“And You’ll Gonna Pay!”: Oh, Those Memories!

When my ex-wife and I lived in South Pasadena from 1986-1991, we encountered an eccentric French couple who became our landlords.  The woman was in her 60s, of a highly suspicious nature, and was always going through other people’s trash to find evidence of their misdoings, which she never found.  She also liked to place a quarter near one of the laundry machines to see who would take it, but nobody ever did.  Whenever she got angry at a tenant, she would exclaim, “And you’ll gonna pay!”  She used to scream at her husband, yelling out that he was the son of satan and a monster.  However, her spouse merely shrugged his shoulders and turned his back to her.  Unlike the woman, he was quite cordial and agreeable and loved to fix things.  “I fix. I fix.”, he would proclaim whenever we had a plumbing problem.  But he used scotch tape methods rather than any bonafide plumbing tool, so the problem always recurred.

The Case of the Water Men:

When we moved into this apartment complex, two men from the water company occupied the apartment opposite us on the second floor(We lived on the first floor).  Not long after our arrival, the water men left and the space was to remain unrented for the rest of our stay.  Now many people went up the stairs to visit the apartment,  but nobody took it.  We began to wonder what was so terrible about that apartment that kept prospective tenants away.  We thought about what the water men could have done to have made the space so repulsive.  These thoughts kept us busy on dreary days and were the source of much amusement.  However, this was a case that had no solution.

Roach motel:  Reservations Recommended!

When I first told my ex about a roach motel, she envisioned several rooms with furniture, a dining table and several accessories for comfort.  She was truly disappointed when she saw a bleak rectangular box with glue-like material inside, which would be the last object a roach would see before heading into eternal silence.

My roommate and I lived in a relatively clean, well-furnished apartment for several years until a couple of girls moved in downstairs(This time we were upstairs).  For amusement and extra money these girls sold their services on the top of the roof, so their clients could get an aerial view of Westwood as a bonus.  Alas, the girls had a habit of leaving garbage bags outside their room for days.

Word spreads quickly in a college town, and soon every UCLA roach dropped its studies to head for our apartment building.  Unfortunately, these roaches were not like our current garden roaches, large and orange-brown and quite choosy about their mates, but small German roaches that mated with every female roach no matter how unattractive she might be.  Soon our apartment was full of roaches that liked the dark, so we bought a roach motel.  The next day it was filled with roaches and a few other curious insects.  And every day it would be the same story.  Finally, we resorted to other methods.

Retribution!

Our owner’s in-laws came over when repairs were needed.  The man was quite the gentleman, but the woman we called “The Wicked Witch of the West”, because she needled us and said that the repairs were our fault.  We honored her by intoning the evil witch’s theme from the 1939 MGM movie.  One day she was showing our apartment to to possible renters.  She yelled at us:  “What is all this white powder on the floor?!”  I replied, “That’s to kill off all the roaches.”  My roommate and I laughed and laughed, but I will draw a curtain of silence over this scene and this post.

 

Another Brief Note

Because of health issues, family problems and sudden changes in lifestyle, I have decided to suspend my posts until I’m able to establish some equilibrium in my life.  I am grateful to the 101 followers that have taken the time to read my posts.  I am also grateful for the many comments I have received.  I wish all my followers lives of joy and fulfillment.

“Where’s The Moon? I Don’t See The Moon!” Or, Mathematics To The Rescue

I was dragging myself up the stairs of Founders Hall.  The cement steps and barren walls reflected the darkness of the time ahead.  For, my next class was Speech Communication with Professor B.  I was not doing well in the course.  As my current lady would say:  “You’re going down, down, down!”  And so I was.  But perhaps, I should tell you something about Miss B and how I got into trouble.

Miss B was a tall, wiry lady with sharp, unforgiving eyes and a total lack of manners.  We didn’t get along from the start.  I remember her saying with a sarcastic tone:  “Look at that!  A little boy wearing his tennies!”  She was frank, if nothing else.  And when I tried to act out a favorite childhood verse, she would yell out:  “Where’s the moon?  I don’t see the moon!”  At the time, that comment stunned and hurt me, because I was quite fond of the verse I was interpreting.  Later, Professor B told me that the only thing that could save me was the final, which was a monologue of at least ten minutes.  I thought and thought about possible selections.  I knew if I picked something well-known I could be compared with the greatest and I’d come up way short.  Fortunately, at that time, I was reading some wonderful mathematical stories from Clifton Fadiman’s Fantasia Mathematica.  Bruce Elliot’s story, “The Last Magician” really appealed to me.  The main character was an old man who was fond of a magician’s helper and commits murder because of the cruel way the magician treats her when a futurist society has condemned her to death for misceganation(She was Martian and became pregnant by the magician from Earth).  So, the story had intrigue, action build-up and the main character was an old man.  And, growing up next door to my Dad’s parents, I knew my Grandpa Johnny quite well, so I thought I could act out the part with some accuracy.  Also, the story dealt with the magician trying to escape from a supposedly real Klein bottle

Attempt to picture a Klein bottle, a three dimensional surface that has only one side, which is impossible.

An attempt at constructing a Klein bottle, a three dimensional surface that has only one side, which is impossible.

and was mathematical in nature, so probably few, if any, people had seen it performed.  When I thought about all the advantages, I thought it would be an excellent choice for a monologue.  I would need to trim some parts, though.

