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The Work I’m Not Imitating

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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.

 

nymphpng

 

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.”

However.

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

yucky

 

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 Trophy I’m Not Hunting

2 Comments

 

new oven8

All aboard for The Sombrero Galaxy

*   *   *

The New Oven is Here

And it has some really cosmic features. Or so I thought, when I overheard MH reading the new control panel settings as he attempted to liberate the oven from its 10,297 square feet of packaging.

Moiself: “WormholeWORMHOLE !?!?!? – our oven has a wormhole!  This is so cool – I didn’t even care about the convection feature, but a porthole to another galaxy…”

MH: “Um, that’s ‘Warm/Hold.’ It has a warm-hold button.”

 

oven

AccuBake ® Temp System, Steam Clean Option, and convection shortcut to Andromeda

*   *   *

Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F**k

I’d read excerpts of this book, which I’d given to select family & friends last Christmas, [1] but just recently got around to reading it myself. [2]  In doing so, I don’t think I gleaned any new ways to navigate what the author calls the seemingly “jaw-dropping social ineptitude” of my fellow home sapiens. Rather, I felt as if a kindred spirit had confirmed some of my human behavior-related ruminations.

 

goodmanners

 

Certainly, the members of the Axis of Etiquette Evil ©  – i.e., Technology/The Internet/Cellphones/Social Media – collectively and individually enable rudeness on a grander, more immediate and more anonymous scale. However, these things in and of themselves don’t cause discourtesy, disrespect and boorishness. Rather, it seems we have created societies that are too big for our brains. These think-bags of ours have been wired to navigate much smaller, local social networks, where everybody knew everybody and it was in everybody’s best interest to get along. [3]

“We’re experiencing more rudeness because we’ve lost the constraints on our behavior that we’ve had in place for millions of years.
We didn’t evolve to be around strangers and aren’t psychologically equipped to live in a world filled with them, yet that’s exactly how we’re living.”
(from Chapter 1 – “I Don’t Care Where you Put the Fork
(as long as you don’t stab anybody in the eye with it”
Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F**k )

Our new global village has no Protocol Police, no Comportment Cop – no Empathy Auntie to remind us to calm down and be considerate of others. Living in a world of strangers, virtual and actual, we have fewer reminders of and consequences from our rudeness.

*   *   *

As for that world full of strangers…

Department Of So, I Guess I’m Not Going There

Dateline: Thursday (yesterday) morning, in the Mazda service waiting room.

HNKGRSPRAAAAGHONNNNNNNNNNN

The first time it I heard the racket I thought, Ah, in an effort to entertain customers the service manager has installed an exotic petting zoo in the new automobile display area! I walked into said area from whence I’d heard the noise, thinking to spot a gasping, asthmatic alpaca. Nope. Just three shiny SUVs on display, which were being perused by a man in his mid-twenties, who looked way too young and healthy to have produced that bizarre, cloppity-hacking sound.

I’ve heard many, many, many variations of smoker’s hack. It wasn’t that. What I’d heard sounded like no cough I’ve ever heard before.  It sounded as if someone had tried to dislodge a capybara or Rodent Of Unusual Size from his esophagus. [4]

It happened again, this time as the same man came into the waiting room and took a seat by a magazine rack. And it happened many more agains, at about four minute intervals. Other than spewing the Barking Sound from Gehenna, the man appeared to be in no physical distress. [5]  Even so, I began reviewing the Heimlich Maneuver in my mind, wondering if I would then be responsible for the emphysema-stricken pygmy bison – or whatever was making those sounds – that would come hurling forth from Bizarre Hacking Noise Man’s gullet.

If I could adequately describe the noise, I bet this young woman could reproduce it:

 

 

The sixth or seventh time Bizarre Hacking Noise Man treated us to his vocalization, the service department receptionist and I traded WTF? expressions. I turned toward BHNM, favoring him with what I hoped was my Are-you-okay-do-you-need-anything? look of concern, and received a Don’t even-go-there glower from him in return.

Of course, I could have recorded Bizarre Hacking Noise Man’s guttural cries of the banshee vocalizations and posted them online. Purely for altruistic purposes. As in, to get a diagnosis.  Which leads me to…

Department of Futuristic Totalitarian Ruminations

I find the whole concept of Fitbits to be rather Orwellian. Especially the apps and programs that allow and even encourage users to share their personal information, no matter whether it’s with their coaches, their doctors, or on Facebook.

Ah, but the future is here, in the form of a workout nag-band around our wrists. We shall know how many steps we walked/ran/paddled/cycled/swam/flew yesterday, and what our goal is for today. We shall know our resting heart rate and respiration and blood pressure and caloric intake and output.  We know, or have the option to know, all these things, and more, through a variety of  “fitness” and/or “lifestyle monitoring” devices. I look around, in the stores, on the streets, on the trails and in the parks, and behold my fellow human beings, many of them already sporting these apparatuses, and think,

It isn’t helping.

We shall have our own personal, physiological Wikipedia. We shall have more and more bits and bots of all-about-me info, with which we shall…do what?

We can know all, and still understand nothing.

 

Did I walk 14,999 steps today, or was that yesterday?

Did I walk 14,999 steps today, or was that yesterday?

*   *   *

Department Of Something Than Kinda Maybe Relates To Ruminations About Rudeness

Re the dentist who killed Cecil the lion. When I read that the dentist had (at least temporarily) closed his practice and website, removed himself from social media and gone into hiding, I couldn’t help but marvel at the what-goes-around-ness of it all. I also wondered if there could be a possibility for him, for just a smidgen of self-awareness?

 

yeahright

 

Failing that, I wonder, can he at least appreciate the irony of a time-worn tale?  The hunter is now the hunted.

The killer [6] seeks protection, a place where he can be safe. Such places are called sanctuaries. You know, like the wildlife sanctuary where Cecil lived. Cecil the lion had a safe place, a sanctuary from which his killers lured him, playing upon his curiosity, his apparent (and unfortunate) comfort around humans, and the instinct of a predator to follow a prey scent.

Unlike many followers of the sad story, my FaceBook wishes for what would happen to this man…I do not want them to literally happen. I don’t want the Dentist Evil Animal Trophy Hunter to be lured from his safe place (although I do want him extradited to Zimbabwe to face charges).

I don’t wish for DEATH’s death, nor even that he experience a mere portion of the 40 hours of torment endured by the creature he ineptly impaled and then had to track and shoot.

I wish for enlightenment.

 

CAMEL

 

I know, I know. What have I been smoking? [7]

If such enlightenment were possible there wouldn’t be so many repellent photos of DEATH proudly posing with the carcasses of the creatures he’d slaughtered.  Still, it’s my wish, gawddammit, and I’ll make it while I blow out the fucking candles on my wishing-for-a-better-world cake.  I can wish that DEATH and other like-minded  ignorant, egotistical, callous killers trophy hunters would come to some understanding [8] of why people are so upset about this.

