Friday, December 28, 2012

suburban XM@S dinner

The large suburban Santa Clara home was darkly spacious, with a small sparklingly decorated tree reflected in a mirror; nearby it, on the wall, a massive TV-screen.

None of the 6 of us sang christmas carols; 2 sang karaoke pop songs; I sang Ihr habt gelert das cocktails ABC from Brecht's "Mahagonny", impressing everyone.

We had roast turkey, baked ham, corn/maize polenta, mashed potatoes, with merlot; I had hot decaf tea, but passed on apple pie. I was given lots of left-overs to take home; a Mind Benders daily block-calendar (giving it later to a puzzlist where I live); 4 pairs of Eddie Bauer half-sox.

Despising another (singing) guest for being a prurient, sexist, divorced single-dad Vietnam War USN vet spoiled my evening thinking: '"What am I doing here?" so I told the hostess later by e-mail & phone. She tactfully suggested he & I came from "opposite ends of the cultural spectrum."

Friday, December 21, 2012



(about his daughter Fiona)

In her quest for skill
our dexterous child unlocks
the file with letters from Santa

that have sat beside cookie crumbs
and dregs of milk each joyful morning:
the summation of her year, words of

caution and praise.
“Look,” she says.  “Look at this.
Santa has been using our computer!”

And we nurse, as we should, I hope,
the slow turning of the earth,
the eventual lengthening light.

 ~George M. Perreault (D. Ed.)  Univ. of NV/Reno

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


IF gun-ownership as an addiction  
Gun-owners are/become gun-addicts, 
but deny it, like most addicts do.
They need a 12-step gun-program.
Securely addicted,

gun-addicts fear

Someone will disarm them,

Someone will assault them,

because they're armed,

calling it Freedom.

(24 DEC 12, Santa Clara CA) v5

Sunday, December 16, 2012



Living alone, nothing
ever gets done now
without thinking:

nothing gets done now
without thinking
how to do it ?

(16 DEC 12, Santa Clara CA)v10

Saturday, December 15, 2012



Little yellow Jascha
chirrips on his peg in 
the birdcage in my
Polish grandmother's
sunny white kitchen
while I crunch away at 
Kellogg's corn soya 
soaking in whole milk

on a happy Saturday
off Salem Common.

(15 DEC 12, Santa Clara CA)v4

Saturday, December 8, 2012

"His heart is broken!"

An elderly Japanese woman spoke to me after a Xmas concert here last nite, apologizing for not coming recently to the monthly Fri. nite movies I show in this social center in the complex where we both live (btw, we're both having eye problems.) After we caught up on my bereavement, her tall, fully -Americanized daughter suddenly said: "His heart is broken!" I was astonished, & grateful to hear her say it. Suddenly the conductor (who I've sung under) walked up & said "You're lonely." I badly needed their acknowledgement. 



After the Christmas concert,
an elderly Japanese woman
apologized to me for missing
the monthly movies I show
here where we live. (We're both
both having eye problems.)As
I recounted my bereavement;
her Americanized daughter
told her "His heart is broken!"
astonishing me. The conductor
(I've sung under) said to me:
"You're lonely.

(10 DEC 12, Santa Clara CA)V3

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Shadows in the Sun

After 4 days of rain, it fInally stopped raining this afternoon, so I took Reggie out on my 4-wheeled walker for a circuit of the building I live in & adjoining ones. On my way, Claire, a Pole, smiled at him & called him kotchik (kitty)  which I understood because my mother spoke Polish to me when I was a small child. I took Reggie to the cottage door of a woman who I recall went to the film I showed here last night - SHADOWS IN THE SUN (2005) starring Harvey Keitel, Joshua Jackson, Claire Forlani, Giancarlo Giannani. Keitel played a deeply-depressed American novelist expatted to Tuscany who has not written for 20 yrs since his wife's accidental car-death, Forlani plays one of his 3 grown daughters, Jackson, a London publisher's agent who wants to sign him to a contract to write a new novel. (Ultimately, he succeeds, falls for the daughter.) The film reached me 5 painful years after Carolin's death; it also moved last night's audience who (typically) didn't tell me so right after seeing the film - until I sought them out today. The woman I asked - a painter who now tells me she had been to rural Tuscany - liked the film! (I really need to know that to be able to choose more films for them with any self-confidence.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Marshall Brooks 
in West Dover VT has self-published 
an illustrated 84pp trade-ppbk 
(USD$20, hardbound; USD$35 pre-pub.) 
Street Bibliography Essays 
one essay's on me:  
The Bill Free Library (pp 71-79) 

