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The (made-in-China) Flag I’m Not Waving

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Release the piccolos!

Release the piccolos!

 

There’s nothing like hearing the classic obbligato from arguably the best patriotic march ever composed [1] to set the mood for Independence Day.

*   *   *

 Happy 4th of July!

 Do these fireworks make my butt look big?

Do these fireworks make my butt look big?

 

*   *   *

Yet Another Sign of the Times

berrychickenJPGBERRY

During raspberry-picking season I look like a cowardly and/or incompetent self-cutter.

*   *   *

I can think of few better ways to celebrate our nation’s independence from hierarchical hegemony than to kick a hallowed institution.  But, first….

 *   *   *

White People Problems – #568 in an unending series
The Warning That Ruins Lives

Don’t you, kinda yeah maybe well sure, want to know things?  As in, when a certain variation of A Good Thing to Do has a deleterious or dangerous side effect, and there is a better version of or way to do The Good Thing ®, wouldn’t you want to know about it?

It's too much to handle! Let the little #$&!s get melanoma!

Another helpful hint – it’s too much to handle! Let the little #$&!s get melanoma!

Dateline: A Sunday morning, at the Oregon Zoo’s Cascade Grill.  Two Mommy Friends ©, each accompanied by one ambulatory toddler and one infant in a stroller, are chatting outside the entrance doors to the café.  One of the women is pregnant.  Preggers Woman reaches into her stroller’s storage bag for an aerosol can of sunscreen and begins to spray her toddler’s legs.  As the sunscreen mist envelops her child from toes to torso she complains to her friend about how she just read somewhere that pediatricians are advising parents to refrain from using spray sunscreen on their children, because

(a) spray-on sunscreens are not effective as the rub-in lotions, and
(b) children can inhale the sunscreen mist, which is harmful to their lungs.

“And I thought, really?” PW rolls her eyes and snorts with disgust as she snaps the cap back on the spray bottle and tosses it in the stroller bag. “I mean, really – it’s just so frustrating!  So now what else can’t I give my kids?!

What else can’t you give your kids?

How about lead paint? Or an overdose of Tylenol, or….?

*   *   *

And now, let the kicking begin.

The honeymoon is over

Although the relationship was doomed from the start, I’m surprised more friends didn’t intervene and say, “He’s just not that into you.”

I refer to the liberal religiositati’s [2] high hopes for the latest head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis.  He threw them a few bones about caring more about the poor than about divisive social issues and they were practically tripping all over themselves, using their ACLU membership cards to mop up their deferential drool.

It may be true that, as one friend put it, P. Francis is “better than the Nazi,” [3] but talk about damning with faint praise.

PF has consistently dodged questions about raising the status of women in his church, and last week responded to a journalist’s query about the underlying misogyny in the Catholic church by making a “joke” :

Francis replied: “The fact is that woman was taken from a rib.” PF then laughed “heartily” before saying: “I’m joking. That was a joke.”

That’s one wacky dude!  Hard to believe he traded in a promising stand-up comedy career for vows of celibacy and poverty.

Living the vow of poverty, gold-plated Vatican-style.

Living the vow of poverty, Vatican-style.

Not only is the latest high priestess of Isis RC witch doctor holy chicken bone mumbler pope maintaining his church’s separate and unequal gender wall, he seems prone to reinforcing it, as when he spoke a few weeks back about, the need for “… fertility in maintaining a Christian marriage.”

Frankie baby blamed a “culture of well-being” and comfort for convincing married couples that a carefree life of world travel and summer homes was better than having children. He said married couples should look at how Jesus loves his church to learn how to be faithful, perseverant and fruitful in their vocation.

REALLY

Pay attention to whatever the man in the dunce cap pointy hat – surely a signifier of supreme intellectual aptitude if there ever was one – tells y’all.

pointyhat

Yo, Catholic married couples. Your Jesus (according to RC doctrine) never married and was childless; therefore; it logically follows that to be faithful to this Jesus and his church you should marry and must have children.  If it breeds, it leads! Or…something. [4]

Why anyone heeds the admonitions of a childless celibate who presumes to lecture other people on the supposed virtues – and strictures – of a breeding marriage….  RCs, get your heads out of those orifices.

HEAD   Head_up_ass

Or perhaps Francis the talking mule O’Pope was trying to divert attention from the latest Catholic business as usual scandal. “Our own little Holocaust,” is what an Irish Mirror writer called the discovery of the bodies of ~ 800 toddlers and babies who died of disease and malnutrition in the Irish institutions that housed their unmarried mothers, who were shamed and damned by the cultural stigma against sexually active females and “bastard” babies – a stigma invented, promoted and implemented by the church.

On the really, really dim bright side, will yet another set of these latest revelations finally help to break the RC stranglehold on Irish culture, law and politics?