DEATH is wealthy and looks well fed. Even if he were poor and hungry he wouldn’t need to spend $$$$ traveling to exotic locales to kill animals humans do not typically eat. [9]  Thus, I can wish that DEATH would consider the mental health ramifications – to his psyche in particular and also to that of the society he inhabits – of killing any living thing, no matter it’s endangered status, for “sport.” I can wish that, later if not sooner, DEATH may come to have a change of heart and mind, and regret and renounce the repulsive and cowardly practice of trophy hunting.

 

It's good to dream.

It’s good to dream.

*   *   *

Apropos of Nothing – Looking For An Investment Opportunity?

My next venture: Nutflix, a streaming service consisting solely of video compilations of what are genteelly [10] referred to as oooomph shots.

 

 

Hey, it’s worked for twenty-five years for AFV [11].

*   *   *

There was something else; I was going to write about…or was I? Whatever it was, it’s slipped my mind. Maybe I’ll ask Shakira’s hips. Because, you know.

 

*   *   *

May the global police have no cause to cite you for insolence,
May your automobile service waiting room experiences be aurally amiable,
May the pigs of enlightenment buzz your rooftop,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] People whom I thought might appreciate the title –the book was not meant as a  message that I considered them to be Good People who were manner-deficient.

[2] Is that a new mode of rudeness, to give a book you haven’t read?

[3] Or at least be civil, if you want need the services of (and you eventually will) the village’s only cobbler.

[4] I’ve never heard a capybara vocalize, but I just don’t know how to describe the noise that dude was making.

[5] As in, he seemed oblivious to the DISGUSTING NOISES he was making, geeze, take it outside, fella.

[6] His name shall not soil this space.

[7] Nothing, although it’s legal in Oregon.

[8] Even if they are incapable of agreement with the reasoning.

[9] A list of his previous kills include a polar bear, black bear and mountain lion.

[10] That is, by us gracious gentiles.

[11] Can you believe that show has been on for more than 25 years? That’s a lot of sack shots.

The Blog Post I’m Not Occupying

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Occupy The Antis

No, not the Aunties....

No, not the Aunties….

 

Antis, as in, anti-choice protesters. As in, the ones at Portland’s Lovejoy Surgicenter

One week ago today, after dropping off her daughter at Audubon Camp, SCM [1] drove past the Lovejoy Clinic on her way back to what was going to be a productive work day at home…until the product turned out to be not what she’d planned. She saw a small but visibly determined group of anti-choice protesters occupying the sidewalks around the clinic entrance, a sight which frosted her butt and prompted her to call moiself.

The possibility of protesting anti-choice protesters was something SCM and I tossed about many months ago, when she’d mentioned that she sometimes saw anti-abortion demonstraters outside the clinic. I had never seen protesters outside of Lovejoy, [2] but told SCM if she ever wanted to offer some spontaneous support to the clinic, I’d be there if I could.

Dateline: last Friday am. My phone rang (??? What? A phone call – no text?), and it was SCM. There were protesters in the sidewalk outside Lovejoy, she was stopping at a nearby office supply store for poster board and Sharpies, and did I want to join her?

Within 35-40 minutes I

–  changed out of my workout clothes [3]
– dismissed my computer reminders (the list of things I was supposed to be doing)

– found sign-substitute paper (alas, no poster board) in my daughter’s art stash
-hastily scribbled three signs
– drove to the corner of NE 25th & Lovejoy.

For the next couple of hours, SCM and I, according to a supportive passerby, “Occupied the protest.”

SCM told me over the phone that two of the protesters were holding signs which read Women Need Support Not Abortion. Therefore, one of my signs had to be

 

support

 

Our counterprotest was more…fun…than I’d thought it would be.  SCM and I had nice time people-watching and conversing on a variety of subjects, despite the periodic interruptions by the Antis, who just had to try to witness to us, every ten minutes. (Really – they were quite regular. I think they used an egg timer).

The Antis were a small group, totaling maybe seven white bodies: four or five women ranging in age from late twenties to sixties, and two middle-aged men. The men patrolled further up the corner sidewalks and seemed to be keeping “lookout.” The womenfolk took turns holding signs, and one of them playing pointman, trying to engage anyone entering the clinic. [4]

I’d had previous experience with anti-choice protesters, when I worked at three different Planned Parenthood clinics in the [5] Bay Area. Those encounters were sporadic and mostly benign. The Lovejoy Antis were not using the Bat-Shit Crazy Screaming Fundy ® approach;  instead, they followed the glowing smile, “You are beautiful – don’t you know you are beautiful…may I ask you/show you something?” method of chat chumming, and Pointman Woman complimented my posters:

Pointman Woman: “Your signs are so funny!”
Moiself: “And yours are so boring!”

I felt my pulse rate gallop the first time one of the Lovejoy Antis tried to start up a dialog with me. Despite their outward, assertively serene manner, I knew what those people were and are: fanatics who believe they are doing their god’s work by invading other people’s private business. Which makes them crazies, IMHO. And in the  Good Ole U.S.A. , everyone with a pulse – including and especially the crazies – has access to guns.

My pulse, however, quickly realized it had gotten a workout for naught, and returned to normal. Turns out the only weapons the Antis were packing were the verbal and intellectual gaffes with which they shot themselves in their own feet. [6] 

footshot

 

҉    Things I Learned While Occupying the Antis    ☼

* The four way stop sign intersection at 25th and Lovejoy is a dicey spot for cyclists and pedestrians. Yo, wealthy NW Portlanders: stop signs mean drivers are supposed to stop, y’all, not cruise through while checking your reflection in the mirror of your Mercedes SL convertibles (admittedly, you who occupied them did look fabulous) or dictating some jive-ass drivel into your burnt orange Blackberrys.

*  It was almost too much fun to watch SCM school the Antis on American religion; i.e., Pilgrim and Puritan and immigrant European (redundant, that) Christian theology and history. We hadn’t planned on speaking with the protesters and did not initiate conversation, but they would make some asinine comment that begged for clarification…and they were not prepared for how incisively intelligent SCM is (and how ignorant they sounded).

* I almost completely underestimated the entertainment value of watching passing automobile riders’ lips move as they tried to read SCM’s and my signs.

* After said lip-readings we received bemused looks and thumbs up, and some rolled down windows and Right on! s – from drivers who showed down and/or stopped long enough at the intersection to read our signs.

 

make that, NOT

make that, NOT

 

* We also received a couple of, er, favorite finger salutes, from a couple of male drivers who drove as quickly as they could through the intersection without even glancing at our signs. When I heard a few choice epithets [7] one of the bird-flippers tossed along with his finger, I realized that he and others like him, who probably drive through that intersection regularly, to and from work or whatever,, and didn’t even bother to look at SCM’s and my signs, assumed we were with them  (the Antis).  Thus, the next time I engage in such a venture, for clarity’s sake one of my signs may be a variation of the classic t-shirt message: I’m NOT With Stupid.

* One of SCM’s signs – The Flying Spaghetti Monster Hates Anti-Choicers – was our litmus test of sorts, for identifying the Cool People Who Get It.

 

shelleyprotesst

 

* Okay, the following is not technically a Thing I Learned While Occupying the Antis, in that it is not news to me. Rather, it could go into the category of a sad fact reinforced: people who think they have the Christian god on their side have no qualms about breaking one of their god’s rules about bearing false witness.

