His name is Benito – the magic cobbler in Sunnyvale California

Benito, the master cobbler in Sunnyvale California revived my favorite shoes.

The shoes had been scrapped, scratched by walking on cobble stone streets on the East Coast.

The cobble stone streets of Boston and Washington DC are beautiful to look at for but terrible women’s shoes.  The pointy heels fall into the cracks, and either you, the wearer fall, or if you drag your foot up and out you scrap the shoe heel.

It’s very strange how an email from a younger friend inspired me to write a post about those cobbled streets of Georgetown.

My younger friend has light brown hair and baby blue eyes, fair skin w some freckles, w the classic Welsh/Irish look.  But she is 1/4 Chinese.  I’ve taken her on as my younger sister.  There are just some people that I draw inspiration from their quiet mysteries.

She wants to live in the parries, wear cowboy boots, and love a blue-collar man who works with his hands.

She does’t have any attractions for men with big wallets, big power, big jobs, or big DC ambitions.

It’s a nice, gorgeous email that inspired a post about a magic cobbler in Sunny California.

Lists of Summer 2015

1. Brewla ice pops.

2. Long, long naps in the afternoon, every afternoon.

3. Tart cherry juice, iced.

4. Macrobiotics dinner, Monday night.

5. Adored, not lifting a finger.  Such wonderful date.

6. Another rescue on the flight.  This time, in first class.

7. Imagining about a foldable tricycle.

8. Aiming for 530AM workouts.

9. Goals on Monday.

10. Sleep as if I died.  Eating in bed, very late at night, w bear legs.

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What are my favorite bloggers doing?

1.  Niniane – is building a company.

2.  Corey – is visiting Willows.

3.  Karina – is renovating a French castle.

4.  Mie – is schooling her children in Japan.

5.  Scott – is shooting photos in Rome.

6.  Sarah is eating beauty everyday (and writing a book).

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What are the people in my life doing?

1.  Joe is camping.

2.  Ariana is visiting her grandma.

3.  Mom is volunteering at the library.

4.  John is studying for a test.

5.  Hamilton is volunteering in Sunday School.

6.  Filip is growing a company.

7.  Elina is feeding a strayed cat…and threatening her 3 boys that if they don’t behave they’re going to be sent to a foster home.

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Things that I will miss so much about living in California…

1.  My niece & our PJ party w summer theater at the Palo Alto Children’s Theater.

2.  Living close to my brother and SIL.

3.  90 minute massage w Linda.

4.  Sauna spa at Immersion Spa.

5.  Monday Night Macrobiotic Dinners.

6.  Highway 280, oh the view of Half Moon Bay in the misty early morning.

7.  Hot days, cool nights.

8.  Real summers.  The sun on the skin in the afternoon.

9.  Amazing salads.  (And tacos.  Sushi.  Ramen.  Clean foods.  Done right).

10.  Jin Sho

11.  Kannon Do, and our beloved abbot.

12.  Having the California license plate – just feels cool.

13.  Wearing whites.

14.  Wearing very little clothing during most of the year.

15.  Huddart Park.

16.  The hum of Woodside.

17.  Californians.

18.  Pretending to be a Californian.  Granola crunchy Sun Country supermarket on California Avenue.

19.  The cattle grazing beautiful view.

20.  Living, in downtown Palo Alto.

But I still love DC very much, maybe a little bit more because there is no threat of the ‘Big One’ or the draught of running out of water in DC.

My Dear.

Dear.

It is so wonderful to be called dear.

If it’s said heartfelt. With ease.

There is a young hipster waiter in San Francisco in the Mission District who works at a hip Vietnamese restaurant, who always calls his customers, “My Dear.”

“My dear, are you all right?  Do you need more water?”

“My dear!  Your pho is gonna be coming out soon.”

Of course, there is another way to say this, with that husky voice by a man almost 4 decades older than the waiter lad.

