A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 8

A TEMPERING OF DREAMS is a novel: pure fantasy with imaginary characters, and no effort whatsoever at historical accuracy. It is based on remembered images of a bygone time, and has no particular purpose beyond enjoyment. It will appear serially as each chapter is completed; there is no schedule. MG,Jr.

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 1
8 May 2022

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 7
21 May 2022



It is wonderful feeling free. You can walk through whatever weather, at whatever time, and just exalt in the freshness of the experience. Sergio had that feeling as he walked into Campus Green on the way to class. The Green was usually an idyllic scene of Ivy League college life, as if torn from the pages of ’This Side of Paradise.’ But today it was a scene of seething ferment, people were criss-crossing its expanse like a chaotic swarm of startled bees. Many were scurrying toward College Hall, which was once again occupied to overflowing, its many wide front stone steps jammed with people funneling their way toward the entryway. A trickling counterstream of people was tortuously weaving its way out of College Hall through the incoming crowd, and on emerging from its density below the steps exploded into fragments shooting off in every directions, like the shards of a thin glass crashing onto the pavement.

Small clusters of men were scattered about the Green, sitting on its grassy cold dry hard ground, and murmuring amongst themselves in their subdued huddles. Any energy that Sergio saw being displayed was all in a convergence of Brownian Motion into and out of College Hall, and a divergence of frenzied uncoordinated rectilinear motions beyond it. He skirted the Green, walking around it on the far side from College Hall, by the Library, and went on down Locust Walk to the Engineering Building. Class was nearly empty, and after only a few minutes Professor Abel said, “Let’s call it off for today. We’ll pick it up on Friday, when everybody can be here.” It was soon apparent that this was going to be case with every class that day, at least those with men in them. So Sergio wandered back up to Campus Green. He spotted Joe and Bernie sitting off by the Library, and joined them.

Bernie: “How’d you do?”
Joe just nodded at Sergio without smiling. “It must be bad,” thought Sergio, “with no smile on Joe.”
Sergio: “I got 362.”
Bernie: “Wow! that’s great! Really glad, man!”
“I really like this guy,” thought Sergio, who replied, “Just dumb fucking luck. How ‘bout you?”
Joe, ruefully: “196.”
Bernie: “31.”
Sergio: “Ughhh…fuck!, man.”
Joe: “Student deferments have vanished overnight, and now we have the stampede you see before you, charging into the Registrar’s Office to change majors into something the Army will pay for besides carrying a rifle,”
Bernie: “and heading down to recruiting offices to sign up for 6 year hitches, getting the Army to pay their tuition and keep them out of the fighting.”
Sergio: “Yeah, but who the hell wants to work at what the fucking Army wants you to do?”
Joe: “Options are limited.”
Bernie: “Over half the men in our class are now going to be doctors or lawyers,”
Joe, ruefully: “or dentists,”
Sergio: “or Canadians,”
Bernie: “if they can’t afford F. Lee Bailey to find them bone spurs, to get out,”
Joe: “or prefer the hospitality of American prisons,”
Sergio: “or the war ends and we pull out.”
The other two looked at Sergio in silence, for voicing the one wish everybody had.
Bernie: “Nixon won’t pull out, he’s got a hard-on for fucking commies.”
Joe: “I would so much rather that he fucked Henry Kissinger.”
Sergio: “Pat Nixon might prefer that, too.”

Sergio: “Elena! What are you doing?”
Elena: “It’s just crazy! Everybody’s running around, nuts! The Art and Architecture Department effectively shut down because so many of its guys have fled to other majors. The University has an emergency ramp up of pre-med and pre-law programs, up to doubling them or more, ‘cause so many guys are looking for deferments. There’s so much happening right now! I’m trying to write about it for the Gazette.”
Sergio: “Elena, these are my friends, Bernie,” pointing to Bernie, “and Joe,” then pointing to Joe.
Elena: “Oh, guys, I hope you did alright.”
Bernie: “31.”
Joe: “196.”
Sergio: “362.”
Elena: “Oooh! I’m so happy for you Serge!, but it’s all so unfair! What are you guys gonna do?”
Sergio: “That’s what we’re discussing.”
Elena: (to Bernie and Joe): “I’m so sorry,” (to Sergio): “let me know what you’re all gonna’ do, call me to tell me” (to all): “I gotta’ go, I’m running everywhere after the story!”
Bernie: “Nice meeting you.”
Joe: “Likewise.”
Sergio: “Thanks. I’ll call you.”
Elena scooted off, and Bernie and Joe looked at Sergio with “what about her?” looks on their faces.
Sergio: “Yeah, she’s just someone I met. She’s always bopping around, being a news reporter, bumps into a lot of people. — Hey, you guys want to do something tonight?”
Bernie: “I’m gonna be taking a little trip with the rats tonight.”
Joe: “I think a solitary evening of quiet reflection is what I need.”
Sergio: “Okay, guys, I’ll see you around.” And they each then drifted away separately to mull over their new futures.

By Friday, the seismic shift to college life, jolted into motion by Monday night’s lottery, had settled into a new complex of routines. Sergio found himself the only guy left in his Spanish Literature class, since all the other men had jammed themselves into different classes needed for their new pre-med and pre-law majors, and a bunch of his fellow engineering students had signed up with the National Guard, in the hopes of only having to defend the United States from within the United States, and not right away. He felt lucky and he didn’t feel guilty, so he didn’t say anything about it nor criticize anyone for their coping mechanism or escape plan. Elena had been right: it was all so unfair, and the only truly good way to fix the whole damn mess would be to end the fucking war. How long would it take for that to happen? No matter how soon, it could never be soon enough.

Sergio spent his time outside class immersed in his studies, and making much headway in them. His friends were off, embedded within the urgency of their personal concerns, and not in the mood for casual goofing off, so he didn’t disturb them. Even Fred was preoccupied, working away at his reading and freshman English papers. He wanted to get a degree in English, and wanted the profs to recognize that. So one early evening, walking back from the Computer Center by Hill House, Sergio thought to see if Elena was in, and he called from the phone by the reception desk.
“Hey, Elena, I just thought I’d call like you asked, and tell you about the guys.”
“Ooooh! I’ll be right up!”
He’d thought he would just be chatting with her over the phone, like most of the girls did with casual callers, but this would certainly be nicer. When she arrived he suggested they walk to the nearby Underground, and catch up.
“I read your article in the Gazette, you covered a lot of ground, and some good quotes.”
“What are your friends going to do?”
“Well, Joe is now aiming to become a dentist. He says the crowd waiting to register into pre-med was so huge, and medical school is so hard, that going over to the Dental School and registering there for the pre-dentistry program was easier, there’s less competition. Still, it’s a tough row to hoe. He’s kind of on the edge of how far up they’re likely to draft. Bernie, on the other hand, doesn’t want to change his major because he’s doing just what he likes. So as far as I can tell, his plan seems to be to hope at flunking the physical — or try to — and then go to Canada if he doesn’t.”
“Oh, wow, bummer. And what are you doing?”
“I’m just doing my science thing, reading, writing a little poetry.”
“Show me some.”
“Well, all I got with me now is a translation I worked up for Spanish Lit class. We’re studying poetry now, and write interpretations. I picked a poem by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, and did this with it,” opening his poetry journal and placing it in front of her on the table, she saw the following.

Rima LXIX — Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870)

Al brillar un relámpago nacemos,
Y aun dura su fulgor cuando morimos:
¡Tan corto es el vivir!

La gloria y el amor tras que corremos,
Sombras de un sueño son que perseguimos:
¡Despertar es morir!

Rima LXIX — Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (a translation)

In a stroke of lightning flash life births anew,
Yet before its aura fades death will ensue:
Life as brief as breath!

That glory and those loves we grasp onto
Are shadows within dreams that we pursue:
Waking is our death!

Elena concentrated on poem reading it over a few times, then looked up him. “It’s beautiful. Your wording even made the Spanish verses clear for me. I pretended they were in Sicilian and my mother was reading them to me.” This opened them up to exchanging their personal stories, and they decided to eat dinner together at The Underground, ordering cheeseburgers, so they could take their time to talk. Elena’s family lived on the coast, at Asbury Park, where her father managed a marina. His grandparents had come from England. Her mother was Sicilian, so Elena had learned some bits of morphed Italian from listening to her mama.

She put her hand in his as they walked back slowly and wordlessly in the dark on Campus Green, and as they neared one of the big trees, Sergio stopped, turned into her, and gently drew her in by slipping his right arm around her waist in back. She fell into his embrace, bringing her arms around his neck as he slid his left palm down across her shoulder blade. They pressed each other into themselves for a slow kiss. Her body was relaxed and receptive in his embrace. After a few minutes they disengaged a bit to look into each other’s tranquil faces.
“Can I call you tomorrow. Maybe we can do some things together.”
“Yes. I would like that.”
So they walked arm-in-arm back to Hill House, where they parted after a sweet goodbye kiss.

After that night, Sergio and Elena spent almost every evening together after dinner, studying at the Library when the academic pressures were high because of papers and problem sets due and impending tests, or listening to music and making out in Paine-103 when the academic pressures were lower. Elena really liked Ella Fitzgerald. Christmas Vacation — officially, “Winter Break” — was coming up at the end of December, and they would each go home for the two weeks, returning soon after New Year’s to then charge into the week of final exams for the Winter Semester. After a short respite from the academic rigors, the Spring Semester of 1970 would begin near the end of January. Knowing what was coming up for them separately made their present time together all the more precious. Elena began spending her nights in Paine-103.

“There’s a movie I’d like you to see with me. The Film Society is screening it at the College Hall Theater on Friday night. Would you come?”
“Sure. What’s is it?”
“It’s called ‘On Dangerous Ground.’ It’s a black-and-white from ’51, in the film noir style.”
“Cops and robbers?”
“Not really. It’s about a bitter city cop whose gotten too rough with suspects, and is sent up state to cool off by working on a manhunt in the back woods. But it’s really about deep loneliness being overcome by the opening of the heart. I think it’s very poetic.”
“Yes, I want to see that.”
So they did. After, they stopped to kiss by their favorite tree on Campus Green, before wending their way back to Paine-103.
“I want to make love to you.”
“I know.”
“I’ve got what’s needed, for whenever you’re ready.”
“I know. Let’s go.”

The room was nice and toasty. Sergio hung up their coats, he shucked his shoes and she her tall zip brown leather heeled boots. She set her knit hat on the desk and unclasped her bunched spiral of twirled hair, shaking her head to loosen it into a glossy black-brown cascade falling down her shoulders and back. He put a record on the turntable and turned off the room light. She melted into his tight embrace wrapping her arms around his neck, and they kissed deeply. The first strains of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony swelled faintly into hearing. His hands pressing against her back slid around under her arms to caress the sides of her generous breasts, as she dropped her arms to glide her hands down around his neck and chest and undo his shirt buttons one by one. Sergio slid his hands in to cup the fullness of her firm breasts until Elena began undoing this belt, and he moved his hands down to undo hers. He slid his hands under her maroon sweater and then up to slide it over her head and off her outstretched arms. She pulled his shirt off his shoulders and he pulled his sleeves off to have it fall away, too. He let his pants fall and stepped out of them, but hers were too snug against the sensuous contours of her lovely rounded butt and elegantly thighed long legs, that she had to sit back in bed and let him pull them off her. She swung her legs into bed and he lay next to her. As they kissed he rolled her up on top of him and worked his fingers over her bra hooks, three of them, trying to undo them one-handed. She looked in his face with a smile that said: you’ll never do it, use two hands. And so he did. She sat up to discard her bra, revealing all the generous fullness and large nipple browns of her breasts. He was rapt by the sight of her in the half-light: a tall lithe woman of fresh full firm natural beauty.

Sergio transmitted his sexual desire and physical love by firm full-bodied and open-handed touch that was all one unhurried continuous caress. Elena transmitted her sexual desire and physical love by absorbing the physicality of his affection and the warmth of his emotion with her whole body stretching cat-like strongly into his embrace, as one single fluid mass of feminine sinew.

He took off his boxer shorts, and she slipped off her panties. They embraced again on the bed into slow passionate kissing, and then a caressing of deeper urgency. He was ready and pulled out a foil-wrapped packet from under him on the bed, and held it up for her to see. She nodded. He rolled over, sat up, tore open the packet, and rolled on the lamb-skin. He’d warmed it up by lying on it, to ward off any chills. He turned around and lay above her, and she put her hands on the sides of his face and drew him toward her as she arched her legs to enfold him into her acceptance. Their lovemaking was a crescendo of primordial energy bursting through into a diminuendo of transcendent peace. They were in love.

The light of Saturday morning woke them early, still aglow in their love, but hungry and needing to take the first pisses of the day. Sergio threw on some pants and a tee shirt for a quick whiz and a scouting out of the bathroom scene. The dorm guys should mostly be away for the weekend or sleeping one off, and the coast was clear. With Elena in his red velour bathrobe, they scooted down the hallway, and he stood guard outside the bathroom door while she was occupied. Just as Elena came out of the bathroom and turned toward the room, Fred trooped onto the hallway walking toward them. He momentarily stopped in surprise with raised eye brows, then thought to continue briskly out to minimize embarrassment. Elena was pursing her lips to keep from laughing, and Sergio finally surrendered to the ridiculousness of the situation, and dropped the pretenses.
“Fred, this is my girlfriend, Elena. Elena, this is Fred, a really good guy who helped me out when I needed it.”
“Hi, Fred!
“Ah, hi Elena.”
“So, Fred, it’s cool. Elena and I are trying to spend a lot of time together, so we’ll all probably see each other coming and going more often.”
“Okay. Yeah, it’s all good.”
“It was nice meeting you, Fred!”
Elena and Sergio went back to their room, and Fred continued out, wondering, “another one, how’s he do it?”

It is a fact that guys never believe that another man’s apparent girlfriend successes, especially if in rapid succession, could ever be outcomes purely of dumb luck. But for Sergio they had been. For him, falling in love had been the acceptance of serendipity offered to him by an unfathomable universe. A consistency of kindness is the essence of lasting love. After more than a week of honeymooning in Paine-103, Elena and Sergio parted to return to their parents’s homes for the Winter Break.


Chapter 9 will appear later


A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 7

A TEMPERING OF DREAMS is a novel: pure fantasy with imaginary characters, and no effort whatsoever at historical accuracy. It is based on remembered images of a bygone time, and has no particular purpose beyond enjoyment. It will appear serially as each chapter is completed; there is no schedule. MG,Jr.

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 1
8 May 2022

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 6
19 May 2022



“What are you making, mommy?”
“We don’t really like turkey, so since it’s just the four of us tomorrow, I’m making Beef Wellington en Croûte.”
A long thick chunk of beef tenderloin was marinating in a big pot, she was rolling a large thick rectangle of dough encasing cold butter to prepare the puff pastry dough for baking tomorrow, open gourmet cookbooks lay on the kitchen counter, and a dusting of white flour covered the area.
“Are we going to have any dessert?”
“Of course. We have to have dessert when you’re here. I’m going to make English Trifle.”
He couldn’t wait.

The best way of ensuring a great Thanksgiving meal was for him to get out of the kitchen. He wrapped a wool scarf around his neck, put on his heavy clothe coat, a knit wool cap, and went for an afternoon walk to see the bare tree limbs reaching up into the sky, and the brown flakey remnants of fall foliage tumbling with a rustle along the ground with each breezy gust, sounding like sea-foam sweeping up a beach. After his return home, he went into the den to watch the television news.

“Congress, today, abolished a provision in the Military Selective Service Act of 1967 which prevented the president from modifying the selection procedure, and President Richard Nixon has issued an executive order prescribing a process of random selection. A lottery, based on the birth dates of the registrants, is to be held on December 1st. The number of men required for military service will be inducted in the numerical order that their birth dates are drawn in the lottery. Selection will also proceed by age group, from younger to older.” Sergio was stunned by this announcement on the 7 o’clock television news. So his fate now rested on the outcome of a game of chance in which his birthday was his predetermined bet.

Thanksgiving at home with his family, the next day, was wonderful. Two days later, Sergio took the trains back to Philadelphia. He spent most of Saturday and Sunday reading ’The Sirens of Titan’ and ’Siddhartha,’ to keep his mind occupied and away from anxious anticipation over the Draft Lottery. On Monday evening Sergio was in the College Hall Student Lounge in an overflowing crowd, watching the CBS News television broadcast of the Draft Lottery. Loud mournful groans were sometimes heard from stricken losers reacting to the drawing of their numbers. But mostly the crowd watched in a sullen silence of dread. As the drawing proceeded, the crowd segregated into a tight packing of people up front close to the television, waiting to hear their numbers called, and a back fringe of small groups chattering about what they or their friends would do now. Both sections of this congregation slowly shrank by people filtering away as the evening wore on.

It became very late and with only a few people remaining in the lounge. Sergio was nearly distraught thinking he must have missed hearing his number called. Then his birth date was drawn and announced as number 362. Did he hear that right? He thought to ask someone if they had heard that too, but by then the room was practically empty and no one was left who had been paying any attention.

He went downstairs to The Underground, but it was too late in the evening and it was closed. He walked out to Smokey Joe’s but it was packed and filled with the din of yelled efforts at conversation clashing into each other. They were all about the lottery. He was a mass of unceasing internalized tremors of electrified uncertainly.

He decided to buy a newspaper to see a printed listing of the lottery results, but he would have to wait for the December 2 edition to be delivered to the vending machines. So he went out into the deepening chill of the foggy night to patrol the newspaper vending racks for blocks around, hoping to find a newly restocked machine, or to intercept a delivery. Finally, he stationed himself next to a lamp post by a newspaper vending dispenser with November news still in it, and waited. At 3:52 am, a newspaper delivery van pulled up, and the driver switched out the old papers with the December 2 edition. He handed Sergio one in exchange for coins. Sergio sat on the curb, quickly paged through the paper to the lottery listing, and read the small print in the imperfect light for what he thought was “362” for his birthday. He was so stone cold stiff, bleary-eyed and buzzy-brain heavy-headed from fatigue and lack of sleep that he decided to check again later in the warmth of Paine-103. He trudged back to his room through the cold predawn darkness, threw himself into bed, and fell instantly asleep.

The clear light of midday sun shone straight down through his window onto his face, and on opening his eyes into that dazzle he realized he was awake. He got up and spread the newspaper out on his desk, scanning the little numbers of the list: 362. My god! Could it be true? Maybe as with elections, the first printed numerical results were usually inaccurate. He needed somebody else to check. He went over to Joe’s. He wasn’t in. He went over to Bernie’s. No one knew who he was, so he must have gotten an apartment. The Quad was nearly vacant, everybody was out. He put on his clock-radio to find a news broadcast that was reading out the lottery results. There were none. What to do?

He wrote his birthday on a scrap of paper, then went out, around the corner of the Quad from Paine to Morris Residence Hall and knocked on a door. Fred opened it, surprised, so Sergio had guessed right.
“Fred, what number did you get in the lottery?”
“I’m not registered for the Draft, I’m still seventeen.”
“Fred, I want to ask you to do me a big favor. Would you please go buy a newspaper and see what number my birthday is in the Draft Lottery. I really need somebody to check. And can you do it right away?”
Saying that, Sergio extended the scrap of paper with his birthday written on it, and a five dollar bill, for Fred to take.
“Sure. But whoa, a paper doesn’t cost that much.”
“I know. I’m hoping to make it worth your while to do it right away.”
“I know what you need. I’ll be back soon as I can.”
“Thanks, man.”
Fred put on his jacket and left. Sergio went back to his room and sat on the bed, watching, trancelike, the slowly shifting coruscations on the painted texture of the wall, with the drifting of sunlight over time.

Fred returned. He’d bought an afternoon paper. The number was 362. There was no doubt. A news article stated that the Draft estimated taking men with numbers up to at least 180, and possibly up to 200. Sergio deflated into relief.
“Thank God. Thanks a lot, Fred. Thanks a lot.”
“Here’s your change.”
“Oh, keep it.”
“Na, you take it back. You can buy a good lunch with that.”
Fred handed the back money to Sergio, who shoved it into his pants pocket.
“I’m so tired, but I should go get some food. I haven’t eaten since before yesterday.”
“Come on, let’s go get some pizza and beer. I know a place.”

