Geology of the San Francisco Bay Area

The geology of the San Francisco Bay Area is a nightmare of jumbled, mixed, chaotic rocks. It looks in many places as if a giant had stuck a stick in the Bay and stirred wildly.

One of the most interesting such mélanges in the world.

The San Francisco Bay itself is the drowned mouth of the Sacramento River.

The sea level rose three hundred feet when the continental ice sheets melted about 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, and it submerged the river entrance into the Bay Area.

Since then the river has been slowly, slowly filling the Bay with mud.

In a few thousand years, the Bay will be a flatland, grassy and beautiful.

The Sacramento is the only river that cuts through the Coast Range to the ocean, so it must have been flowing before the range emerged so that it could erode the rocks as quickly as they rose.

The San Francisco Bay is 300 feet deep in places so the Golden Gate is like a drain in a bathtub constantly scoured by a huge volume of water that flows in and out of a tiny opening as the tides change.

Without the deep sea valley known as the Golden Gate and without the Sacramento River, San Francisco would be just another stretch of the California Coast Ranges. This opening in the Coast Range is so small that Spanish explorers in the fog missed it for two hundred years, as did Sir Francis Drake. In the nineteenth century, before the Bridge, this opening was known as Chrysopylae, Greek for “golden gate.”
Gray sandstone, red chert and blue-green serpentinite at Baker Beach.
Diatomaceous chert consists of beds of diatomites which were converted into dense, hard chert, and strata several hundred meters thick have been found in sedimentary sequences such as the Miocene Monterey Formation occuring in rocks as old as the Cretaceous.
An ekphrasis on an oil painting I did called Death Shall Have No Dominion: this is a depiction of the silica skeletons of diatoms and radiolarians, microscopic animals that live in the sea. Billions of these animals live and die and form chert several hundred meters thick.
The term “flint” is reserved for varieties of chert which occur in chalk and marly limestone formations.
Serpentinite is prone to landsliding because it is slick and soft. Baker Beach is at the north end of a band of Franciscan mélange that runs to Hunters Point.

My wife Elise and I recently took a long walk to look at a Franciscan outcrop near 15th Avenue and Noriega in San Francisco.

This is in the Sunset District which was once covered with giant sand dunes, some of which remain.

Under its homes and streets, San Francisco is about one-third sand dunes, but these were tamed in the 1870s and only a few remain along Ocean Beach.
The south end of Ocean Beach has a thick section of the Merced Formation, Pleistocene river and beach sediment uplifted by more recent tectonic movement.
Volcanic ash beds like this allow dating of the rocks and help show that the Golden Gate first opened about 600,000 years ago, changing the sediment mix here.

We climbed these stairs at about 31st and Moraga. This entire hill is a sand dune overlying Franciscan rock.

A very high sand dune. When people came to San Francisco they built over the dunes, leveled them out, civilized them.

Elise, an amateur geologist, in the field taking notes and samples.

We climb higher…

… and higher.

And then trudge up the Grandview steps all the way to the top.

This ribbon chert at Grandview Park is part of the same terrane, or wide belt of bedrock, making up the Marin Headlands to the north and many hills in the city.

It’s exciting to find wild sections of the City peeking out here and there.

Telegraph Hill is a knob of graywacke of the Alcatraz terrane. Recognize the couple in this shot? William Powell and Myrna Loy.
Telegraph Hill has been extensively and clumsily quarried to help fill in the old shoreline. The old quarries are now occupied by homes and shops. Occasionally one of the rock faces deteriorates and collapses in a rockslide.
Montgomery Street was once the waterfront, and North Beach was a beach. Sailors fetched their vessels up here during the Gold Rush and simply abandoned them. The ships sank and became landfill for the area east of Montgomery Street, so, now, when crews are excavating foundations for new buildings (such as a concrete foundation for a garage, to name one example), they will sometimes find these old pioneer ships.
Alcatraz is an island consisting of graywacke that has been heavily modified during Alcatraz’ years as a lighthouse, fort and prison.
Russian Hill consists of coarse sandstone, or graywacke, of the Alcatraz terrane.

Long slices of the Coast Range have slid into the Bay Area along the San Andreas Fault and so have several fault branches such as the San Pablo and Hayward faults. This sliding of plates, their rubbing past each other, is a continuing process and is, of course, the source of earthquakes.

The rocks on the sea side of the San Andreas Fault are granite.

Montara Mountain, south of San Francisco, is a knob of bare granite.

The Coast Range granites have migrated here from the southern Sierra Nevada, sliding along the faults on their way northward.

Outcrops between the San Andreas and Hayward fault zones expose Franciscan rocks from the northern Coast Range. These Franciscan rocks underlie the hills of San Francisco and Marin County.

The Franciscan is a crazy catchall mix that consists largely of dismembered sequences of graywacke, shale, and lesser amounts of mafic (volcanic) rocks, thin-bedded chert, and rare limestone, dark colored muddy sediments, , red, green and brown cherts, and lava flows of black basalt. It’s a mishmash.

All of this Franciscan rock was once on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and then it was scraped into a trench at the edge of the ocean about a hundred million years ago.

Long strips of green serpentinite from deep in the earth’s mantle make smaller faults in this section of the Coast Range.

East of the Hayward fault, there are also Franciscan rocks, but they are submerged under thick deposits of muddy sediments, and are weak, younger rocks, which can erode to form soft, rounded hills subject to constant landsliding.

Many of these areas are becoming developed which will cause a problem later unless building code regulations are adopted and scrupulously enforced.

Cuts make hills unstable because they pull out the “foundation” of hills, and fills make hills unstable because they add weight on to the slope above. All it takes is a big rain or leakage from pipes somewhere and the ground will give way and slide.

Ground subsidence is the sinking of the land over man-made or natural underground voids, often caused by undercutting a hill, or building over what was once a body of water.

A lot of buildings in the City look like this. Those windows and that garage were once at street level. They have subsided, probably because the building is sitting on an ancient marsh, or for any of the other reasons listed above.

The San Francisco peninsula was once dotted with streams and lakes. Elk Glen Lake, in Golden Gate Park, is one of several that remain. Lake Merced is another. Building atop dried up or drained streams and lakes makes for shaky ground.
During the construction of ring-shaped Stow Lake in the 1890s, great boulders of the local chert were turned into this rustic bridge.
Strawberry Hill, inside Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, has some beautiful chert specimens.
This is ribbon chert in the Japanese Tea Garden.
Also in the Tea Garden are local basalt and greenstone (serpentinite) of the Franciscan Complex.
Chocolate-colored ribbon chert (the same terrane as the Marin Headlands) on Bernal Hill, south of the Mission District in eastern San Francisco. Chet Helms and I once shared an apartment building in this area (Bernal Heights). The Bay Area is home to many attractive properties that frequently draw Americans to the region (like those on this site: One of the most popular is Oakland, and it’s easy to see why. With its historic neighborhoods, vibrant social life, and friendly and creative locals, luxury apartments in the city, like those of Atlas Oakland, are getting snapped up fast.
Many small San Francisco parks preserve rock outcrops. This one in Golden Gate Heights shows the typical sandstone of the San Bruno Mountain terrane.

There are many slopes in the Bay Area which are becoming landslides and can be touched off by a heavy spring rain, an earthquake or even an excavation by a construction company.