He publishes under the press-name: 
Arts End Books

Sunday, November 18, 2012


for Ginny

When you
with the crows
I loved you so;

now that you're gone  
(I don't know where)
they ask me about you.

(18 NOV 12, Santa Clara CA)    

Tuesday, October 2, 2012



For Ginny Zeitman

of my disappearance
are greatly exaggerated.
I know where I am.
So does my family.
So do people who see me,
sitting under a bo tree.

You may not recognize me,
but they do, embarassed
by what I'm doing.
I've done much worse;
I've starved myself.
Fortunately I stopped
before I died.

There's a lesson,
actually many lessons,
to be learned from this,
depending upon your
inclination to learn.

Learn this:
where you begin
may not be
where you finish.
It may look like it,
but then, it may not.

Simple enough?
I am beginning
to think so. You
may, too. Or not.
It's all up to you.

Are you listening?
I am. To you.

(19 SEP 12, Santa Clara CA)

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Virginia Hicken Zeitman turns 77 on 26 SEP
Pls. send a birthday card to her at her last known address:

Virginia Zeitman
Valley Village cottage 12D
390 N. Winchester Blvd.
Santa Clara CA 95050

He son Daniel Lee (50) says her mail will be forwarded to her - wherever she is. (He lives in San Franciso. )

Monday, August 27, 2012


Where has Daniel Lee Zeitman,, (415) 665-5166 put his mother Virginia Hicken Zeitman (76) in California? Fountain Valley, San Mateo, San Francisco? She's no longer at Valley Village in Santa Clara. If any of you know where Virginia Hicken Zeitman is now, post it as a comment below:

Carolin Combs: VOTES FOR SALE

 What’s your vote worth?

Approximately one pizza.  Small. 

All the recent public hand-wringing about the vote-swapping and vote-selling web sites got me wondering about the going rate for purchase of a single American vote.

I’ve checked out a couple of vote-swapping sites; the idea behind these sites is to get a third-party-leaning voter (usually Nader) in states where the presidential vote is very close to vote for one of the main candidates (usually Gore), in exchange for which a person in a state where the election is already over will vote for the third-party candidate.  In this way, the Greens are supposed to get 5% of the total vote, assuring them of matching funds in the next election cycle, and the a-vote-for-Nader-is-a-vote-for-Bush crowd get told to shut up. 

Have a look at Nader Trader or if you need more explanation.

This idea, that voters might swap their votes, is causing a certain amount of angst in the punditocracy.  Some sites have even been shut down.  However, there is absolutely no difference between this activity and the practice of “vote pairing” that goes on in every legislature in the country.  People discuss their votes.  No money changes hands.

But, in a poke-in-the-eye at the obscene fundraising requirements of political life, James Baumgartner, a fellow in upstate New York, started a vote auction site back in the summer. 

In an interview in Wired magazine, he explained his project thusly: "In the current election system, the voter is a product to be sold to the corporations. But they're being sold through this convoluted method of advertising, consultants, (and) traveling. Voteauction is making a more direct line -- the old cutting-out-the-middle-man approach."

Hey, if you can auction a kidney on e-bay, why not something more portable, like a vote?

In the same article, Jamin Raskin, a law professor at American University, takes Krumholz's reactions further. He noted that, for starters: "For someone to facilitate an exchange of money for a vote would in most jurisdictions constitute criminal conspiracy."

Then again, the reason we have this ridiculous campaign finance system is that in 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that when it comes to campaigns, money equals speech and therefore, political donations could not be restricted.  So, does money still equal speech if you give someone money for their vote?

Raskin went on to say that “…we have now evolved a system in which it's OK for money to buy elections, and yet we somehow cling to the fantasy that there's something deeply immoral about the purchase of an individual vote.”  Under the current system, there are lots of entities that make good money on the election, and none of them are the voter.