Fred led Sergio around the outside of the Quad and over to the motorcycle lot to his Kawasaki 500. The thing was a beast, a screamer. It had a three cylinder two-stroke air-cooled motor, which kind have no moving valves and burn up their oil along with the gas, and was really like having three large finned lawnmower engines merged into a single bank. Two chromed exhaust pipes splayed out from the front of the motor and curved around into slightly upswept partly muted swollen organ pipes along the right side, a single pipe was the same on the left. Fred keyed open the steering lock, swung his left leg over the long banana seat, tilted the bike upright and heeled the kickstand up, keyed the ignition on, and kick-started the motor. It burst into an insistent high-pitched growling buzz. Fred twisted the hand grip throttle with a few pulses, and the engine revs rocketed up and down, with faint blue plumes of burnt oil billowing out the back of the pipes.
“Hop on.”
Sergio swung his left leg over the back of the seat, gripped the sturdy chromed handgrip bar that curved around from side to side behind the butt-stop of the seat, lifted his feet onto the rear footpegs, and felt the tingling vibrations of the bike hinting at caged fury. He nodded to Fred that he was ready.
“Hang on.”
Fred twisted the throttle, released the clutch, and the bike shot forward hunkering down on its rear springs to send a jolt from the back bar up Sergio’s straight tensed arms, and lifting the front wheel nearly off the pavement. Fred took them west past the campus along old tree-lined 38th Street, his sandy hair streaming behind him like flames in the cold whistling wind, with Sergio looking ahead through his hair whipping against his face, over Fred’s shoulder into the buffeting airstreamed panorama kaleidoscoping into them. Fred rode them past Rocky’s Market then turned right for two blocks, and pulled up to the curb in front of Napoli Ristorante.

The dining room looked quaint, with its wood paneled walls festooned with straw weave meshed empty chianti bottles and hung with pictures of Capri and the Bay of Naples, and with red checkerboard cloths on the tables. Fred and Sergio went into the small pizzeria along the other side of the long wall of the main dining room, since it was open all day. The pizzeria was largely empty, probably because of the hubbub after the lottery, and they took a varnished wood-topped table, sitting facing each other.
“What kind do you want to get?”
“Pepperoni sounds good to me,” Sergio replied.
Fred started to get up to order the pizza when the woman in back called out to him, “Relax, I’ll come over.” She was a middle aged middle sized American Italian in a pastel red blue yellow green swirl patterned loose fitting blouse and a simple black draping calf-length skirt, and with black flats for footwear. She seemed to know Fred.
“What’ll you have?”
“My pal here hasn’t eaten for over a day, so we’ll take a large pepperoni, and a pitcher of Rolling Rock.”
The lady nodded assent, and turned to Sergio, saying “Hi, I’m Claudia, beer’s coming right up.” She went back, yelled into the kitchen, “Gino! large pepperoni!,” and after setting the beer to pour out of the tap into a plastic pitcher, she brought them two tall slim curved flat-bottomed glasses. Then she went and came back with the filled pitcher. “Pizza’ll be out in a while, so relax.”
“What time does the dining room open?,” asked Sergio.
“Five o’clock.”
Fred was wiggling his hand off to the side, signaling to Sergio “Yeah, well maybe sometimes.”
“We serve till 10, or 11. I’ll bring your pie over when it’s done,” and with that Claudia walked back.

Rolling Rock was a mid-state beer, unpretentious and inexpensive, perfect for consumption in quantity, which is how it was enjoyed by the salt of the earth in the mining towns and rural hamlets of the farming country that Fred was very familiar with. Pitchers of Rolling Rock could wash away your sins of bad luck, and mellow out your temporary little victories of life. Fred and Sergio eased into their beers, telling each other their personal stories. Claudia brought over two paper plates and a dull stainless steel knife. A paper napkin dispenser and shakers of flaked red pepper and powdered garlic were already on the table. In time, Claudia brought over the big steaming pizza, and its warm aroma was glorious. The guys pulled out slices for themselves, using the knife to cut through the gooey connecting strands of mozzarella that had flowed between the slices that Gino had cut, by the oven. They shook pepper and garlic on their slices then chomped down greedily, huffing out opened-lips breaths to cool down the burning roofs of their mouths. This was heaven.

“So, Fred, what are you majoring in?”
“Football now, I guess. But I don’t know later.” Fred wasn’t interested in football as a career, it was just his ticket into the University, where he hoped to get enough education so no matter where he ended up, he’d have a good job and a better life. He didn’t seem concerned to flee from his hometown, and could happily live and work there “as long as it isn’t down a mine.”
“What kind of work would you want to do?”
“Something that uses my brain instead of my back.”
“How about engineering, that’s what I do.”
“My math’s only good enough for me to become a machinist, and I can work as a mechanic easy enough. But I kinda want to do something else, words instead of numbers. I like reading.”
“Oh, yeah, what’s your favorite book?”
“The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers!”
“Well, you won’t get to write any English papers on that here. They want Shakespeare.”
“Hey, Fat Freddy is Falstaff, or Porthos.”
Sergio reflected on this for a moment, then said to Fred, “You are a very interesting fellow.”
“Oh! oh!, more beer!” Fred replied humorously, pouring out beer to refill their glasses.
“So who’s your girlfriend?”
“Angie, but she dumped me. That’s why I asked you to check my number.”
“Oh, man, bummer,” and Fred called for another pitcher. They spent the whole afternoon talking, eating the whole pizza and quaffing down two pitchers of beer. Fred insisted on paying for this session of Sergio’s recovery therapy, which he’d orchestrated, and Sergio thanked him with heartfelt appreciation.
“If we’d walked we could have had three or four,” said Fred as they got back on the bike.
“Or maybe five,” Sergio suggested, adding “my treat for next time.”
Fred fired up the beast and they screamed their way back to the Quad. For Sergio the war was over.

Back in the dark of Paine-103, Sergio looked out his window up at the Moon in the night sky, his record of Los Guaracheros De Oriente playing on his turntable. As the Guaracheros played through ‘Sola y Triste – Vieja Luna’ he finally accepted that his love for Angie had been left behind for good, so he released it too, letting it go into the moonlight to disappear forever. Even though his heart was now empty he realized, as the Guaracheros played through ‘Alma Libre,’ that that emptiness was really his heart being liberated to love again, who knows when, with as much fullness and passion as he had experienced during the previous seven months.

Cuando te encuentres muy sola y muy triste
sin nadie en el mundo que sienta por ti,

Cuando te encuentres muy sola y muy triste
sin nadie en el mundo que sienta por ti,

Recuerda siempre que yo fui en tu vida
que con mis caricias tus penas calmaba
con migo viviste,
con migo aprendiste
los horas mas dulce que nadie vivió

Ahora quel al fin ya te marchitaste de mi lado
creyendo así que marchitaba mi existencia
si yo perdí ha una mujer que no me amaba
tú perdiste quién te quiso con pasión.

Quiero escaparme con la vieja luna
en el momento en que la noche muere
cuando se asoma la sonrisa blanca
en la mañana de mi adversidad

Quiero de nuevo revivir la noche
porque la vieja luna volverá
ella quien sabe donde está mi amor
ella sabe si aquella perdí

Vieja luna que en la noche va.

Igual que un mago de Oriente
con poder y ciencia rara
logré romper la cadena
que sin piedad me ataba

Igual que un mago de Oriente
con poder y ciencia rara
logré romper la cadena
que sin piedad me ataba

Saltó en mil pedazos como fina copa
lo triste de mi vida se volvió feliz

Logré que este amor de mí se el acaba
también tanto poder yo me acordaba

Perfume de alegría y de alma libre
sin penas ni rencores yo sabré vivir
Si me quieren sé querer, si olvidan sé olvidar
porque tengo el alma libre para amar

Logré que este amor de mí se el acaba
también tanto poder yo me acordaba

Perfume de alegría y de alma libre
sin penas ni rencores yo sabré vivir
Si me quieren sé querer, si olvidan sé olvidar
porque tengo el alma libre para amar.


A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 8
22 May 2022


A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 6

A TEMPERING OF DREAMS is a novel: pure fantasy with imaginary characters, and no effort whatsoever at historical accuracy. It is based on remembered images of a bygone time, and has no particular purpose beyond enjoyment. It will appear serially as each chapter is completed; there is no schedule. MG,Jr.

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 1
8 May 2022

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 5
16 May 2022



“Don’t you think we should do something besides just neck?,” Angie asked while lying on top of the bed next to him in Paine-103, with her back against the wall, her head propped up resting on her left hand with her elbow next to Sergio’s head looking up into her face, while her right hand fingers toyed with his shirt buttons.
“Why don’t we trade dates. I’ll take you to a concert, and you take me to whatever event you like. Give ourselves different perspectives. I have a concert in mind.”
“Well then, I know just the right thing for you,” she replied with a conspiratorial smirk.

So Sergio took Angie to a performance of Henry Purcell’s English Baroque opera ‘Dido and Aeneas’ put on by the Music Department in Francis Hopkinson Concert Hall, sung and played by students, especially so Angie could hear Dido’s Lament, that plaintive soprano aria “When I am lain in earth.” He knew that Angie would soak in the deeply sad emotion being expressed by that forlorn woman and mythical queen. The story of the opera, taken from Virgil’s epic Latin poem, tells of Aeneas, a Trojan warrior who escaped the Fall of Troy and leads a band of survivors sailing west toward Sicily. His ship is blown off course and lands in Carthage, where Aeneas and his band rest, recover and reprovision, and where Aeneas falls in love with the city’s queen, Dido, whose court was hosting the Trojans. Overwhelmed by her love for him, Dido takes Aeneas onto herself as both husband and the city’s lord. But for Aeneas the duty of political succession demanded that he continue on to Italy to secure a Trojan colony, to have for his own domain and for his son’s lineage. Dido was so distraught at her abandonment and his betrayal that she ordered a funeral pyre built for herself and set ablaze so that Aeneas could see the smoke from his ship and know that she had killed herself. She sings her lament before stabbing herself, as Aeneas sails away. Angie held Sergio close next to her with her arm wrapped under his to pull him in tight as he walked her back to Hill House that evening.

Days later, Angie took Sergio to a packed College Hall Theater to hear a lecture by Dr. Timothy Leary, on LSD and expanded consciousness. Leary was a most amusing speaker, who radiated an infectious sense of happiness with just being alive, and a joy with being fully aware of that conscious experiential happiness. This was “the most dangerous man in America,” as President Nixon called him, an unarmed itinerant preacher of the gospel of happiness liberated through expanded consciousness, and of the wonderful gifts of mental lubricants given to us by Nature and Albert Hofmann, for unbinding the hinges of the doors of perception allowing them to swing wide open for that expansion to unfurl. But, Leary did offer some cautions. He described LSD as a substance to be used only by advanced explorers of the psyche who had been trained in its use in convivial circles supervised by older members of the tribe, and not to be taken indiscriminately by amateurs. “But grass is for everybody,” he said, because it didn’t kill anybody like the millions who had died from booze and cigarettes. Nobody in that auditorium was disagreeing with that: Leary got a standing ovation. Leary’s lecture put Angie and Sergio in the mood to do everything they could possibly do together, right away.

The radio in Paine-103 was turned on to WXPN for late night music, a pipe pulled out, and hits of marijuana traded back and forth in the darkened room. They were in the zone. Embracing on the bed, they kissed deeply and pressed their bodies into each other. This become more and more satisfying as one item of clothing after another dropped away. Angie was drawing in the warm pressure of his whole body touch, and of his knowing sensitive hands. Sergio was immersing himself in Angie’s firm luxuriant flesh, and her deeply enfolding breasts. He was engorged, he wanted it. She was not on her period, she wanted it. Sergio picked up a square foil packet, Angie nodded. He sat up on the side of he bed, ripped the foil open, and rolled on a latex condom. Then he positioned himself above Angie as she spread her legs and drew him down into her. They merged, and the animating creative forces of the universe flooded up through their quivering bodies to explode white lights in their brains propelling them into thoughtless infinities of timeless ecstasy. Then that cosmic bubble deflated into the warm dark stillness of the room, with their racing hearts thumping into each other through their breastbones and dewy pressed-together skin, while the moist puffs of his slow panting blew down onto her neck and breast, and her upwelling pulses of moist breath brushed against the side of his head and his ear. They lay that way, meshed, entwined, warm, relaxing into stillness, for a long time. Then with a short kiss to signal the end of their journey, they disengaged, Sergio getting up to dispose of the prophylactic, tearing off sheets from a roll of paper towels and handing a few to Angie, and they got dressed. He walked Angie back to Hill House, and they were both very happy.

More nights of such beautiful shared experience occurred in the following weeks of September, and on the 26th, Angie was excited to buy the Beatles’s new record, ‘Abbey Road,’ the day it was released. She brought it with her for her following weekend with Sergio. He was always excited by the anticipation of her next visit, and surprised to discover that excitement sparking his analytical mind and spurring him to get his student assignments done expeditiously, both to satisfy his academic aims and to ensure that his time with Angie would remain unclouded by concerns over unfulfilled academic tasks, or grades.

A day spent at Paine-103 meant that they would each have to go the the bathroom down the hallway sometime. Most guys in the Quad were out during weekend days, so it was easy to find times for going down to the bathroom unobserved. Sergio had a big wine-red velour bathrobe his mother had sown, and Angie could wrap herself in that instead of having to get dressed. Sergio would throw on some pants and a T-shirt, go scout out the bathroom to ensure it was unoccupied, and then quickly accompany Angie the short way down the antique warped dull polished wood floored hallway to the group wash-up, toilet and shower room on the first floor of Paine Residence Hall, and stand guard outside its white swinging wooden door to ward off would-be intruders while she occupied it. So far these excursions had all been brief and unobserved, but not today. A tall lanky long-muscled guy with shaggy straight sandy hair walked in from Quad Green through a nearby doorway, aiming for the bathroom. Sergio stopped him.

“Listen, I’m sorry, somebody’s in there, and you can’t go in for a few minutes. There’s another bathroom just down the hallway, by the next doorway.”
The guy looked at him quizzically, and asked “Well, who’s in there?”
Sergio grimaced, and understanding the imperatives of piss pressure said, “It’s, ah, a lady. You know, it could take a little bit. I’m really sorry.”
“Yeah, okay, I get it. I’ll go to the other one.”
Just then the bathroom door swung open and Angie went wide-eyed seeing this guy right in front of her, and he was also taken aback but kept his cool with a flat expression. Angie turned onto the hallway and scooted herself back to Sergio’s room.
“Thanks again, and sorry”
“No sweat,” and the two men went their separate ways. The guy had noticed that Angie and Sergio had bare feet, and that then slowly clued him into what was going on.

A week later Sergio got his reporting notice for October from the Draft Board, delivered in his Quad mailbox. As he walked into the side doorway of Paine from Quad Green to type up his usual monthly appeal hearing request, he bumped into the guy of the bathroom encounter, making his way out. They stopped to greet each other.
“Hey, I’m Fred. I live around the corner in Morris. I take this way for a shortcut.”
“Hi, Fred, I’m Sergio, Sergio Romero.”
“Yeah, I’m Fred Glowicki.” Fred was a freshman on a football scholarship from a small town deep in rural mid-state Pennsylvania. The University felt a social imperative to bring in less economically privileged students from within the state’s rural areas, to offer them better educational opportunities than they might otherwise receive in community colleges deprived of ivy-encrusted hoariness, and for that they had a special admissions program. An added incentive for bringing Fred in through this program was that he had been an awesome high school football athlete. “They gave me a scholarship, I’m a running back and wide receiver.” Fred was a coal miner’s son, and had done physical work from an early age, his muscles were not just from football training. His earnings had enabled him to buy a Kawasaki 500 motorcycle, which he had locked up in the motorcycle area outside around from the Quad. Fred was a very good-natured guy, Sergio liked Fred right away.

Angie was too busy to spend time with Sergio during early October. She was all atwitter planning with a bunch of girls for a large contingent from Hill House to go as a group to the big protest in downtown Philadelphia set for October 15, one of many such protest gatherings across the nation planned for that day by a consortium of antiwar groups known collectively as The Mobilization, or “the Mobe.” Then her Hill House group planned to go by bus to Washington, D.C. to join in the expected enormous mass protest demonstration against the Vietnam War, set for November 15 in front of the White House. Sergio planned to stay on campus keeping up his studies and mulling over his possible draft-dodging game plans, since he felt his time outside the war might be drawing to a close, and he really didn’t have any extra psychological reserves to expend on days of chanting and marching in the streets.

Finally, on Friday the 17th, Angie and Sergio were able to get together to go eat dinner and then cozy up in Paine-103. Angie had been withdrawn all evening, and was not in the mood for romance, because she was stewing about something she was not at all happy about. After sitting for a while in silence listening to soft jazz on the radio and smoking cigarettes, she let it out.
“Donnie wants to marry me.”
“Who’s Donnie?”
“He’s a guy back in Pittsburgh.”
“Well… what do you think about that?”
“I don’t want to marry Donnie, but my mother wants me to.”
“He’s friend of the family. She says: ‘Oh it be so good if you married Donnie, he’s a good man, handsome, and makes good money at the mill. He could give you a good house, where you could have a family, right here near us. Why do you want to be so far away, when you could go to school here, close to us?’”
“What does your father say?”
“He doesn’t say much, but he thinks the same.”
“So… who is Donnie?”
“Donnie Battaglia, he’s twenty-six and a foreman at a steel mill. So he’s making good money, has a big new Chevy Impala, and wants a young wife to keep house for him, serve him big pasta dinners every night, and give him babies — me! — and I don’t want to do any of that.”
“You don’t have to.”
“My whole family wants me to, like that’s the role I’m supposed to play for them. It’s not about what I want to do. Anyway, that’s why I told you not to come visit last summer. It would not have been good for you with Donnie there. He thinks he owns me. My mother’s always inviting him for dinner and saying across the table ‘look a him, you should get married, it’d be so good’ and Donnie acts so proud of himself and says ‘I’m your man, Ange’ and I can’t stand it. Like what part of ‘you don’t own me’ don’t you get, Donnie?”
She was too worked up for Sergio to try pawing her, so after she got tired of listening to the radio and smoking, they put on their coats and he quietly walked her back to Hill House, saying goodbye outside the causeway with a simple hug and gentle kiss.

Both Angie and Sergio still had classes to attend, homework to do, jobs to clock into, and exams to study for and take, so they didn’t see each other again until the following Friday. It was immediately obvious to Sergio that Angie’s mood has only darkened. She just went over and over the same things she’s complained about the last time, again and again. Both Donnie and her mother had telephoned her during the week. Sergio could understand why Angie so desperately wanted to escape from Pittsburgh, but he could not understand why she twisted herself up in obsessive melancholy and resentment, instead of just saying “no” she wasn’t going to marry Donnie and play the subservient role that her Pittsburgh people wanted her to play. She was going to have the independent kind of life and career that she wanted to have, and for which she was clearly intelligent and talented enough to successfully attain. And that’s what she was at the University for.

“If people really loved you that’s what they’d want for you,” he told her.
“They don’t want to hear that. They just want me to do like mama did, and like all the other girls there are doing.” And she looped back into the same complaints again and again, about “thinks he owns me” Donnie, about “you should live near us” mama, about “he’s a good man, makes good money” papa, aunts and uncles and all of Donnie’s friends.
“Why don’t you write them a letter and spell out how you feel and what you intend doing?
And with that Angie uncorked her frustration at him:
“I don’t want you to solve my problem! I want to emote!”

That shut him up. Now he got it. He was not supposed to be the analytical Mister Fixit badgering her with options, he was supposed to be the silent all-absorbing emoto-kotex. After a stretch of strained silence, she stubbed our her cigarette, and said: “I want to go.”
Wordlessly, he stood up, got her navy blue wool coat from the closet and held it out for her to slip her arms into, threw on his own golden beige cloth coat, and escorted her back to Hill House in silence. After a simple “good night,” she just walked in.

The following Friday was Halloween, and Angie was unavailable because she would be involved in a big party for the girls in Hill House. So Sergio went on a slow walk to soak in the refreshing air and the cold clear lights of the night sky and of the city. He stopped for dinner at The Underground, then came out to amble about on Campus Green. Here, he came upon groups of people in costumes, as ghouls, ghosts, witches, vampires, Frankensteins, pirates and princesses, and they were goofing around on the Green between transits coming from or going to parties, the fraternities were having their usual Basement Bashes and keggers. He wasn’t in the mood for their kind of levity. He felt a bump against his shoulder, and turning to see who the annoying drunk was, instead found
“Elena! What are you doing?”
“Halloween Night, looking for stories.”
“And did you find any?”
“Let’s follow ’em and see!”
So they walked all around Campus Green, and up and down Locust Walk, watching the costumed and uncostumed partygoers going about their antics, some climbing on statues, some climbing into or out of the wide open ground floor windows of the unbearably noisy totally packed fraternity houses; and throughout Elena could not resist walking along the tops of low walls and curbs and on benches, instead of the middle of the pathway. She was shamelessly acting like a child, public opinion was of no concern.

“I need to go to the bathroom,” Elena said.
“We can head back to College Hall”
“Na, we’ll just go in this frat.” It was Iota Phi Theta. So Elena burrowed into the crowd with Sergio trailing her. Sure enough, Seth was “managing” the first floor, and he was bug-eyed leaning toward her trying to induce her to stay. She finally got directions to the bathroom — upstairs naturally — and waved back to Sergio as she climbed up the stairs, signaling with a bobbing downward-pointed index finger for him to wait. Seth came over to him.
“You know that girl?”
“Yeah, a bit, you?”
“She’s been here a few times, but she’s not a regular yet.”
“Think that will happen?”
“I’m working on it.”
“Tonight might not be right for that, it’s too crowded and noisy”
“A lot can happen with a crowd in the frat!”
“I guess.”
“She’s not you girlfriend is she? I thought you already had a girlfriend.”
“Well, yeah, but some things are more temporary than others.”
“Are you two-timing!”
“No, no, everybody just gets what they want.”
“Oh yeah!, well maybe I’m gonna’ get some of that, too!”
Elena came down the stairs, joined them for a moment and said to Seth “Thanks. I gotta keep going, I have to write about Halloween for the Campus News,” and to Sergio “Let’s go!” as she drilled through the crowd for the door. Seth asked Sergio: “What’s she like?”
“Hot, tight, sharp, wicked and fast,” and Sergio walked out leaving Seth with his dick in a knot.

