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Christmas in the Multiverse

The complete album, minus the instrumental Glad Tidings on Proxima Centauri b. Feel free to share these mp3s with your friends and family. I’m not interested in making money off of these songs, so please send them to everyone on the planet. You can either listen to the tracks online, or you can right-click/control-click on them to download. Merry Christmas from across the galaxy!

 

Angels We Have Heard On High

Angels We Have Heard on High 2

Silent Night

Away in a Manger – We Three Kings

Little Drummer Boy

Good King Wenceslas

First Noel

Joy to the World

The Night Thieves

Do people steal more at night? That’s what I’ve always thought. Maybe my assumption comes from years of reading mysteries and thrillers, in which most skullduggery seems to occur under cover of darkness.

Stolen catalytic converter.

At any rate, someone, or several someones, just stole the catalytic converter from the spare truck at my office. As you can see in the photo, they simply sliced through the exhaust line and made off with their loot. From what I’ve read, a really good thief can remove the converter in about 60 seconds. Slower thieves can take up to 10 minutes.

Why? #$@% it! Why?

Because of the rare metals in the converter. Catalytic converters contain rare metals, such as platinum, rhodium and palladium. These are necessary for the oxidation process of carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. So I’ve read. I remember basically nothing from high school chemistry class. All I remember is, once, igniting the experiment table on fire once, much to the mixed horror and hilarity of my lab partner Sherri.

And, of course, rare metal prices are high these days.

This is why I’m in favor of Congress passing a bill allowing all households to obtain and keep trained attack-skunks or similar nocturnal animals that would be happy chomping on thief ankles at night. Or spraying them with their skunk chemicals. I could go for a well-trained pack of feral chipmunks roaming the property at night. Hungering and thirsting for rare metal thieves.

Have you seen what the cost is of installing a new catalytic converter? Ouch. That’s life in sunny California, the year 2022. Don’t even get me started on Union Pacific and what’s going on along the train tracks of Los Angeles.

Winter Strawberries in the Salinas Valley

In the dead of winter, the strawberries are already planted here. They’re waiting for spring and proper sunlight. Once that gets going, they’ll start producing fruit, which will end up in stores across the country, as well as beyond our borders.

The Salinas Valley is an open-sky factory. That’s really what it is. No walls, no roof, just a huge factory floor crawling with machinery and men. Production, twenty-four hours a day. Lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, artichokes, wine grapes, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, onions, tomatoes, bok choy, radicchio, etc. The list is quite long.

Southern Pacific railroad, about a hundred years ago, first coined the term “Salad Bowl.” I think they did so because salad in bowls worked better on moving train than salad on plates. The railroad was instrumental to putting the Salinas Valley on the map in terms of moving product to market. Later, I’m not sure when, the larger phrase “Salad Bowl of the World” was adopted for the valley.

I live in the middle of the factory. Winter time means mud, lots of bare, brown fields, the plastic-covered rows of the strawberry fields, and dreary grey skies, most days. The upside is that things are a bit quieter than the other eight months of the year. No field crews firing up in the early morning. Fewer tractors rumbling back and forth. No harvest trucks rolling down the road, stacked with cartons and heading for the coolers.

Waiting for spring. But, in the meantime, tempus fugit.

So, get things done.

Love in the Time of Pandemica

One of my main creative outlets these days is writing and recording music. It’s faster than writing books, in that I can sit down, write and record a song over the space of a couple hours. Walk away with a finished piece at the end. I can’t exactly articulate it, but there’s a certain psychological satisfaction in that. Finishing something that becomes its own entity.

Anyway, I’ve finished recording an album of ten songs with the Inflatable Hippies. That’s the occasional music group I’m part of. IH floats between electronica, folk and rock. This album is just rock. The songs seem to exist somewhere in the space between Seattle grunge and the Cranberries. Plus some odd folk influences here and there.

The title is (tentatively) Love in the Time of Pandemica and should hopefully be easier to get through than Love in the Time of Cholera. I still need to do the final mixes and mastering, and then get them up on all the streamers, Apple, etc etc.

Stories in the Trees

Sunday, the day after Christmas, we went outside to find stories in the trees. North a ways, past Santa Cruz, is Henry Cowell State Park. The park is known for a stand of coastal redwood trees. Massive, towering specimens brood together along the river. The day was cold and rainy, the ground muddy. We bundled up in jackets and sweaters (except for the smallest rebel, who seems to have an internal core temperature similar to a young star).