The Voteauction idea is that blocs of votes by state will be auctioned off, probably to organizations. The total pot for each state would then be split among the registered vote auctioners for that state, and the winning bidder would cast the purchased ballots however he wished.  Obviously, no candidate would touch this setup.  At least not with his own fingers.

Now, let’s talk money.  As of early September on Voteauction, a couple of Kansans were getting $100 bids for their votes.  As with so many e-bay auctions, this is waaay over actual retail.

I figured it this way: according to, the total funding available to the big 5 presidential candidates, from both private and public sources, comes to about $525 million.  Looking back at the 1996 election, about 96 million people voted.  Predictions are that even fewer may vote this time.  You can do the math – if the candidates spend the whole $525 million, each vote will have cost an average of $5.50. 

A small pizza.  Enjoy your dinner.  Hold out for more next time.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Billy, back in Lynn

 to Jane L. Falk

It may not surprise you that in tribal communities like Lynn MA (fund. 1629 CE)  disparaging familiarity is extended to the returnee because everyone assumes that nobody ever visits Lynn except failed returnees - who are immediately surreptitiously asked: "What are you doing here?" (presumably defeated by life, forced back home to live in failure.)

Lynners (living in Lynn, or migrated elsewhere), always call me Billy because my father Bill, Sr. was very well known when I was growing up (1942-63.)  He probably still is, no matter what I've done since, or ever will do.  As Billy, I'm conditionally welcome as his long emigrated son;  but while I'm away, Lynners probably say: 'What ever happened to Billy Costley? I heard he's a poet somewhere."

Tribal Irish often will ask you if you're really Irish if your name isn't like theirs. Costley's originally French (Costeley, in the Auvergne), then Scottish/English, then anglocolonial - USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, but any truly-tribal Irishman will immediately peg it as coming from Costello, cf. castellum bonum, = good [fortified] camp, source of city names Castille, Bonn, etc. Costley's long ago gone global, except back in Lynn.. Why, there are even Mormon Costleys!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

electric-blue eYes

Electric-blue eYes

Ryan's electric-blue eYes mesmerize
as he fanatically Aynrandizes.
Don't gaze into his electric-blue eYes!

(variant on The New Verse News Sun. 26 AUG 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Kaiser-Permanente appointment scheduling

Today my optometrist (O.D.) was 1 hour late...
for my appointment at Kaiser Homestead (Santa Clara CA), so when I finally found out from them how long it would actually take, I declined the appointment, asking for my money ($25 co-pay) back, and got it quickly by citing my having a van to catch back to my apt. complex. I also declined to reschedule, citing no confidence in the dept's on-line scheduling system or management, and refused all verbal apologies offered as irrelevant; I blame only the on-line scheduling system + dept. management, not the overworked O.D. or front-desk jockey, and told them so. Then I reported it on-line to Kaiser Member Services. Let's see what happens....

UPDATE:  Sat. 11 AUG 12 11am  I've just rec'd a phonecall from Member Services' Regina Celi (925) 924- 6944 who discussed my grievance with me; she will not log my grievance as against the O.D. but against management. We've agreed that I'm asking that my next co-pay ($25) be waived, and for $50 compensation for my time wasted.  Let's see what happens...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Carolin Combs: "A Bird Too Far"

        Local newspapers often have a feature out of the archives – a "50 Years Ago Today" feature that takes up the ad space that didn’t sell.  I just read one that blew me away. ~ Carolin

It’s 1949.  Imagine, if you will, a young married couple “vacationing” at the in-laws’ house; the in-laws themselves are out of town.  Maybe they’ve gone down to New York to catch something at the Met.  The young couple must live near enough to drop by for a restful weekend.  Mom and Dad catch a Friday afternoon train for the city.  Junior and his bride see them off.  Dare they sleep in the adults’ bed?

Come Sunday morning, all hell breaks loose in Leave-It-To-Beaver-Land.  Junior tells the police that he was awakened early Sunday morning “by what sounded like someone making breakfast downstairs.”  Junior is a gallant fellow in this story, and he tiptoes downstairs to investigate.  He is probably armed with his old baseball bat, because he and his bride are sleeping in his room.  He couldn’t take Mom and Dad’s bed. 