SCM and I saw a police officer park his cruiser on the NE corner of Lovejoy. Meanwhile, the spineless lying asshat one of the male patrolling Antis, whom SCM had seen speaking furtively into his cell phone a couple of minutes before the cop car arrived, high-tailed it around the corner as soon as the cop car arrived.

The officer exited his car and approached the clinic. I called out to him, “You’re at the perfect place if you want to do a traffic sting!” and started to tell him about the stop sign scofflaws, while SCM wriggled with excitement and gushed, It’s not really a protest without the police arriving!” The officer gave us a regretful smile, told us nah on both accounts, and said he wasn’t here about the protest or the traffic, but to check out a call they (presumably the cops) had received. He asked us, rather laconically – as if he already knew the answer but had to go through the motions – if we’d heard anyone yelling for help from inside the building.

yeahright

Of course we didn’t, because nobody had. “You’ve been set up,” I advised him. Officer Nonchalant tried to stifle a cynical grin from spreading across his face as he entered the building to check things out. He exited the clinic a minute or so later, just as I wondered aloud who had made the false police report. Within a minute of the cop car leaving, the spineless lying asshat the suddenly-disappeared- male-patrolling Anti returned to his post on the sidewalk.

* One of my signs was quite popular with drivers who had children in the car. Not only that, the sign seemed to motivate the female sign-holding Antis to change places on the sidewalk, so as not to be on the pointing side of my sign’s directional arrow. People who think they’ve a sacred obligation to tell other people how to live do not want to stand next to you when you’re holding up a sign that treats them with all the seriousness they deserve:

lovejoy1,jpg

 

* Yo, anti-choicers: If you’re going to attempt to proselytize you need to know your religion’s basic terminology. I’m not even talking complicated theological constructs, ala transubstantiation or theodicy or Catholic vs. Protestant soteriology. Jesus Christ up the creek without a paddle! – know your basic vocabulary, or shut yer yap.

Examples: When Pointman Woman declared that “we are all sinners,” I asked her to define sin. She ummm-ed and ahhh-ed before throwing the question to one of her older comrades : “It’s kind of…well, how would you explain it?”

 

facepalm

 

They finally settled on anything that “offends the holiness of god.”

Oh, like my fucking potty mouth?
(from the Department of Things I Almost Said)

During another slow moment on the sidewalk (no clinic patients to pester), Pointman Woman, already tantalized to discover that SCM was a minister’s daughter, asked me what my “faith” was. I offered up Happy Heretic and Avid Apostate, and told her she could use whatever term she found most entertaining. It quickly became apparent – and she admitted, when I asked her – that she didn’t know what either heretic or apostate meant.

Later in the morning another Anti made yet another attempt to engage me with a “May I show you something?” entreaty. She’d already flashed me her (supposed) aborted fetus pamphlet, and she was reaching for a blue velvet lined-jewelry case, which, as I’d seen earlier, contained fetus trinkets laid out in charm bracelet fashion.  I countered with, “May I show you something?” and removed what was intended to be my morning snack – a small baggie of almonds – from my pants pocket.

Moiself: “Would you like to scrutinize my nut sack?”

Anti:      “I don’t understand.” (She looked genuinely confused.) “How does this relate…”

Moiself: “Since you are so interested in policing other people’s bodies I thought you might like to examine an intimate part of mine….”

Anti:      ???

Her expression, to a tee.

Her expression, to a tee.

 

DANG! A perfectly good pun, wasted on a proselytizing pudding head.

Laaaaady ?!?! You’re standing outside a medical facility trying to tell strangers what to do with their reproductive organs and you don’t know what a nut sack is?

 

REALLY

 

Every so often, two or three of the Antis women put down their signs and formed a group to murmur, pray, exchange Jell-o salad recipes or whatever. Once, three of them began to sing the hymn Amazing Grace. SCM joined in – and of course, she knew more verses than they did. [8] Not to be outdone, I chimed in with the Mary Tyler Moore Theme song.

 

 

Possibly The Best Answer to a Question, Ever

We stayed until the Antis left, then entered the clinic. The Ladies of Lovejoy got quite the kick out of our signs and expressed their grateful for our support. We chatted with them for several minutes, trading protester stories and shop talk. [9]  As per the latter, one of the clinicians mentioned that the clinic had expanded their services to include male healthcare, and that she “really enjoys” doing vasectomies. I, of course, had to ask her why she found vasectomies so enjoyable. After working with women’s health all day, she replied, “it’s a nice change of scenery.”

*   *   *

After our counter-protest, SCM and I treated ourselves to sushi lunch in the Pearl district. Driving on home from Portland, I passed a guy, apparently hoping to hitch a ride to the coast, standing by one of the freeway entrance ramps, holding up a sign which read

SEASIDE
PLEASE

I caught myself wanting to yell out the window, that’s a boring sign!

*   *   *

May you take the opportunity to express your Anti-Anti convictions,
may your signs always be entertaining,
may you enjoy an occasional change of scenery,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] She of the multiple slash identities: friend/attorney/fellow writer/wit and snarkstress extraordinaire….

[2] However, it’s not like I’m in that part of Portland on a regular basis.

[3] No time to shower, but I thought my exercise B.O. could be yet another turnoff for the protesters. As for SCM…she is a most tolerant friend.

[4] Actual in-and-out clinic traffic was quite spotty.

[5] Although the clinics I worked at were rarely picketed, and the picketers hadn’t figured out where the back doors were, where the staff entered.

[6] Let’s just pretend that was a smoother application of the shoot yourself in the foot idiom.

[7] Along the “mind your own !#$*! business you #@&$% asshole fanatics” line.

[8] They got the first two verses, then began to mumble/sing, like when you forget the lyrics and substitute whatever you think rhymes.

[9] A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I worked in women’s reproductive health care, both in a public clinic setting and in a private OB/GYN practice.

The Elder I’m Not Abusing

Comments Off on The Elder I’m Not Abusing

Before the Deluge

Ere I begin my Rant of the Week ® I simply must share my favorite texts [1] of the week. This was yesterday’s exchange between moiself and daughter Belle, whom, as I mentioned in last week’s blog, is working as a summer ZooCamp counselor. This week’s campers have included many second-graders whose physical and emotionally maturity (read: lack thereof) proved challenging for their college-age camp leaders.

Belle: It finally happened – Colin finally peed his pants.

Moiself: Sorry, but ☺

Belle: Also, Ethan punched another kid in the balls.

Moiself: Hope Colin brought a change of clothing…
and the other kid a change of balls.

Belle: Ha! We had to give Colin spare shorts. After he changed he put his shoes on the wrong feet. But we didn’t notice until lunch so he was wearing them like that for 3 hours.

Moiself: This is way too much fun for me to read.

Belle: It sprinkled rain. Heather pulled a swimsuit out of her backpack and insisted she had to wear it. Because of rain.

Mmmm, camper snacks.

Mmmm, camper snacks.

