The Sentient Sheep Baas for the last time
Saturday, August 27, 2016
It was in 1957 that Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. explained to us, in the
Austin, Texas, boarding school St. Ed’s the Roman Catholic view on where
man (as a sentient being and of both sexes) stood in the progression of
life from simple to complicated, which in the end as Brother Edwin
explained it became the opposite, complicated to simple.
In what was obviously an adaptation of Darwin’s Evolution,
Brother Edwin told us of atoms, molecules, inorganic molecules, organic
molecules and cells that were able to perform mitosis (split and reproduce).
From simple organisms he took us to viruses, bacteria, germs, plants and “upwards”
in what he described as an ever more complexification. At some point an ape,
through the intersession of God became a human being able to think and to be
aware of its personal existence and to differentiate between good and evil.
From humans he took us “upwards” to angels (several levels
of them) that were no longer that human blend of body and spirit, but pure
spirit. And from angels we arrived at the purest of all spirits, God.
We of course questioned Brother Edwin if cats and dogs had
souls. We enquired if there was a difference between spirit and soul. His
answers were good but never controversial. It satisfied us at the time.
A couple of weeks before Brother Edwin died I wanted to ask
him again those questions of so many years before. But I thought it best to
keep them to myself as all of us have to ultimately face the question on our
The word sentient translates to an ability of an entity
to feel and to perceive. In Spanish the word is sensible or to feel with senses.
Since Plata my female cat died five months ago I have given the
word sentient much thought. Since my friend Mark Budgen died last year I have
thought a lot about not being sentient anymore, about being non-feeling, about
Last week we visited our daughter Ale in Lillooet. Her
neighbour had a female sheep that she kept in a large covered pen (very hot)
and attached to a rope. It did a lot of baaing, particularly when we walked to
the fence where she was or when we talked in the garden. Ale told us that the
sheep at one time had been around children and was used to them. She told us
that most people who have sheep have at least three and that sheep are social
animals. When the owner of the sheep arrived in the afternoon she would let the
sheep out to graze on the rest of her large property. We felt better that the
sheep had a bit more freedom. When it baaed during the day we fed it fresh
grass through the fence. Its baaing went straight to my soul (Brother Edwin, soul
or spirit?). I felt sorry for the sheep particularly as I had seen it and
looked into her eyes. Was she sentient? Could she think in some rudimentary
Today, August 27th is my Ale’s 48th birthday. We called and she told us that in the morning her cat, Banjo was very
upset. He went out into the garden. It was then that Ale realized that the
sheep was being slaughtered.
I eat beef, I eat chicken, pork, because I never gaze into the
eyes of the cows, chickens and pigs (or know their names) that I happen to consume. How much longer before I become an Argentine
vegetarian (an oxymoron if I have ever heard of one)? Perhaps I felt especially sad about the sheep as I don't like mutton or lamb.
I feel grief for the sheep and I miss my cat Plata. I
have the pleasure of Casi-Casi at the end of our bed.
Is he sentient?
¡Cuidado con el perro!
Friday, August 26, 2016
Today, it seems by the posting of dog photos on Facebook, is
International Dog Day. Few if any of the dog photo postings have any information
attached to them. In this 21st century photographs do away with the erstwhile
One exception was a lovely painting of a dog by my friend
Kitty Blandy Davies that has a sorry story to it (nothing happened to the
I have also posted here a photograph of a dog, a scary one.
It brings to mind my youth in Buenos Aires and in Mexico.
In Buenos Aires, when I was under 10, I noticed we had to
suddenly come in from the street (where we often played) because someone had
noticed a band of gypsies going from door to door wanting to read fortunes. We
were told they robbed children. We scurried inside.
In Mexico often a mother (not my mother) would tell
children to watch out for the dog as they were evil and they would bite you if
you did not behave. I saw a generation of older children and adults who were
collectively afraid of dogs because of that ill childhood training.
