The Bully I’m Not Canonizing

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Department of Simple Pleasures

My table calendar by artist Joyce Gabriel makes the time-passes-too-damn-fast transition somewhat bearable…and I never peek ahead. I like to be surprised by each month’s mascot.

Yesterday was goodbye, cucumber, hello, candy corn.




The artist also makes the Best Playing Cards Ever ® .

*   *   *

Department of Simple Pleasures, the Sequel

Dateline: yesterday morning, circa 7:30 am, walking through a local park. Many school children, sometimes accompanied by a parent or older siblings, take the park’s paths to the nearby elementary school. A lad (age six or seven, I’d guess) riding a scooter was on the path, headed toward me. He called, “It’s hard.” At least5, I think that’s what he said – I was listening to a podcast and had my ear buds in.




I paused the podcast and looked around. The boy was alone; the friendly, please-notice-me expression on his face was definitely directed my way. As he scooted past me he showed to a stop and indicated with one hand the direction from which he’d come.

“It’s hard, riding all that way,” he said. “I’m new at this.” I gave him a thumbs up and told him I never would have guessed that –  he rode like a champ! The bashful smile on his face indicated I had made his morning…and he, mine.

*   *   *

I’d been trying to avoid most of the All Pope/All the Time coverage infesting seemingly every media outlet [1] of that RC dude known as Francis’ “Rocking America” tour. It frosts my butt, FAVOR, [2] to see a smoke-and-mirrors appointed leader of a patriarchal mythological religion [3] treated as if he were the head of a legitimate nation with whom the USA has strategic interests and/or trade and arms agreements.

(And don’t get me started even thinking about how much thi$ i$ co$ting taxpayer$ in providing $ecurity and other logi$t6ical arrangement$.)




As per my life de-stressing campaign, a part of my pope-news-evasion strategy includes trying to ignore the fawning statements by some of my allegedly liberal sisters and brothers, who rhetorically pee their tighty-whities [4] with excitement when Frankie says something that sounds even vaguely 21st century (his predecessors set the bar way low, so the rejoicing is almost understandable).

I understand the hopeful, the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend reasoning.  Still, I cannot ignore the fact that, his welcome rhetoric on climate change aside, Frankie has changed not one mote of the Roman Catholic Church’s dark ages, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-reality doctrine.

And then I hear this: during his visit, PF canonized Junipero Serra.


WTF, Captain?!

WTF, Captain?!


Okay. The whole thing with saints is, of course, just another embarrassing relic/irrational ritual, so who cares who gets in to the RC Hall of Superstition.  But, really, Junipero Serra? The convert-or-die, religious fanatic bully Franciscan friar who marched north from Mexico with the conquistadors through what is now California, establishing the mission system, beating and enslaving Native Americans and asking the Spanish Inquisition headquarters in Mexico City to send an Inquisitor to the Sierra Gorda missions?

Yeah, that’s the ticket.


 "For crissake, child, cover those buns with the smallpox-infested breeches we've so generously given to you ignorant savages."

“For crissake, cover your buns with the smallpox-infested breeches we’ve so generously given you ignorant savages.”


Regular readers of this blog [5] might rightly assume that I view the RC hierarchy as a misogynist, anti-intellectual, humorless gang of doddering old men. Still, I gotta credit their wacky sense of humor when it comes initiating and maintaining the saint circus.

There’s a patron saint for everything, from coffee houses and broken bones (St. Drogo) to kidney disease and spelunkers (St. Benedict of Nursia ) and motorcyclists (St. Columbanus) and civil disorder (St. Andrew Corsini)  and toothache (St. Medardus) and beekeeping (St. Valentine) and…no, really, ice skaters (St. Lidwina)? and….

So, I guess there is plenty of room for Serra – why not a patron saint of cultural genocide?  Give ’em another hundred years and some pope will find a way to sanctify Risadle of Ballarat, patron saint of altar boy diddlers and child molesters.


Saint Lidwina, I beseech thy intercession, for my triple axel doth grievously suck.

St. Lidwina, I beseech thy intercession, for my triple axel doth grievously suck.

*   *   *


“It’s not what kind of church I believe in – for that should be important only to me – but what kind of American I believe in.”
(Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, 9-12-1960, speaking before the Houston Ministerial Association

Attention, ye bloviating Baptists and chattering Catholics – yes, I’m talking to you, Republican presidential candidates – who so liberally [6] imbue your political rhetoric with what should be your private primitive, mythologically-based ignorance nonsense religious opinions: I cringe with embarrassment for y’all – with the embarrassment y’all are apparently to self-unmindful to feel – when I hear your why-my-god-told-me-to-run-for-president blathering.  Such a pathetic contrast to the soaring reassurances from one who came before you.




That speech to the Houston Ministerial Association addressed what was a pressing issue at the time – what Kennedy referred to as “the so-called religious issue.” This issue, which distracted from the real issues that should decide a political campaign, was the idea that, if elected, JFK would be the first “Catholic President” and thus would be subject to “taking orders” from the Vatican.