*   *   *

I’m not one much for literary boycott or censorship, other than the self-imposed kind. That said, this is my appeal to y’all, for which I am using my Asa credentials:

As a writer, and mostly as a human being, I urge you to please not purchase nor read Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee’s supposed prequel to her classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.

The background of Lee’s “new” novel is suspicious, to say the least. If you’re unfamiliar with the details (which you can find here and here and here and in many other heres), the controversy centers around Lee’s capacity to consent to the release of a book she steadfastly refused to release – or even admit existed – for  over 50 years. And now, here come a motley crew of distant family members, new attorneys and publishing scions who will profit from the out-of-nowhere, out-of-character reversal of Lee’s lifelong, principled stand.

 

mockingbird

 

Harper Lee never married and had no children or grandchildren. Her older sister, Alice Lee, Harper’s lifelong companion and confidante, was an attorney who served as her sister’s lawyer and advocate. Alice Lee would likely have profited handsomely if any of her sister’s post-Mockingbird writings were published. Instead, she loyally abided by Harper’s wishes, and protected both Harper’s estate and Harper herself from the attention Harper so ferociously avoided.

Since the 1960 publication of TKAM the publicity-shy Harper Lee notoriously – and more importantly, consistently – refused to submit any of her other writings (or even admit that she had any) for publication. She said what she had to say on the subject, was her patient if terse response the few times she bothered to answer critics or fans who wanted “more.” If that wasn’t plain enough, she vowed that, “as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.”

In 2007 Harper Lee suffered a stroke. Now aged 89, Lee has been living in an assisted living facility for many years and must use a wheelchair for mobility. Her health problems include almost total vision and hearing loss, paralysis on her left side, confusion and memory problems. [2] In 2011 Alice Lee wrote that her sister “can’t see and can’t hear and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence.”  Then in 2014, a mere two months after Alice Lee’s death, publishing house HarperCollins, along with the attorney [3] who replaced Alice Lee, astonished the literary world by announcing the release of Harper Lee’s “rediscovered” first novel.

The manuscript was “found,” Lee’s new lawyer [4] claimed, by rummaging through Lee’s attic and other personal items “in a secure place where Ms. Lee keeps her archives.”

Go Set a Watchman; right. Make sure he watches overhead, for vultures circling.

IMHO, the “finding” and publishing of GSAW is elder abuse. I won’t abet it in any way.

*   *   *

“….salmonellosis, a type of food poisoning that occurs after ingesting contaminated food and/or improper handling of contaminants including feces from pets, and reptiles, poultry or rodents. Symptoms of diarrhea to fever to abdominal cramps to….”

Department of Why Do We Need These Warnings From the Government?

Specifically, why do we need to be warned not to Kiss Chickens?

Oh, that’s right – because chickens are cute. And people are stupid.

 

Pucker up and get ready to crap your pants.

Pucker up and get ready to crap your pants.

*   *   *

On a related note, the following is either:

  1. the title of the book I’m reading
  2. my life’s motto
  3. my suggested slogan for the upcoming Republican Presidential candidate’s debates:

Let’s Be Less Stupid

Okay, it’s all three.

stupid

 

*   *   *

Department of Duh

That’s one big ass hosta.

 

hosta

*   *   *

Department of Cruciferous Haiku [5]

The cabbage sits tall
and proud on my counter. Or,
should I say, stands?

Do the words apply?
 I’m anthropomorphizing
a vegetable.

Cabbage cannot sit,
nor stand. Still, I think this one
would strut, if it could.

It bears dignity;
a certain nobility
 belies its odd shape.

Thus, I’ll treat it with
respect, despite its likeness
to a school dunce cap.

cabbage

*   *   *

Op-Ed Opening Line of the week (or year)

In return for helping to raise money for veterans who lost limbs in a war that he started, former President George W. Bush took $100,000 from their charity for giving a speech in 2012, and another $20,000 to be flown in on a private jet.
(from the New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial, July 10)

bushleg

*   *   *

I Skimmed The New York Times Thursday Styles Section So You Didn’t Have To

It’s a section I usually toss aside.  But something about yesterday morning – perhaps the early morning dream I had in which Brad Pitt was trying to gaslight me – made me throw usually to the wind.

Whatever the reason, I’m grateful for the diversion (although I’m still a bit unnerved by the dream), because I might have missed this Important Fashion News. [6]

For some reason, I’m really hoping this catches on:

 

pithair

 

And not this:

 

yellow

*   *   *

Department of How Cool is This?

Pluto

 

The first close-up image of Pluto has revealed mountains as tall as the Rockies, and a complete absence of craters – discoveries that, to their delight, baffled scientists working on NASA’s New Horizons mission image and provided punctuation for a journey nine and a half years in the making.
Pluto’s Portrait: Ice Mountains, No Craters, and for Scientists, a ‘Toy Store’
New York Times, Thursday July 16, 2015 )

Wouldn’t you love a job where you made discoveries that baffled and delighted you? For most of us, our reaction to work-related baffling discoveries is along the lines of, Holy Honeybadger crap, it isn’t supposed to do that!

*   *   *

Department of Please Oh Please Let It Happen

“…something similar (to the Cambrian Explosion) is happening in human culture. Institutions—not just religions but also universities, armies, corporations—are now faced with how to change their fundamental structure and methods to deal with the fact that everybody’s living in a glass house now.

“Protecting your inner workings is becoming very difficult; it’s very hard to keep secrets. Religions have thrived in part because they were able to keep secrets. They were able to keep secrets about other religions from their parishioners, who were largely ignorant of what other people in the world believed, and also keep secrets about their own inner workings and their own histories, so that it was easy to have a sort of controlled message that went out to people. Those days are over. You can go on the Internet and access to all kinds of information. This is going to change everything.”

(Author, scientist, philosopher, The Clergy Project co-founder Daniel C. Dennett, from the interview, “Churches Can No Longer Hide the Truth: Daniel Dennett on the New Transparency,” Religion Dispatches May 18, 2015)

make it so

*   *   *

May your motives and methods be transparent,
May baffling discoveries delight you and your chickens never bite (or kiss) you,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi

 

 

 

[1] Names of campers changed to protect the not-so-innocents.

[2] Lee’s mental and physical decline has been revealed via family and friends in court via legal wrangling over control of her writings.

[3] I don’t want her name in my blog, stinkin’ fucking carrion-eater that I think she is.

[4] Okay, the stinkin,’  fucking, carrion-eater is Tonja Carter.

[5] Supported by a generous combined grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Food and Drug Administration, and Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign.

[6] Excuse the oxymoron. And by oxymoron I do not mean the dude in yellow.

The Floor I’m Not Mopping

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Despairing Comment of the Month

Overheard at our dinner table: “Hillsboro is so not Paris.”  [1]

*   *   *

Regarding Pope Francis’ encyclical on global warming, I can’t say it better than FFRF founder and co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor’s essay, excerpted here, Why I Find It Hard to Laud the Pope’s ‘Laudato’ :

“…I do have a quarrel, a major quarrel, to pick with Pope Francis and his encyclical. Which is that since the dastardly “Humanae Vitae” was issued in 1968 — in which Pope Paul VI not only crushed the hopes of an entire generation of idealistic young Catholics, consigned women to be brood mares and cemented the church’s war on abortion and contraception — the world population went from 3.5 billion to today’s 7.3 billion and counting. Yes, it’s more than doubled. And that’s surely a crime by humanity against what the pope calls ‘sister Earth.’

