Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Blood and Sand by Paul Delgado

 Blood and Sand

Paul Delgado

When I was thirteen, I wanted to be a Matador.

I must have read I’ll Dress You in Mourning by Dominique La Pierre a dozen times.

I was fascinated by the drama and spectacle of “La Corrida”…the bullfight.

Manuel Benitez, “El Cordobes”, was my hero. He was a young kid from a poor

neighborhood in Andalusia and became the greatest matador in history.

I remember when my grandparents told me about Manolete, a famous Torero in

the forties, and about the great Conchita Citron, a fearless woman who fought on

horseback in the fifties. The images were captivating, and I knew I was destined

for glory in the bullring.

I had posters of the great matadors in my bedroom and even built a small carreta,

a contraption with horns mounted atop a frame with a bicycle wheel to imitate a

bull. I would have my little brother charge at me in the driveway for hours.

My wonderful Aunties, Tere and Lucy, even bought me a matador’s cape from

Mexico. Day in and Day out that summer I practiced.

One day, for my birthday, my Uncle Benny and Aunt Alice took me to my first

official bullfight in the Plaza de Toros de Tijuana. Despite Tijuana’s image as a

reckless border town, it attracted big talent from Mexico City and even Espana.

My Uncle Benny indulged my dream and called me “El Californiano”.

“Someday you will be like El Cordobes and fight in Mexico City and Madrid!”

The “Cartel de Toreros” that Sunday was stellar. Joselito Huerta and the great

Jaime Bravo were featured. I was over the moon.

My Uncle and Aunt picked me up from our house in La Mirada about 10 AM and

we drove to Tijuana. Crossing the border was easy compared to the present day and

we went to one of my Uncle’s favorite restaurants where we had lunch.

We then drove to the new bullring by the sea on the outskirts of the city. To me, it

was spectacular. As we made our way through the crowds and past the many

food vendors, my uncle bought us delicious churros to snack on as we found our


All of a sudden, the sound of trumpets announced the entrance of the Matadors.

Dressed in their “suit of lights”, they strode into the arena with capes draped over

their shoulders. I was enthralled.

The trumpets sounded again and “el toro” burst in from the tunnel.

A magnificent animal…proud and strong…he charged around the ring…snorting

and daring anyone to challenge him.

Then from behind a wooden barricade in the arena, Joselito Huerta stepped out

onto the sand. It was a surrealistic moment. Everything I dreamed of was coming


Chants of Ole! Ole! resounded from the stands as Joselito performed magic with

his cape.

I saw myself just like him…performing dazzling displays of bravery and grace.

“I Will be El Californiano!” I told my Uncle. He smiled and said “yes, you will”

The trumpets sounded again and this time the matadors strode out with their

bandilleras…Brightly decorated short lances with pointed steel tips.

As the bull charged, they struck the bandilleras into the bull’s neck and the

streaming blood brushed against their suit of lights as they agilely spun away. The

crowd cheered.

I began to feel a little sorry for the bull, but this was “la corrida” and so far, it was

everything I dreamed of.

The trumpets sound again and the “Picadores” entered the arena with long

lances. Riding atop horses covered in padding, they charged the bull and rammed

their spears into the bull’s neck…Man oh man…gruesome is an

understatement…The idea is to weaken the bull’s neck muscles and lower his

neck for the matador to stab it for the kill.

The bull that day was strong and although bleeding profusely, he ferociously

charged the picador and gored the horse. The picador went down and the horse

was kicking and screaming on the ground. The other matadors ran out onto the

sand and distracted the bull so the picador could be carried off.

Then somebody from behind the parapet came out and shot the horse and a guy

with a team of dray horses from the tunnel appeared and dragged the dead horse


Oh man.

The trumpets began to play again and it was time for “La Muleta” the dance of

death.. Joselito Huerta was daring with his red cape and sword.

Ole!…Ole!…the stands reverberated.

But as he spun…the bull hooked him and tossed him like a rag doll in the air and

as he writhed on the ground the bull tried to gore him again.

Blood was everywhere.

The other matadors ran out to distract the bull and draw it away while the medics

carried him off on a stretcher.

