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The Sacred Cow

Vol. 5, No. 2, March 15, 1993

Dad sucked from plane!

Well, almost. And it was 41 years ago. [Hey, nobody can accuse us of being accurate or current (or relevant, for that matter)!]

Anyway, as a big corporate executive for McGraw Hill Publishers in 1952, Dad was flown 1st class from New York to Rio de Janeiro to join the rest of his family who had sailed there earlier that year. With a stopover on the island of Trinidad in the West Indies, the Boeing Stratocruiser continued on to Rio. This plane was designed with one main cabin and a lounge in the belly of the plane — a level below the main deck. It was in this lounge that Dad was lounging and enjoying the perks that came with being an executive. He was sitting very near the escape hatch for much of the way — reading magazines, flirting with the stewardesses and boning up on his inadequate "farm" Portuguese.

Well, nothing happened — with the stewardesses, or the plane — yet! After safely landing in Rio, however, where Dad joined his family, the plane continued on to Buenos Aires, Argentina. And somewhere between Rio and Buenos Aires, the very seat that Dad had occupied in the plane's lounge had its occupant sucked from the plane when the hatch flung open!

Call it fate, call it luck, call it "joss" or just call Dad (392-1048), but it seems that something very important must have been in the cards for Dad. Was it to raise 5 more kids? Win a pig-calling contest? Write a book? Meet Eleanor? Be President even? Well, all this has been accomplished. Yes, even President. Dad is a past president of Sacramento's Portuguese Historical & Cultural Society.

What then was his mission? We don't know. Why don't you ask Dad?

June gets doused (not soused)

Greg and June had one of their rare nights out recently. They went to a popular nightspot called Music City, owned by Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers. And, after paying their $5 cover charge, they sat down in front of the bar. Greg asked June if she wanted to move to a better spot, but she declined. So, Greg couldn't really be blamed for what was about to happen.

There was no band that night, but the disco music was good (if you can imagine), so they danced a few dances. June was surprised by how good of a slam dancer Greg was. Anyway, they had just returned to their seats when, suddenly, there was a crashing sound and June was drenched by flying drinks. Talk about madder than a wet hen! Of course, the waitress apologized profusely, but that didn't make it any less cold and wet.

June's first remark was, "This is dry-clean only!" The waitress offered to pay the cleaning bill. June said to Greg, "Let's get out of here!" So, after getting the waitress's cleaning offer down in writing, they left. But a few steps outside the door, June exclaimed, "I want my money back!" And she stormed back in and demanded a refund of their cover charge. The cashier asked, "How long have you been here?" to which June replied, "What difference does that make? I'm soaking wet." Perhaps realizing that discretion is the better part of valor, the bouncer told the cashier to refund June's money.

Wet and smelling like a brewery, but not defeated (because they're used to this sort of thing), Greg and June went home to shower and change. They donned cowboy duds and headed off to the Crazy Horse Saloon, where they spent the rest of the evening dodging the heels of cowboys and cowgirls (and maybe a few cows, judging by how it felt when their dodging was unsuccessful). Despite the sore toes, however, they ended up having a rip-roarin' good time.

Ties to Lisbon grow stronger

In his ever-expanding network of connections with Europe, Doug has established communication with his cousin Teresa Rocha Homem in Lisboa [Lisbon] via the computer network called INTERNET. Letters are sent and received the same day, making the world ever smaller. Just like a home address, those on the INTERNET have their own address. Doug's address is usually cost only 30 cents to send and receive. INTERNET is a computer network commonly found in universities and used by the faculty and researchers, but is not limited to only them. Teresa doesn't have her own address, but a colleague is letting her use his. The main difficulty is finding the address for those people you think you'd like to write to, such as anyone in Szeged University in Hungary - not far from Szarvas (the ancestral home of the Liska family).

Joining the computer service GEnie can give anyone access to INTERNET also. So far, Greg, Don, Doug & Bill have joined GEnie and send electronic letters almost daily to each other at no cost above the $4.95 monthly fee. Steve is getting close to joining and we're still waiting for Dad, Jeannie, Lucy and Mike to join. How 'bout you others out there? All you need is a computer and a modem. Just contact Doug or the others to help you get rolling.

Bill quits job

He lasted a year. That's almost a record for Bill. He will work as a temp until he finds another permanent job.

Our Cat "Conan"

by Don

Our cat, Conan, recently received the official title O.H. ("Our Hero") following his name. In official matters, he should now be referred to as Conan the Barbarian, O.H.