Outside on Locust Walk, Sergio asked Elena “Would you ever go out with that guy?”
“No way! Total zero!”
“I’m glad you said that, because I can’t stand him. He wanted to know if we were hooked up, and I let him believe we were, to pull his chain. And… I hope you don’t get mad… I kind of let him believe you were…”
“A whore!”
“NO! But, kind of a party girl.”
“What you say?! what you say?! tell me! tell me!”
“Well… I said… you were… hot, tight, sharp, wicked and fast”
“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!” Elena squealed hysterically with delight and it bounced off the flagstones of Locust Walk and ricocheted off the sides of the adjacent buildings. “But I AM hot, tight, sharp, wicked and fast!, and don’t you forget it!”
“Well, I’m glad you’re not mad about it, I kind of used you.”
“Only fair, I use you.”
“You’re my guy shield, when you walk with me I don’t get hit up.”
“You expect to hit up walking out here at night?”
“Why,” and she just stood erect, threw her shoulders back and flashed him a big grin.
“Okay, yeah, I have noticed. So I’m you guy prophylactic?”
“Yip!,” and then “Hey!, you got a cigarette I can bum?”
“Oh, you. Let’s go back to College Hall and I’ll buy a pack.”
“This time I’ll put the coins in!,” and she threaded her left arm under his right, and tugged him forward, “Come on!”
When Sergio got back to Paine-103, he threw the pack on the desk, thinking “Wow, what a crazy chick,” and then he thought about his planned visit with Angie tomorrow, the Day of the Dead.

Angie was in a better mood on Saturday. They met at Hill House for lunch in its cafeteria, and then went to the Library for a few hours of research for her, while he worked on his electricity and magnetism physics problems. Then Sergio took her for a burger dinner in The Underground before they went to Paine-103. He wondered what would happen there. They lay in bed for snuggles with their clothes on, but mainly she wanted to talk about her upcoming trip to Washington, D.C. in two weeks, for “the Mobe.” He knew she didn’t want to hear about thermodynamics, or electromagnetism, and for sure that he was not going to ask about Donnie and momma in Pittsburgh, and that he was forbidden to make any practical suggestions for solving her emotional problems, and that he didn’t want to talk about the Draft.

So, what was left? “Let’s have sex” didn’t seem like a winning gambit, and trying to grab for sex in that way, with scant regard for your lover’s state-of-mind, would be a cheapening of what should be the beauty of shared love and shared joy. So Sergio decided to chat about the humorous little things he’d observed since they were last together, and that meant the mildly goofy antics of Halloween. They alternated telling about their Halloween, but it was quickly apparent that Angie’s all-girl Halloween Party in Hill House wasn’t even interesting to her. She could just as easily have done the same things with the girls in Pittsburgh. So Angie said less and less and let Sergio ramble on about his wanderings among the Halloween partygoers on Campus Green and along Frat Row. And then she had had enough: “I don’t want you telling me about other women when you’re with me.”
“Okay” Sergio thought, “another door closed.”

Ten days later Sergio got a letter from the Draft Board, and this one was different. It informed him that his hearing to appeal the revocation of his 2-S student deferment and appeal his 1-A summons to report for induction into the military, was scheduled for Monday, 8 December 1969, at 10 am at 39 Whitehall Street, Manhattan, New York City. Now he could use a million dollar lawyer. He only had about $500. The next day was Veteran’s Day, and the many TV news segments seen in the Student Lounge, showed the President or state officials of local officials giving speeches about patriotism at military cemeteries with fluttering American flags and grids of tombstones in the background. These broadcasts were not inspiring, nor consoling. Angie would be leaving on Friday with the Hill House contingent joining “the Mobe” so they got together Thursday afternoon. Sergio wanted sympathy about his Draft Board problem, and wanted to explain the whole bureaucratic mess as well as his many fears about having his desired career derailed by the military, and very likely his life violently sacrificed in a useless war. But Angie was equally distraught: she had kept getting calls from her mother, mainly, and Donnie, sometimes, arguing that she was really making a big mistake with her life, to be fleeing the familiar familial patterns her Pittsburgh people had long established. Angie was pissed off that this annoyance was interfering with her organizational involvement with the Hill House Mobe, so she was somewhat tone-deaf to Sergio’s efforts to talk about his emotions. And then he snapped: “I don’t always want to be an emoto-kotex for you!”

He wasn’t happy, she wasn’t happy, and realizing that he suggested “Let’s just go back. We can call each other after all this is over, and we can figure out how to do things together without all this other stress.”
She could tell that he was much angrier than he was expressing — emotions! — so she wanted to get away from that till he felt safer for her to be with — to use? Hadn’t they both been using each other? It seemed that each of them had slipped from their earlier Cloud Nine sense of happily being “all giving,” into a flintier attitude “making sure I’m getting my share,” which was calculated by very subjective processes of “love accounting.” Maybe they were asking for too much from each other and becoming resentful at not getting what the other couldn’t possibly deliver. To Sergio it seem obvious, they needed time to clear their minds and reorganize themselves, before they could rejoin their unencumbered hearts.

On Saturday, 15 November 1969, the largest anti-war protest in the history of the United States occurred in Washington, D.C. Sergio was in the Student Lounge watching the TV new broadcasts, and found Joe there. They then spent the weekend together, following the news, going to eat, Joe learning about the latest ominous developments in Sergio’s Draft situation, and he learning about the latest ominous developments in Joe’s Denver situation. They talked about Thanksgiving coming up in twelve days, and how uncertain life seemed for each of them beyond that point. Joe’s father might just decide to prevent his son from returning to Philadelphia from his Thanksgiving vacation, and Sergio might find this to be his last Thanksgiving with his parents for a while, or worse, ever. They talked about fleeing to Canada to escape getting inducted into the Army, but neither of them really had any practical idea about how to go about doing that. The best that Sergio could think of was to make the Canada trip after Thanksgiving, buying a train ticket at Penn Station for Montreal, and then once there just hoping that the Canadians would take care of him. But that seemed ridiculous, why should they? why wouldn’t they just put him on a train going back? So, ultimately Joe and Sergio just escaped into marijuana since everything else seemed hopeless.

Despite it all Sergio kept studying his engineering because without it he would just rattle himself to pieces thinking only about his impending doom. And that’s what Angie was doing with all her psyche papers and Mobe organizing and protesting, to keep her mind as free as she could manage, of the prospect of being sucked into a stifling eternity of homemaking for Donnie. And that is also what Joe was doing working on his economics, because being stoned could never completely removed all consciousness of deeply troubling concerns, and never be a permanent solution to solving the problems an individual has interacting with the rest of society, and surviving all the hazards and hostility that this cruel world can throw at you. Being stoned does nothing to help you in situations where survival requires that you move your ass!

On Thursday the 20th, the Cleveland Plain Dealer broke the story of the My Lai massacre, with a front page spread featuring the grisly tragic photograph of the piled bloodied and contorted bodies of unarmed Vietnamese villagers — old men, women and children — shot dead by rampaging American soldiers. The massacre of up to 504 Vietnamese rural people over the course of a few hours, with numerous rapes committed before murdering the victims, had occurred twenty months earlier, on 16 March 1968, and kept secret by the US Army. The anti-war protests that had lingered since the big Mobe of November 15, were now enflamed by the outrage over My Lai.

The next day, Friday 21 November, was the last day for many students to connect before most left for the Thanksgiving vacations “back home.” Sergio called Angie to ask that they meet before “going home.” Angie agreed, “Yes, I want to talk to you.”
As he entered Campus Green, he saw her there. He joined her and they walked slowly over the grass.
“I’ve been thinking for a long time,” she began, “about us. You have this logical way of doing everything and don’t see that people’s feeling are often more important. Because of that you can hurt people with the way you talk and act, and you don’t even realize it. But you should! It’s part of growing up. You spend so much of your energy with numbers and things that you haven’t grown up emotionally. And you should be smart enough to see that and know better. So I don’t think we should be together until you have made that growth. If you really care for me, you will, and if you can’t make that effort then you really don’t care for me. So you have to change. Don’t call me and don’t try to see me until you have.”
“What are you talking about! What kind of change?”
“You have to think about it and realize it, instead of arguing with me all the time. I haven’t anything else to say. When you have really changed yourself then you can call me, but not till then. Goodbye.”
And with that she turned away and left him flabbergasted in the middle of Campus Green. The only part of this that he understood was that she’d left him.

Sergio couldn’t even concentrate on thermodynamics, his favorite subject, so he trooped over to Joe’s room. Joe was in, the room mate was out, good. He told Joe all about Angie’s ultimatum: “Don’t come back or call me until you’ve changed.” It was way worse than just no sex, it was no girlfriend companionship, it was no love. “It’s a bitch being in love,” Sergio thought to himself, “it’s a fucking disease.” Joe was always glad to see his friends visit him these days, it broke up the tedium of his enforced monasticism. So he lent his ears sympathetically to poor pissed-off Sergio.

“What’s up?” Bernie asked, walking in.
“Woman downer,” Joe replied, “Sergio has been dismissed rather abruptly. He must ‘change’ to regain acceptability.”
“Now I’m the bad guy. A bunch of Angie’s friends from Hill, that I gave them the answers to their Spanish homework, now don’t even know me. They walked right by me at Campus Green as if I was invisible. What the hell did I do?”

Bernie leaned back lying on Joe’s bed with his knees up, elbows out, and hands behind his head, and explained: “You know, some people are still in high school. Some people never get out of high school. Some people are way ahead of high school even before they get there. They usually hate it all the way through, and flee to college, like us. Some can’t stand high school because they’ll never grow up, they stay kids. They drop out, get jobs, and make more money that we’ll ever see. One guy in my school was driving a Corvette in sophomore year from the money he was making in landscaping. He just started with shovels and a truck. No diploma for him. Still in high school, that’s your girls on the Green.”
“Yeah, but what about Angie?”
“She’s way past high school, probably always was, now she’s looking past college, husband maybe, career maybe, and maybe just all mixed up. Lotta’ people are all mixed up.”
“I really don’t understand women. And they for sure don’t understand me.”
“Well, they know you want to get laid, but that’s par for the course with all coeds. Some of them want everything safe, you won’t get anywhere with them, some are dead set on nailing down their man with good job prospects, and some want to get their kicks before getting serious in junior year. I’ve seen a bunch of them, they find you if you can give them what they want.”
“Mostly, acid for some. Some are real talkers, emotional types.”
“So you get to the pick of the litter?”
“No, man, you can’t let yourself get hung up on women. Can’t get messed up, these chicks come and go. I came here because I got things I want to do with the rest of my life. Gotta’ keep your focus. Psych majors are all screwed up, that’s why they’re in psych, they’re trying to figure themselves out, which they don’t, and they then want to get paid to screw up other people to be just like them. People are weird, man, the rats in the Bio Lab are all better adjusted, they know exactly what they want and they go for it, they’re totally clear minded, don’t lie and aren’t confused.” Bernie sat up on the bed, to go.
“Heading out?”
“Yeah, gotta’ get to my shift,” Bernie was now working as an Undergraduate Assistant on a microbiology research project by one of his professors, “got to keep the agar coming.” And off he went.

“How the hell does Purple Haze Stonemaster Bernie know more about people than psych major Angie, who actually works in the psych department office typing up the professor’s notes?”
“Because Bernie just takes drugs while Angie is getting a professional education in the subject.”
“So he sees clearly just by sitting back and looking, while she’s fogged in with the cult.”
“What do you think I should do?”
“Don’t tempt me. Let’s go get something to eat.” And that was a very useful idea.
The TV news at the Student Lounge was all about My Lai, antiwar protests, American war casualties, and the sixth anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination. Joe and Sergio went back to Paine-103 and succumbed to temptation, massively, and Joe repeated the Fariña Incantation: “Immunity has been granted to me because I do not lose my cool.”

The next day Sergio took a cold day’s ride on three trains, from the underground SEPTA electric trolley station near the Quad on 38th Street, to the 30th Street Station in downtown Philadelphia, Amtrak up to Penn Station in New York, then the Long Island Railroad out to the north shore of Suffolk County, to get home for Thanksgiving. It was so good to smell mother’s home cooking again, and she’d even made blueberry pies with her own garden blueberries and with her own homemade crust. That was the kind of love he wanted, and needed.


A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 7
21 May 2022


A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 5

A TEMPERING OF DREAMS is a novel: pure fantasy with imaginary characters, and no effort whatsoever at historical accuracy. It is based on remembered images of a bygone time, and has no particular purpose beyond enjoyment. It will appear serially as each chapter is completed; there is no schedule. MG,Jr.

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 1
8 May 2022

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 4
13 May 2022



“Laundry costs $2 a bag,” said the PO Manager, they were standing in a narrow windowless rough-walled cement cave behind the University Post Office, with four washing machines lined up along the right, and four dryers lined up opposite on the left side of the narrow cement passageway. “Cloth bags, one load size only, they can use their own or buy ‘em at the Bookstore. They pay me up front, just cash, put their names and date on a ticket for each bag. They pin the tickets to the bags, and put ‘em in the ‘to wash’ bin.” Two sets of bins lined opposite walls at the front of the passageway. “You do ‘em oldest to newest, one bag to a washer. Scoop out one cup of soap per load, dump it in, close the lid, and turn the knob to ‘wash.’ Be sure to keep its bag on top of the washer. Wash should be done in twenty minutes. Put the wet clothes into the dryer behind you when it’s empty, and hang its bag on the door handle, close the door, push the button. Always keep its bag with the clothes! No mixups! Drying takes twenty minutes. Dump the dry clothes in its bag, cinch it up, put it in the ‘dry clothes’ bin. That’s where they can pick ‘em up.”

“What about whites and colors, and hot and cold water?”
“Whatever they put in a bag gets washed all together. And don’t touch the dirty clothes!, you aren’t getting paid enough to hafta do that! So don’t drop any. Water’s all the same, cold. You don’t gotta’ fold, wrinkles are their problem. That’s the job, an hour each time, do at least eight bags, twelve if you can. You get $10 an hour, paid in cash each time you work. If we’re caught up, you hafta hang around for your hour ‘case some loads come in you can do ‘fore you go. Okay, you’re scheduled twice a week. Stop by other times if you’re looking for more work ‘cause sometimes people go missing, and it piles up here.” This was called a “partial work-study scholarship.”

Sergio emerged from the laundry cave into the dazzling sunshine of a balmy Sunday that skittered in from both sides laterally under the large entrance archway of the Mens Dormitory Quadrangle at 38th Street, to dilute the usual shadiness of its walkway plaza with added luminosity. Everyone had moved into their dorms during the previous four days, and classes began tomorrow. He called Angie from the pay-phone next to the array of letterboxes for incoming mail to the Quad rooms. He hadn’t heard from her yet. The Hill House desk told him she had the same suite as last year, when he first called a few days ago. No answer this time either. It was dawning on him that “Man must wait” might be a Law of Nature regarding the Feminine Arena. He walked out into the wide treeless sunny Quad Green within the western half of the Quad, and found a spot to lie back in and look up into the clear blue with a few wispy feathery clouds drifting by as their white filaments slowly curled and braided themselves in a ballet of entanglement gradually changing the entire shape of their cloud.

“Hey,” it was Bernie! He looked his usual good self, in an oversized T-shirt hanging over faded blue bell-bottom jeans, with open-toe leather sandals soled with old tire treads, and with his beaded necklace talisman, and a wide dark brown leather wristband with a watch attached. He settled himself next to Sergio, and they both sat up cross-legged, watching guys further off playing frisbee.
“So, what are you doing?”
“Just hanging out before my job.” By this, Bernie meant his “partial work-study scholarship.”
“What’s that?”
“Cleaning out cages in the Bio Lab, rats and mice mostly.”
“Yeah, I’m doing laundry. You living in the Quad?”
“Yep, right back up there at the west end of South Quad, in Willoughby-319. I’m rooming with another bio guy, so that’s cool. But I kind of want to get into an apartment for next semester if I can.”
“To pick better room mates?”
“Yeah, well that, but also I’ve been saving my seeds for flowerpots, and I can’t do that in the Quad.”
“Bernie, what’s going on with Joe?”
“Oh, he’s bummed out. He almost flunked out last semester and his father almost didn’t let him return. So he’s got to get B’s, especially in economics, or its back to Colorado for good.”
“Is he in the Quad?”
“Yeah, at the east end of South Quad, in Smith-283. He’s rooming with a real straight guy, an econ major.”
“Poor Joe,” said Sergio with genuine sympathy.

A red frisbee winged upward into a long slanted arc toward them and then curved downward until the disc impacted the ground and rolled nearly up to their feet, where it flopped over. “Well look who’s here!” It was Seth Green who had come loping over to retrieve it. He was with a bunch of his frat brothers who had taken over half of the Quad Green to play their frisbee game, since there was no room for that on the postage-sized lot of Iota Phi Theta, and the general purpose playing fields were a further walk away near the stadium.
“How are you guys doing?,” was the beginning of Seth’s announcement. “It’s great being out of the freshman dorms, isn’t it? I got a first floor room looking right out onto Locust Walk. I can get to class in five minutes.”
“That’s great, Seth! Did you ever get a car?” Sergio asked pleasantly.
“No, but I can drive my brother’s Cougar when he’s not using it. Hey, you know what? We’re having an awesome kegger on Friday night, only five bucks a head, girls free. We got a great sound system, too, so it’ll be a real live scene. You oughta come.”
“Can I bring a date?” Sergio asked innocently.
“Yeah!” and then Seth’s frat brothers, tired of waiting for the frisbee and now thinking more about beer, called him to rejoin them for the walk back to their fraternity.
“An awesome kegger,” Bernie said as they watched Seth’s group recede toward the 38th Street Archway.
“Seth’s an asshole,” was Sergio’s rejoinder.

“Ah, do I see the repugnant one receding in the distance?” It was Joe, who had walked up behind them.
“Joe! Good seeing you, man!” Sergio said, genuinely delighted.
“Indeed, it is always a pleasure to join your company, gentlemen.”
Sergio told Joe about Seth’s upcoming frat party, and Bernie then repeated solemnly “an awesome kegger,” which quip uncorked all their laughter.
“Yes, indeed,” said Joe, “Seth is smug, conceited, insolent, arrogant and insufferable.”
“Yeah, aside from that he’s okay,” and Bernie, glancing at his watch, said it was time for him to go visit the cages, and off he went in his natural easy way.

“Joe, can I buy some grass?”
“Follow me, and we will see if the coast is clear.” The room mate was gone when they arrived at Joe’s, so he was able to extract a sandwich-sized clear plastic bag stuffed with marijuana. “Here, take it, $15, you can pay me later.” That was the usual rate for a “bag,” which was always understood to be a half-filled sandwich baggie.
“Joe, this is at least a $30 bag. This would last me a year.”
“It is necessary that I remove temptations, distractions — and evidence — because I must monk-like seek my salvation.”
“Yes, Bernie told me.”
“Take it, fifteen is good enough, I can always get more if I become irredeemably desperate.”
“Hey!” On Sergio noticing, “You have a private phone!”
“Yes, a great convenience,” Joe said writing the number on a scrap of paper he handed to Sergio, adding “and it allows inquiries from Denver to come through with the least delay.”
“Well, at least I know how to get hold of you, we can go to dinner sometimes. But I have to study a lot, too. I’m living in Paine-103 if you ever want to stop by and visit, it’s way up at the northwest corner, where North and West Quad meet. Hey, can I make a call? I want to see if Angie’s back and we can go to the movie thing at College Hall tonight. We can go as a threesome.”
“Of course, most important, use the phone. But I will remain here. I have to do some catching up.”

“Angie! You’re back!” Sergio lit up when she answered the phone. “Let’s go to the Movie Party tonight in the College Hall Lounge, free popcorn. Starts at 7, we can eat first.”
“Wow! It’s good to hear your voice. I got your messages, and I’m rooming in the same suite with Janet again. But I’m not sure when I can get out yet. We’ve been having lots of mixers with food all day between sophomores and freshman in Hill, to help the new girls out, answer their questions, warn them about all you guys! I’ve got a big group of girls here interested in psych, and I don’t think we’ll be finished soon.”
“So, what’s Janet doing, same thing?”
“She’s out at the field running cheerleader tryouts. The Athletic Department has its own big thing planned for all those girls.”
“Well, I can call you back later to see. The College Hall thing will go on for a while. It’s two movies and then music.”
“Okay, that sounds good, I’ll talk to you soon. It’s just crazy here now!”
And then it was “byes” and hang up the phone.
“I guess I’ll go get a bite, check out that scene, see what happens later. Thanks again, Joe.”
“I’m glad we’re back, we will see each other again. Now, on to the barricades!”
“Indeed!,” and Sergio left happy to see his last quip prompting a chuckle from Joe, as each entered separate solitary paths into the evening, and their uncertainties.