Ice Cubes

Incessantly checking stock values in a sea of laptops

How bizarre, however now I am watching the same

Flickering above points, temperature rise

Uncertainty in the hottest period of this year

Temporary relieve is an accountant’s play

Cash loaded

Ice cubes stacked

At least sleep last night was long and peaceful

The air is so still

The detours are so long

But the quarterback knows that he needs to run to the end zone

Better create some values for the world

On the other hand a black lacy bodysuit from the 20’s resurfaces

In those arms by those whispers we will retrieve, you’re my relieve

Feb 1 2015 Super Bowl Sunday

Boston, snowed in, gray but calm, The Four Seasons, halftime, 14-14 Seattle Seahawks vs. The New England Patriots. The bar smells of truffle oil, everyone at the bar is from the west coast.  When has the burger become studded w avocado, fried eggs, bacon, and truffle oil?

Such a Terrible game for the body and the player’s brain, but awesome in every way about courage, loss, glory and taking the blow for the team, a real guy’s guy game that even a meditative woman can enjoy once a year….crazy 2 weeks. Half time 14-14.  Go Seattle, I mean Patriots, no, Seattle….errrrrrrrrrrr. Oh my God.  24-21, 2 minutes to go.  Happy 7th birthday to this sweet little blog that was started on Super Bowl Sunday 2008.

I don’t know what’s wrong with you

Increasingly, I’m seeing increasingly bizarre diseases.  What are the effects of bizarre foods and medicines that we are giving to people?  Conditions like systemic erythematous lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia are escalating in incidence and severity and they are getting more bizarre than ever

A young man shows up, complaining of 3 years of disability due to generalized, diffuse, ill described pains that started after an ankle injury.  After a simple ankle surgery he started to have pain almost everywhere in his body, back, neck, hips, elbows, hands, knees, ankles, feet.  He has had pain and discomfort in almost every joint and every muscle group in his body.

In fact he shows me a complicated drawing of a stick man that he drew, where everywhere in the body that hurts is marked by xxx’s, dashes, lines.  I look at this bizarre drawing, and it is a slightly frightening moment – because the drawing is bizarre and the figure looks like a voodoo doll.

He reports nervousness, insomnia, anxiety, anger issues, nightmares.  He has a stuffy nose, nasal congestion, tremors.  He lies on his couch almost everyday when he doesn’t have to work.  He is 33 years old.

All of this started after you broke your ankle?”  I ask.

Yeah, I guess so.”  He says.

Having seen thousands of people, from White House Chief of Staff, to Victoria Secret models, homeless people to addicts, I am strangely pulled to believe this person.  And having being doing this for over 15 years, it’s less about technical details but more about intuition and experimentation, drawing outside the box, thinking a solution that works rather than what is dictated.  In conversations like this, I sit deeply back in my chair with the arms hanging about. I might look out the window to look at the bird or the flowers. There is something that tells me to believe him even just a little bit. No, he’s not totally making this up, I decide in my head. But no, he’s not telling me the full truth either.

CNN shows a special report on COSCO, the supermarket in America that sells everything in bulk.  They show that Costco large cartons of ibuprofen containing 1000 pills. Who needs to take 1,000 ibuprofen pills for pain relief? Does anyone find that bizarre?

Why are we marketing supersize muffins, donuts, drinks, to fatten people in a multi-billion dollar industry.  And then the fattened people develop diabetes and they come back to support the multi-billion dollar diabetes treatment industry? Almost every other person that you meet at the airport is overweight. Does anyone find that bizarre?  People drive everywhere and we hire people to cook, clean, and shop for us. Then we go to the gym to have another adult to watch us to lift dumb bells and squat. Does anyone find that bizarre?

Someone once told me that whatever problem that a person has now – somewhere, sometime in human history someone else has had a similar problem.

All right.  Let’s go to the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Cannon – the classic, landmark textbook written approximately 2000 years ago, written and used by Imperial Court Scholars and Physicians who were summoned to the Imperial Palaces treat the Yellow Emperor and his Imperial family, dating 200 CE.

We read about the 72 channels, the 300+ acpuncture points, and the integrated channels that run through the body, including the 12 Primary Channels, the 8 Extraordinary Vessels, and the 12 Divergent Channels.  These have been described through the slow accretion of observation, recording and testing, over a largely unbroken period of over 20 centuries, surely one of the most remarkable recorded historical traditions in world medicine, known as Chinese Medicine.