1870 oil painting of the Mission District, including the lagoon, which was a tidal inlet, but probably not a year-round lake as it appears here. In the foreground is today’s Dolores Park, then a Jewish cemetery.

Corona Heights west of the Castro district has been heavily modified by quarrying, but now its outcrops of Franciscan chert are preserved in a park.
The chert of Corona Heights displays a great deal of texture due to fracturing during deep burial and tectonic movement.
On the north side of Corona Heights is a very good example of a slickenside, or polished fault surface.
The Corona Heights look over San Francisco and the East Bay as well as the Sutro Tower and the flanks of Mount Davidson to the southwest.

We are overdue now for the Big One, which many geologists believe will happen on the Hayward Fault. The earth’s crust is not a solid shell; it is broken up into huge, thick plates that drift atop the soft, underlying mantle and the plates rub against each other.

The plates grind against each other, hitching along in sharp jerks as the edges of the slabs catch and stick together until they stretch enough to snap free.

Predicting or retrodicting earthquakes is a matter of spotting the places along a fault where the opposite sides have caught, and seeing how far and how fast the rocks are bending.

If a way could be found to free the rocks on the opposite sides of the fault, or to prevent them from sticking in the first place, then earthquakes could be prevented, or at least managed.

What we need is a brobdingnagian crowbar, say, about fifty miles long, to pry the plates apart and then pour a lubricant in between them to let them slide freely past each other.

This would be difficult for Lilliputians like us to manage, so preparing for a sudden plate sliding emergency might be the wiser course.

As long as the plates are moving relatively freely, the opposite sides glide smoothly past each other and release small earthquakes. This is the best situation to hope for, and it has been happening fairly well for a long time now. Creeping is much better than locked.

The plates are slowly moving past one another at a couple of inches a year – about the same rate that your fingernails grow. But this is not a steady motion, it is the average motion. For years the plates will be locked with no movement at all as they push against one another. Suddenly the built-up strain breaks the rocks along the fault and then the plates slip a few feet all at once. In 1906 the plates slipped twenty feet.

No one has ever been killed by an earthquake. The damage that does happen is caused by falling objects, landslides triggered by the quake, fires, and epidemics caused by contaminated water.

Driving the Coast Road (Highway 1) is a slow, meandering affair best suited to frequent stops for views and looking at pretty rocks such as chert which can be composed of diatoms and radiolarians, which, though very tiny, have skeletons of silica, and build up over millions of years.

Even the sand is beautiful if you look closely enough. This is not the golden sand of Southern Calfornia or Florida, but there is gold in this sand, real gold.

You can see ribbon chert along the Freeway on your right as you drive onto the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin County.

If you motor up Highway 1 to Bodega Bay, you will find this mighty green stone.

And some hornblende schist too.

Many of the serpentinites contain chunks of blueschist,

green eclogite, in which you can see tiny garnets,

and even jade.

The trip on Highway 1 between San Francisco and Point Arena is geologically fascinating because you observe beautiful rocks and minerals in the road cuts, and you can track the wind and wave action shaping the shoreline.

North of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Coast Road leads you to Stinson Beach which sits directly on the San Andreas Fault.

The houses in Stinson Beach are built on a sandspit, a very unstable foundation material, right on the Fault, so it would be difficult to imagine a more dangerous place to be when the ground starts moving as it definitely will one of these days.

In Bodega Bay there is a similar situation. The town is built on loose sediment deposited directly on top of the San Andreas fault zone, and thus Bodega Bay is destined to be destroyed every time the Fault releases a major earthquake.

Some of the buildings in town have lasted a while, though. This is the schoolhouse where Alfred Hitchcock filmed The Birds. An old friend of mine, Randal Myler, was in this film, and in this building, when he was nine years old.

The Point Reyes peninsula is a well defined area, geologically separated from the rest of Marin County and almost all of the continental United States by a rift zone of the San Andreas Fault, about half of which is sunk below sea level and forms Tomales Bay.

The fact that the peninsula is on a different tectonic plate than the east shore of Tomales Bay produces a difference in soils and therefore to some extent a noticeable difference in vegetation.

Point Reyes is a stray scrap of Sierra Nevada granite which has been transported some 350 miles north by displacement along the Fault.

A little farther to the north, Jenner has serpentinites which embed large chunks of unusually beautiful blueschist.

Coast Range serpentinites often have angular fragments of this rare and beautiful rock. The blueschists are heavy, bluish-black rocks that are flecked with intensely blue crystals.

Serpentinite has all sorts of interesting properties. It is green and seamed by webs of closely spaced fractures that are often white.

Senate Bill 624 in the California legislature calls for serpentine to be removed as the state rock of California. The bill is in the Assembly, and if passed there, will move on to the Senate, where it will be voted on by August 31. Supporters of the move condemn serpentinite as somehow evil because it contains at times a form of chrysotile asbestos. This is more of a symbolic protest, with which it is easy to sympathize, than any real concern about asbestos poisoning from the rocks themselves.

Some serpentinites have a soapy feel and are indeed called “soapstone.” You can carve soapstone with a knife, and it is usually lighter in color than other serpentinites. The rock is inherently so fractured that it is difficult to find a solid piece of it as large as your fist.

I once discovered someone swimming up the creek behind our house, writhing like a salmon over the rocks. I asked him what he was doing and it turned out that he was on the prowl for soapstone (serpentinite) which he carved into interesting shapes. He gave me a piece of it from “our” creek. I was grateful.

Serpentinite has a chemical composition that suggests an origin deep in the earth’s mantle beneath the continental crust. Bodies of serpentinite intrude themselves into enclosing rocks as if they had been forced there while molten magmas, but nothing else about serpentinite suggests a molten origin.

Jade is another rock often found in serpentinites. Like blueschist, it forms under extremely high pressures and chunks of it are found in serpentinite outcrops. Jade is hard and tough, and so will outlast serpentinite in a creek, enduring as a smooth, rounded rock.

Jade can look like pebbles of green chert, but jade is heavier and not so friable. A tap with a hammer can smash chert, but jade can take a hit heavy enough to drive a nail.

North of Bodega Bay and up to Fort Ross, the San Andreas Fault is offshore.

Between Fort Ross and Point Arena, the Fault is onshore and it looks like a gentle valley.

The rocks west of the Fault at this point began life as sediments in Santa Barbara.

To the east of San Francisco, Highway 50 crosses the Sacramento Valley and enters the foothills of the Sierra Nevada between Sacramento and Placerville.

The eastern half of the route between Sacramento and where the road enters the Sierra foothills crosses old placer mine tailings.

I have often said that “placer” comes from Spanish placer, meaning “to please,” (pleasure) and, indeed it does, but the true origin of the word here is actually from placer meaning shoal or alluvial sand deposit (Catalan placer, sandbank, shoal), from plassa, (place) which comes in turn from medieval Latin placea (place) the origin word for place and plaza in English. The word in Spanish/Catalan is thus ultimately derived from placea and refers directly to an alluvial or glacial deposit of sand or gravel.

Placer mining refers to mining gold and gemstones found in alluvial areas-sand and gravel in modern or ancient stream beds, or occasionally glacial leavings. Since gems and heavy metals like gold are considerably more dense than sand, they tend to accumulate at the base of placer deposits. Mining of course, was very important back in the day, in fact it still is now. We can obtain energy sources from reactions within metal ores. For example, Uranium Production, which is a type of emission free energy.