The moment he opens the kitchen door “something with wings whooshed past his head and up the stairs.” It happened so quickly that he couldn’t identify the animal.  More on this later, but what do you suppose this miscreant animal was doing in the kitchen?  It was trashing the kitchen.  That’s right, this winged beast left “a mass of broken glass, chinaware and blood.”  The beast flew into the living room and beat itself against the walls. Eventually, Junior got the critter to leave by the front door.

I’m sure you’ve noticed, as I have, that there are a few inconsistencies in Junior’s account of the attack of the house-trashing bird.  First of all, “something with wings” whooshed by his head, yet he could not identify the animal.  Okay, well, it had wings.  That sounds like a bird.  If it had whooshed any closer, perhaps it would have imbedded itself in his skull, so he could take a closer look.

This creature left a bloody mess in the kitchen.  Hitchcock notwithstanding, how many birds do you think it would take to break the dishes?  And the crystal?  And bleed all over them?  Junior does not say whether the bird was also trying to make off with the silver.  Later in the day (remember, this is Sunday morning), Junior and Mrs. Junior repeat this tale for the neighbors.  These credulous neighbors have known Junior all his life, yet they still believe him.  Even at this distance, you can hear the sympathetic clucking of tongues by good-hearted people.  Perhaps he shows them the remains of the mess in the kitchen, the dents in the living room wall.  They rally to his cause.  A duck, they proclaim.  A wild duck fell down the chimney.

Duck?  How about a swan with a shotgun?  Ah, well, there was no bird, was there?  Mom and Dad left a full liquor cabinet. Junior and Mrs. Junior had a few friends over on Saturday night.  Some of Junior’s insufferable prep-school pals with names like Chip and Spin and Poppet and their Aryan-from-Darien wives.  Everybody had too much to drink.  Somebody threw up in the kitchen wastebasket.  Spin and Poppet got into a fistfight.  Poppet’s nose started to bleed.  Spin fell into the crystal cabinet and the good French stuff came down on him like a fine rain.

Junior took advantage of the scene to make a move on Chip’s wife in the living room.  He ran a hand up her leg and made eyes at her.  His fantasy was interrupted when a heavy vase whooshed past him and left a dent in the plaster wall, where dry bits fell away from the lath.  Mrs. Junior saw the whole thing.  She threw the vase.  She picked up an ashtray.  Mrs. Chip jumped off the sofa and ran barefoot into the night.  Junior fainted.

Mr. and Mrs. Junior did not realize how much trouble they were in when they came to, groggy and hungover on Sunday morning.  Only Junior’s first trip down the stair would reveal the totality of the devastation.  Crystal and blood in the kitchen, sick in the trash can, holes in the living room wall, a terrible smell everywhere.  Oh, the despair.  How would he explain this to Mummy?

Um, a bird.  A really big bird.  Junior isn’t overly bright, but he can lie with the best of them.  His dehydrated brain is trying very hard to come up with a story at the bounds of plausibility.  Yes, a really big bird got in the house.  Trapped in the kitchen, in fact.  It was making a lot of noise.  It woke him up.

“Oh My Gawd,” Mrs. Junior says, surveying the damage from a safe distance.

“Shh, I’m working on it,” he assures her.  “It was a bird.  A dangerous bird.  It was trapped in here.”

“We shooed it out the window?” she offers.

“No, we can’t open the windows.  We shooed it out the front door.  I heard a noise and I came downstairs to investigate and it flew right past me when I opened the kitchen door.”

“Mmm, well, that takes care of the kitchen,” she says, “but what about the living room walls?”

“The bird again!” he says in triumph.  “It flew around the living room.  It hit the walls.  It was crazed.”

“Nobody will ever buy this story,” she says.  “Your parents will disown us.”