“I believe in an American where the separation of church and state is absolute…”

We’ve all likely heard or read that oft-quoted excerpt from Kennedy’s masterful oration, but I urge you to listen to or read the transcript of the entire speech.

Have we fallen so far so fast, that politicians feel comfortable – even obligated – to advertise their personal religious beliefs, as if publicly stated allegiance to imaginary friends are prerequisites or necessities for gaining votes in our patently (and constitutionally mandated) secular democracy? I despair when I consider the fact that so many god-talk people are apparently/willfully ignorant of the deliberately god-free constitution of the country they aspire to lead.

Oh, and a prescient shout-out from JFK’s speech, to scofflaw county clerk Kim Davis [7] and others of her ilk:

“But if the time should ever come …when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.”


*   *   *

I Realize Marijuana Has Been Legalized in Oregon…


But I wasn’t expecting my broccoli to be getting all giggly about it.



*   *   *

Recently Overheard


“I would not wish ____

* shingles

* leukemia

* Huntington’s Disease

* the heartbreak of psoriasis

* mandatory attendance at an Adam Sandler film festival

*standing downwind of Mike Huckabee after a Gods, Guns Grits & Gravy workout

* ( name your affliction )

on my worst enemy.”


Just wondering: what would you wish on your worst enemy?


*   *   *

May your worst enemies send you their best wishes,
May you live a life free from possible sainthood,
may your vegetables give you the drug-free giggles,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] Shame on you, NPR.

[2] For a variety of reasons.

[3] A redundant description, I realize.

[4] Rainbow colored, in this case.

[5] As well as those who suffer from occasional irregularity.  Sorry.

[6] Well, in a manner of speaking.

[7] How embarrassing for us all, that this ignorant, hypocritical bigot now has her own Wikipedia entry.

The Trigger I’m Not Warning

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Trigger warning: image of child abuse:


From NY Times article re the Gucci Spring 2016 collection.

From NY Times article re the Gucci Spring 2016 collection.


Could someone please alert UNICEF?

*   *   *

A Book of Oh, Barf

“It’s tough to handle this fortune and fame,
 Everybody’s so different I haven’t changed.”
(Life’s Been Good, Joe Walsh)

Trigger warning: this post contains strong opinions, vulgarities and strong language.


 “I have a love/hate relationship with ____________. “

That’s what I would say; that’s the standard (read: worn out) phrase I might employ, were I to describe something about which I am ambivalent. Except that when it comes to the topic of literary fame and publicity, my feelings are definitely one-sided.

My loathing for such was rekindled Monday morning, as I thumbed through The Arts section of The NY Times, looking for the crossword and KenKen puzzles. [1] A full page ad opposite the puzzles trumpeted an upcoming reception celebrating the release of a new book by what I refer to as one of those TWAB POTS (scrambled acronym for Authors Who Have Started To Believe Their Own Publicity).  Here is the ad’s description for the book of what is likely to be a slim volume, given the subject matter: [2]

“______ (TWAB POTS’ name) has inspired millions with her wisdom, courage and honesty. Now she has selected 100 of her most popular and inspirational quotes for ______ ( pretentiously terse book title), a new volume she calls a “book of yes.”


I keep a barf bag close at hand, because you never know.

I keep a barf bag close at hand, because you never know.


“A book of yes.”



Really – and, dang! Yet another of my working titles stolen. So now I have to call my collection of 100 of my most obscure and disheartening quotes, A Book of, Fuck No, What The Hell Were You Thinking?!”

Yet again, I digress.




The ad further informed me that I may “hear the NY Times best-selling author discuss the twists and trials of her remarkable life” – an offer I shall decline, given my suspicions that author’s twists and trials have been somewhat calculated so as to procure book contracts.

Okay; I could be off-base about that previous opinion. But one thing I know for sure is that it is not good for one’s sense of self to voluntarily or otherwise [3] be subject to fawning adulation – no matter what the reason and no matter what your profession.

Honestly, how truly wise and courageous is it to allow yourself to be hyped for your wisdom, courage and honesty?

Our society revels in gleefully harping on the pomposity and egomania of celebrities. I am no exception, and oft mourned in this space what I see as the celebritization of authors.  Surrounded by such public relations horse manure hyperbole, how does or can you maintain a sense of perspective and modesty re your place in the larger world?

Fortunately (and, obviously), in my case, that question has never been put to the test. Still, were I to show up at a reading of one of my books and see a larger-than-life head-shot of me [4] on a banner, accompanied by a description of how my remarkable life and writing has inspired millions, no Sharpie ®  would go uncapped in my efforts to bring the proceedings down to earth.


Something like this, only even less mature.

Something like this, only even less mature.

*   *   *

The Return of the Asshat

Trigger warning: this post contains opinions, language and pictures that may be offensive to people who watch reruns of Hee Haw and sigh, Now, that’s entertainment!