In front of witnesses, he beat up and chased off the big tomcat that had mistakenly thought of our house as his own territory. Because Conan is neutered, we were afraid the tough-looking tom, which is about Conan's size and seemingly afraid of nothing, would be too much for him. But Conan, after a few days to decide that the new house's yard was indeed his territory, disposed of the cat in a most business-like fashion, and the tomcat hasn't been seen since. Now we know why neighborhood cats over the years have tended to be scarce around our home.

This also answers a question that has bothered philosophers for years: Are Hayward cats a match for Nashville cats?

Dad on front page of New York Times!

Well, actually it was the front page of LusoAmericano, a weekly Portuguese-American newspaper printed in Hayward, CA. Also, on page 12 is a full-page write-up and photo of Dad hard at work on the next O Progresso newsletter (which, by they way, is being published once more by that well-known and loved company, "PortuCal Press," a Holmes & Holmes joint partnership - Lionel and Doug ).

The article (in Portuguese) is in an interview format with questions about the book "Portuguese Pioneers of Sacramento" (still available while supplies last!) and a little background of Dad's ancestry and past employment, such as Oakland Tribune editor. One mistake in the article states that Mr. Holmes's late wife was Mary Agnes Silveira, who of course is his mother, not his wife, and is still very much alive and well in San Leandro.

Considered an expert in his field now, apparently, Mr. Holmes has been asked to meet with President Clinton for consultation on Portuguese-American commerce and relations.


Devastating earthquake rocks Southland

by Bill Holmes

A powerful earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter Scale brought Southern California to its knees just before dawn yesterday. Hundreds of buildings in the greater Los Angeles area were completely destroyed, dozens more rendered uninhabitable. L.A.'s newly-completed MetroRail subway system collapsed in on itself. Virtually every freeway overpass has either collapsed or been made impassable. Electricity, gas and water services are out throughout most of the Southland. People are panicked in the streets. It is complete bedlam.

Meanwhile, in a quiet little neighborhood on the west side of town where nothing bad ever happens, there sits a man in his apartment, at his computer, completely oblivious to the chaos that has engulfed the city. Two reporters from The Times enter his apartment without knocking — because they're reporters, dammit, and have the right to do whatever they want in pursuit of a story — and they ask this man how he can be so calm in the midst of this natural disaster.

"What disaster?" the man asks.

"The earthquake," they say. "Surely, you felt it."

"Well," he says, taking a moment to scratch his butt. "I did feel something last night. But I thought it was just a bunch of fat people running up and down the stairs. They have a lot of fat people living here in the building, you know. So, it woke me up for a minute, but I went right back to sleep. So it was an earthquake, eh?"

"Yes," they say, having trouble believing this guy is for real. "It was a HUGE earthquake. The Big One! You must've at least heard about it."

"Television's not working for some reason," he says. "All I get is static. And the damned paper boy never delivered my paper this morning."

"We're with the newspaper," they tell him. "And we can tell you that there won't be any paper this morning. Might not be another paper for days."

"Damn!" he shouts. "What kinda outfit you running down there at The Times?"

"There's been an earthquake, you idiot!" they shout at him. "Are you completely insane? Have you looked out the window? It's complete chaos!"

"I've been too busy on the computer to notice what's going on outside," he says, agitated. "Now, if you don't mind, would you please get out of my house? I don't recall ever inviting you in, actually."

And that's when the reporters noticed that this man's computer was indeed working, as were his lights.

"How is it that your computer and your lights are working when the electricity is supposedly out throughout Southern California?" they ask.

"Well, it's obviously not out everywhere," he says. One of the reporters goes out into the common area of the apartment building and asks loudly if anyone's electricity is on. A chorus of "no's" from the other tenants was his answer.

"What program are you using there?" the other reporter points to the computer.

"Oh, just some computer bulletin board I belong to," the man says casually.

"Bulletin board? How can you be logged onto a computer bulletin board when the phone lines are down?"

"Well, obviously ..." he begins, but they finish his sentence for him: "... yeah, yeah, obviously not all the phone lines are down."

In the upper left corner of his computer screen is a 3-D multicolored logo. It's a hologram of a slowly spinning planet. And there is some strange-looking writing like hieroglyphics or something below the logo. Translated, it read "Planetary Council." But, of course, the reporters would have no way of knowing this.

"Can we use your phone?" one of the reporters asks.

"Not while I'm logged onto the bulletin board," the man replies.

"It's pretty important," says the reporter. "Yours is the first working phone we've had access to since leaving The Times building."

"'Fraid I can't let you do that."

"Why not?"

"Well, because that would break the connection," the man says.

"The bulletin board connection?"