“After the revelations that Irish priests raped countless little boys and Irish nuns beat and starved countless little girls forced to work in the Magdalene laundries, we can’t take any more. The children in the homes were even used as guinea pigs for pharmaceutical companies to test vaccines. .. Never again should the Catholic Church dare to point the finger at any young woman contemplating abortion, or lecture on the sanctity of human life.”
The Week (6-20-2014)

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That was fun, wasn’t it?

And now for something completely different.

 So Glad I’ve Lived to Experience This Breakthrough For Humankind

Last week I had my annual mammogram. [5]Tuality Hospital’s Breast Health Services center is quite proud to be up on the latest technology for diagnostic screening, and instead of the usual titty in the wringer mammogram they offered me Tomosynthesis.

Tomosynthesis is better known as 3D mammography – you know, where it seems like the breasts just come flying off the screen at you.  The mammography technologist looked at me blankly when I asked her if I could wear the special glasses.

They're too scary, Mommy – make them go away!

Too scary, Mommy – make them go away!

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Where liberty dwells, there is my country.
~ Benjamin Franklin ~

Happy Independence Day!

Let us all proudly wave our American flags and light our fireworks (both made in China) and then stare at our computer screens, comparing Facebook pictures of other people’s celebrations.

And may the red white and blue hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever.

[2] Yeah, not an OED-recognized word. But it should be.

[3] The always observant SCM was referring to Joseph Ratzinger, better known by his slave name, Pope Benedict.

[4] No footnote here. Move along folks; there’s nothing to see.

[5] Insert your favorite/paranoid grumblings about the wisdom and costs of routine medical testing.

The Best -Of Lists I’m Not Making

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My annual Ladies Lefse Party was this past Wednesday.  I’ve been hosting the LLPs on the second Wednesday in December for…a long time.  LAH, SCM and daughter P, Belle, JWW and I had a grand time, and SCM graciously left behind her homemade pumpkin whole wheat soy milk cranberry biscotti [1] to torture me the following morning.  Stalwart attendees SS, RB and JR were not able to attend this year, due to pressing other engagements, respectively, a son’s band concert, jury duty, and a husband’s laparoscopic cholecystectomy . [2]  Besides her joi de vivre and take-no-prisoners wit, JR is known for her festive, self-made millinery, which was much missed – my Bieber Meets Santa Pez creation of a few years back was a poor stand-in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While cleaning up after the party I was reminded of the late [3] great, dear friend and neighbor Glenda Jones.  Seventeen years ago, back in The Old Neighborhood (Jackson School Neighborhood of Hillsboro), Glenda had been tickled pickled beet pink when I brought lefse to one of her parties.  Being of Norski stock herself Glenda expressed something akin to shame at never having made lefse, and asked me for detailed written instructions, which I gladly provided.  A few weeks later, I received a frantic/embarrassed phone call from Glenda one Saturday night:

“I’m following your instructions exactly….and…uh…
there’s flour ALL OVER the kitchen.”

I assured Glenda she must be doing it right.

Here is a copy of the party invitation, just so y’all won’t feel left out.  Even though you were.

*   *   *

Mark your calendars and set your e-minders:
Here comes the second Wednesday in December…. 

Which this year, 2013, falls on December 11.  Yes, there are only 20 days remaining
ntil 2014 rears its nagging head

and demands you account for the past 365 days. 

Notable events on past December 11s include:

*1688:  James II of England abdicated the throne by throwing the Great Seal of the Realm into the River Thames (my guess is the great seal smelled like lutefisk.).
* 1941: Germany and Italy declare war on the United States, following the U.S.A.’s declaration of war on Japan (the Ladies’ Lefse Lovers Society’s “Make Lefse, not War” slogan was for naught in those troubled times.)
* 1962: Convicted murderer Arthur Lucas is the last person to be executed in Canada (in an unusual punitive snit, prison officials denied Lucas’ last meal request for lefse).

 Royal peeves; war, execution…let’s redeem December 11.
Hold on to your fruitcakes; it’s time for the annual 

Ladies Lefse Party
Wednesday December 11, 2012, 6:30 pm 

As always, your high-minded hosts will provide lefse preparing accoutrements and serve lefse and Norwegian meatcakes for supper, in a festive, Gangnam style-free environment. 

Ladies hosting:
-Robyn Parnell & Belle 

Ladies Likely to make an appearance:
- why, you, of course 

Ladies Unlikely to make an appearance (but we can dream, can’t we?):
- Lady Marmalade 

♫ Gitchi Gitchi ya ya lefse…♫

♫ Gitchi Gitchi ya ya lefse…♫

*   *   *

In an interview with Parade magazine, producer-writer-comic-actor Mindy Kaling made a brilliant point about the assumptions we make about women. “I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?'”
(The 28 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2013, Moment #8) [4]

 Favorite albums; best song parody; the year’s tops in food, art, journalism, political boners, drone strikes – it’s that time of the year, when pundits both significant and who-the-F-is-that –worthy trot out their Best of The Year ® lists.

