passing on that dish of ice cream to order Gelato. Seeing the Italian class on the schedule really helps solve a problem for me. I want to learn Italian, so I can better communicate with my in-laws in Rome and be able to get around more easily in general when I’m there.
Amazingly, San Joaquin Delta College, where I went when I was living in Stockton, dropped its Italian language classes in a budget cutback. This struck me as odd because this part of California was settled by Italian immigrants who brought their grapevines with them. When they failed to strike it rich up in the Sierra looking for gold, many of them came back to the flatlands and planted vineyards. The Lodi area adjacent to Stockton is now the Lodi Appellation, home of some of the finest red wines in the world. Lodi’s “Old Vine Zinfandel” is produced from vines which date back to their first plantings in the 1850s. To me Delta College’s choice for a budget adjustment was a slap in the face of a pillar of California History. So I had to take Spanish, which is very close to Italian, so I didn’t feel too bad.  I did pick up a class at the Italian Cultural Society up in Sacramento. But, that was just a starter course for travelers. Plus, I’m out of range now and I’ve been scrambling around to find a handy Italian class. So, I’m looking into this and I’ll keep you posted. I actually love Internet classes. You can study at any time of day or night and you don’t have to try to find a parking place within a mile of your classroom. Besides, college campuses are like the “Land of the Zombies” anymore. What with all these snot-nose kids lurching around staring at the screens of their I-phones texting to God knows who. The quad used to be so vibrant. Now it’s like any government office with acres of cubicles and little robots sitting in front of computer screens while the low hum of office equipment fills the air. I just wish the Italian Cultural Society offered Internet classes. I’ve still got my textbook and my Italian-English dictionary. Besides with Skype, I always have a way to practice my Italian with my Italian friends in Rome. I can even help them learn English.
Hmmm! Looking back over what I’ve written, I realize that I really deviated from my plan. I was going to send along an update on Lola and my life with my “companion dog.” But we’ll have to move that over to another day. I also think it's time to revisit the historical occurrence that lent it's name to the working title for this blog, "Lost Musket Diary." Until next time, gentle reader, think El Conquistador y el Trabuco. Until next time.....