Placers supplied most of the gold for a large part of the ancient world. Hydraulic mining methods such as hushing were used widely by the Romans across their empire, but especially in the gold fields of northern Spain after its conquest by Augustus, 25 BCE.

One of the largest sites was at Las Médulas, where seven 30 mile long aqueducts were used to work the alluvial gold deposits through the first century CE.

Placer mining was one of the earliest methods used by the ’49ers. This type of mining used manual techniques and tools such as sluice boxes, pans, and rockers located near rivers and streams.

In the early mining history of California, after the rapid working out of’the shallow placers of the high bars, attention was turned to the river channels as the next most certain source for a large gold yield, and in 1852, 1853, and 1854, a very large amount of this river mining was done, and most of the gold yield of the State at that time came from this placer mining in streams.

Placerville is but one more of the many settlements that had its beginning when James Marshall discovered gold in nearby Coloma in January, 1848. Jack Perry lived for a while in Placerville, and he’s still looking for gold.

She could be called ????? ???? (Athena Earth), but Anthea Sidiropoulos, is her real name, and we are going to play some musical events with her in Australia so we are all excited about that.

Goodbye till next week.

Keep on rocking.




Cher’s real name is Cherilyn la Pierre.

Sophia Loren’s sister was once married to the jazz piano playing son of Benito Mussolini.

Life in the Ivy League:  Tommy Lee Jones and Al Gore were roommates at Harvard, and George W. Bush and Oliver Stone were in the same class at Yale.

Spuere is Latin for “spit.” Spew and sputum come from this word. Conspuere is to spit with a lot of other people and this is the origin of the word “cuspidor.”

Jack Nicholson appeared on The Andy Griffith Show… twice.

Two of the Beatles were left-handed, Paul and Ringo. Easier to tell with Paul.

Carnegie-Mellon University offers a major in bagpiping.  Bagpipes were once made from the skin of a sheep, presumably after the haggis had been taken out.

When Mozart was born, they wrote Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart in the church record. Theophilus means “love god” and so does Amadeus. One is Greek, the other Latin. Gottlieb is the German way of saying Theophilus.

At age fifty-three, Rolling Stones’ bassist Bill Wyman married Mandy Smith, nineteen, but the marriage only lasted a year. A little later Bill’s thirty year old son Stephen married Mandy’s mother, age forty-six. That made Stephen a step father to his former step mother. If Bill and Mandy had remained married, Stephen would have been his father’s father-in-law and his own grandfather.   Mick Jagger should have written a song about THAT. They could have done the tune on the Grand Ole Opry.

Real band name:      A Life-Threatening Buttocks Condition

One in every four Americans has appeared on television.  I first appeared on television in Japan when I was sixteen with my band The Cool Notes.

Kermit the Frog has eleven points on the collar around his neck, and he is left-handed.

Yasser Arafat was addicted to watching television cartoons.

Matt Groening, creator of  The Simpsons, put his intials into his drawing of Homer. M is Homer’s hair, and G is Homer’s ear.

Tweety used to be a baby bird without feathers until the censors decided he looked naked.  Can’t have Tweety corrupting the morals of America, now can we?

Walt Disney named Mickey Mouse for Mickey Rooney, whose mother he had dated for some time. Mickey Mouse’s original voice was Walt’s.

Mickey Mouse won an Oscar. In Italia Mickey si chiama “Topolino.”  In Italy Mickey is called “Topolino.”

Can’t have Donald corrupting the morals of Finland, now can we?  Donald Duck comics were banned in Finland because he doesn’t wear pants.

One day Margaret Herrick, librarian for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, remarked that the statue looked like her uncle Oscar, and the name stuck.

Alfred Hitchcock never won an Academy Award for directing.

King Kong was Adolf Hitler’s favorite movie.

Debra Winger was the voice of E.T.

In Italy, James Bond is known as Mr. Kiss-Kiss-Bang-Bang.

There was not a single Civil War battle scene in Gone With The Wind.

There is not a single mention of the mafia in the Godfather.

When The Wizard of Oz came out, critics said it was stupid and uncreative.

Real title of a how-to book:   Keeping Warm With an Axe

Mary Shelley was nineteen when she wrote Frankenstein.

Virginia Woolf wrote all of her books standing up.  Smart woman.

Ernest Vincent Wright wrote the fifty-thousand word novel Gatsby without any word containing ‘e.’  This is vEry difficult for mE to bEliEvE.

Chicken or Egg?  In Genesis 1:20-22, the chicken came before the egg.

Papaphobia is the fear of popes.


The sixth sick Sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.     Easy for you to say.

Tonsurphobia is the fear of haircuts.

Mattresses used to be set upon ropes woven through the bed frame. To keep the ropes taut, one would use a bed key to take up the slack. This is the origin of the phrase “sleep tight.”

Before 1776, Americans used all kinds of coins and demoninations. The British pound, the German Thaler, and the Spanish real were a few. The real could actually be cut into eight pieces and they were called pieces of eight, as in the old pirate chantey. Two of these pieces equaled one quarter dollar and this is the origin of the phrase “two bits.”

In the 1940s, the Bich pen, originating in France, was changed to Bic for fear that Americans would pronounce it “bitch.”  Biche means a creature or a deer in French, and “bitch” does indeed come from this same word root.

When the first regular phone service was established in 1878, people picked up the phone and said “Ahoy.”  In Italian, they say “pronto,” ready.

“Hocus pocus,” the magician’s phrase, is a corruption of “Hoc est enim corpus meum,” a sentence in the Roman mass, This is my body. Once, when I was learning to serve mass in the third grade, I said this phrase in imitation of the priest, and was reproved by a nun for getting above myself.

The Boogey people live in an area of Indonesia and they are pirates,  Watch out, “the boogeyman will get you” refers to these reprobates.

It can get very cold in the Australian outback, and when it is so chilly that three dogs are needed to keep an aborigine warm, then it’s called a “three dog night.”

Assassination and bump were invented by Shakespeare. He coined many, many other words as well

The U in U-boat stands for unterwasser, underwater.

The word constipation comes from a Latin word that means “to crowd together.” Diarrhea is Greek for “flowing through.”

Accordion comes from the German word Akkord, which can mean agreement, harmony, but if you say Akkord to a German musician, it will always mean “chord.”  My grandfather, Albert Mann, who came from Alsatian people, played the accordion so well. He did all those tunes from the old country and it was an extreme pleasure to hear him.

These guys know about Mexican, German, Czech and Polish musicians in Texas. I see Sir Doug, Martin Fierro, and, is that Dr. John?

Disease was the evil influence of the stars, believed many people, and perhaps many people even believe it now. Influence in Italian is “influenza.”

Truth and Falsehood went swimming. Falsehood came out of the water first and dressed herself in Truth’s garments.  Truth, unwilling to assume those of Falsehood, went naked. The women here above, Betz and Linda, are truthful to a fault.  It is an honor to know both of them, and that’s the Truth.

A deltiologist collects postcards.  I would have thought records by Bukka White, Howlin’ Wolf, Kid Bailey, Muddy Waters, Junior Parker.

She so fine. She so fine. Linda LaFlamme.

I’m a klazomaniac.  Hey, that sounds like a line from I’m A Caterpillar by Peter Albin.   Klazomania is an urge to shout.  Yes, hallelujah!