The evening air had turned cool as he walked down 38th toward College Hall, with the night deepening ahead of him and the dusk extinguishing behind him. He went down into The Underground to get a twelve inch cheesesteak with pepperoncinis and a punchy cola, then called Angie again from the pay-phone by the vending machines. No answer. Well, she knew where he would be. So he went upstairs the two flights to the big Student Lounge. It had been set up for the Movie Party, with a big white screen against the wide back wall, and a long folding table to the right with stacks of paper bowls and big metal pots filled with popcorn. He could see light from the window of a projection room above the entrance to the lounge, as a movie reel was being mounted onto the projector. The lounge was already quite filled with students, seated in the close-packed rows of folding chairs, and sprawled on the floor against the walls in back and by the popcorn. So he went over to the big door-like windows on the left, opened entirely for fresh air from 38th, which was below, to diffuse into the lounge and dilute the hot stuffiness of the massed body heat being given off by the audience, and found a spot on a broad flat window sill to sit on. The lights were turned off and the movie begin. It was ‘Yellow Submarine,’ with The Beatles.

Sergio was positioned at the boundary of the event where the sounds of the movie, mixed into the hot fetid stuffiness of the room air, laced with cigarette — and did he detect marijuana? — smoke oozed out of the darkened room toward an escape into the vast fresh outside world, clashed at the window with the incoming drift of ever cooler crisp night air infused with noises of traffic along 38th and the unceasing hum of the cityscape beyond. He could lean out the window and have his feet planted within the close-feeling miasma of the lounge while his head and shoulders were gently washed over by currents of expansiveness as if atop a peak in the White Mountains. He took his poetry journal out of a side pocket on his corduroy jacket, opened it on the window sill, and waited for his mind to drift into an idea he could capture with his pen. This was his way of waiting.

“You got a cigarette I can bum?” It was Elena Feldon, standing right next to him. She was wearing a dark maroon longsleeve stretch turtleneck sweater that was well filled out in front, a short opened blue-jean jacket with snaps, bell-bottom blue-jeans, dark zip-up boots with squat inch-or-so heels; her masses of hair were bunched into a haphazardly twisted swirl that was held together against the back of her head to one side with a big shiny spring-clip, and she wore a brimless baggy pullover red and brown patterned knitted wool cap on top and slanted to the other side. She was giving him a smiling quizzical look to accompany her question.
“No, but I could use one. I’ll go buy a pack if you want to wait here.”
“Okay,” she said smiling, and then just followed him downstairs to the vending machines.
“I’ll put the coins in,” Sergio said in front of the cigarette machine, “and you pull for the kind you want.” She pulled for Marlboro. “Let’s go see if we still got our spot.”
“Back to the window! Good place to sit!” she chimed in agreement. It was free. He opened the pack, each took a cigarette, and she pulled out a book of matches to light them up with.

They took the first most satisfying drags from their cigarettes and leaned out the window to blow out their smoke. Then they introduced themselves to each other.
“Yeah, I remember seeing you at Smokey Joe’s,” she said, explaining herself, “so I thought you’d have one.” She was majoring in journalism, and was writing stories for the Campus News.
“I wrote one about the College Hall Sit-in last semester.”
“Ah, so maybe it was you I saw go into College Hall that afternoon.”
“Yep. I had to get the story! There were tons of people there, how’d you know it was me? Were you inside?”
“No. I was out on the Green, but I thought I recognized you from seeing you that time at Smokey Joe’s.”
“Wow, good memory. Yeah, I go everywhere looking for stories.”
“So what do you have to take for a journalism major?”
“Socsh (sociology), econ (economics), am-hist (American History), anthro (anthropology) and maybe psyche. What’s your major?”
“Oh, hard!”
“Yeah, yeah, but it’s what I want to do.”
“You gotta’ do what’s right for you.”
“I agree.”
By then they were well into the second movie, the Disney animated version of ‘Alice In Wonderland.’
“I love the Cheshire Cat. He disappears into his own smile. And the caterpillar sitting on a mushroom smoking the water pipe.” Elena loved this story, and many other children’s fantasies, like ‘Peter Pan.’
“I’ll bet all the people on the floor here are seeing psilocybin in that mushroom and marijuana in that water pipe,” Sergio guessed.
“They’re probably feeling it!,” Elena knew.

And in this way Elena and Sergio chatted by the window, smoking a few cigarettes while backlit by the low artificial stars twinkling out of the distant urban expanse to shine their rays into this Student Lounge cocoon with its huddled budding chrysalises of youths privately saying their final farewells to the caterpillar childhood they were now racing far away from while both enthused yet timorous about spreading their wings and thrusting themselves headlong into the tumult and turbulence of independent adulthood of unknown outcome and from which there could be no return, no escape.

The movies were over, music was turned on to modest loudness and room lighting raised to a moderate dimness, with the half-filled room now clearing out at a steady rate, and showing the many kernels of popcorn strewn everywhere across the darkly carpeted floor, like a mass of halestones dotting a forest ground carpeted with fallen dried brown autumn leaves. Elena and Sergio walked out onto 38th Street, said their goodbyes, and turned their steps into opposite directions, she to her suite in Hill House and he to his little warren at Paine-103.

As Sergio walked through the clear night up 38th Street, he thought about Elena, this funny animated fluidly-contoured tall girl who seemed to suddenly hop in and out of scenes like the White Rabbit in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and would disappear into her own smile. He got back to his room and wasted no time in putting himself to bed. The hustle and bustle of classes would begin the next day.


A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 6
19 May 2022


A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 4

52 State Flag (proposed); if add Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

A TEMPERING OF DREAMS is a novel: pure fantasy with imaginary characters, and no effort whatsoever at historical accuracy. It is based on remembered images of a bygone time, and has no particular purpose beyond enjoyment. It will appear serially as each chapter is completed; there is no schedule. MG,Jr.

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 1
8 May 2022

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 3
12 May 2022



Milky white soapy water filled the spiral groove of the fine drill bit which whirled into a slender gray blur at the push of a button, then slowly penetrated into the tiny guide hole, cutting through the sleeve of a clamped brass gear and down into the slender steel axle rod of a mechanical rheostat controller for a component in a US Navy radar set for its destroyers, as Sergio gently pulled down on the lever of the drill press, and the milky lubricating coolant surged up into a rolling foam ring filled with fine metal chips that circled the bit around the entrance of the bore as the drill cored into the workpiece. Once through, the drill was raised and stopped, the workpiece wiped off and blown clean with pressurized canned air shot through a thin plastic extension tube, and an oiled tapping screw was cranked in by hand to cut threads for the subsequent connecting screw that would hold the gear to the shaft, having first been dipped in varnish that would dry within the microscopic gaps between the threads, forming an adhesive bond. Once practiced at it, the whole operation would take about ten minutes, and if there were no problems like drill bits snapping or gouging into the holes twisting themselves into hot jammed plugs, he could make fifty assemblies a day, six to seven an hour, for an eight hour workday.

He punched the clock in at 8 am and out at 5 pm, and had an hour for lunch — homemade ham and cheese, or tuna salad, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches — between noon and 1 pm, five days a week. He produced about 250 finished assemblies a week, at a minimum wage of $1.65 per hour. So, $13.20 a day, $66 a week, about $290 a month. Without taking any time off, except weekends and national holidays when the plant was closed and he wasn’t paid for them anyway, he might be able to fit in up to 70 work days all summer to gross $924.

But deductions for Social Security Tax, US federal income tax, New York State income tax, and IBEW union dues, could in total take between 25% to 30% of his gross pay to leave him with between $646.80 to $693 that he could bank on, for his three-and-a-half months of summer work. And, he might want to spend some of that money to help enjoy the fourteen to fifteen weekends of his summer, perhaps going to the movies, buying records, slices of pizza, hamburgers, ice cream milkshakes and sodas, while on his bicycle excursions out to the towns and beaches along the North Shore of Long Island within a day’s ride (round trip) of his parents’s house, and maybe even buy some gas for his parents’s 1959 Ford that he drove to work on rainy days and on longer excursions out to Fire Island, East Hampton and Montauk Point. So, “fun” might cost him, maybe, an average of $10 per weekend for fifteen weekends, for $150, leaving him with a total savings of between $496.80 to $543 for the summer.

If the plant had a rush order and authorized work through a holiday weekend, as with the Memorial Day or Labor Day weekends, he could work those days for double pay, $3.30 an hour for a $26.40 eight hour day!, and if the plant was so desperate that it allowed for overtime work on such national holiday weekends, he could make three times his normal pay rate after 5 pm, for $4.95 per hour! In the summer of 1969, Sergio was able to get four days of holiday work and four nights of overtime holiday work to net $195.36 beyond his total net pay during normal hours on regular work days, so by the end of that summer he banked $718.55 after expenses. It was all pretty boring, but he needed the money for school, to relieve financial pressures on his parents, and to exert his own independence. He yearned to make it on his own as a creative engineer.

In the last days of May, Sergio received a letter from the Draft Board informing him that due to the large number of appeals that had been filed before his, that his hearing had been postponed till June. In the first days of June he received a notice from the Draft Board ordering him to report to the Manhattan induction center by the end of the month. Once again, he typed out a request for an appeal hearing, and mailed it off. The same rigamarole occurred at the June-July cusp, the July-August cusp, the August-September cusp, and at following monthly intervals through 1969. There were a lot of guys doing the same thing as he was, and that bureaucratic mass very fortuitously clogged the Selective Service system for addressing — and finally rejecting — appeals. But with each succeeding month his case came closer and closer to the head of the queue, and he had no idea when his time of trial would finally arrive.

On June 28, a riot broke out in Greenwich Village at the Stonewall bar when the gay men whose scene this was erupted into mass belligerent opposition to a violent raid against them by the New York City Police Department, which had long been harassing them. Lesbians and gay men from across the city came to the scene, joining in the combat and protests that occupied the next six days. News about the riots was largely blacked out from television broadcasts, but the facts could not be suppressed from word-of-mouth, and Sergio knew about them by July 4, “I wonder how many of Roger’s gang got their heads bashed by the cops, and how many of them got to bash a cop?”

He’d penned a letter to Angie in Pittsburgh, to tell her about his boring life, and to ask what she was doing. The most interesting thing he could write about was his discovery of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s books ’Slaughterhouse-Five’ and ‘Cat’s Cradle.’ A month or so later he got a handwritten letter from Angie telling him she worked as a cashier in a shop owned by a relative, and spent most of her free time seeing old high school friends, and also being involved in home-life with her parents and siblings, and in the many gatherings of her large extended Italian family and with all of their family friends. She didn’t seem sad, but she didn’t seem particularly happy either, and she didn’t really give many details. He could tell that she wanted an independent life away from Pittsburgh, but he didn’t know what it was specifically that she wanted to get away from. She did make it very clear, though, that him visiting her was a very bad idea because of the protective and clannish attitudes of her people. It made more sense for Angie and Sergio to just stay put, save money, and do what they would be willing to do together once back in Philadelphia. Aside from this brief and colorless veiling sketch of her personal situation in Pittsburgh, she did write in an animated way about Timothy Leary joining John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their Montreal bed-in, on June 1, and Lennon subsequently writing a song called ”Come Together” for Leary’s independent electoral campaign to unseat Ronald Reagan as governor of California.

Sergio spent long hours watching television news broadcasts on 20 July, covering the very first Moon Landing. The actual live black-and-white video transmitted from the Lunar Lander was so fuzzy that he only saw clear images of the scene months later, after the astronauts had returned to Earth and the rolls of film they had exposed on the Moon with the Hasselblad cameras they’d been issued by NASA were processed and the pictures publicized; and the live voice transmission of Neil Armstrong’s words on stepping onto the lunar surface were so garbled that Sergio only found out what they were when Walter Cronkite later recited them to his CBS News television audience. Historic certainly, but so remote from the conscious flow of his personal experiences and present state of mind.

The colossal gathering at the Woodstock Music Festival occurred during the 15th to the 18th of August, and the television news images of that sea of people, and the miles of completely congested highways resulting from their mass migration to upstate New York, were stunning, satisfying and amusing. He had dismissed his first brief impulse to try to go to Woodstock, with the realization that so many of his generation would swarm the Festival in hopes of hearing the wide array of popular rock-and-roll, folk, and blues bands and musicians scheduled to play there, that roads would become clogged far in advance of the festival area, and the crowd would be so big that it would be impossible to get close enough to the stage to see and hear well, and that there would be no normal places to stay overnight to sleep. And that is exactly what happened for most of the Woodstock Pilgrims. But to the great credit of the vast majority of them, they spontaneously created an anarchy of peace, love and harmony despite the mud wallow that the whole area turned into. It was all a beautiful counterbalance to the enormous and outrageously expensive campaigns of mass murder being carried out in Vietnam at the same time by the rigidly hierarchical authoritarian structure of American military might. “God, why can’t we take all that money being dumped into destroying Vietnam, and use it to ‘Woodstock’ our whole damn country instead?”

Sergio had made no effort to seek out any of the town boys from his Catholic high school. He had an implacable determination never to look back to high school or to any of its people ever again. High school had been too filled with annoyances and stupidities to ever merit fond retention in memory. He had blasted off out of that scene and toward college as soon as he could, like an astronaut rocketing out on a one way trip to another galaxy.

He would bicycle to the public lIbrary in town, where he would read books on race cars and racing drivers, like Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss, and books by Henry Ricardo on water cooled piston aero engines, like the 24 cylinder sleeve valve Napier engine with four 6-cylinder banks arranged in an H, and the supercharged overhead poppet valve Rolls-Royce Merlin V12, which powered the Spitfire fighters and Mosquito fighter-bombers of the Royal Air Force during World War II.

On one such visit to the library, he chanced to see a notice in the North Shore Reporter for the coming funeral of Matt Kelly, one of his high school classmates, who had been shot dead in an ambuscade while on patrol with his Marine platoon in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Matt had joined the Marines right after graduation, which had been his stated ambition all throughout high school. The newspaper notice showed Matt’s official Marine Corps picture, with his square little head that had always sported a crew cut, smiling broadly under his big new stiff Maine Corps cap and in his crisp new dress uniform, posed next to the Stars and Stripes. Matt had always been a cheery guy, so short he barely made the military’s height requirement, just as he had barely made his high school’s graduation requirements. He had always known what he wanted to do and he didn’t need more education than what being a Marine required. It was from Matt that Sergio had learned the joke: “God made whiskey to keep the Irish from conquering the world.” Matt had always regaled his classmates with jokes and proud boasts of his Irish family’s deep roots in the military, all the way back to the IRA. Now he had been ingloriously laid to waste in the pointless Vietnam War, and all that the US military returned to Matt’s family for the use of their boy was a filled casket, a folded flag, a small monetary death benefit, and Matt’s posthumously awarded Purple Heart decoration.

Sergio wondered if poor Matt had ever been able to get laid before getting laid out. Maybe he had achieved that universal boy’s dream before leaving town, from a compassionately obliging town girl, but he had never known Matt to have had a girlfriend for he certainly would have told everybody if he had, or maybe he was initiated into binary orgasmic bliss by one of the American hookers who patrolled the boundaries of Boot Camps in the States, or much more likely by one of the desperate Vietnamese hookers who swarmed around Uncle Sam’s military installations in their country, or maybe poor Matt never got laid at all and had been tragically robbed by the patriotism con from ever experiencing one of life’s truly great joys. Sergio detested this war.

Among Sergio’s deep pleasures during his free time was listening to classical music from his large and ever growing collection of long-playing records. He had been captivated by classical music since becoming transfixed on hearing Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite for the first time, as a 5 year old. In his private refuge of solitary reverie, on weekday evenings and weekend afternoons, he would sit in the den-room of his family home listening to the music that had always nurtured him: zarzuelas with their Puccini-like Art Nouveau tunefulness and arias conveying Spanish verve in love stories mixing playful comedy and lovelorn anguish, and which always ended with uplifting happiness; or piano concertos and symphonies and tone poems by Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Brahms, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Debussy and De Falla, among others. He spent $30 of his summer earnings to buy a portable turntable, like Joe’s, for taking back to college.

He didn’t buy pop music records because pop music was ubiquitous and so easy to get to hear. It was everywhere: cascading from radios out of car windows, dorm windows, fraternity windows, in pizza parlors and hamburger joints, and from turntables as in Angie’s Hill House suite, and throughout the Quad. From Angie and her Hill House circle, Sergio had gained an in-depth education on the “bright promise” branch of 1960s pop music: the Beatles, Lovin’ Spoonful, Buffalo Springfield, Janis Joplin branch of the genre; and from Joe he had gained an in-depth education on the root of Jack Kerouac ‘On The Road’ 1950s Beat style poetry that had branched into the 1960s folk-blues-rock style of talking music that had flowered with Bob Dylan; and from Bernie he’d gained an appreciation of the psychedelic mind-blowing Jimi Hendrix offshoot of that root. But it was all on his own that he had found The Doors, because they spoke most clearly to his feeling of a poetic soul yearning for liberation being relentlessly squeezed by dark forces seeking to crush and consume it. They were the musical voice of his personal 1960s, in his estimation the best American rock-and-roll band ever.

Later in August, Sergio saw ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ and ‘The Wild Bunch’ at the movies. The first movie spoke to his wanderlust, and the second, which was both more amusing and more poignant, showed him how the Manhattan induction center he had been ordered to report to would most likely look. ‘The Wild Bunch’ was a cowboy’s slow motion shoot-em-up splatterfest vision of Hell, which was obviously actually raging in Vietnam. It all made him want to get back to college in Philly, to make the most of his time — both intellectually and romantically — however long or short that time was going to be.

In early September he was able to move into his small upperclass mens single occupancy dorm room in the Quad. It was time to reconnect with his dreams of fulfillment in technical creativity, and in sexual love.


A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 5
16 May 2022


A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 3

A TEMPERING OF DREAMS is a novel: pure fantasy with imaginary characters, and no effort whatsoever at historical accuracy. It is based on remembered images of a bygone time, and has no particular purpose beyond enjoyment. It will appear serially as each chapter is completed; there is no schedule. MG,Jr.

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 1
8 May 2022

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 2
10 May 2022


Chapter 3

“To understand the workings of Nature requires a disciplined mind, and acquiring that discipline is called gaining an education. But ‘understanding’ is much more than just simple classification and calculation, it also requires an ability to evaluate, which means a way of being able to integrate a cohesive pattern of meaning out of the jumble of observations, measurements and experiences a person accumulates as they go on living. And that ‘ability to evaluate’ must necessarily include not just the analytical elements of that jumble but the emotional ones as well. Emotions are very compelling and immediate kinds of encoded messages conveying some, always difficult to decode and ascertain, meaning about the stimuli, or traumas, or forces, or situations that cause them. So to really understand the workings of Nature a person must be capable of perceiving and integrating the complete jumble of analytical and emotional reality that form the entire complex of a person’s experience with the external world AND the entire complex of their own organic totality. But this is like saying that to understand Nature completely a person would have to abstract and encase all of external and internal reality, both analytical and emotional, into concepts that would fit into the forms and protocols used by their brains ‘to think’ consciously. But this is a contradiction because it would mean being able to contain all of reality within a small portion or subset of that reality, like trying to fit all of the Universe into a fishbowl to be able to imagine looking into that fishbowl and thus ‘understand everything completely.’ But then how is one able to have a perspective from outside the fishbowl after all of reality — which includes this inquiring mind — has been crammed into the fishbowl? So it seems impossible for ‘mind’ to ever be able to encompass ‘everything,’ and so we can never reach a complete understanding of Nature however intricate, refined and vast the expansion of human knowledge becomes because of the commendable exercise of mental discipline. We are each small elements within the total reality, and the total reality can never be totally contained within any of its small elements.”

Sergio looked up from his carrel out a window on the fifth floor of the University Library, at the vertical color gradient of the sunset sky, from honey-orange close to the ground fading into a pastel blue that deepened with elevation into darker blues that became a black of deep dimensionality overhead sprinkled with pinpoints of starlight. With every moment that gradient to darkness descended ever so gradually as if a watercolor wash of extreme viscosity slowly being pulled down by gravity, on a living picture hung before him that was framed by the wood trim around the window.

He had come to the Library to study in the deep peace and quiet of its top floor in the evening, and thus escape from the ubiquitous agitations and distractions and annoyances of student life in the dorms. Later, once deep night had set in, he would go the the top of the Physical Sciences building to join his Astronomy class in observing planets through the large refractor telescope installed there since the early 1900s. He had planned to spend his time in the Library working on calculus, but his mind was too unsettled for that, and it drifted to other complexes of thought. And that led him to write out a reflection on the question: can a human mind ever completely understand the workings of Nature?