Let’s say you are a corporate CEO who employs a stable of intelligent and accomplished engineers. Do you utilize their technical experience and skills to find and/or create sources of renewable energy, or upgrade devices to remove pollutants from the air we all breathe…or maybe just design a more energy efficient window defroster?


VW = Veracity-Free Weasels

VW = Veracity-Free Weasels


Nah. You use them to cheat : Volkswagen Emissions Scandal Widens

You pay them to find a way to break the law and thus facilitate even more spewage of toxins into the atmosphere. [5]

Volkswagen, this Asshat of the Week award is for you.



*   *   *

Department of Non Sequitur Segue to a Smoky Wee-wee Anecdote

Trigger warning: smoky wee-wee anecdote.


Dateline: First Day of Fall, out for my morning walk. Passing through a certain neighborhood, I noticed the air smells like what I can only imagine a bucket of piss would smell like if you put in under the lid of one of those BBQ smoker contraptions.

Not the autumnal aroma I was hoping for.


BBQ lovers, pull up a seat, urine for a treat.

BBQ lovers, pull up a seat, urine for a treat.


*   *   *

Trigger warning: If you think phrases like “trigger warning” should be posted before strongly worded or controversial opinions, you shouldn’t be reading any blogs and definitely should not be browsing the internet.


Son K is (re) taking up fencing (he and his sister, Belle, took a fencing class many, many years ago). He has signed up for a couple of trial session with a local fencing academy, wherein one can drop in on ongoing classes. He returned home Tuesday night, after the first session, and said that although the class he attended is listed as for adults, at age twenty-two he seemed to be one of the elder class members.

When I asked if that bothered him, K smiled wryly and replied that it didn’t.  At  6 ‘3″+ he was one of the taller students in the class; thus, his reach far exceeded that of his kiddie opponents, most of whom were longtime students, obviously more experienced and skilled than he. K confessed to taking petty pleasure from sparring with the younger, shorter fencers, because at some point he’s just reach his blade over the top of their heads and, to use his sound effect, bop.


Here come de bop.

Here come de bop.

*   *   *

Trigger warning: I really like saying bop.

I wonder if Little Bunny Foo Foo can be adapted for the scenarioI have going through my head?

You’re singing it now, admit it.


Little bunny foo foo, fencing through the forest....

Little bunny foo foo, fencing through the forest….


*   *   *

Trigger warning: Giddyap, boy, head for the hills while you can – that crazy ass cowboy plans to stuff you and put you in his museum!



*   *   *

May you enjoy more than your share of petty pleasures,
may your life be trigger-warning free,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] Which the NYT oh-so-conveniently prints side-by-side on the same page, for us puzzle lovers.

[2] Insert hissing sound effects.

[3] I assume an author of her ilk has some input if not total approval of her own PR.

[4] For which you will never find me posing.

[5] Is this the fifth footnote? What a letdown.

The Funeral I’m Not Attending

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We are still in somewhat of a psyche-scrambling whirlwind after the events of the past has-it-not-even-been-two-weeks. One of the many side effects of such turmoil is this lite, 20 % less filling blog post. [1]

My FIL’s death was just one of the Sad Events ®  either mentioned or alluded to in last week’s post – events that have left us feeling pulled in various directions and emotionally and physically drained, to be tastefully understate the situation. None of us– us being my immediate family – will be attending tomorrow’s funeral for MH’s father. The funeral service will be held where his late father and mother  [2] lived/live, which is some 3000 miles southeast of us as the crow flies.  [3]   

We have the understanding, love and support of MH’s mother and are at peace with our decision to tend to our family’s needs and not make the grueling, cross-country trip twice in as many weeks. As wrenching as it was for MH to see his erstwhile vibrant and accomplished father so debilitated, MH was able to have ten days of “what counts,” we’re-all-in-this-together time with his mother and sister, who worked together as a family, loving and caring for their respective husband and father, setting up in-home hospice and nursing care, and staying with him until the end.


Bob at CrabTree Falls

*   *   *

The scrimmage is “touch,”
not tackle. What, you ask, could
possibly go wrong?

The zen/sport koan
asks this: What is the sound of
one bone shattering?

*   *   *

What a way to start the season, am I right?
(Belles’s text informing me that she’d broken her finger during a rugby scrimmage)

More like, what a way to end the season before it’s started, I thought, when I saw Belle’s artistic rendering of the x-ray taken of her finger, the x-ray that made the Urgent Care clinician immediately refer Belle to an orthopedic hand surgeon:




Another one of the Events Previously Alluded To was our needing to tend to the fallout from the BFF (Belle’s Broken Finger) Caper.

Department of Long Story Short: once MH and I understood the extent of Belle’s injury, we brought her home from college to consult with an orthopedic hand specialist surgeon. Her fracture turned out to be a very complicated one, the kind of case which both challenges and tantalizes a good surgeon (and we found an excellent doc for her. It seems all those certificates on his exam room wall were legit, and not just purchased from those ads you used to find in the 1970s issues of Mother Jones magazine).