“Bet?” he says.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Carolin Combs: "Inheritance"

by C.J. Combs

            Grandfather was a tall, beaky man with translucent skin whose preferred costume was a dinner jacket and white tie.  He refused to call it a tuxedo.  "Tuxedo is a place," he would snarl.  Mother always said that he felt most like a man in his evening clothes.  She didn't say what he felt like the rest of the time.
            I have a snapshot of my grandparents taken sometime in the lost twenties.  It was a dancing evening, maybe a private ball. Grandmother looks like a Reubens portrait in her glowing satin dress.  The camera captures the contrast between Grandfather's purposeful dark eyes, brooding under a heavy brow, and the glowing pearl studs down his front.
            Grandfather became a rich man in the Yankee tradition: he inherited a lot of money.  Black Friday didn't make him poor, but he took it as a personal insult.  The strain wore on him.  He dressed for the office as usual each morning, singing to himself as he danced alone before a full-length mirror.  But then he might suddenly change his mind midway through and dress for golf instead.  He took to wandering Park Avenue in his golf knickers and house slippers, grasping the lapels of passersby and mumbling rude slogans about Jewish bankers.  The family knew something was wrong because Grandfather was a fastidious man and would not wear his golf clothes in town.
            They found a private asylum on Long Island with a bland, tranquil name that suggested a holiday destination.  Grandfather went along without evident distress.  His condition and location were never mentioned in public.
            Years later, Mother would tuck a stray hair into her chignon and wistfully say that they all missed the Depression.  She spoke as if it were a cotillion for which she had not received an invitation, or a long, slow train, pulling out of Grand Central, leaving them waving from the platform.  Except for Grandfather's absence, life went on as usual.  The maids lived in, the silver was polished, and the family decamped to the Adirondack lodge each July.
            Mother visited Grandfather regularly with treats from the Swedish bakery and neighborhood gossip.  She remarked that he was improving his mind.
            "That's the point, isn't it?" said Pearson, whisky at his elbow, his face frozen in concentration as he buffed his nails.  "I mean, we're paying them all that money to improve his mind."
            "No, silly, he's studying.  Brushing up on his German.  He's awfully keen on languages at the moment."
            Grandmother pulled a linen handkerchief from her sleeve and fanned herself slowly. "Ah, Berlin," she reminisced to herself.  "'21, wasn't it?  And Leipzig.  All very nice.  He liked the naked ladies best, you know."
            Mother and Pearson looked at each other.  Grandmother was probably dotty too, but they couldn't see having both parents in the asylum.
            "He's asked me to bring him some German books from his library.  He gave me a list."  Mother showed it to Pearson.  "Do you think those are all right?  They won't excite him, will they?"
            Pearson held the list over his head so he could read it with his head tilted fully back as he drained the last vapors from his glass.
            "Nietzsche, Goethe, Mann; sounds like a pork butchers' club if you ask me."