Maybe he could eventually extract some poem ideas out of that ramble, and then again maybe not. But really, why was his mind so skittish? He certainly wasn’t able to focus on the Fundamental Theorem of Differential and Integral Calculus right now. So it seemed clear that the “analytical” in his mind was temporarily displaced by a darker and more powerful amorphous force: emotions. Clearly, for him at this time “emotions” could only have one meaning: Angie. So how indeed does a boy engineer solve an undefinable emotional problem?

“Analysis is defeated if definition is impossible, so an emotional technique has to be used to solve an undefined emotional problem, and the only such technique I can think of is: intuition. The only chance you have of solving any problem is to face it directly, and not try to deny it or escape from it. And so to solve an undefined or undefinable emotional problem you have to face into all its amorphous ambiguity and uncertainty, and approach it with intuition; and whereas in the application of analysis ‘what is right’ is determined by logic and intellectual rigor, in the application of intuition ‘what is right’ is determined by honesty and universally compassionate morality. In both cases, the logical and the moral person accepts that ‘the right answer’ may not at all be the most convenient, or preferred, or happy, or profitable answer to oneself. But the logical and the moral person always accepts ‘the right answer’ because they are committed to doing their best, as a personal expression of their self-worth, and they are committed to accepting ‘the right answer’ because that is the greatest positive contribution they can make to the rest of humanity, so that is a personal expression of human solidarity.”

Sergio closed his math book, and focused his mind on Angie. After a little time reflecting on her, he took up his pen and wrote out a poem about her. Actually, it wrote itself once he opened his doors of perception to allow its release. He penned a clean copy on a sheet of paper, which he carefully placed within a pocket of his vinyl folder, and then gazed back at the deepening night.

“Are you still mad at me?” Janet’s question startled him out of his reverie.
“Janet! No. What are you doing here?”
“Same as you, getting away from it all so I can do some useful work.”
“And what’s that?”
“Stuff for my medical technology major, but also stuff for the Woman’s Association.”
Janet went on to explain that while cheerleading and football were fun, what really motivated her was helping to solve the medical issues tangling up so many women’s lives: being caretakers of children, the infirmed, the old, and being straddled with the biological stresses of their own womanhood: their hormonal cycle and birth control, pregnancy and giving birth, and worst of all: their enslavement and oppression by men who used legalisms that usurped a woman’s control of her own body even to the point of killing her, by denying them access to abortions.

“No woman wants to have an abortion. That is always a measure of last resort to solve a difficult problem in the medical care and the life of a woman. We need better medical technology to give women better healthcare so they are less likely to develop conditions that could lead to them needing an abortion, and we need really really good legal guarantees that allow women to get safe medical abortions when they need them, so they are not driven by desperation to get scraped out with a coat hanger and then bleed to death in a back alley.” Janet stopped, and realized that she may have let her passion on this propel her too intrusively into Sergio’s perception. “I just came out of a Woman’s Association meeting, so I guess I’m a bit fired up right now.”

“No need to apologize. You’re right. I never realized you had such passion. But I guess it makes sense, it’s like a different form of cheerleading, more serious, more important. And you are definitely a person committed to doing things with energy.”

“So, how’s it going with Angie?”
“Angie is an intense yet delicate creature. I can’t say I understand her, but I am really attracted to her. Maybe she understands me better than I know her. And what about you with Brad?”
“Ha! I like good looking guys, who are strong. But I also like them to be aware, especially about what women have to go through.”
“I don’t know, Janet. It may be hard to find one guy who combines all that.”
“I know. I think that’s why it’s hard for so many couples to stay together. Everybody needs too much, and people change as they grow older.”
“Sounds like we would need a sequence of lovers over our lives because its impossible to stay happy with any one person forever.”
“I think so, for lots of people.”
“We’ll see. And you?”
“I hadn’t really thought about it until you bounced on my brain.” At this from Sergio, Janet squealed with delight.
“I want to give you something. I hope you don’t take it wrong.”
“Forewarned is forearmed, Janet.”
“These are some samples we talked about in the Women’s meeting,” and she pulled out three packets of condoms from her bag and put them on the carrel. “A man who uses these can help prevent a terrible tragedy from happening in a woman’s life. Not all women can use birth control pills, and sometimes they slip up, or the pills don’t work perfectly. And, you know, we aren’t legally protected enough when it comes to abortion.”
“I think you are very sweet to think about protecting Angie in this way. No, I don’t take you wrong, thanks for the education.”
“Okay! This one over here,” she pointed to one of the packets, “is latex, pretty strong. This one,” pointing to a second one, “is lubricated latex, which is good if chafing is a problem. And that one,” pointing to the third packet, “is lamb skin. It’s the sheerest material, made from lamb intestines, and lubricated, for getting the most feel, but they can break if used with a lot of roughness, which you shouldn’t do anyway because you’re supposed to be LOVING someone!”
“You are a very interesting person. I don’t know if Brad will be able to survive.”

“In exchange for all the instruction you’ve given me tonight, and these presents, I want to ask you two questions.”
“What is your last name?”
“WHAT! You haven’t looked in the Pig Book?”
“I didn’t bother to buy one.”
“And since you are the number one ‘date target’ in the Pig Book according to all the guys, and since you almost got me pounded by the Hulk who actually is dating that number one girl, it would be nice for me if you gave me the following date: come with me to the roof of Physics building and join my Astronomy class, where we will each look through the telescope at one of the planets, then I’ll walk you back to Hill Hall.”
“Is this your version of ‘jump on me’?”
“Ha! Yeah, let’s do it!”

And that is how Janet Hoffman and Sergio Romero each got to see a bright image of the planet Saturn and its rings, after solving a tangle of emotional problems that were as yet undefined in the analytical realm. Quite a date.

Next day after morning classes, Sergio went three blocks further west from the Quad, on 38th, to Rocky’s Market. He bought an 18 inch hoagie with capicola, soppressata, provolone, shredded lettuce and pepperoncinis laid into a garlic olive oil and wine vinegar seasoned Italian torpedo roll, and he bought six individually wrapped marble-sized spherical milk chocolates. It was all a dear $5, but worth it at Rocky’s. “Thanks for the Italian Kisses, Roger,” he thought on his walk back, past the Quad, past Campus Green, and down Locust Walk to a stone bench in front of the Mechanical Engineering building. Along this stretch, Locust Walk was a shady treelined flagstone footpath between the Mechanical Engineering, and the Chemistry and Geology buildings, both archeological relics.

Sergio ate his hoagie on the bench, then quaffed it with a can of root beer from the vending machine in the basement of the ME building, and went up to his afternoon lab session of Engineering Drawing in the Drafting Room on the third floor. The Drafting Room had a tall ceiling and big windows, which were opened. They gave views out to the bright speckling of sunny daylight mixed with quivering greens from the upper foliage of the trees, and allowed refreshing breezes laden with birdsong to wash into the room. As he worked with his t-square, various drawing triangles and rulers, to sketch out scaled plan and perspective views of the mechanical vice which had been assigned, by a listing of its dimensions, as the object of the exercise, he thought “Boy, if I had to do an engineering drawing of Angie, I’d have to use nothing but French Curves.”

As Sergio turned the corner onto the short dead-end hallway of his dorm floor late that afternoon, he was startled by “JANET HOFFMAN!” yelled out by Seth Green, who occupied the big dorm room at the end. This brought all the guys out to their doorways.
“You are dating Janet Hoffman!” Seth bellowed with an undisguised abundance of envy. Seth Green, shortened from Greenblatt by his father Mo Green, a big New York City real estate lawyer, had two all-encompassing attitudes: a sense of privilege that entitled him to have more and sooner advantages than his male rivals, and deep envy and resentment of those male rivals who he imagined were getting, and taking away from him, what he felt he deserved preferentially. For over a semester now, Seth had bragged how he was set to get laid before any of them because he was allowed to party in his older brother’s fraternity, Iota Phi Theta, before even the Rush Season had started. He had an “in.”

“Come on, what ever gave you that idea?” Sergio had been fed up with Seth since the third day of Freshman year, but he didn’t voice it.
“A guy in my brother’s fraternity is in that Astronomy class, and he saw you there with Janet Hoffman, and she’s not in that class! Then you walked down to Hill Hall with her. So how did you get to date her?”
“I’m not dating Janet Hoffman.”
“Yeah, and what’d you do that night in Hill Hall then?”
“Spanish study night.”
Joe, entirely amused and delighted, asked “The conquering hero. What is she like?”
This just twisted the knife in Seth’s gut. Sergio was “getting” the top shiksa of the year, and Seth loathed him for it. He went back into his room and slammed the door. The other guys just looked wistfully at Sergio and then drifted back into theirs.

Sergio went into Joe’s room and asked to borrow the Pig Book, which was a directory of the 1968-1969 Freshman class, with black-and-white passport type photos arrayed alphabetically, and tagged with the closest University hallway or suite phone number for each student. The Pig Books in the men’s dorms had mostly been permanently creased to open at “H” where Janet Hoffman’s picture was. Sergio carefully flipped through it until he arrived at “F” and found Elena Feldon, from Asbury Park, “a Jersey girl” he thought. She had a big happy toothy smile in her photo, wearing a light colored V-neck pullover sweater, and tumbles of long wavy curls over her shoulders in front on either side of the expansive swell of her bosom. He gave the Pig Book back to Joe, who observed, “Seth is being most ungracious about your success.”
“He’s an idiot. He’s dreaming about scoring a hot babe over at big brother’s I-Felt-a-Thigh frat, and the girls here are all too smart to fall for that. Wanna go eat?”
“Yes, capital idea. And then?”
So they ambled down to College Hall for Meal Plan dinners.

After, in the big second floor lounge of College Hall, looking out onto 38th, a sizable crowd was watching a televised news report about the big reveal of the day by the New York Times. President Nixon had ordered secret aerial bombings of Cambodia, along its border with Vietnam, since March of that year, two months earlier. Sergio became very pensive at the news.
“Have you heard from the Draft Board?” Joe asked.
“I got a letter telling me to report by the end of May, and another telling me my appeal hearing is also scheduled for the end of May.”
“I believe then it is time.”
“Yes, most definitely.”
And they went back to cleanse their minds.

The next morning walking into Campus Green on the way to class, Sergio came upon a huge protest. All the classrooms had been emptied, and the student body was one massive agitated swarm that had engulfed Campus Green and occupied College Hall. He even saw many of the professors hovering around the edges of the crowd. He drifted through the mass, looking at the people, reading the protest signs, and listening to the numerous chants and rants. It was a gloriously beautiful warm day, and perfect for lounging on the Green, but only a cynic — or a Republican — would think that the students were using an unjustifiable protest excuse to get out of classes just to play outside. College Hall was completely jammed with occupiers, and had become stiflingly hot. He spotted Elena Feldon, threading her way through the crowd, climbing the stairs into College Hall.

He came upon Bernie sitting calmly cross-legged on the grass.
“Hey, Bernie, what do you think?”
“I don’t know, man, it’s getting bad.”
“This fucking war…”
“Can’t end soon enough.”
So Sergio sat down next to him and they both absorbed the scene.
“So what have you been doing, Bernie?”
“Biology,” and he showed Sergio his books: ‘The Study of Instinct’ and ‘Social Behaviour in Animals’ by Nikko Tinbergen. “I’m getting into ecology. The Santa Barbara Oil Spill over the last four months has really keyed me into that. And you?”
“Engineering stuff, and this,” Sergio held out a paperback copy of ‘Catch-22.’

Joe came upon the two them, and sat down making it a threesome. He was toting his obligatory anvil of an economics textbook, along with Gary Snyder’s poetry book, ‘Regarding Wave.’ And then Angie appeared. Sergio was very happy to see her, and introduced her to the guys. She could tell that she’d like them, and on meeting her the guys had kind thoughts about her with Sergio. She sat down making it a foursome. She was carrying her doorstop of a psychology book, and Sylvia Plath’s novel ‘The Bell Jar,’ in a printing from England. The social gravity of the massed protest gathering finally brought Janet into their orbit, and she joined them, too. Sergio was getting looks from both Angie and Janet at this point, and wondered if he had entered a crossfire at the DMZ. But the girls seemed relaxed, and all seemed cool. Besides her textbooks, Janet had a copy of ‘The Feminine Mystique’ by Betty Friedan. So all their dreams and interests mingled, bonded by antiwar sentiment.

The crowd on the Green gradually dissipated as the late afternoon ripened, though the rebels occupying College Hall held out well into the night. When finally only Angie and Sergio were left from their group, he said, “I have something for you,” and handed her a little paper bag of chocolates, and a clear vinyl sleeve enclosing a sheet of paper, the poem. “I promised you kisses and a poem, and there they are.”
She looked in the bag, “Baci!” she chirped, delighted. She took two out, handed him one, they unwrapped, popped them in their mouths, and she settled into reading the poem.


Love at Dawn

I still can feel your dawn-window eyes
as I walk through this night,
and I still can smell your long, dark hair
softly catching the light.
The sweet taste of your tender lips
I still can savor with care,
and the warming voice of your soft, soft skin
still glides upon my face.
I still can feel your dawn-window eyes
as I walk through this night,
this night though but a wisp of the past
is an eternal delight.


She looked at him with shining eyes, opened her arms, and drew him into a lingering kiss.
“Janet’s going to be away tonight. Do you want to visit?”
“To study Spanish?”
“We can do a little bit of that first.”
“I’ll go get a few things, and meet you for dinner.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
And they had a lovely quiet lyrical evening, with the boundaries pushed back even further so that the cotton and nylon layers could be dispensed with and the hands of love touch deeply. But there was still a boundary, and Janet’s presents were not yet needed.


A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 4
13 May 2022


A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 2

A TEMPERING OF DREAMS is a novel: pure fantasy with imaginary characters, and no effort whatsoever at historical accuracy. It is based on remembered images of a bygone time, and has no particular purpose beyond enjoyment. It will appear serially as each chapter is completed; there is no schedule. MG,Jr.

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 1
8 May 2022


Chapter 2

A nearly imperceptible breeze of freshness carried the muted cacophony of city sounds past the Ginkgo foliage in the courtyard below, through his open window to caress him awake. Sergio found himself in his own bed. “So I guess I made it out of Joe’s sometime before dawn,” he thought to himself. Then he remembered, “Holy shit! I’ve got Chemistry!” So he briskly rolled himself out of bed, looked at his watch, quickened his pace and dressed, grabbed his books for the day and huffed down to the Burness Building’s big ancient steeply banked auditorium with the Chemistry lecture already underway, and found himself an empty wooden seat in the back row. He took out his notepad and ballpoint pen, and began trying to listen, and figure out where they were in the subject.

“Organic chemistry” said a velvety mezzo soprano voice next to him, “Chapter 8. We started it last time, remember?” Sergio turned, surprised, “Thanks, yeah,” he said nodding. She had a lovely oval face framed by long thick straight black hair that tumbled over her shoulders and down her back, dark eyes set in clear glistening whites and rimmed by long mascara-enhanced lashes, a delicately shaped nose, dark well-defined brows and a lush rosy button of a mouth. “Thanks again,” he said as class was breaking up, and she smiled back. Everyone left Burness and scattered to other classes. He saw her walking up Campus Green ahead of him, her black hair fallen over her purple long-sleeve pullover and down to her waist with the wispy ends waving across the top of the flare to the lower half of her fulsome hourglass figure, which was covered by loose-fitting dark blue jeans.

He climbed the stairs to his Spanish class in College Hall, settled in with notepad and pen ready, and then noticed that she was in this class too. They smiled their amusement at this coincidence, across the room to each other. After class they walked to meet and introduce themselves. She was Angela Celli, a psychology major. Since neither of them had a class for an hour, Sergio suggested they get coffee in The Underground, the snack bar in the basement of College Hall. That would be his lunchtime breakfast, with cream and sugar for added substance.

Angie was from Pittsburgh. As she told him about herself he looked into her beautiful face and down her long-chain brass necklace with its big round gleaming pendant resting on the deep purple stretch knit top covering the swell of her ample bosom, right over where its hidden deep valley would be. Angie offered Sergio a cigarette, and they both lit up, smoked and talked over their coffees.

“What’s that?” Angie noticed that Sergio had a separate journal book, obviously not for school.
“Oh, it my poetry book. I write poems.”
“Yes. I learned to do it watching my father. He wrote many romantic poems to my mother, and he loves to sing arias from zarzuelas.”
“Spanish operettas. Gay ’90s stuff.”
“And you’re studying engineering?” They both laughed at that one.

“Where have you been!” They were startled to see Roger Solely right there booming his greeting. “Sergio! We have missed you, man, since last semester. What happened? You disappeared!”
Sergio introduced Angie to Roger, an upperclass man, telling her that he and Roger’s buddies had often gone to concerts downtown early last fall, before school had gotten too intense for him.
“Oh, we saw D’Oyly Carte’s ‘Penzance,’ ‘2001’ in Cinerama, ‘Madame Butterfly’ with the glorious Beverly…” Roger rattled off happily to answer Angie.
“Sills, for Beverly” Sergio interjected for Angie, then to Roger, “Look, Roger, engineering is hard, man, and I’ve really got to study all — the — time!”
“You’re such a good boy. Look, call me, we get together all the time, and I’m putting up some sketches at an Architecture show that’s coming up and I want everybody to come. And don’t be a stranger!” With that, Roger flipped his dangling silk Paisley scarf back over his shoulder and trotted off.

Angie looked into Sergio’s face with an inquisitive yet amused look. Sergio wondered if an anthropological observation of his psychological profile was now underway.
“You know, last semester when I got here, I met Roger and his pals, and would go out with them to the opera and movies, since I love classical music and they do too, and they knew the town, and always got tickets. Also, they had all kinds of booze in their apartments, and that was good for me. Anyway, just before Thanksgiving vacation, we were all in the room and kind of a fight broke out, and I saw that I was being seen as the prize in a ‘Boys in the Band’ kind of setup. Roger got kind of heated, and claimed I’d be spending Thanksgiving with him, not any of them. I’d already figured out that he wanted my thick lips around… well, you know. He was dreaming. They all have some quick wits, and they know a lot about artsy stuff, but they’re not my scene. I can go see the symphony by myself if I want to. So that’s where Roger’s coming from. I… ah… like people… like… you.”
“Yeah, most definitely.”
“Are you seeing anyone?”
“Ah… no. You?”
“Not really.”
“Well, maybe WE can go out sometime.”
“I think that’d be fun.” She gave him the phone number to her shared suite in Hill Hall, and then they each took off to their late classes.

“Have you ever wondered what makes for a beautiful woman?” Joe asked Sergio walking back from College Hall after their Meal Plan dinners.
“Being between eighteen and twenty-one.”
“Nothing more?”
“Miniskirts and tight sweaters help a lot.”
“A lustily physical perspective, but perhaps too limited.”
“Well, they have to have some spirit, know stuff and not be ditzes, and just be nice to talk to. Why do you ask?”
“You seem in a much better mood than yesterday, and I don’t think it is only from hash afterglow.”
“I met a girl in class today, and she’s… interesting.”
“I got a phone number, maybe she’ll answer it someday.” So Sergio told Joe the outlines of that day’s story before they settled into rolling and smoking joints, and listening to ‘The Doors’ and ‘Strange Days’ to kick the ya-yas of the Draft and Colorado out of their minds. Next day Sergio bought Huxley’s ’The Doors of Perception’ at the Book Store. He decided to keep his grades up just in case he could evade the Draft and pursue his engineering dreams. A new image had now been added to that dream complex: Angie.

Angie did answer his phone call. They went out to see a screening of ‘Casablanca’ by the University Film Society in the College Hall theater, and then walked around on Campus Green smoking cigarettes and talking, before Sergio took her down to The Underground to buy them both Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches and coffee milkshakes. It all felt good for both. Angie had to get back to Hill Hall by 11 pm, because she knew the entry monitors didn’t get too upset about having to unlock the gates for latecomers till then. There was a call box on the outside of the fence.

They walked outside from College Hall through Campus Green into the shadows near the big trees far from the pathways, and embraced into a deep kiss. Wordlessly, they lay down on the grass and pressed their bodies into each other within their embrace, kissing deeply, gently, slowly. Her lush black hair brushed against his face as he looked down into her eyes and submerged himself into her gaze.

Time came to go, and he walked her back to Hill Hall. She asked him to call again soon so they could have a Spanish study night in her suite with the girls, who were all in less advanced Spanish classes and some struggling. Then, whistling in his mind, he walked back to his room through a sequence of shadows and street lamps alternately disappearing and then illuminating the granularity of the pathways to sharp relief. The air was cool, he was warm.