Oh man!

Then the trumpets sounded again and Jaime Bravo, the next matador…steps onto

the bloodied sand in the arena.

The crowd erupts with a roaring cheer and applause.

The bull charges.… Pass after pass …the bull is captive to the magic of his cape.

And in the last phase of the dance of death…He strikes his sword into the bull’s


But it was not a clean kill…the sword is only in halfway…

The bull is coughing blood and struggling…An image from a bad slaughterhouse


The crowd starts to boo.

The bull staggers and falls but still is trying to stand.

Then all of a sudden, from the tunnel, a couple of guys walk into the arena and

shoot the bull in the head. Then a team of horses unceremoniously drags it out of

the arena.

The matadors then stride around the arena to a mix of cheers and boos.

Walking out of the bullring among the crowds, the sun was beginning to set on

the ocean, and I was lost in thought.

Man oh man

What an afternoon.

On the drive back to La Mirada I was quiet in the car.

My Uncle asked me what I thought of the day.

“Still want to be a matador?”

I looked out the window of the car as we passed San Juan Capistrano and replied,

I’m not so sure anymore Tio.

I think my bullfighting days are over.


Friday, March 15, 2024

Writer's Choice - Rick Thues

 Little Gidding (getting it done)

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always-
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

from Collected Poems 1909-1962 (Faber, 1974), by permission of the publisher, Faber & Faber Ltd.


you take a moment

and see nothing happening

except everything


Rick Thues

Friday, February 9, 2024

Confidence of a Clown

 Confidence of a Clown, by Ricki T Thues


I'm seven years old in second grade. I show up to class a week into the semester. There are three books under my arm which I put under my desk. I sit down. Miss Bagley is at her desk and stands up. She says, “OK class, is everyone ready to present the speech that you've prepared?


My jaw drops all the way to the floor. I think, “What speech? I don't even remember the assignment. I'm not prepared to speak. 


I look around myself and see the books that are under my desk. I notice that there are little differences in the books. I raise my hand to go first. I just want to get this nightmare over.


Miss Bagley says, “Okay Ricki, you start.”


I pick up the three books and I put them on my desk. Lifting the first book to show the class I say, “Books are put together all kinds of ways. All the pages of this one are glued.” I put it down and I pick up the next book. I say, “Some books are stapled like this one. It has staples that hold the papers on.” I put that one down. Glancing cautiously around I see the class is paying attention. With new confidence I pick up the third, spiral bound book and say, “Some books have these squiggly little things that circle around the edge.” I sit down.


The teacher says, “That was very good Ricki. Who is next?” I am sure she let me off easy with this brief speech since I volunteered to go first. I had the sense that if I didn't speak right away I was going to fail. The teacher’s compliment gives me a false sense of competency. The truth is I was just lucky in my first attempt at improvisation.


The next year in third grade I have a similar confidence. My parents have taught me how to write in script and that is the main topic of class today. I am already ahead of the rest of the class in reading, plus Miss Bondilee is the most boring teacher. Nobody likes her. She is pedantic and I am bored most of the time.


I turn to the girl next to me and stereotypically pull her pigtail. She screeches and the teacher busts me. “Stop that, Ricki. Don’t ever do that again.” Of course, a day or two later I do it again. I am fully into the class clown character.


The teacher has had enough of me. She turns a desk in the back of the class to face out the window. She sits me in the desk and says, “Look out the window until you decide to rejoin the class.” I think well, okay, great. There are cars going by and I just entertain myself for the next three months.


Miss Bondilee calls my mother and me into the principal's office.

“Ricki is not going to advance to the fourth grade,” the teacher says. ”He has done none of the work for the last three months.”

”How could that have happened?” asks my mother.

Miss Bondilee explains that I was isolated from the class and chose not to rejoin it. “Being a class clown seemed more important to him than doing the work.”


My mother looks over at the sheepish principal, then back at my teacher.

“You are going to give Ricki all the assignments that he has missed. I will monitor him to be sure that all the work is done. I assure you that I will not help him. He will learn the material.” Turning to the principal she adds, “If he completes the assignments will he advance to the fourth grade?” The principal glares at my teacher and nods to my mother.