“…Overpopulation may not be the direct cause of all our environmental ills, but it makes all of them worse, far worse. The more people, the more cars and carbon dioxide emissions, the more plane flights and fuel burned, the more deforestation, wildlife and habitats destroyed, the more trash in space, in the oceans, dumped in developing nations, the more biodiversity silenced or imperiled, the more fodder for plagues, famines, droughts, wars, natural (and “unnatural”) disasters. It’s not rocket science.

“My mother used to have a favorite analogy about overpopulation, what she called a ‘sanity test.’ You’re in a room with an overflowing sink and a mop and bucket. What do you do first? Do you turn off the spigot or mop the floor?

stay the course

*   *   *

Let ‘er Rip

Last week’s blog, devoted to a fondly remembered high school teacher and journalism advisor, was a bit milder than usual. But I did promise a return to my usual, highbrow, Masterpiece Theatre entertainment.  Read: fart jokes.

A family drops off their elderly mother at a nursing home. While sitting in her new room, she slowly begins to tilt sideways in her chair. Two attentive nurses immediately straighten her up. After a while, she starts to tilt to the other side. The nurses rush back to put her upright. This goes on all morning.
Later, the family arrives and asks the old woman, “Are they treating you all right?” She replies, “It’s pretty nice here, except they won’t let you fart.”

Q. Why are farts smelly?
 A. So deaf people can enjoy them, too.

The Duke of Edinburg loudly passed gas during a dinner party at Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth gasped, and Prince Philip said, “How dare you fart in front of my wife!” The Duke apologized, “So sorry, I didn’t realize it was her turn.”

Continuing with the royal theme : [2]

Q. What do the Queen of England’s farts have in common with helium and neon?
A. They are all noble gases.

 "Jolly good show, Your Highness, that one's a riser!"

“Jolly good show, Your Highness, that one’s a riser!”

*   *   *

We now return you to our regular programming.

*   *   *

Things That Make Me Happy

I like to do a diva finger snap or flick my hands (ala Star Trek’s Lt. Riley in TOS’ Naked Time episode [3] ) when I approach a store’s automatic entry or exist doors, timing it such that my gesture appears to cause the doors to open.

When I do this (admittedly silly) thing, I do not attempt to mimic the sound effects [4]

So far.

*   *   *

Things That Make Me Sad

Last week I saw an incidence of shame eating: a woman sitting in the driver’s seat of an SUV in the parking lot of a local outdoor shopping mall, frantically and furtively scarfing down what appeared to be an entire tray of frosted cinnamon rolls.

 

Shame statue

*   *   *

Things That Frost My Butt

Rcamp

 

Read the sign carefully. There is no mention of who is sponsoring, leading or providing the food and activities.

Pedophiles, luring kids to the park with the promise of free goodies, games, maybe even puppies?

Close.

Using amazingly similar techniques, it’s religionophiles.

I saw the same sign last summer, in same place, which is in a local park where I walk in the mornings. I assume it’s the same group as last summer, when I took my walks later in the morning and, one day, saw the group setting up and asked them what be going down? [5].  It’s a church group, proselytizing to the kiddies while luring them (and their low income families) with the promise of free food and “fun” games.  [6]

The butt-frosting is due to the fact that they are not upfront about who they are and what they are doing.

 

Want some bible candy, kiddies?

Want some bible candy, kiddies?

*   *   *

Things That Curl My Payots  [7]

It’s a good thing – a blessing in disguise, if that phrase may slither from an apostate’s lips – that the door spring on our oven broke and there is no replacement part for it and there are also several other oven parts that are either broken or fraying.  Thus, MH had reason to search online for new oven options, and was able to alert me to this wonderful discovery: Even happy heathens like us have the option of purchasing appliances that have a Sabbath mode, yet another modern convenience which allows the faithful to ignore and/or circumvent comply with their  ridiculous primitive treasured religious proscriptions. [8]

s.oven

Lest you be permanently stuck in Huh/WTF? Mode, let the Chicago Rabbinical Council explain it to you:

The primary function of the Sabbath mode is to override the following features of modern ovens that conflict with the needs of a kosher home, including:

  • Auto shutoff which shuts off the oven after 12 or 24 hours to conserve energy and/or prevent fires.
  • Lights and signals that go on or off when one opens the door, food finishes cooking, the temperature is adjusted etc.

Instead of employing a gentile to turn your oven off or on, you can have your very own Shabbat Goy Oven, imagine that.

Be sure not to miss Schlomo's Appliances sale on Sabbath-compliant, fur-insulated microwave hats.

Be sure not to miss Schlomo’s Appliances sale on Sabbath-compliant, fur-insulated microwave hats.

*   *   *

Things That Make Me Wake up at 3 am and say, Huh?

So, we are all familiar with the questions that have been raised as to how astronauts on a mission are able to eat, bathe, defecate and exercise (these and more space travel dilemmas are delightfully delineated in Mary Roach’s Packing For Mars), right?

But, what about dental hygiene in space? Specifically, I was wondering about the effects of zero gravity on gum tissue. [9]

Inquiring minds don’t give a rat’s ass want to know.

*   *   *

The Obvious Points I’m Not Belaboring…

Or, maybe I am.

“Nothing fails like prayer.”
(Anne Nicol Gaylor, author, feminist and Freethought activist, 1926 – 2015)

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Dylann Roof, who police say opened fire and killed nine people during a prayer meeting at a historic African American church here…

There are few words that haven’t already been said or written about the despicable, racist massacre in Charleston. There is, however, a certain…question…that isn’t being asked aloud, for a variety of reasons, including the general consensus that we’re still “too close” to the tragedy [10] to bring up such issues…until a person such as moiself dares to voice the ahem, excuse me observation.

In light of such a tragedy, I know what I am supposed to say or feel, about the people who gather to pray for the victims and their families. I am supposed to express if not genuinely feel platitudes about faith and about resilience in the face of tragedy.

Uh uh. Nope.

After frustration and anger re the racist motivations of the shooter (and the denial of the same by head-in-the-sand-and-up-their-asses conservative politicians, talking heads and gum-flapping Southern Heritage supporters), my second and now recurrent thoughts revolve around the folly of superstitions and incantations.

I have to put down the paper/change the channel/close the website if I read or hear about yet another event wherein religious believers gather to “pray for the victims.”

prayerfutility

WT Holy F?!?!?!

Nine people are murdered at their “Lord’s House” during a prayer meeting, which, I can  logically assume via both definition and experience, included petitionary prayers for help, inspiration and intervention – prayers directed to a deity  [11] which, his followers believe, can move mountains [12] but which couldn’t be bothered to protect people in “his” church from being attacked…prayers directed to the same god they believe could have stopped the attacker (if not, why  pray for help and intervention?), but didn’t?