After Belle’s post-op appointment her surgeon set her up with an initial PT session with a finger therapy specialist. Dr. FingerWhiz gave Belle his permission to return to college, with the proviso that she will need frequent and regular PT sessions for the next eight weeks, and also be seen by a local (Tacoma) hand surgeon for post-op followup and eventual removal of the surgical pin.  If she is diligent in her PT she can hope to obtain what, we were told, is be the best case scenario for return of function – a 80-90º bend in the finger’s joint. She will have some permanent  loss of movement and function in the finger, which will never be able to join its other finger buddies in forming a fully clenched fist.

As my patron saint Doris Day would have said, Que sera sera. Or as one wise family friend put it, there are enough clenched fists in this world.


Doris bravely keeps on keeping on, despite her debilitating neck-craning injury.

Doris bravely kept on keeping on, despite her debilitating neck-clenching injury.


Speaking of fingers, “Where were you when I was a toddler?” I asked the hand surgeon, when we chatted after Belle’s surgery and I held up my very own  “special needs” pinkie finger. You should have seen the gleam in his eyes.


My funny finger has its own FB page.

My funny finger used to have its own FB page.


Content warning: really cool pictures, including a view of the wire left in Belle’s finger to realign and hold in place the smashed bits of her finger joint. For some reason, my darling daughter resists my suggestion to hang a tree ornament from the wire’s hook. Kids are so conservative these days.





The surgery in progress.

The surgery in progress.



Before the post-surgical unveiling.

Before the post-surgical unveiling.



Sadie pinkie pinJPG


*   *   *

Department of Cheap Thrills

And I do mean cheap: driving around the parking lot of a Fred Meyer store, verrrrrrrrrrrrry slooooooooooooowly, looking for a parking spot, while the Low Rider song is playing on my car’s radio.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeee haw.

What can I say; I’m over fifty.


*   *   *

May your thrills be cheap but satisfying,
may your bone fractures and heartaches mend,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1]  Our tragedy is your gain, or some equally insipid slogan, might be inserted here.

[2] Mh’s mother is very much alive. Does that make her his early mother?

[3]  Except that the crow big enough to hold our family plus flight crew never flies directly from Portland to Orlando, but always wants to take you to up to Seattle and then to Los Angeles or Dallas or Chicago first.

The Revolution I’m Not Televising


The Sad Situation I’m Not Writing About

I may mention it in a later post. For now, although I am well aware of The Circle Of Life ©  and all, there is a massive sucking sound coming from my chest. It’s my heart, sinking in the muck of anxiety arising from the fact that someone near and dear to me is helping someone near and dear to him navigate the end of life.
 (from my 9-4-15 blog post )

The someone I referred to in that post was my husband [1] watching his beloved father fade away.

MH’s father died at home in central Florida, after living with Parkinson’s disease for many years and having, in the past several weeks, been stricken with what physician Atul Gawande refers to [2] as ODTAA syndrome. [3] After bouncing between hospital and rehab facility, enduring procedures and attempts to “fix” one problem which in turn caused a cascade of other problems, MH’s father’s most recent ODTAA prompted a second opinion physician to recommend hospice care.

The day before we were to drive up to Tacoma to take our daughter Belle to her sophomore year in college, MH’s father took that proverbial turn for the worse and received the hospice recommendation. I moved Belle into her campus housing and returned to Hillsboro while MH flew to Florida to help his mother arrange for hospice care in their home. MH intended to stay at his father’s side for the duration, and would have, save for a sudden, dramatic wobble in our family planet’s Circle of Life rotation.

Excuse the El Stinko analogy.

  *   *   *

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
Gil Scot-Heron, American Jazz musician-poet

The revolution, of course, has been televised. And sanitized and commercialized and commod-i-fied and turned into fodder for many an HBO series. But the afore-mentioned “wobble” will not be blog-i-fied right now, by moiself, save to say that it was a family medical crisis that caused MH to have to bid goodbye to his father [4] and get on the first available plane back to the west coast.


I need a baby-sloth-in-pajamas picture. Maybe you do, too.

I need a baby-sloth-in-pajamas picture. Maybe you do, too.


*   *   *

May you and yours realize that life is good even when it seems to suck,
and hold on to the fact that the hijinks will, eventually, ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] My husband, as loyal readers know, is oh-so-cleverly referred to in these “pages” as MH.

[2] In his amazing, compassionate book that everyone alive must read, Being Mortal.

[3] One Damn Thing After Another.

[4] Who died Monday evening, an hour after MH left for the airport.

The Blog I’m Not Following

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What I fondly refer to as The Icky P stuff – Publicity and Promotion – is a tricky thing for writers. If you are an author who has an agent who also handles publicity and/or your publisher has promotional staff, depending on your contract stipulations you may not be in total control (or even in the loop) when it comes to the various (real time and social media) marketing decisions re your book.