I do complete all the work and hand it in with a week to spare. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done. My mother was relentless. I advance to the four grade with a confidence that I stole from my mother.


In fourth and fifth grade I discover the library. I read voraciously and become a very good student.


I find myself in the sixth grade in a class where the teacher is annoyingly dull. Mr. Wright has this nasty habit of twisting the ears of students who are acting up. It is his way of getting their attention. He is droning on and on about something that I already know. In fact, I have already read the book he is discussing. So, I turn around and I am twisting my ear at my buddy in the desk behind me, making fun of the teacher. My friend is giggling and then, suddenly the kids behind him start giggling. I am still twisting my ear when I feel my other ear getting twisted. I look up in horror to see my teacher with his fingers on my ear. It hurts.


Mr. Wright looks me straight in the eyes and says, “Rick, they're not laughing with you. They are laughing at you.”


That comment strikes me hard. I realized that being the class clown is not worth the reward. I will never play that role again.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Sticks and Stones by David Molina

 Sticks and Stones

I was thinking back to the earliest memory that I have. I think it was when I was three years old. It was in Ohio, and it is the only memory I have of Ohio. I was with my older brother Tony, who was eighteen months older than me and a head taller for most of my childhood. He marooned me inside a street sewer. Yes, he led me down into the sewer, then left me. And then he sashayed home. I'm in the sewer, and he's toddling back home, probably laughing at having ditched his younger kid brother once and for all, a goal that most older siblings often dream about but rarely succeed in accomplishing. That was my very first memory. I could go on and on about sibling rivalry, and probably could write an 800-page book on the topic. I would boil it down to this: Number Two always has to fight harder than Number One in order to survive.

The next memory is more vivid, the first one that I clearly remember. When our family moved from Ohio to San Bruno, we stayed in a little motel, an old-fashioned one with a bunch of old station wagons, including ours, parked next to the rooms. There were kids playing on the other side of the parking lot, and for whatever reason, Tony says, "Okay, let's get some rocks. We're gonna throw rocks at those kids." Okay, great! We start throwing rocks at them. We don't know these kids, we don't have anything against them, and they didn't have anything against us. Until we start throwing rocks at each other. But we were kids, and it was our guys against their guys. We're throwing rocks at them; they're throwing rocks at us. The parents are completely unaware of the battle raging outdoors. Luckily, no one was hurt.

The whole "Sticks and Stones" thing played a big part in my childhood. We had sticks, and we would fight other kids in the neighborhood with sticks, as well as stones. Every street other than our own was enemy territory.  We lived on Rushford Street, and around the corner was Lashburn Street. When you go around the corner, you are in no man's land, the disputed territory between our homelands. You have to be cautious because there are kids on the other side, and you're from the wrong street. We are like Palestinians and Israelis. We lived in Whittier, an otherwise placid and peaceful suburban area where years later my high school friends would come for poker parties. Fortunately, they got in and out without getting mugged or hit with sticks or stones. 

I remember the disputed no man's land between driveways where there was a big trash can filled to the brim with rocks. I don't know why someone had this big trash can filled with rocks. The adults, clueless as always, should have known better. As we Rushford kids come towards the driveways, we run smack dab into the Lashburn gang. We grab the rocks; they grab the rocks. We commence hurling salvos of rocks at each other. Then it escalates.

We also had a stockpile of sticks and we had a collection of old bicycle tire tubes.  Remember those Western-style fences with posts and rails? We took the inner tube, the big gigantic rubber band, and a gigantic stick, pulled it back, and launched it at the enemy. Someone could have gotten hurt (we were hoping that someone belonged to the Lashburn gang). But they were on their side, and we were defending our side. It was just common knowledge that they were on the other side and that it was standard procedure to throw rocks or hit them with sticks. We were constantly planning and participating in such battles.  It was just the natural thing that you did when you were a six-year-old boy.