 I already know my best of the Best of Lists—it’s going to be difficult to top The 28 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2013 .  They’re all kick-ass, and I love that the Heavy Issues Moments (Malala Yousafzai Speaks at United Nations, Wendy Davis’s Tex-ass fililbuster) are balanced by more light-hearted but nonetheless significant moments, such  as Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s hosting the Golden Globe Awards.

AMY

 Be sure to check out # 17: the Awesome Rape Prevention Video Parody From India that Traveled ‘Round the World.

*   *   *

Here’s my vote for Best Shortest Best of List:  Best Holiday Rap Song, of any year:

Along with Run D.M.C., I wish that you may be chilling and coolin’ just like a snowman, and thus the hijinks will surely ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Recipe, please?

[2] If I had a dime for every time I heard that excuse….

[3] Glenda died in a motorcycle accident in August 1997.

[4] Best of 2013 footnotes: this did not make the list.

The Robot Song I’m Not Singing

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Hell Hath Many Forms

 OSMONDS

But I digress.  The hell I’m referring to follows:

Hell

It may boggle your mind to know that that letter was NOT a response to the question, In what way are you the most irritating person residing in New Jersey, the entire Eastern seaboard and/or United States, and please be specific. Rather, an alert friend found this abominable if brief torture primer disguised as an answer to a question posed in Real Simple magazine.[1] The Question:  What’s the Best Tip for Getting the Day off to a Good Start! 

And! You just know you’re in for one wacky answer!  From the kind of people!  Who will answer “questions” that end in exclamation points!!

“Afterward, everyone goes out the door with a skip in their step.”

A skip in their step. Yeah, right.  Woman, your husband and kids and are leaping and running like bats out of hell, tumbling over one another in their haste to flee the nightmare that can only come from inhabiting the same house as a vulgarly vivacious, psychotically cheerful person who assaults them with tickles and “ditties” [2] when all they really want at 7 am is a soft-spoken, “Good morning.” And maybe a caffeinated beverage.

And no ditties about ROBOTS, for f***’s sake.

MANSCARE

That kind of torture should be reported To Amnesty International.

******

Writers Guidelines [3] I love to loathe:

Unbounded Effluvia [4] is seeking submissions of fiction and poetry. We value diversity. If you’re a white, straight, able male—your stories are welcome. But if you’re not, we would love to see your stories as well. We’d love to see stories from diverse backgrounds, and strongly encourage submissions of stories featuring characters of all colors, belief systems, sexual orientation, etc. And of course, the same goes for the author. 

Well, wrap my Irish-Norwegian-Welsh-French-Cherokee-American, straight (but not narrow), middle-aged, female, able-bodies, Freethinking Humanist ass in a rainbow flag and set it on fire.

I deplore the celebritization of authors (even to the point of wishing away the requirement for the author’s photo on the book jacket or in the journal credits) for many reasons, including that the author’s name is as much of an identifier as I care to know.  I don’t need to know what authors looks like; I don’t need to know their gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political or supernatural beliefs.  I don’t want to judge their writing by any of those factors.  I want the writing to reveal itself.

I can understand a publisher’s or editor’s request for variety as to what comes from the keyboard.  What’s behind the keyboard should not matter, and thinking that it does is the bastard child of the write what you know bullshit, possibly the worst, self-censorial, small-minded advice ever given to writers, for a quajillion reasons, including that it gets translated, in many minds, as, write (only what) what you are. [5]

As a writer, my interest in and/or ability to create diverse characters and narratives should be immaterial to the moiself that is behind the keyboard.

Many years ago I had a story that, I thought, would be perfect for a certain (now defunct) literary journal that was devoted to portraying the zeitgeist of a certain generation [6].  According to their guidelines, the journal wanted the poems and prose submitted to them to not only to be about that generation, but to be to be authored by those whose birthdates would “qualify” them as belonging to that generation.  Moiself  was about 15 years past their qualification in that regard.  I usually boycott publications with such blinkered, partisan guidelines, but for some reason I felt like puttin’ my sneaky hat on. I just wanted to show them.

Unfortunately, this is not my sneaky hat.

Unfortunately, this is not my sneaky hat.

In the acceptance letter the editor write that my story was perfect for the upcoming issue and “masterfully captured” the atmosphere they were seeking.  Imagine that.  Imagine a writer of fiction using her imagination [7] to create characters that reflect anything other than thinly veiled versions of her (age/ethnicity/gender/generation/bra size….).

That journal did not use author photos (nor requested birth certificates or driver’s licenses or other forms of id proving the authors fit into their age criteria); thus, I assumed that they’d assumed I had obeyed their niggling guidelines, and that I was…one of them.  I never told the editors about my subterfuge.  I simply savored my admittedly petty [8] but nonetheless triumphant gotcha! moment, all by myself.

Until now.

*   *   *

Wishing you a weekend filled with petty yet satisfying delights. Here’s one more of mine.