I get that.

So, why did it stick in my craw to open my email, see “A Personal Message from ___ (Author’s Name Redacted),” and discover that – of course – it was nothing of the kind?  [1]  Instead, it was a mass marketing shill hype for ANR’s new book.




I’d read ANR’s first book, and was waffling on whether or not to check out the second. The “personal message” email tipped my probably not now to a definite no.

Most of ANR’s work had a decidedly humorous bent to it; thus, there’s the distinct possibility ANR’s email was meant to spoof that style of faux personal mass announcement…by doing a faux personal mass announcement. Which I also get, and also still don’t like.

I don’t recall signing up on an email list for such announcements. I follow ANR’s blog; that’s not the same thing. Perhaps I’m being picky here, but the “personal message” is a spam-worthy tactic – I don’t do stoop to this kind of publicity myself and don’t want to support it from others.

I’ve enjoyed (some of) ANR’s writing and blog posts…although I’ve increasingly been skimming/skipping the latter, as IMHO they seem to be singing-the same-tune-over-and-over. And I struggled with whether or not to post this beef of mine, because so many of ANR’s posts are related to the author’s lifelong struggle with mental illnesses, including depression. Dang those pesky, petty principles of mine, which once again got in the way of my self-censorship. [2]  And, really, how self-important of me, to think that the possibility of losing moiself as a reader/blog follower might cause any writer to spiral down into a depressive episode.



*   *   *

The Sad Situation I’m Not Writing About

I may mention it in a later post. For now, although I am well aware of The Circle Of Life ©  and all, there is a massive sucking sound coming from my chest. It’s my heart, sinking in the muck of anxiety arising from the fact that someone near and dear to me is helping someone near and dear to him navigate the end of life.

*   *   *

Department of Things I Love
That May Make You Say, Meh

I love the feel of cooked lima beans (that have cooled off but are still slightly warm) in my hands as I transfer them to a freezer bag. [3]


 This exists! I'm not the only one!

This exists! I’m not the only one!


*   *   *

Department of I Think It’s Better The Way I Heard It

Dateline: a week ago, driving up to Tacoma, taking daughter Belle to her sophomore year @ UPS. Belle hooked up her phone to the car’s sound system and was playing “her” music.  When I attempted to sing along with the chorus to the song, Everybody Talks, my daughter patiently suggested to me that,”It started with a whisper /and then it was my keister was probably not the correct line.  [4]





*   *   *

Department of Foo Foo

Balsamic fig glaze.

I know what it sounds like: a teaspoon-sized drizzle of something you’d find on a $49 starter plate at a pretentious Portland restaurant. Still, if you see it on a menu, order whatever it comes with. As son K said about seventeen years ago (even as a child, he was a quipster): Taste bud rodeo!



*   *   *

Department of Things Not To Joke About With (What Passes For) The Security Staff

“Do you mind if I look in your purse?” The adorably nebbish, adolescent male theatre employee cleared his throat, his Adam’s apple trembling only slightly less than his fingers as he fumbled with my movie ticket.

Just for a moment I considered three possible responses:

*Sure, I’ve nothing to hide…in my purse. Just stay away from my coat pockets, okay?

* No problem. When I’m packing heat I use my shoulder holster.

* Suit yourself – I switched my IED [5] to Airplane mode.

And just for another moment, I reconsidered those responses.

I smiled, murmured, “Oh, yeah, I guess that’s a thing now,” and unzipped the main compartment of my purse….which could have been hiding Nancy Reagan’s tiny little gun for all Nebbish Movie Theatre Boy would have known.  I mean, it was the most ineffective, what’s-the-point? glance/search ever.

As I made my way to theatre #6 I had a moment of wistful regret. If only I’d remembered that some theatres have instituted this new bag-checking policy, I could’ve stuffed my purse with tampons and other Lady Business Stuff ® and likely caused that whitest of white boys to do the pink cheek flambé.

Next time.


keep calm

*   *   *


So, it’s September, aka Where Did The Summer Go? ®.  Belle is back in college. K has graduated from college and is living at home, tolerating a job in food service while applying for “real” jobs (i.e., related to his major), and researching grad school options. [6] If you know anyone who’s hiring worker bees who have a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology, give us a holler.



*   *   *



May you enjoy the lyrics whatever way you hear them,
may your theatre bag searches be unremarkable,
may your worker bees find buzz-worthy employment,
…and may the hijinks ensue.


Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] How could it be personal? We’ve never met.

[2] Although I did decide not to use ANR’s name.

[3] If you love lima beans you must always have a bag of cooked lima beans handy in your freezer, for those must-have-lima moments.

[4] I looked it up when I got home: the lyric is “whisper…and that was when I kissed her.”

[5] An IED as in Improvised Explosive Device. Not to be confused with an IUD…which would be a most unfortunate mix-up.

[6] And hosting D & D and Settlers of Catan parties every Sunday afternoon around our dining room table.