Thursday, July 10, 2014

LOST MUSKET DIARY” Thursday July 10, 2014
Sunny, Slight Haze 78F/ 26C in Rancho Las Musket
I’ve always wanted to write something that would get published rather than languishing for eternity at the bottom of my sock drawer. Oh yeah, I was seen on TV and listened to on the radio. You could even catch a glimpse of me, usually playing a reporter, on a TV show or a movie. The problem is that kind of creativity is extremely volatile, as fans of silent movies shot on nitrate film or listeners to live network radio or early live television can attest. It goes into a microphone or camera and comes out the other end and then flies off into the ether, never to be heard again. I’m sure that the last of my thirty years of live radio and TV broadcasts is just now passing the planet Uranus on its way to the Andromeda Galaxy.  Finally, my dream was realized with the introduction of my web site www.mikebotula.com a few years ago. Then, last November, I started posting my Rome Diary on Facebook. Now, I’m under way on a new venture with my new blog at http://mikebotula.blogspot.com/  I invite you to check it out. Once again, that’s http://mikebotula.blogspot.com/ My place in history seems to be growing, and I can check on it through “Dr. Google.” Stay tuned.
I’m a big fan of other writers. I’ve been reading Don Barrett’s stuff about radio on his www.LARadio.com web site for years, and, have even contributed a few radio stories of my own. First thing in the morning, right after I check out the new Dick Tracy comic strip, I click onto Ken Levine’s blog http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/ Ken got his start working on the KMPC Sportswire during his student days at UCLA. Over the years he’s been a disc jockey, sports broadcaster and has built a huge reputation as a writer for “Cheers, M.A.S.H., and any number of other top television series along with his partner, David Isaacs. Ken worked at KMPC Radio several years before I started there, so our paths have yet to cross. But, to this day, Roger Carroll still sings Levine’s praises. Al Martinez, formerly of the L.A. Times has just come back from a near-death experience to continue with his own blog. Al is very special in my book. He once called me when he was doing a column about his mechanic who had become the victim of mistaken identity when our child support computer mistook him for the “Deadbeat Dad” who owed ten years back child support for an out of wedlock child. But, that’s a story of its own. Of course there are political writers that I follow, like Roger Simon of Politico. I love to follow politics, but the field is overrun with “political pundits and Pooh-Bahs,” as Spiro Agnew called them.
But, I had challenges to overcome before I could enter the Pantheon of American Writers. First, I’d have to come up with something that other people would want to read, and, secondly, I’d have to persuade a publisher to make that happen. Learning the basics was pretty easy. My mom gave me a love of reading, and had me read aloud to her day after day. I didn’t realize it then, but she was also teaching me to be a radio announcer.
Long before I started first grade at Aquebogue Elementary School, I used to listen to the folks’ big G.E. console radio in the living room.  All during my school years, thanks to great teachers, I enjoyed English, Social Studies and even Latin.  By the time I got to high school my goal was set and I made a pest out of myself at the local radio station until they gave me a job. As time passed, however, I noticed that all of my creativity would get pumped into a microphone and be processed in an electronic contraption in a way I didn’t understand, and get pushed out of a loudspeaker in some far away some place…roll around the ear drums of a crowd of people I didn’t even know and finally disappear into the ether never to be heard from again. On the other hand, the guys that wrote it down on paper, or painted it on canvas or carved on wood or marble, could have people enjoy their work for eternity, and I wanted some of that.
I hope that explains why I post on Facebook and now have a new blog with my name on it. I’m going to continue writing about stuff that interests me and share it with you. Every once in a while, I’ll share one of my “war stories” with my friends and I light up when someone will ask, “Great story, Mike! When are you going to write your book?” My usual response is, “When I retire.” Well guess what, gentle reader, I’m retired. It’s time to get to work.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Wednesday July 9, 2014
Sunny, Slight Haze 78F/ 26C in Rancho Lost Musket
Reveille Check List:
·         Open eyes, check vital signs-pulse, breathing, etc. Turn head, flex toes. Turn head and see where Lola is, glance at clock. Check window for sunlight.  All systems GO. CHECK!
·         Head for bathroom. Don’t forget to brush your teeth. Ten-4! CHECK!
·         Open bedroom window and patio door. Turn on ceiling fan. Start coffee. Start thinking about grocery list. CHECK!
·         Pour apple juice. Wash down AM prescription dose. Take Naproxen for all day Arthritis pain and stiffness. Evaluate physical abilities. Can you walk OK today. Begin shoulder therapy exercises. Start mental inventory. CHECK!
·         Pour coffee. On way to patio check bedroom to see if Lola’s eyes are open. If closed, proceed to patio and assume seat to enjoy coffee and admire the view of “Old Saddleback.” CHECK.
And that, my friends, is a typical beginning to my typical day in the “Golden State,” as I turn yet another page in the chronicle of my “Golden Years.” I find that I’m doing a lot of thinking and reflecting these days. Lots of remembering, and that’s a good thing, because it indicates to me that I don’t have Alzheimer’s yet. Or, at least I don’t think so.
Everyone over the age of 50, especially those of us who live alone live with the abject fear of “senior dementia.” This is driven home if you live in a community with a lot of “elderly people.” My contemporaries struggle every day to maintain their independence. That’s why “55-plus” senior living communities are so popular. I am constantly threading my way through swarms of slowly moving people, many pushing walkers, or darting about in scooter chairs with determined looks on their faces eager to demonstrate that they can still get around. Our friends the paramedics from Station 45 drop by several times a week. I can sit on my patio and watch. I’ve got the ritual down pat. Usually, the fire engine arrives first. Sometimes the paramedic truck beats it. A few seconds later, a Doctor’s ambulance pulls in. Uniforms pile off all three vehicles and about six people in uniforms carrying medical bags and pushing a gurney head quickly into the building. They’ll come out a few minutes later pushing the gurney back out to the ambulance. If this is a good call, the gurney will be empty. If the medical team is animated and chatting and smiling, that’ll mean the person who the 911 call was about wasn’t sick enough to have to go to the emergency room. But, if they appear downcast and their heads are down with no smiles, that’s not good. Because if the ambulance leaves along with one of the fire trucks leaving just one of them behind, that means they’ve left one of the firefighters to wait for the Sheriff to arrive. Now, it gets very quiet. I know the ritual. I used to be in the ambulance myself years ago and I watched the same ritual from my front window in Stockton, when my next door neighbor died. The Sheriff will arrive to conduct a death investigation, and then a bit later, either the coroner will arrive, or the “first call car” from the funeral home will show up and the end of life ritual will move on to another place. Growing old is not for sissies, the old joke goes. It’s true. But, there’s no choice in the matter.