 

May the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Apparently the magazine has a regular feature, “This Month’s Question,” and readers’ annoying braindumps thoughtful responses to the question are posted the following month.

[2] Ditties?  Really?

[3] a set of guidelines put together by a publisher, magazine or other organization that specify their requirements for material from writers.

[4] Not the journal’s real name.  Too bad, ’cause it’s a helluva name for a journal if I do say so myself.  And I just did.

[5] Either way, imagine if, for all these years, Stephen King actually has a paucity of imagination or skill and is simply writing “what he knows” or what he is.  Yikes.

[6] That would be the Ex-ers.

[7] Shouldn’t there be another footnote?  Somewhere?

[8] Why are acts of petty spite so enjoyable?  There must be  a German term for it, akin to schadenfreude.

The Problem I’m Not Talking About

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A woman clad in body-hugging, long-sleeve Nike shirt, Adidas leggings and New Balance shoes, [1] is running toward me.  She is pushing one of those baby jogger strollers. You know how a rhythmic, rocking motion can calm and soothe many a fussy infant?  Hers is not that kind of baby.

A lone seagull crouches in the grass, extends its necks and emits staccato, croaking calls, as if doing a series of vocal exercises to warm up for the squawking to come.  A man who looks to be in his mid 30’s places a duffle bag beneath the canopy of a large cedar tree and begins some kind of martial arts exercises. I hear a wheezing noise coming from behind me; I’m on “alert status,” as one must be when walking in unfamiliar territory, and stop at a fork in the path and turn around.  An elderly gentleman is about 20 feet behind me on the path.  He’s rail thin, looks as if a strong breeze could knock him over,.  He has a thick mass of shock white hair atop his deeply furrowed head, and he’s wearing a bright neon safety vest.  He pumps his arms as he strides past me, flashing a beatific smile and greeting me with a cheery, “Good moooooooorning!” I take the fork to the right, and soon I hear the familiar, shuffle shuffle crunch snuffle snuffle that heralds the approach of a biped and its dog, respectively walking and inspecting the twig-strewn gravel path.  Ahead of me to the south, a sleek black lab, let off its leash by its human, intensely and hopefully [2] streaks toward two seagulls resting on the grass by the duck pond.  The birds watch the rapidly approaching canine, waiting until the last moment before nonchalantly spreading their wigs and rising helicopter-like over the dog, which rockets beneath them.  The dog slows down for a nanosecond, glances back at its human, resumes its speed and slightly changes direction – reminding me of how a cat, when it somehow fails, begins to casually groom itself as if to say, Oh yeah, I meant to do that.

The simple sights and sounds of a city awakening to the assurance of a beautiful day.

wright park

MH, Belle and I are staying in an olde apartment building (ca 1912) across the street from the perfect venue for a morning – or afternoon or evening – walk.  Wright Park is a 27 acre arboretum with a series of gravel loop trails, a duck pond, a lawn bowling/bocce ball court, a botanical conservancy, several themed works of bronze statuary and one seemingly random memorial.  As my après-walk internet search later confirms, I’m not the only person to have wondered why, in the middle of a Tacoma park, is there a monument to Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen? [3]

We are in Tacoma[4] for three reasons.
1. to return K to college (UPS).
2. Belle is interested in UPS,[5] and is doing campus tours and other activities UPS offers to prospective students. On our way back to Oregon we will stop at Evergreen College in Olympia, for similar check-out-the-school exploring.
3. there is no third reason.

K came home for his spring break last week.  At the end of the week we made a two day trip to Manzanita and then drove the scenic route [6] to take K back to UPS.  It seems as though all of Tacoma was out when we arrived on Saturday afternoon.  There is something about Tacoma on a sunny day that reminds me of San Francisco.  Perhaps it’s the city’s many hills, and the view you have atop them, to the north, east and west, of the bay (Puget Sound’s Commencement Bay, in Tacoma’s case).  In cities like Tacoma and San Francisco, which are known for their often overcast/inclement weather, a clear, bright sunny day seems to bring out the best in residents and visitors alike.

Just in case you were wondering, after reading that last comparison, I neither smoke nor inhale.  Apologies to San Fransiscoites: the afore-mentioned weather rumination is the only Tacoma characteristic that reminds me of The City.  Your beloved Baghdad by The Bay’s charm remains intact, and unique.

Saturday night, after dropping off K at his dorm, Belle, MH & I had dinner at Pomodoro, in Tacoma’s Procter district.   Not long after we were seated Belle removed her sketch pad and pencils from her purse. She and MH were seated across from me, and Belle looked in my direction as she began to sketch. I turned around to see if perhaps a cute waiter or bus boy was lurking behind me.  Nope.  This put me into a rather mild existential panic.  I tried my best not to sound like a bad Robert DeNiro imitation as I asked, “Are you sketching me?”

“Yes,” Belle replied.  “Hold still.”