The Work I’m Not Imitating

Comments Off on The Work I’m Not Imitating

As I’ve occasionally carped about mentioned in this space (here, and here and here, to list just a few spaces), I often find writers guidelines [1] to be obtuse, pretentious, long-winded bunk.




However, I sometimes have the good fortune to stumble across a gem like the following, discovered while checking a clearing-house type website for literary journals seeking material (my emphases):

The James Franco Review Call for Submission

The James Franco Review is seeking fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. (snip snip)….
We aren’t looking for work that imitates James Franco’s work or satirizes—writers need not be so cruel.

I did not send them anything, but I did take the time to savor the metaphorical breath of fresh (and not hot) air.

*   *   *

Speaking of clearing the air….

Which I wasn’t. Not to get all technical, but I was writing, not speaking. I was also trying for a segue. Bear with me.


That's not me on the right, but if it was, then the picture would be Bear with me.

That’s not me on the right. If it were, then the picture would be Bear with me.


Last week BBC News Hour reported on a story about researchers in Germany and Saudi Arabia who found that “….pollution levels over several major cities in the Middle East are dropping and have concluded that it is due to economic and political unrest and war.” It seems that the chaos of war and instability leads to a lowering of economic standards in many cities, which means that less fuel is burned by cars or used in electricity production.

What a wonderful if totally unintended byproduct of madness, I thought, in that making-lemonade-from-lemons way of mine. People with respiratory diseases suffer and die due to air pollution. People with weakened immune systems and other health disorders, as well as all of us Average Citizens ® , experience diminished quality of life due to pollution. As per the EPA:

“Scientific evidence indicates that ground-level ozone not only affects people with impaired respiratory systems (such as asthmatics), but healthy adults and children as well. Exposure to ozone for 6 to 7 hours, even at relatively low concentrations, significantly reduces lung function and induces respiratory inflammation in normal, healthy people.”

And from the World Health Organization:

“Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma… Ambient (outdoor air pollution) in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012. Some 88% of those premature deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, and the greatest number in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions.”


After reading the story’s provocative premise and before continuing with his report, the BBC announcer made some toss-off remark about how he hated to highlight such a “trivial” point (as reduction in pollution), given the effects of war and instability.

A reduction in pollution – read: air poison – is trivial?

I wanted to reach through my car radio and slap him.




Sorry to bother you with something so trivial....

Sorry to bother you with something so trivial….

*   *   *

Department of More People I Want To Slap



Late last week much of Oregon west of the Cascades Range was blanketed by smoke from fires burning in Oregon and Washington east of the Cascades.

I’ve lived here for almost twenty-five years. My brain can’t remember ever seeing (or smelling or tasting) pollution that bad, in this area, but my lungs and bronchial tubes did provide me with a sensory memory: the tightness under my sternum was a flashback to being a child of So Cal in the 60s and 70s.

I remember well (and would like to forget) the days of Smog Alerts, when PE classes and athletic practices were cancelled and/or held indoors and some parents kept their kids home from school and all citizens were advised to restrict physical activity and refrain from driving if possible. [2]  Hospital ERS and doctors offices reported being clogged with the most vulnerable patients (the elderly, and young children) who experienced shortness of breath and headaches, and I felt a distinctive “catch” in my chest when I tried to take a deep breath.

I also remember that it got better. The air quality, that is.


Surf's up...down there, somewhere.

Surf’s up…down there, somewhere.


Many years ago, during a daytime flight to visit my So Cal family, K and Belle expressed alarm as our airplane made its descent toward the Orange County Airport. [3] “What’s that?” K asked, as he pressed his nose against the airplane’s window. “Yeah,” Belle chimed in. “What’s that brown stuff we’re flying through?”

“It’s the air,” I replied. “Or, at least, what passes for it, here.”

I proceeded to inform my offspring that, believe it or not, it had been worse when I was their age. [4] Although there are twice the amount of people and vehicles in So Cal now then when I was living there, the air, while not clean, is cleaner, thanks to the enactment of strict emission standards.

Here’s where the slapping part comes in: ere’s where the I remembered how furious I was when certain redneck relatives of mine bragged about how they’d removed the catalytic converters from their emissions-belching vehicles, because no gummint agency (cough, rasp, hack) was gonna tell them (wheeze, pant, snort) to sissify their muscle cars.

*   *   *

Yet Another Way To Clear the Air

Or at least, your sinuses.

I mean of course, by consuming roasted peppers. This is the season where you may be fortunate enough to acquire Padrón peppers from your farmer’s market, your CSA or even your local grocery store.


The pretty, "before" picture.

The pretty, “before” picture.


Padrón peppers are sometimes sold alongside shishito peppers.  How to tell the difference? The two varieties look almost identical. A Produce Dude ® told me that the two are often confused, even among farmers. The shishitos may seem to have a shinier surface and are a bit longer and twistier and “ridgier” than Padróns.