And talking of Peter, he made this Christmas tree ornament, which looks more like a Horus tree ornament.

libricubicularist is someone who reads in bed.

Anthropophagist, cannibal, they are pretty much the same thing.

German is called a sister language of English. Other sisters are Frisian, Flemish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian.

A fox’s tail is called a brush.

The ball on top of a flagpole is called a truck.  If you devoted yourself to the study of vexillology, this would be one of the first things you would learn.

Diastima is a gap between your teeth.

Oh, god, do I love this woman.  Lisa Mills, folks, from Birmingham, Alabama.  She paints, she sings, she raises a family and hell at the same time.

Lethologica is the state of not remembering the word you want to say. Retrieval becomes so much harder as we get older. I used to say all the answers (or questions, rather) on Jeopardy before Alex had even finished formulating them.   Not any more.

Nictitating is winking. Cats have a nictitating membrane that we don’t. A woman who winks at men is called a nictitating woman. Interesting that there is no mention of the male in this, because I wink at women all the time. It’s a deplorable nervous tic.

A poem composed for a wedding is called an epithalamium. I have written some epithalamia and maybe you have too?

Says here, alma mater means “bountiful mother.” I always thought alma mater meant “soul mother.”  I’m sure both meanings are good. (The meaning is closer to “nourishing” mother.)

Dégringoler is French for “rouler précipitamment du haut en bas.”  The figurative meaning is “déchoir rapidement,” to fall, fail rapidly.”  Degringolade in English means to fall and disintegrate.

Dibble means to “drink like a duck.”  When I was fourteen I sang a song with the line “if the ocean were whisky, and I was a diving duck, I would dive to the bottom, and never come up.” An old blues tune. I think I learned it from Joe Turner.

Groaking is watching people eat in the hope that they will offer you some.

Hara kiri is the vulgar term. It means “belly cut.”  Americans often say “harry carry.”  Seppuku is the correct and more elegant term.

Karaoke means empty orchestra, just as karate means empty hand. I seem to remember on my Scholastic Apptitude Test such questions as if karaoke means empty orchestra, and karate means empty hand, which part of the word means “empty.”  Even then I thought these were really stupid questions.

Marcia Ball, oh, my god of music, what a wonderful woman she is

Kemosabe means “soggy shrub” in Navajo.

Koala is Aboriginal for “no drink.”  I have to remember this the next time I sidle up to the bar.

Scatologists are scientists who study feces, and presumably coproliths, or maybe not.

The “You Are Here” indicator on a map is called the IDEO locator.

Uh, oh, the third year of marriage is called the Leather Anniversary.

Japanese for switch is suitchi and for sex is sekkusu. Japanese are like Italians in that they want a vowel in between every consonant.

The Sanskrit word for war means “desire for more cows.”

A coward was originally a boy who took care of cows.  A ward of the cows.

This symbol # is called the pound key, yes, but the two dollar word for it is anoctothorpe.

The word set has more definitions in the dictionary than any other English word.

Rhythm and syzygy are the longest English words without vowels.  They are both good words too.

Skepticisms is the longest typed word that alternates hands.

The letter J does not appear anywhere on the periodic table of elements, probably because J did not exist in Latin or Greek. Julius Caesar was Iulius Caesar in his langauge.

A left-handed guy kissing his wife.

I loved this band, the Sons of Champlin.  Still do.

Lynn Asher and her very beautiful feet.

The letter W in our alphabet is the only one that doesn’t have one syllable; it has three.  (It’s really just a “double U.”)

The longest one syllable word in English is screeched. In Middle English, Chaucer would have pronounced this word screech ed (screetch Ed), because they pronounced the past participle ending in those days.

Is there Hope for Lynn?  Oh, yes, definitely.

Most used letter in English, E.  Least, Q.

Oldest word in English, town. Youngest, Samified. Means you have undergone the Sam experience.

Lachanophobia is the fear of vegetables.

Hey, how did Kurt Huget get in here?  Good looks? Charm? Positive attitude? Plays well with others?  Being with Terry Haggerty?

Fifteen letter word that can be written without repeating a letter:  uncopyrightable.

Racecar and kayak are palindromes.

Muumuu, vacuum, continuum, duumvirate, duumvir, and residuum.  That’s it. The six words in English that use uu.

Eye, ear, leg, arm, jaw, gum, toe, lip, rib, hip.   Three letter words.

There was no punctuation until the fifteenth century. Reading Latin in inscriptions is a nightmare because it’s all caps and it’s all run together. It’s like reading Russian.

A portmanteau word is one combined of two formerly separate words, such as, motel or brunch.

Just exactly what are you boys planning here?  Well, madam, we are preparing to, er, ambulate across this ‘ere Abbey Road, that’s if it’s awl right with you, of course.

Bookkeeper is the only English word with three consecutive double letters.

Cleveland spelled backward is DNA level C.

Facetious and abstemious contain all the vowels in the correct order, as does arsenious, meaning “containing arsenic.”  So, does Arsenio Hall mean a corridor with white powder in it?

There are only twelve letters in the Hawaiian alphabet, and, as in Japanese and Italian, every consonant must have a vowel before and after it,  so Kahlúa is not a Hawaiian word, but Kahului is.

In England in the 1880s, pants was a dirty word. Of course in the 1880s, everything was dirty. Pianos didn’t have legs. They had limbs.

Four is the only English number that has the same amount of letters as its value.

Stewardesses is the longest English word that is typed with one hand.

Words that are very difficult to use in a rhyming song:  month, orange, silver, purple. You can rhyme them, but only if you are a sloppy rhymer.

Quisling is the only English word that starts with quis. It’s not really an English word, that’s why. It’s a Scandinavian person’s name. Quis means who in Latin.

Maine is the only state whose name is just one syllable.

1961 is the same right side up and upside down. The next number that will be that talented is 6009.

There are five thousand (and probably more) languages spoken on this planet.  I can read about ten of them, but some days I wake up and can’t speak even one. The Mexicans in the kitchen at Aroma Café all routinely speak three or four languages. Spanish is not their first tongue. Mayan is.  There are something like twenty-six completely different languages in the area of Oaxaca alone. The tragedy is that these languages are disappearing rapidly. Knowing this can make a linguist slightly crazy. It’s like watching a beautiful painting slowly disappear before your eyes.

Maybe the plot comes at the end… in the cemetery.

Sam Andrew      Vinnie Martel         Tom Doyle   (I’m telling you, this Manny’s Car Wash green room is like a coffin. Maybe that’s the plot.)

Big Brother and the Holding Company


Italians In Britain

In just seven short years (circa 78-85 CE), Gnaeus Iulius Agricola advanced the military occupation of Britain from his initial campaigns against the Ordovices in North Wales, through the territories of the powerful Brigantes of northern England, and the tribes of lowland Scotland and the eastern Highlands, possibly as far north as Inverness on the Moray Firth. Agricola more than doubled the area of the Roman province of Brittania which, up until then, had taken his ten predecessors a period of thirty-five years to conquer and control.

GNAEUS IULIUS AGRICOLA    DUX   (the DUX was the leader, the general, the commander in a campaign. The word survives in “duke,” “il Duce,” and “Doge,” the leader in Venice)

Under the DUX was the LEGIO (legion) a group of about five thousand men.  A DUX could command several legions, with a legate actually in charge of each legion. The words “legion” and “legate” come from LEGERE, to choose, to levy.