I didn’t hold still.  None of us held still.  We were doing restaurant-things: eating, drinking, lifting napkins to our mouths, answering questions from our server, as well as allegedly conversing with one another.  Belle said nothing more, but from her heavy sighs and eyebrow gymnastics it was apparent that she was disappointed with my lack of stillness, and other attributes that render me unfit for sketching.

I do not translate well to photos.  I am not a still life, and loathe having my picture taken in any form and for any cause. The reasons for this are not particularly complicated or interesting; they are known to those supposedly closest to me, and in a kind and just world (calling Mr. Rogers) would be respected, even if not “understood.”  This is rarely the case.

From the POV of a fotografizophobic, [7] when people gaze at you intently and allegedly dispassionately, judging the contours (read: inadequacies) of your bone structure and other facial features, hearing them say, “Hold still so I can sketch you/take your picture” is the emotional equivalent of hearing, Hold still so that I may throw acid in your face.

Unsolicited, adult-to-adult advice: when any sentient being declines to have their picture taken by you, respect their wishes and move on.  Do not whine and wheedle, do not attempt any form of emotional blackmail (“The family reunion shot will be ruined if you’re not in it, and who knows if Uncle Anus will live long enough to attend the next one!”).  Unless I am renewing my driver’s license and you are the DMV camera dude, or you are the hospital’s medical photographer sent to document my Mayo Clinic-worthy bulbous axillary tumor, back off.  It’s that simple.

*   *   *
We interrupt this family travelogue to bring you a political rant.
Your regular programming will return shortly.

Department of I’m glad he didn’t live/I wish he’d lived to see this

My father had an inexplicable, embarrassing (to me) fascination with Richard Milhous Nixon.  He’d been to Nixon’s “Western White House” home in San Clemente on official (IRS) business and had met the then Prevaricator Commander-in-Chief.  To a man of my dad’s generation who began life as a dirt-poor country boy in a southern family of share croppers, meeting The President must have been seen as a pinnacle of the American dream.  Thus, I tell myself my father’s interest was a case of celebrity worship, or that all-too-human fascination with any personal brush with power, and not that he actually admired the lying, venal, foul-mouthed, paranoid, commie-baiting, racist contender for worst president ever.

 I thought no new revelations about Nixon could ever surprise me, even though I knew there were more tapes and documents yet to be declassified.  Still, it was chilling to read the revelations contained in the LBJ tapes about just how low RMN would go to obtain power.  In 1968, fearing that the Paris Peace Talks would end the Vietnam War and thus his election chances, Nixon secretly intervened to sabotage the negotiations.  He sent his envoy to get the South Vietnamese to pull out of the talks, promising them “a better deal” if he were elected.  LBJ, informed of Nixon’s treachery by the FBI, felt Nixon was committing treason, but feared going public with the information for several reasons, including national security concerns and having to reveal that the FBI and the NSA were bugging the South Vietnamese ambassador’s phone and intercepting his communications.  Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey, informed of the situation by LBJ a few days before the election, decided it would be too disruptive to the country to accuse the Republicans of treason, especially if the Dems were going to win anyway (they were ahead in the polls).

What is that old saying, something about how all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing?

The peace talks collapsed, Nixon ended his campaign by promising an alternative to the inept Democratic strategy – look at them, they couldn’t even get the South Vietnamese to the negotiating table! – and won the election with less than 1% of the popular vote.  His “better deal” led to the war dragging on until 1975…which caused the additional deaths of Twenty. Two. Thousand. American soldiers. [8]

Despite – or perhaps because of – being a fiction writer I’m a huge fan of reality.  A part of me wishes my father could have read the transcripts, and that he and I could’ve discuss the revelations, and that he would have been able to understand at least a part of my vitriol for RMN, which is best expressed by Hunter S. Thompson’s He Was A Crook.  Another part [9] wimps out on reality, and tries to embrace the idea that an old man went in peace, holding on to whatever fantasies he had, the Nixon one (oh….ick) included.

nixon

Richard Nixon…He was the real thing — a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that “I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.”
(Hunter S. Thompson, writing in The Atlantic, May 1, 1994)

*   *   *

More freethinker troublemaking:

“Leave No Stone Unturned” An Easter Challenge for Christians

Jesuseasterbunny

*   *   *

“It’s the problem…that no one likes to talk about. No wonder they call it Silent But Deadly.”

How’s that for a commercial lead-in? But really, ladies and germs,[10] The same type of fabric used by the military to protect against chemical weapons can be yours, with the purchase of the intriguingly named Better Marriage Blanket.  Unfortunately, it’s not what you’re thinking.  Or, maybe it is.  Oh, who cares – any product with the selling point “offending molecules are absorbed before anyone knows they’re there” is worth a moment of your attention, right?  Not only that, it’s given me the idea of how to solve the North Korea situation.  Get our Navy Seals to wrap Kim Jong-un in a Better Marriage Blanket, and it’ll be like he’s not even there.