Maybe it is hocus-pocus but maybe it’s under utilized.  But in any event the textbook describes the conversations between the Yellow Emperor (Huang Ti) and his physician (Chi Po), hence it is a historical (actually legendary) account. The Emperor was portrayed as a true Renaissance man.  He designed a cart based on the big dipper, designed a series of musical notes and instruments to play them on, but his great love was medicine, which is shown in the conversations he has with his physician, during which he asks about everything imaginable. One of the questions the Emperor asked was, “Why do we not live as long as 100 years old?

And the answer that the Court Physician gave was fantastic. 

So, I say to the young man, “So, what are we going to do?”

 

Free gifts

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It seems to me like I get a lot of free gifts, but now I have proof.

A free $5 bill on the street

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A free Canon printer/fax

Free keyboards

Free computer mice

A free candy cane

A sizable refund from Geico Car Insurance

A free night of hotel

A free shuttle ride to the airport

Free ice cream

Free meals

Free movies, free comedy shows

Free box of ripe strawberries weighing over 2 pounds

Free jar of flowers

Free eggs

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Free coffee, free snacks, free lunches…free, free, free

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Plus…all the people who make the mistake of undercharging me…like the young man who forgot to charge me for the expensive ceramic plant bowl and the lavender plant…

Today, I got a free gift from Amazon…it says

A gift from Jennie Johnson.  Enjoy your gift. 

Except, I don’t know who Jennie Johnson is.

I love this gift.

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(I’m going to call Amazon tomorrow.  I bet they’ll say, “Oh sorry, it’s our packing mistake…but you can keep the gift”).

The gift is a Philips Dawn Simulator…a gentle alarm clock that simulates the moon at night and the sun in the morning.  So figuratively I’ve gotten the sun and moon for free, brought closer to 2-3 inches the head of the bed.

What wonderful KARMA.

But the biggest gift for 2014 goes to an uneventful and remarkable diagnosis for a loved one in the family.

I am so grateful.  For Palo Alto, this blessed place that I call Heaven on Earth for a transient time.

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Modern Day Vermeer

This moody flickering light really caught my eyes by surprise when I quickly passed by the hallway to do something – and the plate of peeled potatoes gave it a nice look too.  In the Old Dutch masters paintings, by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Leyden, people from the Dutch and Flemish past ate herring, bread, carrots, potatoes, cream…and can we imagine that if they were to cook today it might look something like this?

Having just two pieces of furniture feels so clean.

As if someone might say, “What is this?  don’t you want furniture?”

Then I might say, “Don’t you like it?”  

I think bare walls gives the interior space a museum quality look where the only piece of art work is a plate of potatoes!

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My makeshift home in California – is wonderful to look at!

Melancholy

Summertime, loss, I can’t believe that this is it. I don’t believe it happened, and I have to carry the secret to my grave. The fact that I have this big secret is a problem itself.

But I have standards, oh well, maybe this won some karma points, who knows, who knows?

On a happier note, when asking for turkey topping, the counter guy said, I’ll get a fresh one.

Three minutes later, he marched out with a 20 lb. turkey on a plate.

“No.”

But I am very thirsty.  My heart is still not sure what it should feel. I should be grateful that I’m not harmed.  Walking head high is still possible.  But there is a a tremendous amount of loss like this life is just a dream.

In my gut of guts, it is not over!

And I don’t care what anyone thinks I am going to speak my mind without any reservations directly because who is ever going to be this truthful about something delicate and brilliant?

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What a secret.

Into the inner thoughts of people from 19 to 105.  Through the ages, the changes, the challenges, and finally the humbleness.  But I can’t decide what I’m seeing in old age is humbleness or defeat.

I live in temporary exile in a city running w 20 year olds, who don’t look at people (they just like ook at their phones), who are uniformly dressed in hipster skinny jeans and expensive but purposefully cheap-looking sneakers, who are going to the next sushi joint, or the next It Thing.  In this city, men have become effeminate, and women have become masculine…Or maybe I’m just stuck in the Medieval Age known as someone who is middle aged.

Inside my office, there is a whole different world.  I have seen is this, that starting from the age 60, there is more humility – starting by the way that they let you sit down first.  They wait at the chair, they let you sit down, and  then they take a seat.  It’s beautiful.  It’s courtly.  It’s stylistic.  They phone is never on.  They take cues more instinctively.  I have been working and hearing incredible stories, ranging from hand-to-hand combat with the Japanese, to the skipper who fell out of a boat into the ocean and was rescued and by a fellow naval officer who pulled him out of the water and onto the boat, to the paratroopers who jumped out of airplanes landing on the beach for the war.  It is unreal and surreal and most of the time what I see and hear feel so much like a French movie.  But today I met my match.  A secret, a delightful secret.