And so, y’all are going to pray. For what?  To what?  Why?

*   *   *

A Belated Happy Half Birthday to Me

We celebrate half-birthdays in our house. Mine was two weeks ago, and I love it that I always forget when mine is just around the bend. Thus, ’twas a cool surprise to come downstairs in the morning and find a card on the refrigerator door, hanging from a red ribbon that led to a gift bag in the freezer, a bag which contained the ingredients for, IMHO, nature’s perfect feast:

 

lima

 

The history of the half-birthday celebration is due to MH’s and my first date, which took place on the day after my birthday. When MH found out that he had just missed celebrating my birthday with me, he expressed mild distress…and I thought nothing of it until, six months later (and yearly after that), I received a half-birthday card.

*   *   *

May you pass the most basic sanity test and throw away that mop;
may you be surprised by gifts of lima beans and dark chocolate (or whatever ingredients compose your equivalent dream feast);
may you take enjoyment from the simple pleasures of a royal barking spider joke,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Re Belle and I trying to plan a celebratory, French-style dinner.

[2] Yes, there is an entire subcategory of The Queen fart jokes. Is this a great world, or what?

[3]  Watch this at 1:49 if you don’t get the reference. And TOS = The Original Series, for you non-nerd readers.

[4] Click on turbolift door, for a sample of what I’m talking about. 

[5] Not my exact phrasing.

[6] Not their verbatim answer.

[7] If I had payots, which—surprise! – I don’t.

[8] The proscription relating to ovens: observant Jews are forbidden from ” creative work” on the Shabbat, which has been interpreted to include food preparation, even flipping a switch or pressing an electronic button.

[9] No, I don’t know what causes such concerns to pop into my mind. I’m just grateful that this time, the brain-popping happened at 4 pm instead of 3 am.

[10] I wonder, will the passage of time make the reactions any more rational?

[11] For purposes of argument, not that I think such a supernatural being actually exists.

[12] Matthew 17:20: ” Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (also Mark 11:23)

The Teacher I’m Not Eulogizing

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No, this isn’t a eulogy – not in the classic definition of the word. More like a stroll down Memory Lane [2] while reading a love note about an adored teacher and mentor.

Welcome to the tribute blog edition.
Content warning: more family friendly than usual. [1]

Late last year I was delighted to be contacted by R__ Clucas, son of my former high school teacher, Ted Clucas. Mr. Clucas’ son had contacted me after coming across a blog post wherein I’d mentioned The Generator, Santa Ana High School’s award-winning student newspaper. R__  shared kind words re Mr. Clucas’ fondness for his students, in particular The Generator crew (Mr. Clucas had become the newspaper’s advisor during my senior year, and remained so for several years after that). R__ also let me know that his father was in frail health.

 

Ted Clucas, ca. 1975.

Ted Clucas, ca. 1975.

 

Last week I received a FB message from R__ , excerpted here:

I thought you would want to know that my dad, Ted Clucas, died yesterday. If you are in contact with any other former Santa Ana High students and Generator staff members, perhaps you can pass along that information to them….
It is sad, but I know he lived a long and good life. I also know that advising the Generator and working with students was one of the things he enjoyed most in life.

I did indeed pass along the news. Many SASH alum shared their memories of Mr. Clucas on the FB post, as well as their reflections on teachers and teaching in general. [3] The personal remarks – all loving and generous – I passed along to Mr. Clucas’ son and widow.

There was a pattern to the comments: Ted Clucas is remembered for his kindness, patience, and sage, good humored guidance. I can’t think of a better legacy for a teacher – he was one of “the good guys” whom we both liked and respected.

 

I had more sweaters, but Ted Clucas' students had a sassier mascot.

I had more sweaters, but Ted Clucas’ students had a sassier mascot.

 

A couple of the reflections got me thinking more about the act and art of teaching.

… he did always strike me as part of that wonderful old guard that ushered us through a certain moment in time. A few others I have less fond memories of, but in the greatness of time, they matter less.

I’ve often thought about the “management style” we learned from our teachers & coaches. Most was really poor, having to be unlearned later. Not with Mr. Clucas. We accomplished great things, worked hard & had fun. He was a gift.

A part of that wonderful old guard that ushered us through a certain moment in time. 

So well put (thanks, TF). As for some of that old guard…well…in that certain, Orwellian sense, some of our ushers were more equal than others.

As I watched my now college-age children navigate through their series of high school teachers – some of whom I wanted to nominate for a Nobel Peace Prize, some of whom were no better than trained circus monkeys – I would often marvel at the discrepancies in teachers’ attitudes and abilities, [4] and also at what are seemingly twists of fate, where one bad experience can deactivate a child’s interest in a subject or field they liked…and, of course, how one good teacher can ignite a spark that fosters a lifelong passion for a subject the student had once thought dull, difficult or inconsequential.

What combination of inborn and/or acquired personality traits, training and education, and simple force of will produce a good teacher? (If I had the answer, I’d nominate moiself to the Nobel Prize committee). How much of being an influential, memorable mentor involves a conscious decision,

I shall be like this, and not this.
I shall do and say this, but not this.

and how much is simply an unconscious reaction to circumstance and stimuli? And which came first?

chicken

 

From my FB post of June 11:

Attention SAHS alumni , and in particular *The Generator* staff members: please pass along this news to anyone who might be interested. Ted Clucas, longtime and beloved SAHS teacher and student journalism advisor, died yesterday.

Ted “Teddy” Clucas was both role model and cat wrangler when it came to mentoring 1975’s The Generator  staff. I’ve met few people in life with his combination of wisdom and patience (and yes, he let me get away with calling him “Teddy”). His name will always be on my list of favorite teachers, for so many reasons.

Oh, and about that mascot Mr. Rogers mentioned. I’ll get there. Eventually

Ted Clucas taught high school English, Composition and Literature classes for many years, and became the journalism class teacher and student newspaper advisor during my senior year. I had him for a literature class, and recall wonderfully instructive, generous and sometimes testy back-and-forth discussions about the significance and relevance of Great Expectations and other so-called classics. [5] My recollections also include his at once stern and bemused admonishment – Ms. Parnell! – when he thought I’d gone too far with my comments. That admonishment was to become my de facto nickname (shortened to, Parnell!) during my senior year, when he was my journalism advisor. The rebuke was always good natured (looking back, I sometimes cringe to think of how we tested his tolerance), usually produced in response to the pranks I and other Generator staff pulled.

One of the pranks, by select members of The Generator staff and other students, was an epic toilet-papering of Teddy’s house.  Mr. Clucas was wise enough to see that act as the compliment it was meant to be, where other teachers would have seen harassment or even vandalism.  He felt honored, and rightly so. We didn’t just tp any teacher’s house.

Another of the pranks was ongoing, and involved something more personal. Mr. Clucas spoke with a noticeable lisp.[6]  He of course was well aware of this, and also of the teasing he sometimes received about it. He never took the bait; if a student pointed out or even mocked his lisp, Mr. Clucas reacted as if the comment were along the lines of, “You are wearing a brown tie.”  Yes, I am.