Speaking of other problems no one likes to talk about, there are those family road trips that do not end in all sweetness and light and witty anecdotes.  Unsolicited adult-to-adult advice, revisited (the photography-free version): do not endure treatment from family members that you would find intolerable coming from anyone else.

angry rubber chickenpng

Smarter people than us said this:

* Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
Alexander Pope

* There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
– Martin Luther King Jr

* Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.
– George Carlin

*   *   *

Joy, Interrupted: An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss.  Hmm, not the feel-good title of the year, you say?  The collection contains some beautiful, intriguing, moving essays, poems and fiction on the subject of loss in the context of motherhood, including, in the last category, a story of mine.  Two years ago I read the editor’s call for submissions and submitted my story “Maddie is Dead.” [11] It was one of those made-me-shiver incidents when the editor contacted me to say that she loved the story and wanted to include it in the collection, and by the way, is the story indeed fiction (it is), and by-the-by-the-way, did I know that her deceased daughter was named Maddie?

joy

The anthology should be in book stores later this year and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

*   *   *

One last gasp at the road trip story.  It was our first night in Tacoma, in the afore-mentioned apartment with Belle & Mark, and Belle was cranky due to a nasty, lingering cold and (gasp) no TV on site. She turned down any suggestion I had for playing cards, games, etc.  I passed the time doing an online search for…hmmm, parameters, hmmm. What would be a spirit-lifting image to see? How about sloths wearing onsies?

Best. Search. In. A. Long. Time.

sloth

An adorable Bradypodidae, dressed in baby clothes.  Hijinks are bound to ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] The Clash of the Titans?

[2] Warning: anthropomorphizing zone ahead.

[3] A Norwegian-American artist sculpted a bust of Ibsen, his mentor and friend. Three bronze busts cast from the original ended up in places with large populations of Norski immigrants: St. Paul, MN, Wahpeton, N.D., and Tacoma.  Just because.

[4] The Tacoma narrative was written earlier this week, on Sunday and Monday.

[5] to her brother’s genuine if mild apprehension.

[6] Up the Oregon coast, crossing the Clumbia River at Astoria, following the Willapa Bay, cutting over to Olympia at the small town of Raymond. Which led us to wonder if there was a man in the town named Raymond, and if so, do all of the townspeople like him?

[7] Fotografizophobia is the fear of having your picture taken.

[8] .and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians soldiers and civilians.

[9] The part spelled “protective daughter,” no doubt.

[10] A lame popularized by Milton Berle in the 1950’s: “Good evening, ladies and germs.  I mean ladies and gentlemen. I call you ladies and gentlemen, but you know what you really are.”  It was funnier then.  Supposedly.

[11] Previously published in The Externalist, issue 4, October 7.

The Woodpecker I’m Not Strangling

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It’s the season.  We’ve been reclaimed by a Northern Flicker.

flicker

I love woodpeckers, and the Northern Flicker is especially striking in its coloration and behavior.  About that behavior – that striking behavior.

During their March – June breeding season, a flicker calls (makes a loud, rolling rattle with a piercing tone that rises and falls in volume several times) and drums (repeatedly and rapidly pecks a tree or other solid object) to communicate with a mate, or proclaim its territory and attract a mate.  But why settle for drumming on a mere tree when you can make a MUCH LOUDER SOUND OMG YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW LOUD by using our chimney flashing as a drum skin?

“Yo, Freddy. Flicker,” I said, while pounding the exterior of the chimney with a pole to convince him to seek friendlier territory.  “I understand that this is your equivalent of placing an ad on perfectmatch.com, but your strident call is going down our chimney and into our house, where the residing, non-flicker females neither understand nor appreciate its intended implications.  And that repeated bashing of your beak against the chimney flashing sounds incredibly loud and is incredibly annoying for us bipeds, not to mention what it must be doing to your tiny avian brain…and are you perchance a mentally challenged flicker?  Just asking.”

Oh, he’s not stupid, and he’s not pecking on metal because he can’t find a suitable tree, according to a Jackson Bottom Wetlands Friendly Biologist ®. A metal object allows Freddy Flicker to make the most noise in the flickerhood.  An accessible chimney flashing – jackpot!  That is one awesome find for a flicker, who uses its acoustic amplifications to announce to nearby flicker friends and foes, “Here I am!  Everything around here is mine, mine, mine!”

Friendly Biologist said flickers will return year after year to the same house if it works for them.  And indeed, we’ve seen a flicker pair, and their offspring, at our suet feeder for the past couple of years.  I’m firmly in the pro-woodpecker procreation camp.  I could just do without them using our chimney for their pre-coital garage band rehearsal, ya know?