The usual legion commander was the LEGATUS LEGIONIS, the legate.

A COHORS  (cohort)  was about five hundred men.  A legion had ten cohorts.

A VEXILLATIO (vexillation) was a group of soldiers under one standard or flag (the study of flags is called vexillology). This plaque was found in Hadrian’s Wall and it says, “Vexillatio Legionis II Augustus et XX Valeria Victrix Fecerunt. (Vexillations from Legion II Augustus and Legion XX Valeria Victrix made this.)

VEXILLATIO LEG XX V V FECIT      [The vexillation of Legion 20 Valeria Victrix made (this).]  Referring to a part of a wall or building.

The CONTUBERNIUM (tent group) was eight men who shared a tent.

TRIBUNI   (military tribunes) were interns, aristrocratic young men who needed a little military time before beginning their civil careers. Agricola began as a tribune. Tribunes were like young second lieutenants gathered around a senior officer.

CENTURIONES (centurions) were the sergeants/captains, the backbone of the Roman army. A centurion commanded about eighty men. Notice how his head ornament is lateral instead of axial, as all other helmet decorations were. This was a distinguishing characteristic, easily seen in battle.

PRAEFECTI (prefects) were third in command of a legion, although a prefect could command an entire legion at times.  Later we will meet a praefectus (prefect) who commanded a wing of the cavalry.

I am reading a book that Cornelius Tacitus wrote about his father in law, Gnaeus Julius Agricola.  Tacitus was born in 55 CE, probably in southern Gaul, which the Romans called Provincia and the French today call Provence. Tacitus’ father was a wealthy man who belonged to the second tier of the Roman élite, the Equestres (knights).

Tacitus was sent to Rome to study rhetoric, which at that time meant of course public speaking, but “rhetoric” also connoted a general cultural education that included everything that a magistrate needed to know.

“… this book,” writes Tacitus,  ”intended to do honor to Agricola, my father-in-law, will, as an expression of filial regard, be commended, or at least excused.”  (“Agricola” means “farmer.”    Iulius Agricola in English would be Julius Farmer.)

Agricola served his military apprenticeship in Britain to the satisfaction of Suetonius Paulinus, who was governor from 58–61CE, a painstaking and judicious officer, who, to test Agricola’s merits, selected him to join his staff as one of his military tribunes.

Gnaeus Julius Agricola was born on 13 July 40 CE in Fréjus, France (Forum Iulii, Gallia Narbonensis), then Roman Provincia.

“Fréjus” is actually a corruption of “Forum Iulii.”

In the year 60, when King Prasutagus of the Iceni died. Governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was campaigning on the island of Mona (Anglesey, Wales), a stronghold of British resistance to Rome.

The Icenian king Prasutagus, celebrated for his long prosperity, had named the emperor his heir, together with his two daughters; an act of deference which he thought would place his kingdom and household beyond the risk of injury. The result was contrary – so much so that his kingdom was pillaged by centurions, his household by slaves, as though they had been prizes of war.

This was an intolerable situation and Prasutagus rebelled against Roman rule.

His atque talibus in vicem instincti, Boudicca generis regii femina duce (neque enim sexum in imperiis discernunt) sumpsere universi bellum, ac sparsos per castella milites consectati, expugnatis praesidiis ipsam coloniam invasere ut sedem servitutis, nec ullum in barbaris ingeniis saevitiae genus omisit ira et victoria.  (Tacitus, beginning of chapter 16, Agricola)

Urged on by such matters, under the command of the royal Boudica (and sex didn’t matter in choosing leaders), there was universal war, hunting down of Romans in outposts, storming the forts, and even an attack on the whole colony itself, with no omitting of the savagery characteristic of barbarians.

When the Romans executed her husband, Boudica assumed command of the Iceni. She proved a strong and sagacious leader.

Boudica led a revolt which lasted for several months in 60-61 CE. The Boudican forces burned and destoyed three major towns:  Londinium (London), Verulamium (St. Albans), and Camulodunum (Colchester).

Femina duce”   Women were held in high respect by the Celts, but the Romans came, whipped Boudica, and raped her daughters.

colonia” refers to Camulodunum (Colchester) where the Roman veterans had been harrassing the native population.

“Camulodunum” always sounded a lot like “Camelot” to me.

Colchester/Camulodunum is reputed to be the oldest town in Britain and could be seen as the capital city before the Romans came.

in barbaris ingeniis”:  an attributive phrase, meaning  (the savagery) “with which barbarians are familiar.”

“ira et victoria” :  Fury and the consciousness of victory.

“It is not as a noble, but as one of the people that I am avenging lost freedom,” cried Boudica.                          Tacitus

The massacre of the Ninth Legion refers to Boudica’s defeat of a large vexillation (soldiers under one flag) of the Legio IX Hispana during the revolt against Roman rule in Britain launched by this queen of the Iceni of Norfolk. Attempting to relieve the besieged colonia of Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex), legionaries of the Legio IX Hispana led by Quintus Petillius Cerealis, were attacked by a horde of British tribes, led by the Iceni. Approximately eighty percent of the Roman soldiers were killed in this battle.

After the final suppression of the revolt of the Iceni, and his apprenticeship with Suetonius Paulinus, Agricola left Britain and was made governor of the province of Aquitania in Gallia (Gaul).

Agricola was consul, and Tacitus but a youth, when Agricola betrothed to the historian his daughter, “a maiden even then of noble promise.” After Agricola’s consulate he gave her to Tacitus in marriage. This estimable and beloved woman is not named in any source, which is typical of the Romans who named their women from clans. Julia was from the clan of the Iulii, Claudia from that of the Claudii, and so on.

Agricola returned to Britain after the Roman civil war of 69 CE among Vitellius, Otho and Vespasian. Agricola was appointed legatus, commander, of the 20th Legion (Legio XX Valeria Victrix).  The boar was the symbol of Quirinus, who was seen as the personification of the deified Romulus.

Later Agricola also assumed command of Legio IX in the east of Britain, quartered in Eburacum (York).

Legio XX was stationed for much of its 300 year existence in the west at Chester.

Agricola arrived in Britain, and surprised his soldiers and the Britons as well by fighting the Ordovices when summer, the fighting season, was almost over.

News of Boudica’s Rebellion in 60 forced Suetonius Paulinus to abandon his conquest of Mona (Anglesey). Presumably Agricola had participated in that action, and was now, twenty years later, intent on finishing the job. His decision to attack Mona was swiftly made. There was no naval support because Agricola’s men were excellent swimmers and they also knew the shallows and waded over to Mona. The enemy, who had been looking for a fleet, were completely surprised.

Thus, in his first, short, campaigning season in Britain, Agricola had, in effect, conquered Wales.

“A liking sprang up for our style of dress, and the toga became fashionable. Step by step they (the Britons) were led to things which dispose to vice, the lounge, the bath, the elegant banquet. All this in their ignorance they called civilisation, when it was but a part of their servitude.”         (Tacitus, always conscious of the double edged sword that was Roman culture.)

In his second summer (79 CE), Agricola advanced his Legio XX up from Gloucester by the western route, and the Ninth legion from York (Eburacum) in the east.

He conquered the Brigantes in Northern England.