Ciao! Mike Botula

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Editor's Note: Here's a page from my regular posting on Facebook. I want to make sure it's included in The Blog, because it reflects a life-changing moment for me.

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Cloudy Followed by Sunshine 80F/ 27C in Rancho Lost Musket
“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid!” Bogie’s line from Casablanca popped into my head during the visit to my ophthalmologist yesterday. I thought about it again this morning as I looked out from my balcony at “Old Saddleback” as the sun rose. “Lookin’ good, Mike,” Dr. Yuhan had said to me after peering deeply into my hazel eyes through his optical contraption. “20/20! You’re definitely good to go! And so went the expert’s assessment of my newly completed double cataract surgery. Dr. Kevin Yuhan, M.D. and his magic laser machine with rhythm accompaniment by the Kaiser Optical Surgery Team.
And, THAT, gentle reader is what I am grateful for this morning. I may not have the greatest vision, but, my eyesight is now back to normal, and, I no longer need glasses, except for reading the fine print on my lease and credit card contracts. I normally don’t like to talk about my medical stuff. Older people are frequently guilty of boring anyone who will listen about their latest operation. (“I coulda died, already!”) Or their gastric distress. (“The doctor says I have a ‘spastic colon,’ maybe a irritable bowel,’ or something!”) So, I don’t normally talk about my own disintegrating body very much. I prefer to let it speak for itself.
Last Fall, my doctor was telling me that if my eyesight continued to deteriorate I would not see well enough to get my driver’s license renewed, and he prescribed glasses for me which we both hoped would enable me to pass my driver’s exam. This prospect, frankly, scared the hell out of me. And, while I began planning a contingency, I also met with a new ophthalmologist after I moved back to Southern California. After dilating my eyes and conducting a careful examination, he said to me. “If you continue this way, you won’t be able to see anything, Mike.” I was stunned. Then he went on, “but if you go for the surgery, I can go in there and fix it in about 20 minutes on each eye.” I didn't even hesitate. “Oh, hell yeah,” I replied and he put me on the surgery schedule. Two operations, one on each eye, with the left eye first and the right eye a month later. “We don’t do both eyes at the same time,” he explained. “In case…..” He didn’t have to finish the sentence. The morning of the first operation, after I was all prepped and my head was immobilized on the operating table, he came in garbed in cap, mask and surgical gown to check on me before he got started. After reassuring me that everything looked good to him, going in, he asked if I had any last minute questions. “Only one,” I joked. “Are you in a good mood? I’ve been told that surgeons are at their best if they’re in a good mood when they operate.” He didn’t miss a beat. “Well even after a huge fight with my wife because I got drunk last night, I’m good to go!” I could tell he was smiling under that mask. “OK, let’s fix this thing for you. Talk to you in about half an hour.” And away we went. Today, I can see clearly again and I’m grateful to Dr. Yuhan for changing careers from aerospace engineering to ophthalmology.

Caio, MikeBo