A Tree Slab Like a Wheel

Near the ranger station, a slab from an old tree stands on end like a wheel. Probably six feet in diameter. Across the different growth rings, little identification placards mark various historical events: the Magna Carta, birth of Christ, invention of the printing press, etc. Contemplating the span of years is humbling. I imagine there is a galactic equivalent somewhere–an enormous slab of strange, interstellar alloy rotating slowly in the darkness between the stars. The birth of the universe is marked on it at the middle. The birth of galaxies and stars and planets are noted at different spots. The marker for homo sapiens is on the slab, but it is so tiny that you can’t see it unless you’re an eagle looking through an electron microscope. Or, of course, if you have the eyesight of God.

Our lives are quick. Like wildflowers.

Speaking of stories, we later went to a restaurant in Capitola, close to the beach. I won’t name the restaurant because, after all was said and done, they were apologetic and nice to us. The meal started out promising but then fell apart, once a server accidentally dumped a bottle of beer on small rebel number two. The staff apologized. Oddly, they said they would only comp small rebel number two’s drinks. Which was not enough, of course.

What Should Not Have Been in My Meal

Then, I found a large piece of well-cooked plastic in my tacos. I first thought it was extremely well-done carne asada, but it proved unchewable. The wait staff by that time became profusely apologetic. A succession of assistant managers, and then the manager herself, approached our table like pilgrims tiptoeing into the shrine of a dangerous god. More apologies, the meal was completely comped, free desserts for everyone, unspoken pleas to not write a review on Yelp, etc etc.

The smallest rebel and I left the scene at that point, our appetites (even for desserts) gone. We walked down the esplanade to the beach and found that the winter storms had deposited vast piles of driftwood everywhere. People had built huts and teepees and small fall-out shelters from the driftwood. He and I spent an agreeable while building some sort of soldier shelter out of the wood, as, lately, he’s been reading books about World War II. Then, we went to a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant and bought churros. Made on the spot. That definitely pulled the afternoon out of its culinary nose-dive.

There are stories everywhere.

The Taller Mountains

When I was a boy, I often had the sneaking suspicion that the mountains were actually taller than they usually appeared. This only occurred when the storm clouds came down and obscured the mountaintops. At those times, the usual, everyday peaks vanished behind the grey. I would look at them and think, “Perhaps the real heights of the mountains are now revealed within the clouds, even though I can’t see them. Maybe they reach higher and higher, up into the stratosphere and into some strange realm.”

I never climbed the mountains in a storm (or any other time, for that matter, as they’re private property), but that would’ve been the time to climb them. Doubtlessly, the path would’ve gone higher than the regular humdrum mountaintop.

YOU ARE OLD, FATHER WILLIAM…

Now that I’m an aged adult, one would assume I’d put such childish ways behind me. But, looking out my office window today at the rain clouds lowering down over the mountain range, the same thought enters my mind. I suppose I’m just a very aged boy.

There’s a similar idea in Lewis’ The Last Battle, toward the end of the book. The children and their various companions have finally entered the real Narnia. The heart of it is further on and higher up. The real truth behind mountains (and stairways, ladders, steps and apple trees) is further on and higher up. You can certainly climb a ladder down here on Earth, whether it is a corporate ladder at the XZY Widget Company or the ladder to fix the chimney, but the ladder that is even more real than your ladder goes on quite a bit higher. Pro tip: exercise your lungs so you can breathe easily at higher altitudes.

It’s an interesting thought to muddle on, and I suppose I’ll have to write about it in a book or perhaps just a song (almost have a whole new album done with the band I belong to–Inflatable Hippies–watch this space for announcement). In the meantime, I’ll leave you with wishes for a peaceful and merry Christmas, regardless of the doom and grumpy gloom seeping out of the White House like curdled milk spilling from a over-stuffed garbage bag (will they never learn?). Please enjoy a great deal of good food, good conversation, good music and good cheer. And may Heaven keep the beast from slouching to Bethlehem to be reborn. At least for a while yet.

Here’s a photo of our cat enjoying Christmas in the best way cats can.