Cartimandua was Queen of the Brigantia, the largest of the Celtic tribes in Britannia. (The name “Bridget” comes from these people.)

Cartimandua’s kingdom was a vast tribal federation located in the neck of Britannia and its seat was at the massive fortification of Stanwick. (Stanwick is the red dot near Wellingborough.)

Cartimandua reigned between 43 – 70 CE. She made peace with the conquering Romans and was allowed to rule as a client-queen.

Because of her friendship with the Romans, Cartimandua refused to join the rebellion of Queen Boudica in 61 CE.

Later, bound by her client-queen relationship with Agricola, she refused aid to Caractacus, king of the Catuvellaunii, and instead surrendered him to the Romans.

Although she was married to Venutius, Cartimandua was a Celtic queen and wielded power in her own right.

A struggle for power broke out between Cartimandua and Venutius and became a civil war among the Brigantes.

Cartimandua asked for and received aid from the Romans to restore peace among her people.

In 79 CE, Agricola marched into Scotland on the eastern side.

The third year of his campaigns (79 CE) opened up new tribes as far perhaps as the Tay estuary.

The enemy did not dare to attack the invaders, harassed though the Romans were by violent storms. There was even time for the erection of forts.

Not a single fort established by Agricola was either stormed by the enemy or abandoned by capitulation or flight. Sorties were continually being made, since these positions were secured from protracted siege by a year’s supply of food and weapons.

Winter brought with it no dangers, and each garrison could hold its own, as the enemy, who had been accustomed often to repair summer losses by winter successes, found himself repelled alike both in summer and winter.

Nec Agricola umquam per alios gesta avidus intercepit: seu centurio seu praefectus incorruptum facti testem habebat.

(Aricola allowed his men to shine.  The centurion and the prefect both found in him an impartial witness of their every action.)  The prefect here was probably the commander of a wing (ala) of cavalry.

In the fourth summer (80 CE) of his time as Dux Brittaniae,  Agricola secured the peoples and land that he had conquered.

Agricola stopped at this point because the Clota (Clyde) and Bodotria (Forth) nearly cut the land in two (81 CE). Much later, the Romans built Antonine’s Wall which was merely a joining of the garrisons that Agricola had first put here to join the two rivers in cutting the land.

This is as far as the Romans went into Scotland and even today there is a big difference between the people who live between Hadrian’s and Antonine’s walls and the people who live north of Antonine’s wall. They are two Scotlands. The people in the north remained Catholic and Celtic. In the south of Scotland (south of the Antonine Wall) people spoke English and were Protestant.

“In that part of Britain which looks toward Ireland, Agricola posted some troops, hoping for fresh conquests rather than fearing attack, inasmuch as Ireland, being between Britain and Spain and conveniently situated for the seas round Gaul, might have been the means of connecting with great mutual benefit the most powerful parts of the empire.” The knowledge of geography, even at this date, was shaky. It was thought at first that Britain might be a peninsula.

In chapter 24, Tacitus writes that Ireland’s extent is small when compared with Britain, but exceeds the islands of “our” seas (Sardinia, Sicily). Notice that the Brigantes have territory in Ireland also.

“In soil and climate, in the disposition, temper, and habits of its population, Ireland differs but little from Britain.”

“I have often heard Agricola say that a single legion with a few auxiliaries could conquer and occupy Ireland, and that it would have a salutary effect on Britain for the Roman arms to be seen everywhere, and for freedom, so to speak, to be banished from its sight.”

Meanwhile, Agricola was campaigning in the north when the Caledonii took the opportunity to attack the forts to the rear of Agricola’s campaigning column.

Seeking to confront the Caledonii, and without knowing from which glens they would emerge, Agricola split his forces into three separate battlegroups.

The Caledonians, correctly identifying the weakest, most exposed Roman battlegroup gathered their forces together and attacked and almost conquered Legio IX, the Ninth legion. This attack was fought off only with difficulty and reliance on a relief column led by Agricola.

Sometime after 108 CE, Legio IX disappeared from the records. The popular version of events is that the Ninth ~ numbering about 5,000 men ~ was sent to vanquish the Picts in Caledonia and mysteriously never returned. The real reason that the Ninth “disappeared” is probably much more mundane in that they were likely disbanded, but who knows? At any rate, a popular film The Eagle has been made about this question, with the usual Hollywood distortions.

Legio IX was called “Hispana” because Julius Caesar founded it in Spain in 65 BCE.

And now in his work, Tacitus introduces a little diversion because of its inherent interest. On the west coast of Scotland, at Vindogara, probably modern Irvine in Ayrshire, in 82 CE,  a cohort of Usipi, that had been recruited in Germania and transferred to Brittania, murdered their centurion and the Roman soldiers who had joined them to teach them discipline.

The Usipi deserted, sailed around the coast of Britain, and escaped to the Continent. This tribe lived in Germania where the Lippe and the Rhine flow together. The Usipi’s voyage in three liburnians around the south of Britain finally demonstrated to Agrigcola that Britain was indeed an island.

The liburnia, so called because the Romans copied the ship design from the pirates of Liburnia, had only two rows of oars, and the Romans came to prefer it because of its great speed and maneuverability.

The Usipi mutineers lost their ships through bad seamanship. The Suebi and the Frisii, taking them for pirates, attacked them  and sold them into slavery. So ends this digression in Tacitus’ history.

The battle of Mons Graupius was a Roman military victory in 83 CE. The exact location of the battle remains a matter of debate.

Agricola had sent his fleet ahead to panic the Caledonians, and, with light infantry reinforced with British and German auxiliaries, he reached the site, which he found occupied by the enemy.

Even though the Romans were outnumbered in their campaign against the tribes of Britain, they often had difficulties in getting their foes to face them in open battle. The Caledonians were the last to be subdued. After many years of avoiding the fight, the Caledonians were forced to join battle when the Romans marched on the main granaries of the Caledonians, just as they had been filled from the harvest. The Caledonians had no choice but to fight, or starve over the next winter.

Non Romans did much or most of the fighting on the Roman side. The legions were held back, and it was considered a better victory if they didn’t have to enter combat at all. The allied auxiliary infantry (meaning Britons and Germans who sided with Agricola) numbered 8,000 and was in the center of the battle line.

Three thousand cavalry were on the flanks and the legionaries were in front of their camp as a reserve. The Roman army was 17,000 – 30,000 strong, and the Caledonians, stationed on higher ground up the slope of the hill in horseshoe formation, were about 30,000.

After an exchange of missiles, Agricola ordered the auxiliaries to close with the enemy. The Caledonians were cut down and trampled on the lower slopes of the hill. Those at the top attempted an outflanking movement, but were themselves outflanked by Roman cavalry. The Caledonians were then routed and they fled for the shelter of nearby woodland, but were relentlessly pursued by well-organized Roman units.

According to Tacitus, 10,000 Caledonian lives were lost at a cost of only 360 auxiliary troops. This is most likely an exaggeration. Roman accounts of enemy dead were often suspect, especially with such a huge difference in numbers. Twenty thousand Caledonians retreated into the woods, where they fared considerably better against pursuing forces. Roman scouts were unable to locate the remaining Caledonian forces the next morning.

After the battle of Mons Graupius in the north of Scotland, it was proclaimed that Agricola had finally conquered all the tribes of Britain, which is not strictly true, as the Caledonians and their allies remained a threat.

