At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


It is only recently dawned on me that my habits worried my father. Though he hid it very well. By my mid-teens I was a confirmed pipe-smoker, reading Simenon, Kipling, and Nabokov. That last must've taken the cake. Most of Nabokov's settings and characters suggest matured and fermented depravity. My dad must have wondered whether I intended to make these men my models.

Certainly my discretion about my private life, and lack of evidence of any amorous interests, would have supported that supposition.

[In actuality, I was quite as heterandous as all teenagers, which I still am. But one must keep manifestations of such things firmly under wraps. Society does not benefit from public displays of hormonalist behavior.]

He need not have worried. After devouring four decades-worth of National Geographic Magazines, I entered Nabokov's world as an anthropologist. The mis-steps of Lolita and Ada were titillating, yes, but quite the most likable character was Pnin (the name sounds like a small explosion, or a sneeze), who taught Slavic Languages at a small East-Coast college. Timofey Pavlovich Pnin was a mature individual, whose life was marked by exile and discommunication. A young man with American English as a native language, isolated in a small town out in the Brabantine hinterland, surrounded by people with smaller and more monochromatic horizons, could empathize.

Those tight horizons were largely due to different reading material. My parents had a vast library, most of which was in English. My struggle with my high-school teachers was compounded as much by lively stubbornness from both sides as it was founded on entirely different literary backgrounds.

I still like professor Pnin. He would have felt quite out-of-place in the modern Bay Area. Having lived here for a long time, I have more-or-less acclimatized, but though he adapted to the United States, the Bay Area takes a leap of insanity to master.
He would have failed.

The city itself is fine. San Francisco has entrancing peculiarities, and there may be something in the water that spurs mental growth.
But the suburbs are almighty ghastly, and describing Oakland as a foetid non-place in between perdition and the Styx would be mild.
Berkeley, though charming physically, is filled with pretentiously opinionated pustules who are usually wrong about everything, and everything beyond Oakland and Berkeley shares their flaws, besides resembling all the places and societies where The Housewives Of come from. Outside from the centre, there is little culture, and what there is, is puerile.
We are less deep than we puff ourselves.

What San Francisco lacks is crows. Any place that has lots of crows cannot be all bad. Crows have personalities. They are intelligent, confident, curious, and eccentric.

Marin City, which is otherwise a pit, has a colony of crows. They live between the exercise fields and the shopping mall, feasting in early morning on the garbage from the chain restaurants and family stores. The tall grass along the freeway shelters small animals that expand their diet, the junk food chains unknowingly provide greasy scraps of excitement; glittering globs of rancid fat among the styrofoam.

I suspect that the crows in the bay Area are getting more intelligent. Evolutionary selection playing a strong hand in the survival of the clever individuals, thus enabling them to contribute more to the gene pool. Kind of the reverse of what is happening with the human population here. Eventually their talent for tool-use (well-documented at this point) will grow, and the little feathered thugs will figure out latches, locks, and cat doors.

No, Marin City is not civilization. But Marin County, like all suburbs, is hospitable to wildlife. Of which I wish there were more.

For reasons which I do not understand, seeing corvids reminds me of forgotten verbograms, bubbling back after a long absence. Nictitating. Pendule. Obfusc. Aureole. Pediment. Patella. Gladiolus. Muliebre. Secund. Myristica. Kepulauan. Kiss me, you fool. Tagus. Nysa. Oleaginous. Indehiscent. Lobule. PlastuĊ›. Attraction. Hispid.
Strange glittering hoard-words among the falling leaves.
My memory, speaking in tongues.
It babbles.

Like all youngsters I was fascinated by secret knowledge; the entries in the encyclopaedia which my father kept in the room behind the hayloft, where over the course of several years I devoured data about engineering, explosive devices, illicit substances, human reproduction, the fertile cycle and its wax and wane, vehicular transportation, projectiles, liquids, and tactile sensations. This was before the discovery of Voltaire, several English authors, and expatriate scribblers.

Somewhere in those years, I also absorbed Netherlandish literature. Upon returning to the States, I spent hours in the university library compulsively rereading that material, in an attempt to regain places and words that had become so far away. By the side of the road were other writers, whose glittering treasure enchanted and embraced.
That, naturally, made me collect dictionaries.
Of which I have a few.

I fear I have not read the right stuff. At times my allusions confuse my conversationalists, as if I'm malforming material with which they assume they must be acquainted, at other times they stare with bemused good humour at the utterant. The train schedule I consulted has proven somewhat outdated.

I do not need another ticket. The destination is less important than the journey. And there are fascinating places along the way, teeming with creatures which are intelligent, confident, curious, and eccentric.
This is the Bay Area; it's all about garbage and glittery stuff.

I very much like the crows.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


  • At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've never seen the word "heterandous" before, and a google search results in your blog post, and something else referring to said post. Did you just make the word up?

  • At 1:24 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…


    Heterosexual, with the same slant as "infandous". A portmanteau.


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