Days later he went to the Computer Center in the Electrical Engineering building to work on a Fortran IV programming project. He spent hours typing out his program onto a deck of IBM cards each punched by the typewriter with a hole array encoding one line of his program’s instructions, then feeding the deck into the card reader and waiting for his turn when printer would clack out his calculated results on big sheets of folding paper connected by perforations. This occurred several times as he corrected errors after each run. Eventually he got it right and was able to carry out a printout with columns of numbers that would satisfy the needs of his assignment. It was getting near dinnertime. He walked across 40th Street to Hill Hall and had Angie called from the reception desk. She appeared, smiling, and led him through carpeted white hallways hung with framed pastel-colored prints of abstracts and landscapes, down to her suite. Five other girls were there. When Angie had invited him, she said he’d get dinner in exchange for his Spanish help. And indeed he did, Veal Parmesan, in Hill Hall’s large cafeteria with all seven of them. The apple pie and ice cream were good, too, and the coffee.

Now that they all knew each other a little bit better, it was back to the suite for study time. After about thirty minutes of pronunciation and grammar corrections, and translations, the talk really started, and the music. And these girls were into the music, they had a huge stack of discs. First it was Janis Joplin’s ‘Cheap Thrills,’ which was without a doubt the gospel music of Hill Hall in 1969. A hash pipe had been produced for that, and gaily passed around to mutual satisfaction. A thick towel had been rolled up and pushed against the bottom of the door, and a vent was blocked with a piece of cardboard, as precautions. After Janis it was Creedence Clearwater for a rollicking stone, and someone mentioned that a Woodstock Music Festival had been announced for August, where Creedence would appear and all kinds of top bands were now signing up for it, and maybe even Dylan and the Beatles would appear. Then Crosby Stills and Nash was put on the player for the choral part of the service, and after that Judy Collins for the heartfelt poetry of later evening.

It was nearly time for lockdown and the other girls went off to their own rooms. “Do you want to stay?” Angie asked leadingly.
“Sure, but how?”
“Oh, it’s easy, Janet does it all the time. You just stay in here till after the gates open in the morning, we get breakfast, and I’ll take you to the door from there. They’ll never notice.”
“Who’s Janet?”
“My room mate. You don’t know Janet?”
“Won’t she come back? No, I don’t know who she is.”
“She’s the most popular girl in the Pig Book, a cheerleader. I get calls for her ALL the time. All the guys want to date her. Her boyfriend’s a football player and she’s out all the time, his place or cheerleading practice, and class. She probably won’t came back. But if she does, don’t worry, she does the same plenty of times.”

The suite had a small half-bath with toilet and sink, so that was convenient. Shower rooms were elsewhere down the hall. They kicked off their shoes, Angie turned out the lights, and they embraced on the bed into long kisses. He pressed his warm palms into her back and pushed her close as she melted herself into him. Rays of lamplight from 40th Street shone through the window to give the room a film noir atmosphere. Sergio pulled his head back so he could look into Angie’s shining eyes, and caressed the side of her face for a long moment, then slid his hand slowly down her neck to the rise of her breast. She accepted willingly because she loved the feel of his hands: all warmth and gentle pressure with no hurry, no grab.

“Can we get rid of the belt buckle?” she asked. So they each ditched the belts. When they embraced again, he slipped his hand under her blouse in back, and felt her skin. When next they surfaced for air, she unbuttoned his shirt front enough to slide her palm over his chest, she wanted to feel his skin, too. Wordlessly, he took off his shirt and undershirt, and she pulled off her blouse. Then it was so much better, warmth to warmth. As he moved his hand pressure over the contours of her back, he would pass his fingers over the backstrap of her bra, it had four hook-clamps. Heavy duty. He tested lightly to see if he could unhook it one-handed. “You’ll never do it. Here, let me,” and sitting up she undid it letting it fall away. In the half light he saw that her breasts were luxuriantly rounded masterpieces of femininity with large dark nipple moons. Skin to skin was a plush dual ecstasy. Sergio’s pants were getting much too tight, and both their legs were yearning for each other. So the jeans fell away, he had his cotton boxer shorts, she had her nylon panties, all else was skin.

Sergio slowly stroked her fulsome body along the length of it he could reach from within their tight embrace. He pulled back a bit to cup his hand around her breasts, and across them to then run his palm down the deep valley between, and down over her stomach. She put her hand against her waist in front and said “Not below here.”

“Yes,” the boundary was made clear, and he acknowledged that. Eventually his hand began edging past her waist in back and she made no resistance to that move, so soon he was gliding over the nylon caressing her large firm well rounded butt with his warm pressured touch. And she was pulling in on his with outstretched palms, with only a thin layer of cotton and and a thin layer of nylon separating the pulsating urges of their creative forces to merge. Time no longer existed, only an eternity of passionate immersion.

The door opened, light from the hallway flashed into the room and was then cut off as the door quickly closed. Sergio froze, Angie whispered “Janet” into his ear, and he was glad that at least they were under the covers. Janet scurried into the half-bath for a few minutes before emerging to drop herself into her bed on the opposite side of the room. Soon enough she was breathing slow, asleep. Angie whispered “Don’t worry, Janet is cool, it will be okay in the morning.” And they, too, soon fell asleep, warmed entwined in their embrace.

Sergio opened his eyes to see Angie sitting on Janet’s bed with both of them in full length bathrobes. The two girls looked at him as the new day dawned in his eyes.
“Um ah… good morning” he said.
“I’m sorry I came in so late. Hope I didn’t scare you.” Boy, she was bubbly.
“No, no, it was all part of a nice time.”
“Okay, look,” Janet said, “I’ll go up and bring back some coffees and bagels while you two get ready. Brad’s coming over soon for the two of us to go to the practice field,” and off she went. So they took turns for the water closet while the other got dressed. Janet returned with a cupholder tray for three paper-cupped coffees, and a bag of bagels with packets of sugar, creamer and cream cheese. Hill House treated its girls good. She went into the half-bath to dress and prepare herself for her day, while Angie and Sergio relaxed into their breakfast. Janet emerged in surprisingly short time, dressed in a short skirt cheerleader uniform, with her long blond hair swinging in a ponytail, and her delicate faintly freckled face shining with enthusiasm. She was a spectacularly vivacious petite, with a perfect lithe and lean gymnast’s body, and a completely disarming and engaging personality. And what a smile! But she was also an imp.

“Who’s Brad?”
“Quarterback of the JV team. Brad Jackson. He’s on a football scholarship.”
“Are you on a cheerleading scholarship?”
“Well, yeah, but I’m majoring in medical technology. Brad wants to be a pro.”
The phone rang, Brad was ready to be escorted in.
“Oh Angie!, can you go get him, please! I’ve gotta finish and pack my bag!”
Angie laughed as this was obviously routine and left to retrieve the Hulk. Janet hurriedly stuffed her big gym bag with extra clothes, schoolbooks, towel, makeup items, extra socks, a sweatshirt, pens, pads, sunglasses and a brimmed cloth hat. Then she got a bright idea.

“Oh my God! That big lunk thinks he’s so cool and’s got it over everybody. I wanna make him jealous! Let’s play a trick!” She tossed her bag by the door, jumped across the room, and threw herself over backwards to plop onto her bed, whose bedsprings bounced up and down a few times from the impact. She held out her arms and said “Jump on me!” This terrified Sergio.
“What’s he gonna think if he comes in and sees that!”
“EXACTLY! Come on! come on! come on! Before he gets here! It’ll be such a gag, he deserves it!”
Sergio did not move.
“Come ON! Jump on me!” with her arms outstretched wiggling her luscious little body, with a devilishly gleeful grin, just as the doorknob was being turned. Sergio thought to make a break for the half-bath, when Angie opened the door and walked in with Brad, who looked, unsmiling, at each of them, and Janet bubbled “Oh Brad! Aren’t you glad to see me?”

Brad was not happy, but the twelve feet between Sergio and Janet was somewhat reassuring, so he didn’t let himself loose his cool about it.
“Come on Jan, we’re gonna be late. Lets go!”
“Brad, this is Sergio, Angie’s boyfriend.”
The two men nodded at each other, then Janet grabbed her bag (Sergio noticed that Brad had not done so) and the football people left.

“You like Janet?” Angie asked with a very serious face.
“Well yes, she’s fun-loving. But hey, look, I’m not interested in Janet, I’m interested in you.”
“Everybody’s interested in Janet” she pouted, and Sergio then first detected the deep ocean of melancholy that Angie carried within her.
“I — am not interested — in Janet. I — am interested in you. In — you.”
“Guys have dated me because they knew I roomed with Janet, and wanted in”
“I did not know about Janet, I am not chasing after cheerleaders, I — like — you. Really.”
“What were you doing?”
“She wanted to make the Hulk jealous, and I wasn’t doing anything. Look, let me have a kiss, and I’ll write you a poem”
“You won’t get out of it that easily.”
“Well, how about two kisses and a poem?”
“Okay,” and she melted into his embrace to absorb his love.

Sergio walked into his Residence Hall thinking “Thank God I don’t have an early class today.” As he walked down the wing of the third floor hallways with his group of rooms, he saw all the doors open and the guys looking at him as he walked by. Joe, smiling broadly, was standing in the doorway of his room adjacent to Sergio’s. “The prodigal son returns” he said.
“What’s up, Joe?”
“Admiration, I believe”
“I must confess that you were observed penetrating Hill Hall last night, and emerging this morning. So we are… curious.”
“Nothing happened, it was a just a Spanish study night.”
“Commendable modesty.”
“There’s nothing to be jealous about.”
“Yes, admiration is a more pleasant word.”
“Oh, you guys,” Sergio said, shaking his head as he closed the door of his room behind him. “Jealousy” he thought, “amazing!” Then he sat down at his desk to work out some calculus problems. Leaning back, he looked out his window at the beautiful bright day, and suddenly felt very very satisfied.


A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 3
12 May 2022


Movie Reviews by MG,Jr. (14 November 2020 – 8 April 2021)


“Coded Bias” is an exceptional film about how Artificial Intelligence (a.k.a. A.I.), or “algorithms,” has become powerful technology used without accountability, and despite its high level of harmful failure, all for extending the Big Brother type authoritarian control of the public by the state (which is being done overtly in China, and covertly in the U.S., England, and who knows?); and also about the unaccountable manipulation of the public for the financial gains of the small group of very rich people (overwhelmingly white males) who own and control that technology. The title “Coded Bias” comes from the fact that the racial biases (against darker-skinned and ethnic minority people, and ‘different’ sexual-identification people, and physically challenged people) and class biases (against poor people, the more poor the more discriminated against) of those controlling self-aggrandizing white men, and the Big Brother authoritarians, are literally coded into the mathematics that constitutes the mechanisms of the algorithms used to surveil you, to alert police if you are a criminal (very, very many false positives with this), to determine what job opportunities you will be allowed, what prices you will pay for online goods, what financial services you will be granted, and in many ways what punitive actions will be taken against you — and for none of that will you be given any warning nor told how such determinations were made. Complete violation of your 14th Amendment rights (to due process, and which can be logically explained and independently verified; i.e., not a Black Box with a red eye called HAL9000). This important film is available on Netflix now (see website), and also has its own website (see comment). An especially uplifting part of this film is seeing the amazingly talented technically trained and technically savvy women — which include incredible Black Women — who are on the forefront of the citizens’s effort to correct, regulate and ban, as needed, this technology. This is a film about POWER and its use of AI technology to remove freedom from the mass of the public, and to implement its biases through the Internet (for example as regards economic disparities based on race, and the swinging of elections to undermine democracy). I urge you to watch this film (I was pointed to it by a woman, Gretchen, who knows how to pick them).
Coded Bias

Coded Bias



“Satan and Adam” is a lovely documentary about “an aging blues guitarist and a grad student form an unlikely duo while busking on the street corners of 1980s Harlem.” Their music is REAL, authentic; and their story: together, apart, together, old age, is both a reflection of the racial attitudes and politics of the U.S. over the last 35 years, and also a reflection of their own distinctive and idiosyncratic personalities. It is also a very touching story of the power of music to heal individual human spirits, and collective human communities. And also, these guys kick ass when they play!





“Lorena” is a short 2019 documentary film about a 25 year old Tarahumara woman (Lorena Ramírez, Native American, living in the northern state of Chihuahua, Mexico,) who runs and wins ultra-marathons wearing sandals and her native dress (skirt!). Her whole family lives a pastoral life deep in hilly country, and they are all runners. Lorena Ramírez has won some of the hardest races in Mexico, like the Guachochi Ultramarathon in 2017, where she ran 100 kilometers wearing her sandals and traditional dress. Because of her prowess as a long distance runner she has been invited to other countries to compete. In 2018, Lorena traveled to Spain to run the Tenerife Bluetrail and came in third place after running 102 kilometers, also running with her sandals, with which she has run more than 500 kilometers in total, including Mexico City’s Marathon in the same year. Unlike her brothers, Lorena doesn’t speak Spanish because she didn’t have the opportunity to attend school and learn the language. She speaks Tarahumara in a soft voice, with words that sound so sweet and musical that you just want to listen to her telling her story. [Some of these lines came from the culturacolectiva website.]




“Birders” is a short 2019 documentary about the crucial natural habitat for migratory birds, spanning both sides of the Rio Grande and along the Gulf Coast on either side of its confluence with the sea. This area has the highest concentration of birds in the U.S. because it lies along the flyways for many species of birds that migrate between North and South America. So, it attracts bird watchers, both professional (who do banding) and amateur, from all over the world. And this natural environment is threatened, and in parts has already been destroyed, by the clearing of land to build Trump’s Wall. There are Americans and Mexicans, each working on their side of the border to monitor, protect and preserve this natural habitat, and to count birds to help quantify the waxing or waning of the health of their many species; and they also teach and enthuse people (children and adults) about the loveliness of avian life and the value of seriously appreciating and effectively preserving Nature.



“Magical Andes” is a beautiful series; it is about the love of mountains, the pristine expansive wild, and lives closely entwined with that environment far from human congestion. Season 1 has six ~24 minute episodes and spans the entire 8,500km length of that mountain chain from south to north; Season 2 has four ~24 minute episodes and touches on different points of the same regions, from north to south. Brief and elegant narration is in English, interspersed with many reflections, in Spanish, by Andean residents from Patagonia to Venezuela; in Season 2 the English subtitles to the Spanish speakers is dropped. Photography is breathtaking throughout, clearly camera-carrying drones were used to great advantage. The music accompaniment is very tasteful, and guitar music for the most part. Throughout the series one can catch a few glimpses of people whose way of living reflects what I imagine a post de-growth lifestyle might be like for more of “us.” If you love Nature, and have a poetic sensibility, you would enjoy this series.



“Capital in the Twenty-First Century” (2019) [1:42] is an excellent, very informative, and provocative (TRUTHFUL!) documentary. I recommend it as the single best “economics class” (under 2 hours) you can take today. The presentation is clear and easy to understand, without being “dumbed down.” It explains exactly why your economic situation today is the way it is, whatever your economic class and generation happens to be. The system is rigged (duh) and this documentary show how, why and for whom; and it clearly shows what needs to change if we (all of us) are to avoid a cataclysmic social breakdown, another WWI/WWII type catastrophe on a worldwide scale. I especially recommend it to my kids and their generation: to help them know why we need a revolution, and where and how that revolution should be aimed.



These 3 documentaries are about famous music producers and industry/finding-talent executives. These 3 guys are famous, and have splashy documentaries made about them because they promoted many singers from obscurity to superstardom, and made them rich, while making their music corporations very, very much richer. So, naturally, the biz and Hollywood are very awed by and interested in them.

They each have certain personality and character traits that I do not care for, but of course people are all different, and it is always a bit hazardous to judge (and yet of course I do).

What I think is most valuable in these documentaries is that there is a great deal of discussion of and presentation on the nitty-gritty work in the studio: music and song composing, arranging, recording, working (and/or fighting) with the singers and instrumentalists. I found those parts quite interesting.

These 3 guys are “legendary” because they were behind many of the mega-hits from 1968 to today, and in a wide variety of popular music genres.

The documentary I think stars-in-their-eyes people are most likely to find interesting is about David Foster, an incredibly talented and capable musician who is regarded as the “best” music producer alive (along with Quincy Jones).

David Foster, Off The Record

The second and third, and closely related documentaries are about Clive Davis and Quincy Jones, respectively, legendary music moguls who discovered and promoted many pop-music superstars.

Clive Davis, The Soundtrack of Our Lives


Quincy Jones was a formidable jazz musician in the 1950s, then did jazzy film scores for 1960s movies, and went on to become a “legendary” music producer.

While these three producers/executives were focused on making mega-hits for corporate mega-bucks, what these documentaries can show that also applies to independent music production (recorded music) in less-mainstream more artistic and smaller-audience fields of music is the technicalities of working out the final recorded tracks, which combine the talents of a variety of people.



FIVE CAME BACK (2017) is very interesting as American film history, BUT the real value here is the reminder by series’ end that previous generations — some of whose survivors still live among us — included many many people who sacrificed a great deal in order to allow our society to continue, and which despite its many dire failings still provided very good lives to most who are reading this. It is important to keep gratitude for those who preceded us and strived and suffered to do their best to pass on chances for decent lives for the young of their time, and those yet unborn. And the only useful way to express that gratitude is to emulate the best efforts of our parents’ and grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations, for the benefit of our children, which is to say all of today’s children, and those yet unborn. And we cannot expect they will notice, or realize, or acknowledge or honor us. We can’t have such selfish expectations: why should today’s kids be any different from us when it comes to being grateful for the good things they get? They have to learn just as the more thoughtful of us have had to learn: in part by becoming more aware of the realities of the past, and in part by the struggles and frustrations of our own experiences. It all comes out of self-respect. Let me reassure you, I am not preaching here. I am reflecting for myself about my own always-expanding awareness and understanding of “life,” and how I should conduct myself if I can summon enough courage to do so. I think gratitude and self-respect should be the sources of individual human actions, that those actions should be decent and for authentic good, and that any nation improves as more of its people take on that sense of personal responsibility, because it preserves and strengthens the commonwealth: the interconnectedness of us.



I just finished seeing the Netflix documentary series, “Greatest Events of WWII In Color” (2019), and can recommend it. What the film restoration and colorization does is to bring the frightening intensity and reality of the events much closer to the viewer. This is the kind of startling effect, from old grainy originally black and white war documentary films, pioneered by Peter Jackson with his visual restoration, sound reconstruction, and colorization of World War I films, for the riveting compilation released in 2018 as “They Shall Not Grow Old.”

The 10th and final episode of the WWII series is on the atomic bombings in 1945 and the closing out of the war against Japan. All this excruciating history continues to have many essential lessons too few of which have been heeded even in the present day. The total sweep of that history, really from the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 to early August of 1945, is a massively horrible build-up of savagery, and vastly widespread dehumanization of national populations, because of their prosecution of and/or victimization by the industrialized crescendo of the 20th century’s chained sequence of world wars.

That savagery was at its peak, and the ability to see “the enemy” as human beings was at its dehumanized nadir, in 1945 especially in the Pacific War. That poisoned psychology combined with extreme and widespread war weariness, and the press of many antagonistic forces and ambitions embroiled in the overall war effort inexorably led to the atomic bombings despite them being logically unnecessary, a position openly, persistently and yet unsuccessfully championed by Admiral Leahy.

Looking back one can see how the consensus-mind of the American leadership and the public was so hardened by their years of war, and so frightened of that war continuing with even greater ferocity with an invasion of Japan, and so desirous for it all to ‘end now, with victory,’ that it was overwhelmingly in favor of the atomic bombings regardless of any logical considerations contradicting that emotion and in favor of better alternatives. Tragic.

That was then; but now eight decades later the great majority of the American people and other fairly secure people in the industrialized world do not have that soul-sucking war-dread as a constant daily experience, as did the traumatized participants in WWII, and so we all should have the ability to rationally analyze the utility of nuclear weapons today both for our own nation’s use, as well as by others. Logically, they are obsolete and counterproductive.

I see the “great lesson” available to us from Episode 10 of the WWII documentary series mentioned here, as being that we non-traumatized by direct war experience populations CAN and SHOULD apply a psychologically mature and humanized logic to the construction of “national defense” methodology that removes the barbaric and ultimately self-destructive cruelty of nuclear weapons from our military and political thinking, and from our national infrastructure.

By its final episode, the vividness of the colorized documentary of WWII gives one an emotional tug that can act as a visceral push behind such logical efforts to really “ban the bomb.”

We CAN learn from history, IF WE WANT TO.

Greatest Events of WWII In Color (2019, trailer)

They Shall Not Grow Old (2018, trailer)



If you are a motorhead, see this movie!! It’s Norwegian, and ends up at Nürburgring. It’s a total motorhead’s dream. We saw it on Netflix (dubbed). It seems there were two earlier ones (movies) in a series in Norway. You’ll love it!! (Global Warming can wait).



This is a fabulous movie, both thought provoking and funny. A wonderful take-down of racism in all its colors. This lovely French movie, centered by African-Franco actors, and without any guns, explosions, special effects, CGI or gratuitous violence, manages to say more about racism as habit and fear (two forms of “tradition”) being a great hinderance to having a modern society everyone can enjoy, based on simple human love and honest human connection. This movie is a “comedy” in the sense that it is never a lugubrious heavy drama, neither gratingly hysterical nor deadeningly slow; it is like a fine Burgundy wine: light bodied with a depth of flavor. See it.