Tacitus’ statement Perdomita Britannia et statim missa (Britain was completely conquered and immediately let go) reflects his bitter disapproval of Emperor Domitian’s failure to unify the whole island under Roman rule after Agricola’s successful campaign.

In the absence of any archaeological evidence and with the very low estimate of Roman casualties, the decisive victory reported by Tacitus may be an invention, either by Tacitus himself, or by Agricola.

Agricola had been governor for an unusually long period and his recall to Rome was overdue, thus he was not recalled on account of his fabricating battle statistics. G. Iulius Agricola  was awarded triumphal honors on his return to Rome and was offered another governorship in Syria, so it would seem unlikely that Emperor Domitian was trying to hold him back.

Contrary to Tacitus’ account, archaeological evidence indicates that Domitian did not immediately abandon all efforts to subjugate the remainder of Britain. The construction of a series of forts beyond the Forth,

and in particular the legionary fortress of Inchtuthil were intended to control the territory over which Agricola had advanced.

Over the next few decades, however, the Romans conducted a staged withdrawal towards the eventual frontier demarcated by Hadrian’s Wall.

The actual location of the battle of Mons Graupius has caused a lot of healthy debate.

Most of the proposed sites span Perthshire to north of the River Dee, probably near to where Big Brother and the Holding Company played in Glenfarg (2006), about three quarters of the way from Edinburgh to Perth.

A number of authors speculate that the battle occurred in the Grampian Mounth within sight of the North Sea.

In particular, some believe that the high ground of the battle may have been Kempstone Hill, Megray Hill or other knolls near the Raedykes Roman camp.

These sites in Kincardineshire fit the historical descriptions of Tacitus and have also yielded Roman archaelogical finds.

In addition these points of high ground are near the Elsick Mounth, an ancient trackway used by Romans and Caledonians for military maneuvers.

“Agricola was born on the Ides of June in the third consulship of Gaius Caesar; he died in his fifty-fourth year on the tenth day before the Kalends of September in the consulship of Collega and Priscinus.”     (13 June 40  to  23 August 93)

“You were fortunate, indeed, Agricola, in your glorious life, but no less so in your timely death. Those who were present at your final words attest that you met your death with a cheerful courage, as though doing your best to absolve the emperor (Domitian) of guilt.”

Thus Tacitus (with a final dig at Domitian) on his father-in-law’s life and death.  The entire book Agricola can be seen as a funeral oration to his wife’s father.

Tacitus was a man who wanted to get it right. He was ernest, sincere, very intelligent, and he sought to write his story sine ira et studio, without anger and without zeal (partisanship).

It is through Tacitus’ eyes that we see the first century of the Empire.

When he failed, as he sometimes did,  to live up to his promise to preach “the gospel of things as they were,”  it was never from a desire to bear false witness.

His view of life was pessimistic and he always knew that the Roman conquest of the world was perhaps not so beneficial for the conquered.

We Americans, of all people, should recognize the desire in the Romans to conquer the world, because of an innate feeling that their/our way of life should be shared among all the nations, that we somehow have found the key to a higher, more organized, “better” life path, that, if only they, the barbarians, would accept it, it would help all peoples to live better lives.

Tacitus was the first person to examine closely this naïve assumption.  Sometimes he bought it, sometimes he didn’t, but it makes him an interesting historian to read, two thousand years down the road. I would like to hear what Tacitus would say about such institutions as, for example, the Peace Corps, Starbucks, the Mormon effort and missionaries in general.

Romans were a proselytizing people and so are we, who feel that if we are not converting people to our view of life, that we are somehow failing, or, worse, that our view of life may not be the correct one.

I was raised in the Catholic Church, which is of course, very Roman. The Church inherited the Roman urge toward domination, conquest, triumph, seeking converts, martyrdom, self sacrifice in pursuit of a worthy goal, study, organization, hierarchy, militarism, and a whole (pardon the expression) host of other good and not so good life orientations.

Even though today I am an agnostic, I look at this Church with great interest, just as Tacitus would have, because she is a living, breathing continuation of the Roman Empire.

Tacitus towers above the historians of Rome as Thucydides towered above those of Greece.

Tacitus used the Latin language more creatively and more freely than any author before him. He never indulged in simple minded nostalgia. He knew he had to live his life well in the time that it was given to him, and that there was no going back.

Ab actu ad posse valet illatio.             Study of the past will shed light on the future.

Sam Andrew



Two people who always made me feel glad to be alive.

You give people what they want, they’ll turn out.     (A rival producer observing the crowd at Louis B. Mayer’s funeral.)

I willed my body to science and now science is contesting the will.

If there was no action around, he would play solitaire… and bet against himself.

How are you planning for your retirement?    Powerball.

Gambling is a sure way of getting nothing for something.

“Unbelievable,” exclaimed Jimmy, “I’ve played plenty of poker in my day, but I never imagined I would see a dog win at poker.”   “Ah, we usually wipe him out,” said an old geezer at the table, “Every time he gets a good hand, he wags his tail.”

Las Vegas is the only town in the country where you can have a good time without enjoying yourself.

Hypochondria is the only disease I haven’t got.

There are people who deprive themselves of every eatable, drinkable and smokable that has in any way acquired a shady reputation. They pay this price for health, and health is all they get for it.         Mark Twain

They just tested the tap water in my town and found traces of estrogen and anti-depressants, so I’m going to be more feminine and happier about it.

if exercise is so good for you, why do athletes have to retire by age thirty-five?

What’s the definition of minor surgery?      An operation performed on someone else.

Dentist:  Jesus, what happened to your teeth? They’re all gone and your gums are in terrible shape.  Patient:  If that’s such a big problem, then get your face out of my lap.

What’s the good part about Alzheimer’s?     You keep meeting new friends.

Tell me, doctor, how much longer am I going to live?    That’s always difficult to say, she replied brightly, but let’s just say that if I were you, I wouldn’t start watching a new miniseries on TV.

I used up all my sick days, so I’m calling in dead.

Thanksgiving is an emotional time. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.

The Supreme Court ruled against having a Nativity scene in Washington, D.C.  This wasn’t for religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.

Santa’s very jolly because he knows where all the bad girls live.

We’re buying a home. When you buy a home, you deal with Realtors. Realtors are people who didn’t make it as lawyers or politicians.

I have a special Italian lamp with a three way switch… dim, flicker and out.

Some men think that they can convert gay women, make them straight.  I can’t do that. I can make a straight woman gay, though.

Take boxing.  Two topless men?  In silk shorts?  Fighting over a belt and a purse?

A hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running.

I had general anesthesia. That’s so weird. You go to sleep in one room and you wake up four hours later in a totally different room.  Just like college.

I had a hotel room so small that if I would have died in it they could have put handles on the room and used it for a coffin.

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam… and I’ll show you a house full of chips and dirt.

I haven’t cleaned up my house in a while. There’s a milk carton in there with a photo of Jimmy Hoffa on it.

I got rid of those stinking odors in my kitchen. I stopped cooking.

Why don’t you keep watch and see how long the meek keep the earth after they’ve inherited it?

Beaver talking to a rabbit while they’re looking at Hoover Dam:  No, I didn’t actually build it, but it’s based on an idea of mine.

I used to worry about what people would think of me, until I realized they rarely do.