Both peppers are generally milder than jalapenos. No matter; they’re both tasty, with slight differences in flavor. [5] After discovering and then playing around with them, I don’t make ’em any other way than by using the following the skillet dry-roasting method.

Dry skillet roasting requires just three ingredients

(1) Padrón (or shishito) peppers, intact [6]
(2) your best/most flavorful sea salt

(3) your best olive oil
(optional – the oil’s not for cooking the peppers, but for seasoning them afterward)

and five pieces of equipment

(1) a large cast iron skillet (or comal)
(2) tongs
(3) an oven mitt (that pan is gonna get hot)
(4) a shallow (but not callow) serving bowl
(5) okay, it requires only four pieces of equipment

Get your skillet good and hot (a drop of water should wiggle and dance on its surface and evaporate almost immediately). Add the peppers, in batches if you have a lot – don’t crowd ’em, they should be in a single layer. Sear peppers ~ 1m on all sides. They may wiggle-dance just like the water droplets, which is just too cute.


Actually, this is just too cute. But not edible.

Actually, this is just too cute. But not edible.


Use the tongs to turn the peppers as they roast – you want the skin to blister. [7]  When they are roasted to your liking, tong-transfer them to the serving bowl, drizzle ’em with the oil (if using), [8] sprinkle with sea salt, and serve: hold by the stem and eat the rest of the pepper. You may want to take a test bite first. (Padróns vary in hotness; some folks say the larger peppers are hotter. [9] )


The yummers "after" picture.

The yummers “after” picture.


*   *   *

Department of That’s What He Said

MH and I usually do the NY Times Sunday crossword together during lunch. This past Sunday MH decided to get an early start. As I was cleaning up my breakfast dishes he read aloud one of the clues that, he said, was stumping him, even though the answer was only four letters long.

Clue:  “When repeated, an aerobics class cry.”

I did not spew an immediate solution, and so MH wrote in what was, to him, the only logical answer:

“Stop.”  [10]

Please, please make it stop.

Please, please make it stop.

*   *   *

May your personal and professional guidelines be down-to-earth,
May your air be breathable,
May your peppers be wiggly and tasty,
and may the hijinks ensue.


Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1]  a set of guidelines from a literary journal or publisher that specify their requirements for material from writers, including the length, categories, format and styles of articles they seek, rights purchased and compensation rates, appropriate editors or other contact persons, how to submit work (query first or send full ms.), etc.

[2] Which, for a Southern Californian of that day, would only be possible if they’d lost both arms in a pesky meat grinder accident.

[3] Aka The John Wayne Airport. The name change in 1979 still frosts my butt. Airports should be named for their location, not for a wealthy movie star whose only connection to the airport was grousing about the airplanes flying over his Newport Beach mansion.

[4] And we had to walk to school with barbed wired wrapped around our feet to get through the six foot snow drifts in winter…or was that my mother’s story?

[5] After roasting, Padróns have a light smoky taste, while shishitos may seem slightly sweet/herbal/floral.

[6] Intact as in whole peppers with their stems, not intact as in, with all their boy parts still in one piece.

[7] the padrón’s skin, hopefully not yours, because you’re using the mitts to handle the hot pan, right?

[8] This is optional. They are delicious just dry-fried and tossed w/salt.

[9] Some folks have been known to be wrong.

[10] The answer was, “step.”

The Vacation I’m Not Flaunting

Comments Off on The Vacation I’m Not Flaunting


Because, that would be rude.

To gush about the mahhhhhhvelous trip MH and I took last week, to the San Juan Islands. The trip I alluded to in last week’s pitiful excuse for a blog post?

I’ll start again.

The Fire Pit I’m Not Using



We did not use the driftwood fire pit on the picturesque, pebbly beach shoreline in front of the Obstruction Pass beach house we rented on Orcas Island. Even in the San Juans, there are burn restrictions due to the Washington state drought. No matter – it made for a nice sitting-and-watching-the-ocean perch.

For the first three nights during our Orcas stay we were fortunate enough to have guests from nearby Bellingham  join us at the house. It was great fun to be able to visit with friends JT the 18th, JST, and their delightful daughter LT (who knows way too many 80’s songs for a sixteen year old [1]).

So, yes, we did not have fires in the fire pit. We did hike and dine and hike and kayak and hike some more…


lovely ladies live hereobstrutionpass

White strip of paper, taped to Obstruction Pass State Park outhouse near hiking trail, reads “Lovely Ladies Live Here.” [2]

 We also explored Orcas by foot and car and made a day trip to Shaw Island


MH by the Shaw Island Seedshack – an honor system seed store, in the proverbial middle of nowhere. 

and shook our heads (and sometimes, our fists) at all the deer , [3] bought some beautiful pottery and checked out the local art. I’d include my favorite island road sign in the latter category:

But I wanted to know, what happened to the m?

I want to know, what happened to the m?

*   *   *

And now, a word about the deer.