The only foreign military invasion mounted by the post WWII Republic of Italy was against “Rose Island” in 1968. Rose Island was a metal-platform island micro-nation constructed by Giorgio Rosa, an engineer, 500 meters outside Italian territorial waters off the coast of Rimini (6km). The Italian government became incensed by this act of pure independence outside its control, and decided to destroy the island. This prompted Giorgio Rosa to take his case to the United Nations and the Council of Europe, which latter agency was designed to hear disputes between nations, and so decided to hear the case since Rosa was a head of state! During the summer months, Rose Island was essentially a boating party location and discotheque in the Adriatic, but Rosa and his friends created a government, post office, issued passports and received hundreds of application for citizenship. Italian marine forces invaded, forcibly removed the people from Rosa Island and blew it up. Subsequently the European nations changed their laws to extend their territorial waters (and claims of judicial control) out to 12km. The movie is a breezy comedy that relates the whole story. What is clear is that power, especially the imbalance of power, is what actually governs government behavior, not the rule of or the respect for law.



“Adult Wednesday” is a series of short very humorous videos made by Melissa Hunter, based on the idea of Wednesday Addams, of the famous Addams Family cartoons, now on her own. Her various interactions with “normal” society are hilarious. Sadly, the series was ended because the copyright owners of “The Addams Family” objected. The web-link will take you to a starting point for the sequence of the Adult Wednesday videos (if still up). All are good. The one of catcalls to girls is delicious (girl wins).



I saw “The Space Between Us” (2016) on Netflix. It is a bloated techno-gargantuan cross between a faint echo of “Brave New World” and the trim 1980 movie “Starman” (which was good). The premise is that a kid born as a surprise on a Mars colony is too weak to live in Earth’s gravity, and so must remain “classified.” He is brought back to Earth as a 16 year old in hopes he can be strengthened to survive there; he escapes confinement to look for his mystery father; has a roadtrip romance with a quirky wise-ass runaway foster-kid girl, and everyone has a happy ending to this story. It could have been more tightly constructed for a good 90 minute movie, but it rolls out amiably enough over 2 hours with nice visuals and up-to-the-minute spacey sets and effects to distract you from the numerous logical fallacies and improbabilities linking the elements of the story (easily done if you don’t take a critical attitude). I enjoyed it as simple harmless entertainment; it is not art, it is not deep: it’s meant for a mass audience. Asa Butterfield plays the Mars Boy with the same cute naïveté other-worldliness he displayed in the movie “The House Of The Future” (with Ellen Burstyn, peripherally about Buckminster Fuller’s legacy). Gary Oldham plays the big honcho Space Business (for the Mars Colony) “visionary.” The mama surrogate is played by a Ms. Guglio, who also had a big role in a recent movie where Patrick Stewart (“Jean-Luc Picard”) plays an old ballet master and choreographer (which movie is a 3 person play of sex talk). This movie is a way to spend some COVID lockdown time, after you’ve washed the dinner dishes and you’re tired of reading an actual book for the day.



“The Other Side Of The Wind” is Orson Welles’s last movie and is a satire on movies, movie-making and celebrity culture. It is also a visually stunning 1970s cinematic parody of 1970s art movie pretensions; a comedy about the vacuity of the whole movie and celebrity business, and literally a confection about nothingness. Wind is the flow of air through a volume, it is not an isolated bounded solid object. It has no side since it is the swirl, rippling and eddying of the ocean of atmosphere we live within, and thus can have no ‘other side.’ To those not scientifically minded wind is the sensation of anything between the blushing to the gales of nothingness. To seek deep insights from Welles’s movie is to look for an answer blowing in the wind. Welles gets some delicious payback on movie critics through this film (and it was all actually photographed on film between 1970 and 1976), as well as skewering Antonioni type films like “Zabriskie Point.” Welles does one better on Antonioni’s finger to the American movie moguls by putting his “Zabriskie Point” parody, “The Other Side Of The Wind,” as a film within a film, being an incomplete movie run out of budget and the last hope for a comeback by a Hemingway type directorial titan of Old Hollywood at the end of his rope and trying to connect with youth and the New Hollywood. The actual cinematic technique used is a kaleidoscope of modernity employing black and white, color, quick cuts, enigmatic scenes, mockumentary structure, and zig-zagging progression. Welles had a lot of help from a lot of friends to shoot this movie and then to finally have it assembled as he would have wanted. Welles died in 1985, and the movie finally appeared in 2018. I was fascinated by it, and then tickled to realize that Welles had done a magic trick on me to make me think seriously about nothingness: the cultural vacuity of the flickering lights so many are so obsessed about.



“A Life Ahead,” an excellent brand new (2020) film with the legendary Sophia Loren (86!!); very modern, very heartstring-pulling, amazing performance by the young actor playing Momo (all the performers were good) – this is his story. The setting is the seamier side of 2020 Italy (but there are still beautiful souls living there).



“IO” is an imaginative realistic speculative fiction about a post end-of-the-world time of environmental poisoning, and its last two survivors. By “realistic” I mean that it is not one of the bombastic live-action special effects fantasy plus horror cartoons that is the popular standard today for science fiction movies. The story is reminiscent of the seminal 1949 novel “Earth Abides.” So, most movie fan comments about IO are quite negative, indicative of an intelligent screenplay thoughtfully filmed. The movie is a largely French production, filmed near Nice, Bulgaria and California. The visuals, acting and pacing are all good as befitting the somber and very lonely situation being portrayed. The types of scientific, literary and artistic references made in the dialogs make for a too cerebral movie for many simple-minded movie fans, but lend this film much of its merit. This film seeks to make you think, not shock and excite you with gimmicks like frenetic pacing and jump cuts. In a rather elliptical way, the ending reminded me of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”



“Down To Earth” is a recent (2020) TV series showing varieties of healthy sustainable ways to live, from selected countries in Central and South America, and Western Europe. It’s has a breezy tone but does show quite a variety of interesting an important aspects of “food” and “living” and the damaging effects of human wastefulness and lack of connection to Nature, and thus “climate change.” The episode on Puerto Rico is especially recommended because it shows how people dealt with the catastrophe of back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria, and continue to deal with the catastrophe-by-Trump-malice-and US-government-neglect, of loss of homes, electricity and environments. Showcased are examples of how individuals came together to respond to problems left unattended by the failures of government. The “star” of the series is its executive producer Zac Efron, no David Attenborough, but still deserves credit for producing a series with much good in it for the cause of advancing public awareness in favor of revamping American (industrialized, consumer-oriented) society for ecologically enlightened sustainability, and healthier eating habits. It is mainly aimed at typical, and by world standards well off, American viewers – it is no rabble rousing radical revolutionary documentary, but it does make many good points despite the many visits to Michelin multi-star restaurants.


Heller, Vonnegut, Melville, Twain, Maugham, and Guy de Maupassant

On 17 October 2020, Eric Andrew Gebert wrote:

“Born on this day, 1915, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller (1915-2005). Now might be the right time to re-read ‘The Crucible’ (1953). I’ve always preferred ‘Death Of A Salesman’ (1949). Although, anything written by Miller is a gem.

‘“Don’t be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.” — Arthur Miller’

Eric’s comments prompted the following exchange:

If you read the first few chapters of “Closing Time” (1994), the not-great sequel to “Catch-22” (1961), by Joseph Heller (1932-1999), you are given a very clear and fulsome view of the neighborhood and cultural environment – Jewish Coney Island – from which Arthur Miller and Joseph Heller came. While “Closing Time” is not great, it is nevertheless a tale imbued with “New Yorkness” particularly of the City, and it beats most of the twaddle published as novels and even “literature” today. It came out in the ’90s; Heller died in 1999. And agreed, Miller was a superb author-playwright.

Eric Andrew Gebert:
I’ve never read Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I’ve read so many articles about the book and author, yet never read the book. It’s on my list for sure.

My own thoughts prompted by the above:

I read “Catch-22” and “Slaughterhouse Five” in 1968-1969, while I was listed as 1A for the draft (Vietnam War) during my first year in college. I consider both masterpieces of 20th century American literature, and both were written by anti-war WWII veterans who had seen plenty of action – and death – during the mid 1940s (in Italy and Germany, respectively).

It is my opinion that these two books are absolutely essential reading for any American alive then and now, if they really want to gain some insight into fundamental aspects of American culture, and the collective psyche of Americans. If one also wants to get “historical” and can accept immersing themselves in the “literary,” then it is essential they include “Huckleberry Finn” and “Moby-Dick” to that reading list.

There are many comedic elements in both “Catch-22” and “Slaughterhouse Five” (1969), but both books are very clearly deadly serious. With Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s (1922-2007) book (Slaughterhouse Five), the more you think about it, the deeper is your realization of the underlying tragedy; with Heller’s book, comedy carries you to a finale that requires a strong stomach and deep commitment to finish reading, and in this way leads you to the tragic realization equivalent to that which Vonnegut so subtly (well, playfully) presents.

Only AFTER you have read C-22 and SH-5 should you allow yourself to see the movies made of them. The only good movie of C-22 (a recent TV series has also been made, at best a C-) is the excellent 1970 Mike Nichols (1931-2014) film (Catch-22), with a screenplay written by Buck Henry (1930-2020). Parts of that screenplay were so good that Heller said he wished he’d thought of them to put in his novel.

This film is very faithful (but not exact) to Heller’s plot (simplification being necessary since Heller had many, many characters, and a great deal of non-chronological density), and is entirely faithful to Heller’s arc of comedy-to-anguishing reality (with a sparkle at the end of the film to give you hope). Milo Minderbinder, a character in C-22 (and Closing Time), is the absolute quintessential personification of American capitalism, an excruciatingly apt portrayal in both the book and movie.

The only film worth seeing (AFTER you read the novel!) of SH-5 is the 1972 George Roy Hill (1921-2002) movie (Slaughterhouse Five). In that movie the character of Valencia Merble is the quintessential portrayal of the White suburban American mom, not quite a Karen, but a simple self-absorbed but not selfish Americana (a chaste but not fundamentalist version of Guy de Maupassant’s “Boule de Suif”); this perfection of depiction being in both the book and movie.

Believe me, those two books of the 1960s, and the two films made of them in the early 1970s cannot be remade today to equal standards of art and psychological insight: “we” are too hung-up on our “modern” (self-delusional) ‘wokeness.’ Here is art that is a mirror of a ‘national soul’ that we generally don’t wish to see in complete clarity. These works are both of their time, and timeless.

Every work of art has its roots in earlier works by earlier artists, and in conceptions from earlier times. One can, with imagination, follow this trail of sequential inspiration all the way back to the 5th Century (BCE) Greeks; and with even more imagination back to the cave paintings at Lascaux (~17,000 years ago) and Altamira (~36,000 years ago). Even though I do not know the history of Heller’s and Vonnegut’s literary inspirations, to my mind these two authors were the 1960s flowering of roots that grew from Herman Melville (1819-1891), Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910), and Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893).

Melville had a keen and pessimistic insight into the American soul, and a wicked wit, which can be hard for today’s casual readers to untangle from his convoluted and fascinating antique New England prose. I can see Heller’s Milo Minderbinder as a youthfully handsome comic inversion of Captain Ahab (the terrible protagonist of Moby-Dick): both are monomaniacal obsessive-compulsives. Both were avidly mercantile individuals, to devote themselves so fully to their risky commercial ventures. For Milo it was all about money to gain power to make more money (in a vicious circle), while for Ahab it was all about money (his gold Doubloon, and command of his ship’s resources like the breaking out of rum) to gain the mesmerizing power over his men’s hearts and souls to bind them tightly to his obsession for vengeance against the very forces of Nature incarnated as the white whale, Moby-Dick.

Mark Twain, that other supreme giant of American literature (I vacillate between seeing Melville then Twain as the greatest of all American authors, but that is a worthless exercise really: together, they are the sourcepoint of all essentially American literature), was both a comedic genius and a deeply serious writer with a very great compassion for the human condition; and his enlightened outlook on people was far in advance of American norms — to this day!

Kurt Vonnegut was deeply influenced by Twain, he said as much in his introduction to a television movie (shown on PBS) of Twain’s “Life On The Mississippi,” and it is so easy to see many parallels between Twain’s seemingly naïve witticisms and Vonnegut’s seemingly childlike playfulness in prose. And both had very serious matters about America’s dark soul to present back to its people, under the cover of sweet sunny confections of comic storytelling — up to a point.

Guy de Maupassant was a supreme master of naturalness in the telling of short stories, with an economy of style that made his penetrating insight into the psychology of his characters — the people of his day, and ours — transparent. His words speedily take you to the heart of the matter without obscuring it by any pretentiousness, insights and matters that were: comic, tragic, banal, horrible, lovely, socially withering, and of human avarice, corruption, credulity, deceitfulness, and simple nobility.

Like Heller and Vonnegut, de Maupassant mined his wartime experiences as a French solider during the disastrous for France Franco-Prussian war of 1870. Guy de Maupassant’s story “Two Friends,” about the hazards two Frenchmen buddies find themselves facing when they are captured by the Prussians during a surreptitious fishing excursion along a river behind enemy lines, has all the absurdist qualities Vonnegut put into the narrative thread on his avuncular character Edgar Derby, the mentor of Billy Pilgrim (the protagonist of Slaughterhouse Five) while both were prisoners of the Germans in WWII Dresden.

Even more grim a tale about the utterly absurd waste of human life, human innocence, and the permanent loss of happiness because of war, was de Maupassant’s “Mother Savage,” a story about one old French peasant woman’s iron will to wage her personal war against the Prussians, and by extension against all the social forces and higher classes and their attitudes, which had combined to bring that disastrous 1870 war right into her little cottage far out in the country. Where Edgar Derby was an endearingly blithe overgrown lamb oblivious to the hellscape of firebombed Dresden, Victoire Simon (Mother Savage) was an implacable wolverine propelled by grief capping a long hard meager life of scratching the land.

Two de Maupassant stories of desperate personal actions taken by ordinary French civilians against the Prussians, because they just exploded with rage against being bullied, are “Mademoiselle Fifi,” about the stabbing killing of a Prussian officer by Rachel, a Jewess prostitute who successfully evaded capture by being hidden by the parish priest; and “A Duel,” a similar story about a nebbish little man whose sudden rage fills him with power sufficient to kill a Prussian officer in a duel, his first ever, and for the Prussian his last of many. But I did not see any parallel incidents to these de Maupassant stories in either “Catch-22” or “Slaughterhouse Five,” despite their extensive periods in wartime settings.

Heller’s portrayal of the whorehouse in Rome frequented by Yossarian (the protagonist of Catch-22) and his buddies has many echoes of de Maupassant’s story “Madam Tellier’s Establishment,” of simple souls with simple dreams mixed with desperate longings and simple pleasures. Guy de Maupassant wrote many stories involving carnal affairs, licit and illicit, with a keen eye to human foibles and hypocrisy, and a sophisticated savoir faire combined with a very deep compassion to the human condition, so like Mark Twain’s.

Much of the anguish and histrionics of English and American marital-sexual-relationship dramas is refreshingly absent in de Maupassant’s stories because of his honest clear-sighted presentation of the situational and psychological facts. The hypocritical Victorian prudery of the English and the Americans is absent from de Maupassant and many of his characters, who are after all drawn from real life as de Maupassant saw it. That naturalness, pioneered by Gustave Flaubert (among others), de Maupassant’s mentor and teacher of literary art, is at the heart of Heller’s verve in “Catch-22.”

The direct root from Guy de Maupassant that grew out into English literature was W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), another great short story writer, as well as playwright, novelist and essayist. The keenest insights about women that I have seen in literature are by Guy de Maupassant and W. Somerset Maugham. Perhaps F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) has some as well (particularly in “Tender Is The Night,” 1934), but he was often much more lyrical and because of that honeyed radiance thus more vague.

Guy de Maupassant by contrast offered gems of clarity (not necessarily desired by society at large) cut with such precision as to bring out the sparkle of insights that pierced through the fog of all illusions. This deemed de Maupassant smutty and immoral to many socially correct readers (especially English and American ones) up to the present day.

My favorite novel of Maugham’s is “The Moon and Sixpence” (1919), a novelization of the life of the French Impressionist painter (and pal of Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890) Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), told as the story of Charles Strickland, a fictional English equivalent to Gauguin. Maugham’s “The Moon and Sixpence” is an epigrammatic novel worthy of Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) and Maugham’s acknowledged inspiration: Guy de Maupassant.

Guy de Maupassant has written the best and most detailed descriptions of eating, food, cuisine and dining that I have ever read; he has done what Flaubert had taught him: to let you smell the aromas and taste the flavors just from reading the worlds. His touching yet earthy matter-of-fact slice-of-life story, “Idyll,” is echoed by John Steinbeck (1902-1968) as the grand and incandescent metaphor at the end of his “Grapes of Wrath” (1939), for the desperate and self-sacrificing human compassion and solidarity during a time of economic catastrophe that some of its victims could find to bring out of their own destitution and grief, to generously give others the milk of human kindness.

How fortunate I am to be able to read so many wonderful books. The overall lesson they have given me is simply to see with greater appreciation the intrinsic beauty of life despite the many hardships and random tragedies it also entails.


Book and Movie Reviews by MG,Jr. (2017-2020)

1 August 2020, was the 201st anniversary of the birth of Herman Melville. 2019 was my year to be totally immersed in Moby-Dick (for the third time), an awesome masterpiece. This is PERHAPS, the greatest novel yet written in the English language.

I’ve written previously on Melville and Moby-Dick here:

Happy 200th, Herman!


Ye Cannot Swerve Me: Moby-Dick and Climate Change

The Ultimate Great American Novel


W. Somerset Maugham’s “Ten Novels And Their Authors”

Maugham wrote a book of this title, describing his picks, ranked as shown below, His essays on each are excellent.

War and Peace (Tolstoy)
Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert)
Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky)
Le Père Goriot (Honoré de Balzac)
Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)
Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and The Black; Stendhal)
Tom Jones (Henry Fielding)
David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)
Moby-Dick (Herman Melville)

Read by MG,Jr (from Maugham’s list), so far:

Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert)
The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky)
Le Père Goriot (Honoré de Balzac)
David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)
Moby-Dick (Herman Melville)

I like the following, as SOME of the other novels that I think are “classics”:

The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas)
Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
On The Road (Jack Kerouac)
Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut)

The Three Musketeers is described here:

My Favorite Classics

Huckleberry Finn and Slaughterhouse Five are described here:

The Ultimate Great American Novel


Three movies from 2015-2016:

Heal the Living (Réparer les vivants) (2016)

Superb film by Katell Quillévéré (screen-writer and director), about life, death and organ donors. The meditative nature of this film, without excessive pathos, with a lovely piano accompaniment (most of the time except for two noisy rock songs), the lovely crisp photography possible with today’s equipment, and its seamless transitions between wakeful reality and introspective day-dreaming, and back, and its transitioning ensemble – constellation – of collaborative actors (instead of a star in front of background “support”), make this a very thoughtful and artistic film that presents fundamental truths. All these sterling qualities (except for the crisp photography) will make this film largely unpopular for US audiences, especially when spoken in French with English subtitles.

Genius (2016)

A superb English film about legendary American authors, particularly Thomas Wolfe (author of “Look Homeward, Angel”) and really about Max Perkins, the Scribner’s (book publishing company) editor who discovered Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and, most flamboyantly, Thomas Wolfe (the movie is ostensibly about him). The heart of the story is about friendship (male friendship) collaborating in the creative artistic process, in this case to produce literary novels. Anyone who likes reading (actual books of literature, in paper), and who strives to produce excellent art that requires collaborators (particularly theater and often music, and inevitably every art) in any medium would like this movie. However, the American reviewers were not keen on this movie because they and most American audiences don’t really like reading and find the movie “slow;” it’s basically a detailed exposition of intellectual processes (and what American wants to watch that?); its lighting is “dark” (which is how it actually looks in downtown Manhattan); Americans don’t like foreigners making movies about American subjects (English actors can do any variety of American accents, but American actors can’t do English, or any other foreign accent); and the movie unrolls like a well thought-out play since it was in fact directed by an English theatrical director (with a story based on a carefully studied biography of Max Perkins).

Mr. Holmes (2015)

This is a modern and very clever modern story (i.e., not by Arthur Conan Doyle) of Sherlock Holmes near the end of his life in retirement, living as a beekeeper. The plot, photography, score, and acting by the (largely) English cast are all first rate, naturally. The film has proved popular with English and American audiences, and rightfully so. The story involves Holmes as a 93-year-old (in ~1947) who, despite failing memory, is trying to recall the details of his last case, which ended tragically and caused him to retire. The jumps between “the present” (~1947) and flashbacks (~1912) are clear, as are the transitions to the flashbacks to Holmes’s post WWII visit to Japan (1946/1947). There is enough of the “solve the mystery” element in the film to satisfy most Sherlock Holmes fans, and a thoughtful emotional-psychological thread to the story that was not ruined by an excess of pathos or icky sweetness. Of course the acting, photography and score were good and well-integrated into this polished work of cinema. Overall, nicely paced and good entertainment with wit, polish and good heart.