We talked about all sorts of pains, ankle pain, foot pain, L shoulder pain, R thumb pain, knee pain, elbow pain, knee pain, foot pain…and I ordered enough x rays that would light up all of him but what can we do?

I need to measure your scars.  And I need to look at your shoulders.

“Oh well, I might as well as undress,” as he took off his shirt, as the requests for measuring the next scar ascended from abdomen to the chest up to the shoulder.  There were just too many scars to be checked.

As he undressed his shirt and the abdominal binder truss I was typing on the computer and didn’t pay attention.  But what came off had to be put back on. We had to put everything back on. It was a comedic moment. He and I tried to put back on him the tress – a super body armor type of belt that went around his waist. Darn it. I pulled and pull ed to try to to close the truss.  But I couldn’t get it back on.  He pulled and pulled, to try to close the truss around his waist but his hands were shaking with arthritic hands. We were comical people at that moment of concentrating on nothing but putting the truss back on, and it was seen straight out of a French movie. I thought about calling for the nurse but I didn’t want to because I knew my friends would be able to this with no problem and I didn’t want to get help but more I importantly, given how much effort he was giving to the task I didn’t want to think that we would fail. It looked like we could do this. Like a tug of war, we finally put it back on, and it was…lopsided. But it would do. When he gets home his neighbor would help him put on the truss. His daughter wanted me to look inside his ear, because he had gotten water in it. He waved against it looking very annoyed, as if to say, “Don’t fuss.” He didn’t want his daughter to be in the room when we were talking.

I asked him, maybe out of the blue.  So.  What do you do everyday?

He said, “What can I do?  Not much.” He was meticulously dressed, still with pride, w belt, with a pale shirt, with nice slacks, and a pair of moccasins.  He had been a sheep and cattle rancher but he’s Basque with light complexions. He sat very straight. He looked more like a retired judge.  “I’ll tell, you, it’s sad. I’m 90. It’s like I’m waiting to die. Not much there is I can do at this age, with this body, and with this dumb mind.” He looked at me as if I was the person giving him the death sentence or maybe even death itself.  It made me feel responsible to lift that heaviness.

I said, “But…but, there’s got to be something…no?”  He looked at me like I was not understanding him.

I couldn’t think of anything to say.  But all of the sudden a good idea came. “Hey!  WHAT ABOUT A ‘LADY FRIEND’?” I asked very, very tentatively.

He said, “I’d love to have a lady friend.”

“Oh?”

His wife passed away 4 years ago, and now he’s by himself.  I said, “You might find a nice young lady, someone who is still young at heart, like you?”  He lit up like a boy.  Such delight.  Such spontaneous embarrassment in having a stranger talking about something so outrageous.

He said, “My friends tell me, Ben, you got a gardener, and you got a cleaning person.  You got a daughter to bring you food everyday.  All you need is a cook and a bed partner.”

I said, “Well, I couldn’t agree more with your friend.  Maybe you will find a lady friend, I don’t see why not.  There is nothing in your body that is stopping you from enjoying life a little.”

He asked me to keep him in mind if I come across any nice ‘young lady’ in her 80’s.  I wish I had a rolodex of ladies in their 80’s.  In that moment, he made me feel wonderful, hopeful, and just joyous about life.  On the way out, I checked his ear like his daughter asked me, and when we were rolling the wheelchair out of the room, he said almost in a whisper, “Don’t forget!”  I said, “Sir, would I forget something like this???”  “But!”  I raised a finger.  If you beat me to it, will you drop me a note?  It’s our open secret.”

Oh, silly me.  What a romantic story.  It makes me wonder what chances we have everyday. All our lives, we are told what to do, to live inside a box, not to make too much waves, living for other people and caring for their concerns, in his case, for his daughter’s concerns even though he is now 90. People in the tabloids seem to do what they want to do and create a new reality for them. In any event who says that our voice shouldn’t be the loudest voice?