Of the many, mildly unfair mysteries of life, two related ones stand out to me: that the word lisp has an s in it, as does the name Clucas. Because…there’s a story, about a telephone.

That would be the telephone in Mr. Clucas’ journalism classroom. The Generator‘s staffroom was one of the few classrooms with telephone access available to students. Even though we had use of the phone to make calls (groundbreaking reporters that we were), when the classroom phone rang it was supposed to be answered by the advisor. The phone didn’t ring very often, but every time – and I mean every single time – it did, if I were present and/or available, I moiself or one of the newspaper’s Merry Pranksters [7] would rush to the phone and answer it by saying:

“Mither Clucath thpeaking.”

"Please tell me you didn't make that so."

“Please tell me you didn’t make that so.”

Yeth, I did.

Okay, not every time. Sometimes the greeting was, Clucas’ Massage Parlor. Either way, Mr. C would cross his arms, shake his head, and try oh-so-unsuccessfully to prevent the corners of his mouth from twitching upward.

Parnell!

“Teddy” was both mentor and cheerleader when it came to my writing. I wrote various feature articles for the paper, from straight news to reviews to editorials, but my main focus was my regular editorial column, Parnal Knowledge.  As journalism advisor Mr. Clucas was seen, by his fellow teachers, the school administrators, and adult/parent readers of The Generator, as being ultimately responsible for the newspaper’s content. Thus, “the heat” was on him, on many occasions…often due to something I had written.  [8]

I received nothing but support from him when my columns were criticized, whether for content, fact or tone. He was even excited about the first piece of “hate mail” we received. The first time I received an angry letter from a teacher (and soon after that, a parent), he was almost beside himself with glee. I didn’t understand what the big whoop was about, until he told me it was the ultimate compliment and even litmus test for a writer.

“It means someone is reading – it means that you’ve made someone think about something that made them uncomfortable!”

1975 The Generator Staff photo, from my yearbook. Ted Clucas standing in the back row, far left. Yours truly front and center, to the left of Clucas Massage Parlor sign. Our mascot, Theodore, is seated in the second row, far right.

1975 The Generator Staff photo, from my yearbook. Ted Clucas standing in the back row, far left. Yours truly front and center, to the left of Clucas Massage Parlor sign. Our mascot, Theodore, is seated in the second row, far right.

 

The Generator staff was a rough crowd, not suitable for the esteem-challenged nor timorous of spirit. We constructed a class mascot, whom we christened Theodora, in honor of Teddy.  Theodora, a home-made dummy dressed in what I can only describe as pre-punk attire, which included part of a Girl Scout Uniform, had the middle digit of her right hand permanently affixed in what my WWII veteran father decorously referred to as the one finger salute. We installed Theodora in The Generator staffroom, with Teddy’s full knowledge and grudging acceptance if not permission, and her “offensive presence” was noted by several of the few teachers who dared darken the doorways of the journalism classroom. [9]

Each member of The Generator staff had his or her Generator nickname. A few of the more family-friendly ones I can mention included Kisser Carr, Quickie Lynn, Free Sample, and Frostie. [10] The Generator also had its own end-of-the-year awards banquet, during which we bestowed upon each other titles mocking those of the typical high school Senior Class Awards. [11]   For example, we voted our Sports/Fourth Page editor Best Nickname (“Bad Ass Cota”), and the student in charge of the newspaper’s distribution and circulation won the coveted title of Most Likely to Conceive.

And yes, when the latter title was bestowed, Mr. Clucas was sitting in the back of the classroom, shaking his head, not even bothering to stifle his chuckles. [12]

Theodora is ready for her close-up

Theodora is ready for her close-up

*   *   *

* He was one of my HS favorites. Very kind & patient. Looking back, he often seemed quietly amused with the stupidity of adolescence.

He was fully cognizant of our adolescent foolishness, yet was amused by it and never patronized us.

* Mr. C ignited my passion for journalism back in 7th grade…. The torch continues to burn to this day…Mr. C was not only a mentor, but a friend….

* He was a treasure. That rare combination of wisdom, humor, and elegance personified. One of my favorite experiences at SAHS, his English class and the Generator experience.

* Oh, yes, I remember him….bemused by our antics, gently guiding us away from the precipice when necessary. Don’t I remember a chuckle he had?

I, too, remember that chuckle, and so much more. Our little corner of the world was a better, kinder, wiser, and funnier place, because it had Ted Clucas in it.

*   *   *

May you have the good fortune to have your heart warmed by fond memories of an awesome teacher and mentor,
and may you have the good determination to be the kind of person who will be fondly remembered…
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Not to worry, regular readers, the feminist-freethinking-political-cultural rants shall return next week. With an extra bonus – fart jokes!

[2] An actual street in Santa Ana, one that will be familiar to those who are referenced in this not-a-eulogy.

[3] It was a thoughtful bunch – many of whom after high school pursued careers in journalism and other forms of writing.

[4] as well as my own surprise that “this ( good teacher, bad teacher) is still going on?!”

[5] Frequently, for the sake of argument, I challenged the application of the label “classic” to whatever book we were reading. Imagine that.

[6] I was a fellow lisper, but in recovery:  I had gone to speech therapy sessions in grade school.

[7] Okay, it was mostly me, and at least two others Who Shall Not Be Named At This Time and in This Venue…but it was never, ever our Editor-in-Chief, Deborah Franklin, who went on to become a respected freelance science writer and NPR contributor. Deb was too kind and genteel for such base shenanigans (although I caught her laughing at them on more than one occasion).

[8] Including, from the very first issue, the name of my column.

[9] What the heck – Theodora kept the blue noses at bay.

[10] A nickname I’d bestowed on our newspaper photographer as per his tendency (in my eyes) to strut stiff-legged, as if his underwear had been frozen.

[11] Most Likely to Succeed, Most Studious, Most Athletic, Campus Clown… you know the drill.

[12] I think this is enough footnotes, don’t you?

The Self I’m Not Hating

2 Comments

It’s Later, and I Don’t Hate Myself

The spam message I dared to delete:

IF  YOU  DON’T  READ  THIS  NOW  YOU’LL  HATE  YOURSELF  LATER

*   *   *

Every year, we forget they are there. And every year, usually in late June but earlier this year, two yellow roses pop up seemingly overnight, nestled amongst our patch of Hood strawberries.

roses

*   *   *

Three Cheers for Neti

That’s Neti, as in Neti pot – not Nessie, as per the one strange person who claimed they once overheard me extolling the values of a “Nessie pot.”

 

"So what am, I chopped liver?"

“So what am, I chopped liver?”

 

Sorry, Nessie. No cheers for you…although in this, The Season of Blooming Things, ® it does often seem as though a  Loch Ness Monster of snot [1]  is sloshing through my sinuses. And indeed, ’tis the season.

Curse you, pollen.  Curses upon you, you son of a fish who does not even know his own father — if I could only get at you, I would do the same to you! I would drape your innards over your arms! [2]

Curse you, ubiquitous and meddlesome wind-blown plant sperm, which will not be content with fertilizing the fauna but which also delights in infesting my nasal cavities and giving me what I can only describe as razor blade throat.