            Grandfather's fascination with Hitler dated to sometime in '37, when he suddenly demanded a copy of Mein Kampf.  He had read about it in some foreign newspaper and insisted that he must have it.  Mother conveyed the order to Pearson and they looked at each other hopelessly.  In what may have been the first and last bright idea of his life, Pearson ran to Schweim the butcher and bought his copy.  Schweim noted his approval by throwing in a package of liver sausage.
            Grandfather, in his not-quite-sane condition, was delighted to find a thinker like himself in Herr Hitler.  He hated the New Dealers like the spawn of Satan, and supported anyone that Roosevelt was against.  He began to write friendly letters to Hitler from the asylum.  Most of them never went any further than the staff room at the asylum.
            His one-sided correspondence went unremarked until the FBI came calling, sometime early in the war.
            "Oafish little men," Mother said.
            Someone at the asylum thought Grandfather was a spy.  The G-men waved a stack of Grandfather's recent letters at Mother, who assured them that her father was certainly insane, probably battier than Herr Hitler’s entire staff, and no threat to anyone’s war effort.
            "Father has gone quite off the deep end," she reported to Grandmother, "and it's a good thing that Hitler fellow never wrote back."
            The whole episode might have languished in family history if Mother hadn't been the one to empty Grandfather's room after he died.  She brought his books and papers home and left them in the library, where I found them.  I spent many snowy afternoons of childhood in the library, nestled among tapestry-covered pillows, turning the pages of books I couldn't read.  There was an illustrated Dickens that I never tired of, and a tiny edition of Jane Eyre with delicate line drawings.  I don't know how I came upon the shelf of Grandfather's books, but I returned to them again and again.
            I loved Mein Kampf because opening it called forth all the smells of Grandfather. Imbedded in the pages were his good Havanas, the cologne that reminded me of marzipan-covered fruitcake, and his lightly citrus hair oil, bought from an Italian barber on Staten Island.  The black, gothic script was sharp and unfaded.
            When I began to study German at school, I moved Grandfather's books into my bedroom, hoping that their proximity to my head would cause their contents to seep into my brain during the night.
            My father, who was none too impressed with the level of sanity in my mother's family, watched doubtfully as I pored over Mein Kampf at the breakfast table.  Hitler might have been my grandfather's imaginary pen pal, but he was my father's blood enemy.  His memories of North Africa were still fresh.
            "He's only a boy, dear.  He'll tire of it," was Mother's soothing explanation.
            "I suppose we should be glad your father didn't write to Stalin," Father observed archly.
            A group of us at school formed a secret Hitler fan club.  We delighted in shocking adults by decorating things with swastikas.  This activity was much more interesting than the pursuit of girls to shy and sheltered boys like us.  In the rarefied atmosphere of a sedate and expensive school, it was about the naughtiest thing we could do.
            Piggy, the janitor, finally caught Ted and me drawing swastikas on the bathroom wall.  Piggy was a large, red-faced man with a booming voice and a southern drawl whose belly overhung his belt like a bowling ball in a sack.  He was angry.  He scowled at us and his color deepened.  We dropped our markers in panic.  He yanked us by the belts and marched us to the Headmaster, who gave us detention and said that notes would be sent to our parents.
            We served our detention by following Piggy on his rounds.  He made us wash chalkboards, sweep, and empty wastebaskets in the classrooms.  Our larger trial lay ahead.  We followed him into the bathroom.
            "Swab the head," he growled.
            "Excuse me?" Ted answered.
            "Wash the toilets."
            Ted drew the line there.
            "Absolutely not," he said, his voice breaking.  "My parents would be extremely angry."
            Before he could finish, Piggy picked him up and dunked him headfirst into the nearest toilet.  I nearly wet my trousers in sympathetic dread.  Ted's hair dripped onto his shirt.
            "You'll scrub 'em with your tongue if I say so.  Now git a move on."
            We scrubbed in terrified silence.  Piggy leaned against the wall, picking his teeth with a penknife.  When we finished, he motioned us to follow him to his home in the basement.
            Piggy lived at the school in a large room beside the boiler.  There were no sexy pinups on his walls; only a saccharine pastel print of Jesus with the children.  He had an iron cot, a radio, a hot plate, and a table.  He pulled a heavy footlocker into the middle of the room.
            "Boys, there's something I want to show you," he growled.  He sat on the cot with a wooden box in his lap.  Inside, several ribboned medals nestled on a piece of velvet.  Ted's eyes widened and he drew in a whistle.
            "What did you get those for?" he asked in admiration.
            Piggy looked into the distance and grinned serenely.
            "Killin' Nazis."
            Ted forgot about our club.  "Wow!  How many?"
            Piggy shrugged.  "Maybe a hundred.  Maybe more."
            Ted and I looked at each other.  Piggy snapped the box shut and we jumped out of our skins.  His serene grin was gone.
            "Killin' one or two more wouldn't bother me," he said softly.
            Well, that was the end of the club.  Mein Kampf went back on the shelf.  We took an interest in girls.  Ted joined the Air Force.  I have a normal life and my share of the inheritance.  I put Grandfather's obsessions behind me.
            But there are times...evenings when the house is quiet and I'm alone in front of the TV with a smoky scotch, I'll flip past a black and white war movie with strong-jawed Nazis in black coats and damned if I don’t get the faintest frisson of sweet nostalgia.  I suppose that sensation comes to other men from having been Boy Scouts.
            It never lasts more than the blink of an eye because I know that there are men out there, men my father's age who may be mailmen or bartenders or cab drivers, men who lead ordinary lives; men it wouldn't bother to kill one or two more.