We always had dogs including a Siberian Husky
city who never barked but howled during full moons. He was a gentle dog. If we
never had a dog in Vancouver it has been because of our extensive garden which
a dog would destroy.
|Rusty and I|
But I had a female cat, Plata (she died five months ago a
few days before we moved to Kitsilano and she is buried here in our smaller
garden) who walked around the block with us. Oriental immigrants would point
with wonder at our walking dog. I would then in jest (I wonder if any ever
believed me) tell them, “Not cat. Dog that looks like cat.”
Zapatitos de Charol
Thursday, August 25, 2016
ZAPATITOS DE CHAROL. Letra de Ruiz de Alagra
Musica de Fernández Boixader
Por ser tan bonitos aquellos zapatos,
fue solo tenerlos pasión de mi vida.
Por eso al decirme pues son muy baratos
los compramos nena, los quise enseguida.
Le dije a mi madre yo no sé, quedito
porque no supiera de aquel devaneo
y fui por la calle luciendo el palmito
rompiendo la acera con mi taconeo.
Zapatitos cintureros recortados
zapatitos relucientes como el sol
por bonitos cuanta envidia han despertado
mis zapatos, escotados de charol.
Después no quisiera tener que acordarme
un día me dijo: yo sé que eres buena
pero yo contigo no puedo casarme
eso es imposible, compréndelo nena.
Lo dijo sin darle ninguna importancia
tranquilo, sereno, sin otro detalle.
Se fue, le vi lejos, a mucha distancia
y yo quedé sola, llorando, llorando en la calle
Zapatitos por el uso destrozados
ya no brillan cual brillaban con el sol
con el fango de la calle se han manchado
con el fango de mi vida, se manchó.
Zapatitos de charol - Libertad Lamarque
Rubén Derlis - Coghlan - Colectivo 219
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
|Rubén Derlis in Coghlan|
One of the charms of getting old is that if one loses some
of one’s inhibitions one can make new friends. That has been my case. One of
these newish friends is an avowed Stalinist who cultivates his moustache so he
can look like his Soviet inspiration.
His name is Rubén Derlis. He used to be an editor of one of
the better Buenos Aires newspapers, El Clarín
. Rubén Derlis is now retired and
he publishes many (as in many!) books of poetry.
Since he is a porteño, a Buenos Aires-born man his poems are
all about costumbrismo. This is a
word that Argentines use to describe that most peculiar talent of Argentines to
compose music, write novels, short stories and poems that are about Buenos
For anybody who no longer lives in his place of birth
(Buenos Aires and that’s me) Borges,Cortázar any tango but especially Piazzolla
tangos is to live in remembering those memories of my past that I have not
forgotten (a Borgesian way of explaining it).
What makes Rubén Derlis especially notable to me is that he
is passionately in love with his Buenos Aires barrio of Coghlan, the very
barrio of my youth. In April of this year I met up with Derlis at a café (near
Coghlan on Cabildo) where he handed me the lovely book on poetry inspired by
his more than 40 year life in our barrio.
Mexico City has its colonias
There is Colonia Polanco, Colonia Las Lomas de Chapultepec and so on. In other
Latin American cities these parcels or sections of a city are called barrios.
I believe that since our
Vancouver is a smaller city in comparison to Buenos Aires and Mexico City, our
neighbourhoods, Kitsilano, the Westside, Marpole, etc may be also smaller in
size and may be really about that area in close proximity to where you live.
Buenos Aires which when it began was so small that the only
direction was South is my poor translation of Derlis’s:
Cuando Buenos Aires se fundó
era tan pequeña que solo tenía sur.
Friso Porteño – 2012
What is unique about the barrios of Buenos Aires is that
many of them are named after the train stations that traians went to on their way to the outskirts of the city. The
British built the Buenos Aires train system.