This sounds like gangs, but we were only three feet tall and six years old. Children of the 1950s, we were influenced by the steady stream of cowboys and Indians TV shows and World War II combat movies. John Wayne and Gary Cooper were our heroes, our role models. We had a healthy diet of constant shooting, shooting, shooting. I remember we all owned Daisy air rifles--guns that popped loudly. Some would even puff smoke if you added oil. My parents wisely avoided BB guns, because that would have probably led to a generation of one-eyed elementary school kids. 

 None of my parents or relatives owned a gun. I think the only time I picked up a gun and shot a gun was when I was a scoutmaster at 40 years old. There was no gun culture in our lives, yet we had to throw things, and shoot things, and that was part of being a kid, a boy. I think it's because of the cultural influence of the movies.

We also had slingshots and berries. We'd take elastic belts, nail them to a foot-long piece of wood, and shoot each other. I remember my friend Bob Pryor coming towards me, pointing his gun at me. I pulled the elastic back as far as I could and let my stainberry fly. It hit him right on his nose. I laughed so hard because he was startled, looking cross-eyed at his stain-berried nose. 

But this was how it was, and I think it eventually carried on as we grew older. The famous Mater Dei midnight raid was an example of this Commando culture,  There was always the other side, which for no good reason we hate, and we're going to throw sticks and stones. All I can say is thank God that we were small little dweebs and weren't very strong or accurate with the sticks and stones. I'm very grateful - or lucky -  that we survived and didn't kill anybody.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Stuff by Dennis Watson


   Found a lot of scribbled notes from 2009 and 2014 – even mentioned the movie club guys as being the ones to work on it with — who knew?!

   I actually tried to impose some order in 2014 by numbering items just as they came to me, and it looked like this:

   1. What is Stuff?* Stuff defined – useful versus other? Useful: tools, cooking utensils, medical equipment, and many others. Not useful: Everything else?

   2. The burning house question and others – what do you take? What’s on your nightstand?

   3. Statistics – how much you spent on what? Clothes, TVs, computers, cameras, cars. This can go on for a long time.

   4. Toys— are toys stuff? Not toys like a Ferrari but think of some of the classic toys – yo-yos, jacks, a red rubber ball –

   5. Mementos— Photographs, traditionally – but now we have videos, movies, and the ubiquitous smartphone, which is everyone’s camera but doesn’t have anything you could hang on the wall yet –

   6. Stuff tests – are the things we can’t live without really stuff? Probably yes if it’s a kidney dialysis machine, but the complete collection of Barbie dolls or Star Wars Warriors still in their unopened boxes? We have to talk...

   7. The art of stuff— can stuff be art?

   I’ll spare you the rest of the list for now – it goes up to 26 – and leave you with my latest thought about Stuff—

   How many of us at one time or another in our lives (and maybe still) had that room or place where we put our Stuff that we didn’t know what to do with and where to put it. For me, it was the garage where I could store a lot of plastic bins—a lot—filled with Stuff. What, if any, are the psychological implications?

   I’m hoping Dave can create a Stuff bin for these miscellaneous observations to go into— thereby creating more digital stuff :-)

Friday, January 19, 2024

Stuff And The Cosmos By Mike Freeman

 Stuff And The Cosmos

By Mike Freeman

January, 2024

   “Stuff.” One of my favorite words in the English language. It is fun to pronounce, especially slow and hitting the “ff’s” hard. It is an often-used and flexible word with many meanings. For example, back in my graduate college days, I could move from one place to another with one carload of stuff using my VW Bug. The word “stuff” here is used in a collective sense which included my stereo, clothes, pots and pans plus treasured electric beer signs.

   Growing up in grade school, there were occasional fights between people and one person would kick “the stuff” out of the other. Not sure what the stuff that got kicked out is exactly or where it remains but it must be something bad for the “destuffed” person to lose. One time a girlfriend told me to “grab my stuff and get out of her life!” Stuff there meant my coat, a few beers out of the refrigerator, and a newly acquired picture showing me kissing another girl

at a recent party.

   For me, the most confusing meaning of the word "stuff” is when I receive feedback from people, mostly friends and family, saying I have issues or stuff I need to deal with. For example, I hear that I am stubborn (I prefer the word persistent), obsessed (how about the word focused?), immature (I think youthful), a poor listener (a discerning listener?), emotionally out of touch (I am thinking stoic), irresponsible (can we agree on carefree?), unethical (I like boundary tester) and selfish (let's call it selective sharer).