No, they're not cute, they're pests, and they're everywhere.

No, they’re not cute. They’re pests, and they’re everywhere.


According to several Islanders I queried, soft-hearted civilians as well as animal-rights activists resist efforts to cull the massive amount of deer on the islands. A good  portion of land in the San Juans is owned privately, and the limited amount of hunting allowed does jack squat to curb the expanding deer population. For the deer, this is a recipe for disaster: deer compete for limited territory and food resources and have few career opportunities (read: road kill).

Recipe for Disaster

– 2 cups too many deer
–  1 tablespoon no deer predators


  1. Steal a six pack of Cheap American beer ® from the drunken hunters that will inevitably be enlisted to thin the deer ranks (the hunters will likely not notice, nor even mind, as they’re schlepping another five cases of PBR in the cabs of their Ford F-150 pickups).
  2. Empty one can of beer into an oven-safe mixing bowl.
  3. Drink the rest of the six pack.
  4. Perform five rounds of The Antler Dance.
  5. Ignore step #4.
  6. There is no step #6.


Lemme see, so far we have five pictures of someone else’s holiday and one half-assed recipe. Is this is as bad as looking at someone’s vacation slides?

*   *   *

Where was I? After our week long stay at Orcas we took the ferry to Lopez Island and spent two magical nights with our friends-who-are so-fortunate-as-to-live-there, the gracious and witty J and D C-R. C-R, as in, not to be confused with CCR.

Hey, is this my first allusion to Creedence Clearwater Revival in my blog? After all these years, there should have been more.

*   *   *

Once again and as always, I digress.

Thanks to the lovely and talented George Rede, [4] , Oregonian/Oregon Live reporter and Orcas Island lover, for his helpful suggestions for sightseeing and recreation on the island. One of his must-dos included hiking around or kayaking on Mountain Lake (we did both).


Pie guard demon guarding car (which had...wait for it, two pies in the passenger's seat) at Mountain Lake boat launch.

Pie guard demon, guarding a car (which had two pies in the passenger’s seat) at Mountain Lake boat launch.

*   *   *

Dateline: A Tuesday on vacation, [5] in the later afternoon of the day when we took a day trip to Shaw Island.  I passed the time waiting for the return ferry to Orcas Island by scrambling about the rocks near the pier by the ferry terminal. As I climbed back up to the road my tie-dyed tee shirt elicited a thumbs up and commentary from a man passing by (whom I judged to be in his early sixties):

“That’s some great tie dye! I know tie-dye – ‘Summer of love,’ yeah, I was there!”

Instead of the comment I wanted to make – about the sophistication of today’s tie-dyes, where back in the 60s they were basically just color blotches that resembled what scrambled eggs would look like to someone on a bad acid trip – I merely smiled and returned his thumbs up.

“If you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t really there.”
Robin Williams


*   *   *

Department of Wasted Youth

So I return from vacation and discover, while listening to an interview with Lily Tomlin, that the pictures and art I have framed [6] for all these years – it just pains me to have to type this, but I’ve been doing it wrong. Or rather, it seems I haven’t fully appreciated the practice and have settled for less. You see, I’ve learned, via a blurb on a Fresh Air podcast, that sponsor Framebridge has “reinvented the framing experience.”

Just think of the time I wasted, bordering and encasing cherished family photographs and paintings without thought or purpose, when I could have had a framing experience.

Oh, sure, now they tell me.


Yeah, it fits, but it's not quite the experience I was hoping for.

Yeah, it fits, but it’s not quite the experience I was hoping for.

*   *   *

Department of Spoiled Surprises
Aka, So I return from vacation, 2.0

…and discover two packages had arrived while we were gone.  Having received a shipping notice just before we left for the San Juans, I knew that one of the packages, the one addressed to moiself, was the present I’d ordered for MH’s birthday: a new card game from the twisted creative mind responsible for one of our favorite cartoons, the Oatmeal. I let that sit while MH opened the package addressed to himself. Given the timing of the package’s arrival, I thought it might be a present from his parents (his birthday was yesterday). Instead, it was something he’d ordered for himself,  unbeknownst to moiself. It was the same same card game I’d gotten him.

So. Yeah. Happy birthday.

Now we are the proud owners of multiple copies of Exploding Kittens.

At least I know he would have enjoyed the surprise (if it had truly been a surprise) in that classic, No-really-it’s-just-what-I-wanted way.


*   *   *

May all your surprises be genuine,
May you remember whatever decade wherein you were really there,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] I blame the parents, don’t you?

[2] Noted by the alert JTS of Bellingham, Washington. No, we don’t know what it means.

[3] Bipeds exterminated the deer’s natural predators, and there are waaaaay too many  Bambis on the islands.

[4] As you may remember, I generally use initials and/or acronyms in this blog…except for people in the public eye, however you define that. Oh, wait, it’s however I define that.

[5] Vacation mindset: the date isn’t important.

[6] Yeah right – make that, paid for someone else to frame.

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