Finally, the long-awaited day arrived.  Everyone was busy rehearsing their lines and trying to get into character.  Wouldn’t you know it?  I was the first person Miss B called on.  I knew if I wanted to do well, I was going to have to become an old man in every way.  I tried hard to imagine my Grandpa Johnny and become him.  I tried to walk with difficulty, struggle to get some of my words out and look confused.  And as I reached the podium, the words did come out.  “The harder he worked the worse he treated Aydah…  It seemed as if every time I turned around I’d find her hiding in some corner, crying… I knew she would have to die.  That was why I had pressed the button that switched the bottles the first time, before she ever did…  I guess I must be getting old;  lately I’ve taken to wondering about King Solomon.  He knew so much, I wonder if he knew about Klein bottles…”  Then, a loud applause.

“Well, Bob just disappeared!  A feeble old man replaced him!”  Professor B’s eyes sparkled with admiration and respect.   Mathematics had come to the rescue.

 

 

Something To Think About: A Filipina Secret: “Tossing The Dog”

The Philippines are a series of small islands dotting the Pacific Ocean.  Its people are predominantly Roman Catholic, except for the Muslim population of the southern-most island, Mindanao.  Therefore, divorce is not recognized and annulment is prohibitively expensive.  A Filipina’s main weapon in an unhappy and troubled relationship is “tampo”(“the silent treatment”), which can last for hours and even days.  During “tampo”, the Filipina’s soft facial features turn to stone and her eyes stare out with a cold ferocity.  But there are times when even “tampo” does not work, and if a Filipina does not have sufficient funds for an annulment, and since divorce is not accepted, it would appear that she is stuck in a miserable relationship for life.  But Filipinas are known for their tenaciousness in solving problems, so they came up with “tossing the dog” as a permanent solution to this disturbing problem.

Filipinos are known for their close, extended family relationships.  Thus, there are always a lot of relatives to assist a Filipina in a time of despair.  Making use of this fact, the Filipina always has other Filipinas to rely on when she needs to “toss the dog”.  “Tossing the dog”  is certainly a last resort, but is used more often than one might expect.  Briefly, it consists of this:  Late at night when the unsuspecting offender is in a deep sleep, a group of the Filipina’s female relatives creep up to the offender’s room.  By applying a cloth with a knock-out chemical to his nose, the Filipinas ensure that he continues to live in the land of dreams.  They then bind him with strong coiled rope and put him in a vehicle, parked conveniently near his home.  Then, they drive the unfortunate man to Pangitka Bay.  There, like looming shadows of the night, using their combined strength, they carry the offender up a rocky cliff.  When they reach the top, they give out tribal screeches and curses and “toss the dog” into the shark-infested waters of Pangitka Bay.  The offender is never seen again and his disappearance is called an unfortunate accident.  Thus, the ingenuity of the Filipina overcomes a persistent obstacle and she is at last free to breathe the air of joy and freedom.

 

Some Miscellaneous Thoughts On Turning 200

It’s hard for me to believe that this is my 200th post.  Frankly, I never thought I could come up with enough ideas to furnish so many posts.  There was also a question of existence;  I never thought I’d live to be 62.  But, here I am and I still have ideas for further posts.  I’m so grateful for my 100 followers, who continue to read my posts and offer helpful comments.  That I have forged strong links with people from Australia, Canada, the Philippines, Russia and the Ukraine, makes me very proud.

Our world is a tempestuous one, and now that the U.S. has broken open the magic bottle of the Middle East, not so nice genii have spread their wickedness throughout the region.  While the Cold War had well-defined enemies, the current wars often have shadowy figures that lurch between good and evil, making them hard to pin down.  The concept of “freedom fighter” has often appealed to gullible Americans, who often give aid to “fighters” of dubious character.  Throw “religious motivation” into the mix and you have a real mess.  The malignancy of misguided hate has spread throughout the world, and only time will show if we have experienced and intelligent enough “doctors” to cure it.

On a more technical note:  We humans tend to be rather bad at long-term reasoning.  Our history confirms this fact over and over.  One reason that this is so is because we cannot predict all possible outcomes of a given event.  Hence, it follows that we cannot predict the collection of events that form what we call future.  Is this an inevitably fatal flaw in our mental structure?  Again, time will tell.

“Man’s a kind of missing link.  Fondly thinking he can think.”–Piet Hein

One of the most disturbing books I’ve read in the last twenty years is Dale Peterson’s stupendous and highly insightful biography of Jane Goodall.  Disturbing, because it reveals often surprising connections between the lives of chimpanzees and the lives of humans.  At times, it’s hard to differentiate the two worlds.

I know that French naturalist, Francois Buffon, tried to show that there is an unbridgeable gap between animals and humans. He thought that man was the reasoning being, while all animals were irrational beings.  Alas, scientific research has shown that this gap is not as large as Buffon suspected.  We now know that the rational aspect of the human brain developed late in our development.  Those primal desires that we inherited from our cave ancestors dominate our lives.  We have only to look around us to see the proof.  Most of our TV programs thrive on greed, vanity, cruelty and other basic human instincts.  How many programs deal with the nature of mathematics, forms of problem solving, or what we can learn from peoples other than ourselves?

“Who is to say that we’re born and we die, and what’s in between doesn’t matter?”–Charles Kalme, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, University of Southern California, 1970.

What is my philosophy of life?  I think it’s a mixture of Samuel Beckett, Thornton Wilder and Walter Kaufmann.  From Beckett I take the tenuous quality of life;  from Wilder the belief that some moments are special and Kaufmann’s belief that reason is our best defense against chaos and madness in the political realm.  As to free will and determinism, I see life as a boat ride in Disneyland;  you think you’re doing the steering, but you don’t realize that your boat is being guided by unseen underwater tracks.  Let us hope that we are guided by tracks that will take us to greater understanding and the light of unbounded human potential.  In the end, nobody knows what is really at stake on this tiny planet.  That is the great mystery.