   All of this feedback or stuff would bother me if I didn't know and believe that God does not create junky people full of “stuff.” We are all unique in our talents, perceptions, experiences, personalities, and physical appearance. He has a plan for each of us to achieve 100% of our potential if we can discover and live it.

   Given this insight, I realize even God has junk! What about that asteroid belt circling around our solar system between Mars and Jupiter? It is a bunch of stuff including debris, minor planets, asteroids, and irregularly shaped objects. When God got done creating the universe did He just leave this mess for someone else to clean up? What is he going to do with these leftovers if there isn't enough to make one more planet? Is He like my teenage children in that He will get to it next after He is done doing whatever it is He is doing?

   There is an old joke in Africa that God made the wildebeest out of leftover animal body parts! I am sure God has a plan for that asteroid belt stuff too!

   God has stuff, I have stuff, you have stuff, everybody has stuff. Having stuff is part of existence. If we have stuff that means we are alive and living. That is a good thing and why stuff is so important.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Hot Time

It was a hot time in the old town that night.

One year for Thanksgiving my wife Paula challenged me to make a holiday feast.

I am a great fan of Racheal Ray, the TV cooking personality. One of her shows featured a one hour Turkey dinner. Perfect.

We invited 12 of our friends and relatives. The invitation read:

“You are cordially invited to a Thanksgiving feast. There is, however, a requirement to attend. Everyone will be the cook. Arrive by 3pm. We will eat at 5.”

The menu featured boneless turkey breasts. Myself and two guests were tasked with cooking the turkey. It was pan baked. I placed two breasts in each of two large cast iron skillets with salt and pepper. In a sauce pan someone combined and heated grainy mustard, maple syrup, and rosemary (from my garden). Chicken stock was poured into the frying pans and the maple rosemary glaze was poured over the turkey. Both skillets were placed in a 375° oven.

Meanwhile, the stuffing was to be Chipotle Cornbread. It was a traditional stuffing, except that instead of sage the recipe called for canned chipotle peppers. Three of our guests made the stuffing. One guest cubed the stale bread and chopped the onions, celery and garlic. It was also her job to chop the chipotle. The other two guests melted butter, prepared the frying pans and baking dishes and combined ingredients to be cooked. The stuffing was placed in the oven with the turkey.

While the turkey and stuffing were cooking two other of our guests boiled and mashed potatoes. They added melted butter, chives and garlic. Finally, a package of Boursin garlic and chives soft cheese was added. 

The whole mixture was stirred and warmed on the stovetop.

Half way through the turkey baking (30 minutes) I basted the turkey with the glaze in the skillets. Later, the gravy would be made from these drippings.

The stuffing came out of the oven a beautiful golden brown.

The turkey filled the house with a marvelous odor.

I sliced the turkey and placed it on a serving platter garnished with fruit.

Paula had made the salad. Others prepared fresh cranberry sauce.

The rest of the guests set the table. Some poured ice water and wine.

We were all seated for dinner just a hour and a half after we began cooking.

We served ourselves family style, piling turkey, maple rosemary gravy, fruit, stuffing, potatoes, cranberries and salad onto our plates. The event fell silent as everyone dug in.

From the far end of the table I heard a small moan. The exclamations rolled down the table toward me like a rogue ocean wave. People were waving at their mouths and reaching for their water. The words, “stuffing, hot, yikes, burning…” crested from the rumble and crashed onto my ears.

There was something wrong with the stuffing. I turned to the stuffing crew. They were even more distressed than the rest. The person who chopped the stuffing ingredients had a horrified look on her face.

“It’s the chipotle!” she said. “When reading the requirement for ‘one small canned chipotle pepper’, I must have seen ‘one small can of chipotle peppers’.”

Thankfully, when we recovered from the heat, we all forgave the cook and enjoyed the rest of the meal.


Blood and Sand by Paul Delgado

 Blood and Sand Paul Delgado When I was thirteen, I wanted to be a Matador. I must have read I’ll Dress You in Mourning by Dominique La Pier...