It’s easy to turn the other cheek when your tongue is in it.

I don’t make jokes. I just look at congress and describe what I see.

Witty replies are something we think of on the stairway after the party.  The French call this “l’esprit de l’escalier.”

Laughter is god’s gift to mankind and mankind is proof that god has a sense of humor.

Whatever you read that I said isn’t true, unless it was funny. Then I definitely said it.

Everything is funny as long as it is happening to someone else, or a long time ago.

My wife thinks that I am too nosy. At least that’s what she keeps writing in her diary.

You can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it.       Napoleon Bonaparte

One good thing about getting old.  No more calls from insurance people.

She was interested in her husband’s activities, so she hired a detective.

Two old ladies were having coffee at Grossinger’s when  a flasher darted over to their table and threw open his coat. “Hmmmph,” snorted Sadie, you call that a lining?”

A Jewish mother’s dilemma: Having a gay son who’s dating a doctor.

Dyslexic Rabbi after a rough day:  ”Yo!”

His idea of oral sex is talking about himself.

A blind guy goes to a seder and the hostess hands him a piece of matzoh. “Hey,” he says, “who wrote this shit?”

She belongs to a reform congregation. It’s called Jews R Us.

Would you want to put your life in the hands of twelve people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty?

All US presidents have worn glasses.

A client calls his lawyer and asks, “How much would you charge me to answer three questions?”  Lawyer: “Four hundred dollars.”  Client:  ”That’s a lot of money, isn’t it?”  Lawyer: “I suppose so, what’s your third question?”

Ulysses S. Grant had a boyhood nickname “Useless.”

John Quincy Adams owned a pet alligator, which he kept in the East Room of the White House.

“You seem to have more than  the average share of intelligence for a woman of your background,” sneered the lawyer at a witness on the stand.  ”If I weren’t under oath,” answered the witness, “I’d return the compliment.”

Abraham Lincoln died in the same bed that had been occupied by his assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

Tom: It was so cold this morning.  Dick: How cold was it?  Tom: I don’t know the exact temperature, but I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets.

President James A. Garfield could write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other… simultaneously.

Two lawyers are walking down the street and they see a beautiful woman walking toward them. “Boy, would I like to screw her,” says the first lawyer. “I know,” says the second, “but out of what?”

The best male voice in rock and roll… ever.

Guy receives a bill from his lawyer:  ”For crossing the street to speak to you and discovering it was not you:  $ 50.”

We have thirty five million laws to enforce ten commandments.

In 1912, after being shot in the chest, Theodore Roosevelt finished a speech he was delivering before he accepted any medical help.

“How much is two plus two?” the client asked his lawyer. She drew all the shades in the room, looked outside to see if anyone was there, checked the phone for listening devices, and finally whispered, “How much do you want it to be?”

Life is not for everyone.

The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination, but the combination is locked in the safe.

Harry Truman’s middle name was just S and not short for anything. His parents couldn’t decide between two different names beginning with S.

If you can’t find a lawyer who knows the law, find a lawyer who knows the judge.

Laboratories have switched from rats to lawyers for their experiments because, a. there is no shortage of lawyers, b. you don’t get so attached to them, and c. after all, there are some things you can’t get rats to do.

A lonely stranger went into a deserted restaurant and ordered the breakfast special. When his order arrived, he looked up at the waitress and said, “How about a kind word?” She leaned over and whispered, “Don’t eat the meat.”

Lyndon B. Johnson was the first president to wear contact lenses.

I once hit it big In Las Vegas. I drove there in an $8,000 car, and returned home on a $40,000 bus.

If love is the answer, could you rephrase the question?         Lily Tomlin

Love is like an hourglass:  the heart fills up and the brain empties.

Love is an ocean of emotion surrounded by a fence of expense.

Ronald Reagan was the only divorced president and the only president to be head of a labor union.

Love is staying awake all night with a sick child… or a very healthy adult.

Love is like the measles… the later in life it comes, the worse it is.

Millard Fillmore’s mother feared he may have been mentally retarded,

Make love, not war. Hey, you can do both… get married.

Lovely, shapely legs. Beautiful, luminous eyes. Deep, sexy voice. Large hands and a protruding Adam’s apple… hey! Wait a minute.

Bill Clinton was the first left-handed president to serve two terms.

A better understanding of the universe has enabled us to retrodict such phenomena as the passing of Halley’s Comet.

Love is what happens to a man and a woman who don’t know each other.           Somerset Maugham

David Rice Atchinson was president of the United States for exactly one day.

It’s bad luck to believe in superstition.

Andrew Jackson was the only president to believe that the world is flat.

Every horseshoe that someone uses for good luck? That horseshoe was once on a horse that didn’t have such good luck.

Ronald Reagan married his first wife Jane Wyman at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Al Capone’s business card said he was a used furniture dealer.  His brother was a town sheriff.  His other brother was a priest. (No, I just made that last part up.)

Why are builders afraid to have a thirteenth floor, but book publishers aren’t afraid to have a Chapter Eleven.

You don’t lose your interest in sex as you grow older. You’re attracted as strongly as you ever were to eighteen year olds. It’s just that everyone your own age seems repulsive.

Hitler planned to change the name of Berlin to Germania.

Louis XIV of France had a stomach the size of two stomachs.

The shortest British monarch was Charles I. He was four feet, nine inches.  He would become even shorter later.

No president has been an only child.

Hitler was a claustrophobe. The elevator leading to his eagles’ nest in the Austrian Alps was mirrored so it would appear larger and more open.

Peter the Great executed his wife’s lover and forced her to keep the lover’s head in a jar of alcohol in her bedroom.

Queen Berengaria (1191 CE) of England never lived in nor even visited England.

Leonardo da Vinci could write with one hand and draw with the other at the same time, so take that President Garner.

Why do men have more brains than dogs do?  So they won’t hump women’s legs at cocktail parties.

Vincent Van Gogh sold one painting, Red Vineyard at Arles.

Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Monroe all died on July 4. Jefferson and Adams, bitter enemies, died on almost the same minute of the same day.

Of all his talents, Leonardo was most proud that he could bend iron with his bare hands.

Isaac Newton invented the cat door.

The most popular guy at my nudist camp could carry two cups of coffee and a dozen doughnuts at the same time.

Narada Michael Walden, Clarence Clemmons, Todd Rundgren, Bobby Weir and Huey Lewis

Every time a woman leaves something off, she looks better and every time a man leaves something off, he looks worse.       Will Rogers

Nobody knows where Voltaire’s body is. It was stolen in the nineteenth century and has never been recovered. The theft was discovered in 1864, when the tomb was opened and found empty. It would not surprise me at all to learn that Voltaire paid someone in advance to steal his body. Seems like something he would do.

Sigmund Freud had a morbid fear of ferns.     Paging Doctor… oh, never mind.

Einstein’s last words were in German. The attending nurse knew no German, so his last words will never be known.  (Hey, maybe he was speaking Yiddish?)

Hitler and Napoleon each had only one testicle.

Napoleon liked mathematicians and physicists but he banned humanists from his circle because he thought they were troublemakers, which they are.

Christopher Columbus was a blonde.

I went to the doctor and told her, “My penis is burning,” and she said, “That means somebody is talking about it”

Well, hasta la pasta, happy trails to you.

Chet Helms       Sam Andrew