What We Talk About When We Talk About Us

We had a dinner party on Sunday to honor son K, who was home from college on spring break and who had recently celebrated his 20th birthday.[1]  Seeing as how Sunday was the 17th, That Irish Day, we had an Irishy menu [2] and MH made seating cards with shamrocks or some other leprechaun-worthy fauna decorative picture next to each guest’s name.  Our youngest guest was the adorable, precocious, getting’-down-with-the-alphabet, 5 year old “Peach.”  P had a minor dramatic episode when she noticed her mother’s name card, and she fussed to her father about it.  “That can’t be where Mommy is sitting because it doesn’t start with an ‘M.'”

Her mother (whose name begins with S) relayed that story a couple of days ago, and I laughed to read her email.  I was older than Peach but way younger than K when I first reflected upon the discrepancy in how adults address children and children address adults.  Why was it, I ventured to ask certain tall people, that parents may and in fact do call their children by name, but kids are supposed to address their parents by their relationship?  Mom calls me Robyn, not “second daughter,” but I must call her some variation of Mom, [3] even though her name is Marion.  I didn’t see what respect had to do with it, but the tall people always included that word in their answer to my question.

A few years back a friend of mine shared this observation with me, about me:  When I’m talking about my husband to my kids, I call him by name if I’m speaking about something between he and I (“I’m going to get M a book on owl pellets for his birthday”), and I refer to him as “Dad” if I’m talking about something between him and our hatchlings [4] (“Are you planning on getting Dad an owl pellet for his birthday?”).  If MH calls on the phone and wants to speak with Belle or K, I vary the name-thing:  “Mark wants to talk with you,” or, “Dad’s on the phone for you.”

I hadn’t noticed that, nor even thought about it, until said friend brought it up.

When I talk about my parents, sometimes I use their names and sometimes their parental “titles,” and sometimes upset my elder sibling, NLM, by doing the former.  N was especially sensitive to this after our father’s death, four years ago.  To her, N explained to me, it sounded less-than-appreciative of what a wonderful dad Chester Bryan Parnell was, to call him anything other than what we called him when we were kids, which was “Dad.”  I reassured her that I have nothing but love and respect in my heart when I call our father by his given name…and warned her that I will likely continue to do so (although, in consideration of her feelings, I try to remember not to do it around her).

I love my father’s name – always have, for many reasons, including that it was unusual, and that he had acquired various nicknames he had over the years. [5] For whatever reasons, his smiling face and gentle, laughing green eyes become even more vivid to me when I think of him, my beloved Dad, as Chet.

*   *   *

Speaking of my father, I know he would have appreciated the following blurb, for both content and tone.

*   *   *

Hands free, my ass

To the guy who almost t-boned my vehicle when you turned left, at a stop sign from a side street onto a busy street, and my Madza 3 [6] was so right there, in broad daylight, lights on, no excuse not to see me unless you were distracted, and you looked right at  me, or rather right through me, and even though our eyes made contact your brain was somewhere else.  Your window was down and your mouth was moving – your car  passed so close I could see your ear bud headset and hear you talking to someone who wasn’t in your vehicle – as I slammed on my brakes and swerved.

You are, apparently, yet another fool who has fallen for the lie [7] that hands-free cell phone devices are a solution to the risks of driver distraction.  It doesn’t matter if it’s technically legal – once again, the law lags behind to the science.  The law will catch up, and using a phone with brains hands-free anything will, eventually, be outlawed.  Until then, dude, educate yourself as to the science behind distracted driving.  Or don’t educate yourself.  Stay ignorant if you must, but stay off your fucking cell phone, in any manner whatsoever, while your vehicle is moving.

hang up and drive

*   *   *

Last weekend provided one of those last minute treats (besides escaping being taken out by a careless driver):  friend Suzanne Mathis McQueen drove up to the Portland area from her home in Ashland  for a quick weekend visit.  The reason for the quickie was both personal (her two all-growed-up sons live nearby) and professional.  The pro part involving Suz’s promotional activities in the Portland area for her book, 4 Seasons in 4 Weeks.  One of the few people who looks as fine in real life as she does in her author’s photo (I could slap her for that, but I’d rather hug her), Suz is a wise, witty and compassionate person, a pro-woman, pro-man advocate  who is also a kick in the pants to be around.  Her book uses the unique, even poetic metaphor of the four seasons to characterize the cycles and rhythms of human life (think circadian, and expand).  Along with her positive illuminations of life’s phases, the book’s pictures and illustrations are amazing.  Flipping through the pages, I felt like I was in an art gallery.

4seasonss

*   *   *

Department of
Even writing fiction you can’t make this stuff up

A deep, robust belly laugh strengthens the core/abdomen, makes your teeth look whiter and brighter and your children and spouse seem smarter.  And cancer – it helps cancer, somehow.  Etc. etc.  A true belly laugh is a rare thing, as is lucid feedback for a writer.  Feedback itself is hard to come by, and when you get it, ’tis sometimes constructive, sometimes neither here nor there, sometimes remarkably irrelevant, and sometimes downright face-palm worthy.  As for the latter, my abs are firmer, my teeth whiter, I am cancer free and live with geniuses as per the laughter provided by the following incident.