Some seasons, some days, it’s hardly noticeable. Either way, on most days, half of an OTC allergy pill usually helps, as does the use of the Neti pot.

 

neti

 

Twice last week, after engaging in a breezy, early evening berry picking session, I thought I would achoo my brains out. As I was stuck in full tilt, machine gun-sneeze mode, I marveled at the unstoppability of the reaction and contemplated the sad fact that if I had one of those attacks during Inconvenient Times ©, the terrorists would win.

What if I had such an attack and I was on a bus with doctors and Korean refugees, all of us hiding from the nearby North Korean patrol that would surely kill us if they found us, and I couldn’t stop sneezing and Alan Alda would have to strangle me to keep me quiet so as not betray our position?

Am I the only person in the world who thinks of the MASH  series finale when I have an epic sneeze fit?

Don’t answer that.

*   *   *

Good News That’s Nothing to Sneeze About

For once I have cause to be politically and socially proud of the actions of the country of (50% of) my ancestors’ birth. Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular national vote [3]. Sure and begorrah, ’twas a popular vote, indeed, as more than 62% of Irish voters said aye to changing Ireland’s constitution to define marriage as a union between two people, regardless of gender.

The Roman Catholic church has had a stranglehold on Irish politics and culture, dating from when the RCs ruled every aspect of Irish life and the priests sodomized the courts and the laws before they discovered altar boys and Magdalene laundry girls.

The RC church is rapidly and consistently losing ground in Ireland, a briskly changing, modernizing society which now polls as one of the more secular European nations. However, the majority of the county’s laws were enacted when the RC church had a theocratic stranglehold on the land.

IRELAND-GAY-MARRIAGE-VOTE

Michael Nugent, Dublin writer and chair of the advocacy group Atheist Ireland, noted in an interview with Freethought Radio that Ireland is a “pluralistic society governed by Catholic laws.” Nugent said that Ireland’s openly a-religious, atheist and freethinking politicians [4] are taking this vote to heart and plan on working to amend and repeal a plethora of Church-inspired laws – from abortion prohibitions to statutes requiring public officials to swear religious oaths.

More than one political commentator has referred to the gay marriage vote as a “reality check” and a “slap in the face to the Roman Catholic church.” I heartily applaud the latter, and look forward to more church-face slapping – preferably with the biggest, coldest fish voters can wield – as the interests of humanity and rationality overturn the legal vestiges of dogma and superstition.

*   *   *

I’d Like to Buy a Vowel, Pat

vowel

NO NO NO NO NO.

Not that vowel.

I’d like to buy an i.

i is my favorite vowel, in part because two of my favorite words begin with it [5].

There is the word I itself, the personal pronoun. Although I am not fond of the first person narrative in fiction and rarely employ it in my stories, I am fond of I for more personal reasons, having to do with action and momentum. I is an indicator of agency and responsibility (I will do ___; I think that ___).

My other favorite i-word is if. I love that word. For me, it is the key to answering the question non-writers of fiction often ask of writers of fiction; specifically, How do you get your story ideas? The closest I can come to answering that question truthfully [6]  is to say that the What if question is always involved.

Story ideas, from the mundane to the profound, center around possible answers to the question, What if…

*  a couple used their argument over whose turn it was to bring in the garbage can as a distraction from their crumbling relationship, mental health issues and employment insecurity…
* a husband betrayed  his wife by posting bail for her sister who was in jail for abetting a cult leader’s assault upon…
* a bereaved mother enlisted the help of a sympathetic stranger she met in a university library to avenge her daughter’s death…
* a teen-aged/elderly/mentally challenged skate boarder/retired cracker salter quality assurance manager/grocery bagger  stumbled upon the body of a former teacher/complete stranger/notorious serial flasher in the hall closet/supermarket parking lot/Grand Canyon gift shop restroom…

Also, if can be used to denote the hope of things to come and the rationalization of things that fail in the here and now (“If ___, then ___”).  It is a word of both promise and regret (“If only…”).  A mere two letters, a thousand possibilities. I like that.

*   *   *

Disc Down, Antlers Up [7]

I saw my first professional Ultimate Frisbee game last Saturday. It might have also have been my last professional UF game.

On a sweltering afternoon in the Hillsboro Stadium (the home of Hillsboro’s minor league baseball team), my family and I watched the Portland Stags defeat the San Francisco Dogfish. [8]  That is, MH and Belle stuck around to watch the entire game. A bored and disappointed K and I left at halftime.

boredom

UF is an interesting, fast-paced game…or so I thought when I watched college and other teams play it. The teams self-referee, there are no time outs and no dallying between quarters and halves – the action is almost non-stop. The professional UF game I saw had been turned into a version of…frankly, of something I also used to love to watch: professional baseball.

It had the same bloated time frame, with time outs being called every other play and with the announcers and team owners or whomever not trusting the audience to be still with their thoughts and reflections – the cocaine/Ritalin/ADD generation has a short attention span and must be distracted/entertained every second! Thus, we were tortured provided with mind-numbingly, butt-scratchingly, tedious, juvenile and game-prolonging mascot dances and cheers and come-out-onto-the-field-kids-for-some-relay-games “entertainment” at every opportunity.

 

Oh, now this makes it interesting.

Oh, now this makes it interesting.

 

Over one and one half hours later, and it was only halftime? Thanks, but, nooooooo.

*   *   *

Shave Every Day and You’ll Always Look Keen

I’ve posted before re my brain’s penchant for earworms.  Apropos of nothing (conscious), yesterday morning I awoke with the charming ditty Shaving Cream, a novelty song featured on the Dr. Demento show, oompah-ing through my cranium.

There are worse ways to start a day.

All together now, join with me on the last verse:

♫ And now folks my story is ended
I think it is time I should quit
If any of you feel offended
Stick your head in a barrel of…. ♫

*   *   *

May you always look keen (and I trust that you do),
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Apologies to BO’M and those of you who’ve told me you enjoy reading this blog during breakfast.

[2] From the Epic of Gilgamesh, arguably the first great work of literature, which tells the tale of a Mesopotamian king’s adventures which include angry deities causing a worldwide flood and other tales which later sources borrowed  (e.g. the biblical Flood story). Quite entertaining, the EOG also has some really epic curses.

[3] Other countries have legalized same sex unions, via acts of their legislatures and/or the courts.

[4] Imagine, a country where a religion-free politician can be elected! Don’t need to imagine – that’s most Western Europe and the “developed” world,  except for the USA, which is in the company of the Islamic theocracies when it comes to electing out-of-the-closet atheists.

[5] Uh, that is, they begin with the letter “i,” not “it.”

[6] Yep, I’ve lied or mislead on many occasions. “How do I get my ideas? Well, there’s this guy in a trench coat who hangs around NE Burnside, and if you slip him a twenty he’ll flash you a plot and character outline….”

[7] That is the Portland Stags’ fan cheer or unofficial anthem, from what I gathered.

[8] Or, Dgfsh, as the scoreboard read.

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