Some commentary on Anti-War movies and books:

The Pentagon Papers in the Movies
[the 2003 movie is the best, and what a story!]
20 April 2018

Anti-War and Socialist Psychology Books and Movies
23 January 2018


Lafcadio Hearn

Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) was an unusual American who eventually became a Far Eastern foreign correspondent to American newspapers and magazines, and an expert interpreter of Japanese and Chinese stories, legends and fables, as well as a keen observer of how life was conceptualized and conducted in Asia (mainly Japan).

Lafcadio Hearn was born in Lefkada, a Greek island in the Ionian Sea on the west coast of Greece. He had an Irish father and Greek mother, and a difficult childhood filled with rejection. He also lived a very unusual life, for some time a newspaper crime reporter in the U.S.A. (Cincinnati, New Orleans), marriage to a Black Women at a time when mixed marriages were extremely difficult to sustain socially in the U.S., and then moving on to a foreign correspondent role, first in the French West Indies and then in Japan. There, he learned Japanese, taught in Japanese schools, married a Japanese woman and had four sons, and lived out a happy last chapter to his colorful and literary life.

A superb book by Hearn is Kwaidan, which is a book of Japanese ghost stories, and which book was the basis of an amazing 1965 Japanese art film (movie) of the same title by Kobayashi. I think Kwaidan is a masterpiece.

Gleanings In Buddha Fields is a collection of stories (the mythical, legendary and fabulous) and essays (on the realities of life), which in total immerse the reader into the zeitgeist, or context, of late 19th and early 20th century Japan.

Alan Watts noted that Lafcadio Hearn’s book Gleanings In Buddha Fields (1897) sparked (or was one of the sparkers of) his interest in Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy. I read Gleanings In Buddha Fields because I was curious to learn the source (about one of the sources) of where Alan got his Zen.

I recommend Gleanings in Buddha Fields to you (and Kwaidan).

Because some (at least one or two) of Hearn’s references to historical personalities of 19th century (and earlier) Japan are not part of modern memory, you might have to do a little Internet researching to gather some of the historical facts about the incidents Hearn was referring to (in Gleanings…), in order to fully appreciate Hearn’s presentation. But even without such deeper investigation, Gleanings In Buddha Fields is an excellent, informative, thoughtful and Zen-atmospheric book. In discovering it with your first reading, you can also imagine yourself reliving, at least in part, the juvenile awakening to Zen Buddhism experienced by Alan Watts (whose The Way of Zen is a masterpiece).

A modern collection of selected Japanese stories (including some from Kwaidan) by Hearn is the following. It is excellent, and well-researched, with a very informative introductory essay by the editor-researcher, who was Ireland’s ambassador to Japan.


Cinema Art From 1968 For Today
18 August 2018


The Ultimate Great American Novel
4 September 2018


All Quiet On The Western Front

“All Quiet On The Western Front,” by Erich Maria Remarque (22 June 1898 – 25 September 1970), is the greatest war novel of all time. Why? Because it vividly conveys the physical, psychological and emotional realities of being at the front face-to-face with the enemy in an all-out massively industrialized war. “All Quiet On The Western Front” is also the greatest anti-war novel of all time. Why? Because it vividly conveys the physical, psychological and emotional realities of being at the front face-to-face with the enemy in an all-out massively industrialized war.

This novel was first published 92 years ago, in 1928; and its story is set a century ago, in 1918, during World War I. This novel describes the realities of a soldier’s transformation from naïve enthusiastic recruit to hardened emotionally vacant veteran, the deadly and depersonalizing confusion of military operations, the rush and terror of frontline combat, the haphazard allocation of injuries, the slow-motion dread of being in hospital, the brief joys and overwhelming alienation and anguish of home leave, the struggle against insanity, the scant and fleeting serendipitous joys in the field, the loss of a personal past that moored one to a potentially fulfilling future in one’s culture, and the crushing of the lonely human spirit shadowed by the omnipresence of death. The human reality of this novel is timeless. Most of us casually say we are anti-war, but to truly inoculate yourself against any taste for war you must read this book and allow its story, and its feeling, to soak deep into your psyche.


F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald’s novel Tender Is The Night hit me like a thunderbolt. Fitzgerald drew the title from a line in John Keats’s poem “Ode to a Nightingale.” I’ve written quite a bit about Fitzgerald (follow the links to that). Below are a few of the comments about Fitzgerald and movies about him and his novels.

Appreciating F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Poetry of Disillusionment in “Gatsby” is Beyond the Movies

F. Scott Fitzgerald and Lost American Lyricism

I Learn About F. Scott Fitzgerald

Two “F. Scott Fitzgerald” movies:

Last Call is based on the memoirs of Frances Kroll Ring (1916-2015), Fitzgerald’s last secretary, and sounding board, to whom he dictated his last novel The Love Of The Last Tycoon, A Western. Frances Kroll Ring’s book (1985), highly praised by both scholars and Fitzgerald aficionados for its accuracy, detail and sympathy, is about the last two years (1939-1940) of Fitzgerald’s life. Frances Kroll Ring (herself in 2002) appears at the end of the film. A very well made film, as close as we’ll ever get to “being there” with Scott. Jeremy Irons plays Scott, Neve Campbell plays Frances Kroll Ring, both excellently in my opinion. The Cambridge Companion To F. Scott Fitzgerald (2002) is dedicated to Frances Kroll Ring “with affection, gratitude, and respect from everyone who reveres F. Scott Fitzgerald as man and artist.”

Getting Straight is a fun movie of college life and protest in 1970, and centers on a much put upon ex-activist and graduate student of literature (“Harry,” played by Elliot Gould) who ultimately gives it all up (except the girl) in a very spirited defense of the art and spirit of F. Scott Fitzgerald. This movie was approvingly pointed out by Ruth Prigozy, the editor of The Cambridge Companion To F. Scott Fitzgerald. I was surprised at how many references Harry makes to characters and incidents in both Fitzgerald’s novels and in his life (with Zelda and then Sheilah Graham). The movie can be fun without having to know all these references, but it is much funnier being in the know. I thought, my god!, this bright, breezy, light-hearted confection from 1970 would be over the heads of the illiterate comic-book-cartoon-movie-consuming popular audiences of today: we’re doomed!

Last Call (2002, trailer)

Getting Straight (1970, stills and music)

The Crack-Up
F. Scott Fitzgerald
[originally published as a three-part series in the February, March, and April 1936 issues of Esquire.]

The Moment F. Scott Fitzgerald Knew He Was a Failure
By Lili Anolik
Sep 22, 2015

“It was a gorgeous evening. A full moon drenched the road to the lustreless color of platinum, and late-blooming harvest flowers breathed into the motionless air aromas that were like low, half-heard laughter.”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, from The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, section V.

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, from The Crack-Up, part I, 1936


My Wicked, Wicked Ways, by Errol Flynn

A mostly honest book. I have always loved Flynn in the movies. A very engaging character, with his own flaws and tragedies despite all the glamour and antics. What I most like about him is that despite everything, he always sought to enjoy, to laugh, to be happy and make others happy; but a major prankster.

I think he knew he was doomed to a short life from very early on; he had contracted tuberculosis and malaria as a teenager prospecting in New Guinea in the late 1920s very early 1930s. So, he enjoyed his smokes and booze and morphine, and most of all women, who shamelessly threw themselves at him, especially after he made money but even before when broke and homeless. Besides, he pursued them very keenly, too.

Alan Watts mentioned that some Zen master from the past had said that there were two paths to enlightenment: the path of thoughtful study, meditation, good works, piety, humility and patience; and the path of debauchery leading to exhaustion of that attitude leading in turn to an awakening. This in fact is the main comparison presented in Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. But, Watts continued, the first path is by far recommended even though its “success rate” is not particularly high, because the second path can easily be fatal (in every way) though it was considered a “sure thing” and “quicker” for gaining enlightenment: if you survived to getting to that point! The story of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) is in fact of a life of renunciation of a princely life of luxury and dissipation to first seek meaning through asceticism, which was ultimately found to be arid, and then to settle on the “middle way,” between asceticism and dissipation: which for today we can think of as consumerist materialism (dissipation, that is).

So, Flynn’s book was fun for me to help reflect on these ideas. Besides, it is a fun book on vignettes and quips about “golden age” Hollywood.

Errol Flynn starred in the 1938 movie, The Dawn Patrol, about WWI British fighter pilots in France. This is an anti-war movie. I describe it here:

Criminalated Warmongers


Magister Ludi (The Bead Game)

Herman Hesse received the Nobel Prize for Literature for Magister Ludi (The Bead Game). Interesting book (long), but sometimes a bit remote/slow for me. The “three tales” appended at the end are superb. I wonder if the whole big book before it was really just an enormous lead-in to them. Hesse put tremendous thought and work into this book, there are many undercurrents and subtleties that I may not have fully appreciated. I think it is basically a book about religious feeling (existentialism?) in a non-religious way; similar to the orientation of Carl G. Jung’s psychology. Both Jung and Hesse were born in religious/missionary families from Switzerland (Jung) or southwest Germany near Switzerland (Hesse, who spent much of his life till the end in Switzerland). I think Hesse was working from a view of life like looking at the Swiss Alps from a remote chalet (which is in fact where he lived).

Excerpts from Magister Ludi (The Bead Game), (1943)

He had also made the discovery that a spiritual man in some curious way arouses resentment and opposition in others, who esteem him from afar and make claims on him in times of distress, but by no means love or look upon him as one of themselves and are more inclined to avoid him. He had learned from experience that old-fashioned or home-made magic formulas and spells were more willingly acceptable to sick people or victims of misfortune than intelligent advice. He had learned that man prefers misfortune and external penance rather than attempt to change himself inwardly, and had found that he believed more easily in magic than in intelligence, and in formulas more readily than in experience — many things in fact which in the few thousand years that have elapsed have presumably not altered so much as many history books would have us believe. He had also learned that a man in quest of the spiritual should never abandon love, that he should encounter human desires and follies without arrogance, but should, however, never allow them to dominate him; for, from the sage to the charlatan, the priest to the mountebank, from the helping brother to the parasitical sponger, is only a short step, and people fundamentally prefer to pay a rogue or allow themselves to be exploited by a quack than to accept selflessly offered assistance for which no recompense is asked. They would not readily pay with confidence and love, but preferably with gold or wares. They cheated each other and expected to be cheated in return. One had to learn to regard man as a weak, selfish and cowardly being, but one had also to see how greatly one participated in all these characteristics and urges and longs for ennoblement.

We must no longer rely on the fact that the cream of the talented from out there flock to us and help us to maintain [our society]: we must recognise our humble and heavy responsibility to the schools of the world as the most important and the most honourable part of our task, and we must elaborate it more and more.

Times of terror and the deepest misery may arrive, but if there is to be any happiness in this misery it can only be a spiritual happiness, related to the past in the rescue of the culture of early ages and to the future in a serene and indefatigable championship of the spirit in a time which would otherwise completely swallow up the material.


I love “Siddhartha” by Hesse; easy to see why that book of his is so popular. It is an “awakening” story similar to the life of Buddha, who appears as a support character to the protagonist. I said more about “Siddhartha” in my comments on Errol Flynn, above.


After The End of The World: books by George R. Stewart, and Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Here are two classic “after the end of the world” books. In Earth Abides, George R. Stewart’s end-of-the-world is by pandemic!, and in A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller Jr.’s is by post nuclear war taking America back to a Medieval Period, and then eventually over a few millennia to a new rocket and nuclear age, which ends as one would expect.

Stewart was an English professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1930s-1940s, and his book here is from 1949. Amazingly prescient, realistic “speculative fiction” about the subsequent lives of the few survivors of the nearly overnight pandemic.

Miller’s book is definitely different, but there are no cheesy sci-fi gadgetry nor “special effects,” despite the strangeness of the worlds he portrays. Interestingly, the monastery life that is the center of Miller’s book is similar in many ways to the monastery life that is the center of Herman Hesse’s Magister Ludi (which is also a sort-of after the end of the world book, really of a “distant” future after the end of the fascist world).

I cannot imagine Miller’s vision becoming reality, but I can easily imagine Stewart’s coming about.


The Twilight Zone


During this 2020 summer of hiding out from the pandemic, I watched all 156 episodes of the anthology TV show, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, which originally ran between 1959 and 1964. This feat was accomplished by seeing 2 to 6 episodes a night on consecutive nights over the course of several weeks.

This show is a collective work of TV art, guided by Rod Serling, who wrote 59% of the episodes. Amazingly, despite this show being in the neighborhood of 60 years old, its anachronisms relative to today’s typical attitudes and technological paraphernalia are infrequent (as regards the attitudes) and not distracting (as regards the technicalities). But it really shines in its depiction of the inner workings of human hearts and minds, and also human heartlessness. In this most important artistic-literary aspect, The Twilight Zone has not been surpassed by television shows since.

The Twilight Zone is a sequence of — usually — morality tales (interspersed with occasional comedies) whose telling is freed imaginatively and dramatically by allowing for the arbitrary actions of mysterious metaphysical forces. It’s as if Lafcadio Hearn, Ambrose Bierce and H. P. Lovecraft had been transported 60 years into their futures to write for television. One of the most thrilling aspects of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone is the intense social consciousness, and anti-war, anti-greed, anti-bigotry and anti-cruelty attitudes nearly every minute of the entire series exudes. The acting, by many many actors, is uniformly excellent; and the production values of all the technicalities are also very good, but also very obviously more modest than in the costly productions of TV fare today.

In seeing the entire 156 episodes in one concentrated period of time, I have gotten a very clear appreciation of The Twilight Zone’s beauty and value as art. Without intending to be blasphemous, pretentious or dumb, let me say that I can see The Twilight Zone representing, for discerning American (and beyond?) viewers of the 1960s, a thought-provoking and socially instructive film-electronic art form in the same way that the plays of Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes were thought-provoking and socially instructive theatrical art forms to the Fifth-century Athenians.

The bubbling cauldron of social tensions, aspirations and fears of dynamic yet troubled societies were artistically abstracted and polished into the diamond-sharp facets of intense dramatic plays, reflecting the whole of contemporary society back into itself through the fascinated gaze of its individual people. If “the eyes are the mirror of the soul” then The Twilight Zone, through TV screens, was the mirror of the collective or societal American soul, which soul is always hidden behind a flashy loud and positivist front.

If you see the whole series, looking past the incidentals of its presentation, but deep into the essence of its conception, literateness and soul, you will see and hear as sharp and accurate depictions of the personalities and preoccupations of our society today as was the case for the American society of the early 1960s, during the show’s first run 61 to 56 years ago.


John Keats, poet

Much feeling here, combined with a tremendous amount of work to present that feeling with refinement and grace of language, without dilution of the emotion, and without making it all seem a labored construction. Also wonderful feeling for nature and the natural world. I can’t criticize anything here, only try to learn from it. To my mind, Keats is to English poetry what Mozart is to music. Keats was a major influence on F. Scott Fitzgerald, who I see as an American “3rd generation” English Romantic poet who expressed his artistry in prose.

I have to dig into Shelley next (I have a huge tome), who was more “ferocious” than Keats. Both were very focussed artists. I’m struck by the idealism they felt and worked from.


In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World, by Ian Stewart

Hello math lovers! (sic),

At one time or another a member of my family or friends has expressed an interest in:

Pythagoras’s Theorem (triangles, distance, areas, surfaces), or

Calculus (rates of change of anything and everything), or

Newton’s Law of Gravity (planetary motion, satellite trajectories), or

Pure Math (Napier’s Bones, the weirdness of the square root of -1, and Möbius Strip topology), or

Normal Distribution (the probability distribution of IQ, and “The Bell Curve” book), or

The Wave Equation (tones, semitones, musical scales, even tempering, beats within harmony), or

Fourier Transform (sines and cosines, single frequency/pitch modes and equalizers, digital camera images), or

The Navier-Stokes Equation (fluid flow, aerodynamics, F1 car design, global warming computation), or

Maxwell’s Equations (electricity, magnetism, radiation, wireless communication, TSA body scanners), or

Thermodynamics (entropy, efficiency of engines and renewable energy technology, disordering of the universe), or

Relativity (curved space-time, bent light rays, black holes, Big Bang, dark matter, dark energy), or

Quantum Mechanics (Schrödinger’s Cat, many parallel worlds, semiconductor electronics), or

Information Theory (codes, coding, data compression, digital communications), or

Chaos (species population dynamics with explosive growth and collapse, erratic unpredictability), or

Black-Scholes Equation (insane financial speculation, options, futures, derivatives, credit default swaps, the banking/real estate/financial crash of 2007-2008).

Because of that, here is my review of Ian Stewart’s 2012 book: In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World. Stewart says of his book: “This is the story of the ascent of humanity, told through 17 equations.”

This is an excellent enthralling book: interesting, very informative, very well written clear explanations of the mathematics and the applications of that mathematics to: classical mathematical calculations, lots of physics and related technology, information theory (codes and computers), chaos (wild swings in species populations), and the insane 21st century finance economics of our previous financial crash and its inevitable successors. This brief description does not in any way convey the complete range of this book.

On the front cover you can see the 17 (sets of) equations, which Stewart describes (and their many uses) over the course of 17 chapters. Of the 13 equations I feel confident about knowing something about (all “basic” math and/or mathematical physics), I find Stewart to be accurate and masterfully clear in his descriptions.

My only quibble is where he states about the main causes of global warming being the production of carbon dioxide and methane (gases) that: “These are greenhouse gases: they trap incoming radiation (heat) from the Sun.”

This is a collapsing of the actual mechanism, which is: the the capture of outgoing heat radiation (infrared radiation) by CO2 (most importantly) and CH4 (along with other heat-trapping molecular gases in trace amounts in the atmosphere), which upward radiated heat energy is derived from the earlier absorption (by the oceans and lands) of incoming light energy; a necessary process for cooling the Earth and stabilizing its temperature (if we didn’t mess with the process). So I would rephrase the Stewart sentence quoted as: “These are greenhouse gases: they trap outgoing radiation (heat) from the Earth.”

[If you think about it you will see that wherever the biosphere captures the incoming LIGHT from the Sun — in the air, lands or oceans — it ultimately heats to the same degree; but when our pollution intercepts and stores a greater portion of the re-radiated outward going HEAT (infrared radiation) from the biosphere than would be the case “naturally,” that the Earth’s “cooling system” is impaired and the biosphere warms up steadily, for an Earth out of heat balance.]

Regardless of this quibble, Stewart knows much much more about all the mathematics he presents and all the uses of it than I do. The 4 equations I knew nothing about (and learned about from Stewart) are: #1 Euler’s formula for polyhedra (topology); #2 information theory; #3 chaos theory (I know a little a bit about nonlinear dynamics, sensitivity to initial conditions, and limit cycles: similar to the “butterfly effect”); and #4 the Black-Scholes, or “Midas” equation that was heavily abused to produce the financial meltdown of 2007-2008. On these four, I learned a great deal from Stewart (basically everything I know about them now), and in the reading of this book I gained a sense of trust in his descriptions and pronouncements.

My only other critique of the book (and a minor one) is that there are a number of proofreading lapses (both of text and substance) that show up as typographical errors, and/or what I presume to be mischosen words (some obviously errors, others didn’t make sense to me). The few instances of these errors occur most frequently in the later chapters of the book, and none is fatal (especially if you don’t notice them). So, I agree with the praise for the book highlighted on the back cover.

I especially recommend the book for its explanation (in 8 chapters) of the physics of: classical gravity (Newtonian mechanics), waves, heat flow, fluid flow, electrodynamics, thermodynamics (entropy), relativity and quantum mechanics. I also appreciate his logical and scathing take-down of the modern hyperactive derivative-based financial speculation that dominates and threatens the world’s economies today. For me, the 8 physics chapters are superb; but there is no part of the book that is weak: “a wonderfully accessible book.”



Juan Mascaró was a superb poetic translator. His selections from the Upanishads is enthralling. His translation of the Dhammapada was also wonderful:

“As the bee takes the essence of a flower and flies away without destroying its beauty and perfume, so let the sage wander in this life.” — The Dhammapada, 49

Joseph Campbell (author of The Hero With A Thousand Faces, editor of Heinrich Zimmer’s book The Philosophies of India) said of the Upanishads: “It’s all there.”


Books I must add to my list of essential classics:

History of the Peloponnesian War (Thucydides, translated by Rex Warner)
The Plays of Euripides
The Plays of Sophocles
L’Avare (The Miser, a play by Molière)
Phèdre (Phaedra, a play by Racine)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)
The Moon and Sixpence (W. Somerset Maugham)
The Razor’s Edge (W. Somerset Maugham)
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
Homage to Catalonia (George Orwell)
1984 (George Orwell)
Collected Essays (2002, George Orwell)
Bhagavad Gita (Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood)
Bhagavad Gita (Juan Mascaró)
Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Carl Gustav Jung)
The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Malcolm X, with Alex Haley)
Cadillac Desert (Marc Reisner)

…and others as I think of them.