"Yep."

"But it's really important that we use the phone!" they are shouting at him again. One of the reporters takes this as his cue to make a move toward the telephone, which is located on a little table on the other side of the room.

"I wouldn't do that if I was you," the man says to the reporter. The man is pointing a large-calibre gun at the reporter. Neither reporter is sure where the gun came from. They never noticed it before. But, there it was in his hand.

"Now just back away from the phone," the man says, gesturing with the gun. The reporter complies. "Now, I asked you once and I'm not going to ask you again. Get out of my house." He doesn't raise his voice. The gun in his hand makes that unnecessary.

The reporters left the man's apartment and made their way through the rubble of the earthquake's aftermath to the nearest police station to report this anomalous guy and the fact that all of his utilities seemed to be working while the rest of the county had no such luxury.

An hour or so later when the reporters and police returned to the apartment, however, the man was gone. In fact, not just he was gone, but the entire contents of the apartment were missing! The outer walls were still there, but the rest of the contents of the man's apartment were gone. Everything, that is, except the phone jack in the wall.

The police left in disgust, claiming they had better things to do than follow a couple of idiot reporters around.

Meanwhile, the "anomalous guy" was still at his computer. He was still logged onto his "Planetary Council" bulletin board. And, as far as he could tell, everything was pretty much the same as it was before those damned reporters had stopped by.

If he had bothered to look out his window, he would have realized he wasn't in Los Angeles anymore. But, he didn't really care. His television was working again. He wasn't getting Los Angeles stations, he was getting Planetary Council television. But, he was so used to mentally switching back and forth between Earth reality and Planetary Council reality that he hardly noticed the switch in language, both written and spoken, from English to Planetary Council.

This "anomalous guy" was what they called a "monitor." Just a technician, really. He was the conduit between the two universes — Earth's and the Planetary Council's. In the larger scheme of things, his existence could be equated with that of the simple phone jack in the wall. He liked to think of himself as more than that. But, to be honest, that's basically all he was.

He soon dropped this train of thought, however, getting depressed thinking of himself in such unflattering terms. He remembered what he had been taught in school: If you find yourself getting depressed or unhappy, stop thinking. Stop thinking entirely. That's what they always told him.

And so, with this in mind, he returned to his computer screen and did his job, like the good soldier that he was.

THE END?

Letters to the editor

"Got your newsletter today, and the first thing I asked Eleanor was: 'What's Bill been drinking?'" -Dad

"That was a pretty good newsletter. I didn't really intend for you to publish my second moving story, but I guess you needed to fill some space, eh? You'll be hearing from my lawyer!" -Don

"I am enjoying your newsletter, and I haven't even read it all yet! But I want to tell everyone, the kangaroo story was not authorized for public consumption. So if any of you got indigestion, it's not my fault. -Greg

"The newsletter arrived today. Great! I just can't believe I wasn't even mentioned in it!" -Doug

"Your newsletter was good. I especially liked the 'Scrabble Update.' Your other stories were pretty weird, but I liked them." -Lucy

"Thanks for your newsletter. It is most enjoyable and clever. I hope you'll keep us on your mailing list." -Jeanne Silveira

Book Review

The Player, by Michael Tolkin. It's been made into a movie. Maybe you've seen it? Anyway, the book is very well written, and we don't say that often. It's about a Hollywood movie studio mogul and what happens to him after a disgruntled writer threatens to kill him. We can't really tell you any more without giving it away. All we can say is that, sadly, it doesn't end the way we would have liked. But it's still good.

The Firm, by John Grisham. I had heard it was good. But it's not, particularly. In fact, I'm pretty amazed it became a bestseller. It must be people's apparent fascination with lawyers that makes it so appealing. It sure isn't the writing. I'm a pretty tough critic, but I figure a bestseller should be well written. Call me crazy. The book starts off well, but by the end the whole thing gets pretty "hackneyed," as they say. Oops, after saying this, I just remembered that it didn't start off well. It was at least page 100 before anything interesting happened! The only reason I kept reading beyond that was because I had heard it was good! Oh well, the middle 100 pages are okay, I guess. Maybe the movie will be better.

Focault's Pendulum, by Umberto Eco. Virtually unreadable, though every once in a while I pick it up again and make another stab at it. If I ever finish it, I'll let you know.

The Edge, by Dick Francis. See "Focault's Pendulum" review.

Movie Review

SCENT OF A WOMAN. Stars Al Pacino. Has nothing to do with women, actually, but it's still a good movie. We recommend it. Can't really say much about it without giving things away.