Of Coghlan Coghlan historian Alfredo Noceti wrote:
De apellido irlandés y alma porteña
vive apartado del “mundanal ruido”,
Quizás alguno diga: adormecido,
Pero Coghlan no duerme, sino ensueña
Of an Irish surname
and a porteño soul
it lives separate
from the mundane noise,
would say: slumbering,
but Coghlan does
not sleep, it dreams.
I will not attempt to translate Derlis’s nostalgic poems
about Coghlan in which he describes with extreme sadness its very disappearance
(the memories of his past, that is) but here is one of my faves, Colectivo 219
which is all about a now
extinct bus and its bus route.
No tomarás el 219 en Pinto y Pedraza
-ya ni ese número es-,
sólo tu entonces puede hacerlo.
Es un colectivo invisible y lunático:
dobla por Freire,
se aleja hacia Monroe,
cruza el angosto puente,
baja por Superí hacia Los Incas,
y más no sé,
en un recorrido imposible,
a contramano por las mismas calles,
cuarenta años ayer.
De tarde en tarde,
un fantasma sesentista, nostálgico, asciende a
en un viaje a sí mismo,
hasta un antes perdido en el tiempo,
My Gun is Quick
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Even though I was born in Buenos Aires and lived in Mexico for many years, my formative years happened in Austin,Texas. It was there in the late 50s at St. Edward's High School that I experienced an American Life that I bet Mr. Trump wants to bring back. Our boarding school accepted day students and yet we had only one black student, Richard Mosby.
I witnessed pretty blonde Texan girls in bobby socks and roller skates at hamburger joints. I listened to Bill Black's Combo on the steak house across the street from the school on Congress Avenue. I fell for Eva Marie Saint in Raintree County
at the Varsity Theatre and had a cherry coke float next door at the Austin Hotel Drugstore.
I listened to KTBC Radio and learned to like instrumental music by the Ventures and recognized the talent of Conway Twitty. I had sophisticated classmates who liked Shelley Berman and read Road & Track.
We listened to Amos 'n' Andy in the evenings and our Catholic Trinity was a foursome with the addition of Walter Cronkite.
But the bulk of my American nature (I have a lot of that) came from the TV programs we watched. Our favourite was the then very violent Have Gun Will Travel
but also Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer
with Darren McGavin. It is interesting for me to point out the difference in generations that my daughter Hilary knows of McGavin from his portrayal of the father in A Christmas Story.
The woman inside was important now. Perhaps the most
important in the world. What she knew would help destroy an enemy when she told
it. My hands in my pockets balled into hard knots to keep from shaking and for
a moment the throbbing ache of the welts and cuts that laced my skin stopped.
Even in that pale light I could see that she was more
beautiful than ever, the black shadow of her hair framing a face I had seen
every night in the misery of sleep for so long. Those deep brown eyes still had
that hungry look when they watched mine and the lush fullness of her mouth
glistened with a damp warmth of invitation.
Mickey Spillane – The Snake - 1964
Monday, August 22, 2016
By Maya Angelou
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Selfies At The Met
Sunday, August 21, 2016
The rabid proliferation of the selfie (and particularly the
awful wide angle phone ones) in social media makes me cringe but I don’t rant
about them and I keep out of discussions..
I am particularly incensed by the ones posted by women who
are not 20 and have not been so for decades. These photographs show no skin
pores and the result exceeds the early Photoshop method tool called Diffuse Glow.
Worst of all are the comments: “You still look lovely!” or “How do you manage
to look young?” If I were any of those women reading those comments about myself I would
immediately go to the kitchen and perform an instant seppuku.
There are some men whose only posted photographs are
constant new ones (all terrible) of themselves.
The opera-diva practice of posting photographs of what one
looked like many (many) years ago makes it inevitable that soon all
relationships and even sex will be of the virtual variety. Nobody will want to
be seen as one is.
The above is but an overture to place here some selfies from
the Met that I took in the mid to late 80s.
I do not look like that at all anymore. I simply like the
choices I made and wonder why I skipped my fave The Abduction of the Sabine
Women by Nicolas Poussin.