HEXED. A comedy. Kind of stupid. Can't really say we recommend it. Wait 'til it comes out on video.

BASIC INSTINCT. Sexy thriller. Not bad, although it starts and ends kind of weakly. All in all, though, it's not bad. It's on video.


Lunch at Jack-In-The-Box

by Bill Holmes

Driving around town the other day, I somehow ended up in Hollywood. I don't get to Hollywood much anymore and don't usually find myself missing it. But it was a beautiful day. And seeing all the quaint shops — each one striving for uniqueness — and the many people on the street — each one striving for a unique sameness — I wondered why I ever left. On this day, Hollywood truly seemed like the place to be.

Getting hungry, I started looking for a hip, cool place to have lunch. I passed by several places with tables on the sidewalk and young, hip, sunglass-wearing people sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes. But I couldn't have lunch at one of these places. I was alone. And, in Hollywood, alone people just don't sit at sidewalk cafe tables for lunch.

As I stopped at a traffic light I saw a Jack-In-The-Box restaurant on my left — not exactly a cool, hip place to have lunch. But I was tired of driving around, and my stomach was telling me to stop here for lunch.

"What about the recent food poisoning scare?" I wondered.

"Well, yeah, there's that," my stomach answered. "But, wasn't it their hamburger meat that was contaminated?"

"Yeah, so?" I countered.

"Well, you never buy their burgers," my stomach reasoned. "You always go for their chicken sandwiches."

"You're right, of course," I acquiesced. And in a reckless, daring move, I stopped for lunch.

The first thing I see as I pull into the parking lot is this bum — or should I say a "mentally-challenged, emotionally-disabled, financially-disadvantaged, homeless person"? "Bum" is easier. Anyway, he's standing there in the middle of the parking lot, completely filthy, hair sticking out in all directions, pants half-way down his legs, obviously incoherent, staring off into space. Probably a Scientologist.

As I enter the restaurant there's this young rock 'n roll poser-type — complete with long blonde hair, black tank-top shirt, multi-colored spandex pants and white sneakers — having lunch with his nubile bimbo girlfriend in white spandex pants, black leather boots and some sort of fishnet over a pink t-shirt. They're like cardboard cutouts.

I approach the cashier and order the "Chicken Supreme" sandwich, "Seasoned Curly Fries" and a Coke. I sit down at the corner table furthest from the door and start in on the curly fries.

In walks this girl. I wouldn't have noticed her except that she's shouting "Hey!" at someone as she staggers through the door. She looks to be about twenty, with medium-length dirty-blonde hair, narrow-set angry eyes, small pinched mouth. She's obviously on drugs.

At first, I think she's just another whacked-out homeless person, and I hope she'll leave as soon as she realizes that food costs money. But she doesn't go way. In fact, she's brought friends. Two young "dudes" — she calls them both "dude" — stagger into the restaurant a moment or two behind her. They look fairly strung-out on drugs themselves. And, unfortunately, it looks as if they intend to order lunch and eat here.

At the cashier counter, the girl is being extremely bizarre, talking loudly at one moment only to mumble something beyond my hearing the next. I keep an eye on her because she's so deranged, and I'm afraid she might come near me.

I seem to attract these weirdos. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I look at them. I make eye contact. And weirdos are used to having others look away. So when they catch me looking at them, no matter how fleeting that eye contact may be, they get a glimmer of hope that I might actually talk to them, or listen to them, or give them money, or make some sort of acknowledgement of their existence. Of course, I generally don't. But this is probably what they're thinking.

Anyway, I'm at my table in the corner of the restaurant and there are about twenty other tables available. But which table does this girl (and her tag-along "dudes") choose? That's right — the one right next to me.

My first thought is to immediately move to another table. But I'm hesitant because I get the impression the girl is paying attention to me (with what's left of her mind) and she might be insulted if I get up and leave. I don't want to insult her because I'm afraid she'll go into some sort of mad, drug-induced tirade aimed at me, and I would then be forced to eat my lunch in my car.

I hope she moves to another table, saving me the trouble. I don't know what makes me think this will happen. Maybe it's because she reminds me of a wheel on a bent axle: liable to fly off in any direction at any moment, and I'm hoping she will fly off in the direction furthest away from me.

She starts barking at one of her dudes, "Get me an ashtray! I need an ashtray!"

I don't know if she's going to start smoking or if she just wants an ashtray to lick the bottom of.

I finally get up and move to the opposite corner of the restaurant. I feel her eyes upon me a couple of times while I eat, but I never look in her direction again. I've made too much eye contact already for one day.

I can't wait to get back home.

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