Last July I’d queried a literary press to see if they’d be interested in considering a short story collection of mine.  As per their guidelines I sent a sample story along with the query.  They held on to that story for several months, and replied in October that they liked the story but didn’t understand it.  I found this amusing; even so, at their request I sent them another story from my proposed collection.

(Note: that second story was published in the summer.  One of the editors of the publishing journal told me they particularly liked the story’s narrative structure.)

This week I received an email from “The Editors” of the press.  They wanted me to know that they’d given the story to their readers, many of whom liked it and some of whom didn’t.  Thus, the editors felt “stalemated” and decided not to pursue my collection, but had asked one of the readers “who liked your work the most” to provide a short note of feedback for me.

Indeed, the feedback was short, although reading anything with the following WTF? gems seemed to last a lifetime.  (my comments)

“Her (the story’s protagonist) flashback with ___ needs to come later. I feel like there is going to be a robbery, because she’s a convent store and there’s no conflict, but bring it in sooner. “

(* These “sentences” are almost incomprehensible to me.
* The flashback is exactly where it should be.  It would make no sense to have it later in the story, as it sets up subsequent action…which the reader should know, assuming the “reader” actually read the story.
* Reader “feels like” there is going to be a robbery?  Gee, maybe that’s because there is a robbery, in that very scene to which the reader refers.
* The protagonist is not “a convent store,” whatever that is.
* And if there is no conflict, how am I to “bring it in sooner”

“My biggest concern is that I don’t have a feel for ___. At first I think she’s kind of sad and structed and wimpy, but then she so boldly goes after the crook….What is her motivation for attacking him? …It’s all conflicting to me.”

 (* My biggest concern is that I have a strong feeling that this press is seriously considering feedback from a remedial adult literary program dropout who thinks “structed” is a word.
* What is her “motivation” for attacking him {the would-be robber, aka, “crook” – a term which, BTW, is never used in the story}?  Uh, the fact that the robber threatened and then injured the clerk, and the protagonist had the means and opportunity to do something – maybe, that had something to do with it.  Ya think?
* Yeah, it’s all “conflicting” to me, too.  Probably because I’m kind of “structed.”

stooges face palm

 The CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) convention, highlights of which included why-won’t-she-just-go-away Sarah Palin mocking Karl Rove and a straw poll in which Rand Paul narrowly defeated Marco Rubio for…for best Conservative Straw, is certainly worthy of commentary. [8]  And speaking of gasbags, [9] although I am still enamored of singing goat videos – relax, you’re safe, none embedded here [10] – nothing quite brings a spring to my step as periodically viewing the compilation of the best of The Farting Preacher, aka Robert Tilton. [11]  A fitting tribute for the infamous evangelical cheekflapper, and good wholesome fun for everyone.

Wishing you a weekend of love and laughter, and if you’re feeling “structed”, well, let ‘em rip.  The hijinks will surely ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] My proud FB announcement of the occasion: Today my son is old enough to be the son of a mother who has a twenty year old son.

[2] Wine and honey glazed salmon; colcannon, soda bread, orange and green and white veggies.

[3] Or, “Moth-errrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!”  when disgusted as only an indignant child can be with her parent’s cluelessness.

[4] It’s flicker breeding season, perhaps you’ve heard?  I’ve got birds on the brain.

[5] Chet was ahead of his time, going for daily runs when…well, when no one else did.  An out-of-shape neighbor saw him heading for a run one afternoon and snickered, “There goes Chet-the-Jet.” The nickname stuck.

[7] No doubt perpetrated by the makers of such devices.

[8] But not my me. I’m still too busy laughing about “structed.”

[9] Can I segue, or can’t I?

[10] There’s always next week.

[11] Televangelist Tilton’s Success-N-Life swindle theology taught those so dumb they couldn’t pour water out of a boot if the instructions were printed on the heel gullible, credulous people that their burdens, in particular poverty, were a result of sin, but if they made certain “vows” (i.e. donations to Tilton’s ministry), God would reward the vow-maker with material riches.

The Bird I’m Not Putting On It

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I’ve lost track of how many and micra-leathermans I’ve had stolen by TSA agents and sold on ebay confiscated for national security purposes.  Thus, I greeted the recent TSA Announcement  — that they are lifting the ban on small knives and various sporting equipment in carryon luggage – by opening a can of It’s About F**ing Time.

The policy change, which will bring US airports in line with international standards, is based on a recommendation from an internal TSA group, which decided that nail clippers, tiny pocket knives and corkscrews represented no real danger, said David Castelveter, a spokesman for the department of Duh the agency.

Don’t you just feel like booking the next flight to wherever, and boarding with the largest allowable carryon bag filled with two golf clubs, a toy bat, ski poles, a hockey stick, a lacrosse stick and a pool cues…and, of course, your USS Enterprise pizza slicer.

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Speaking of national security issues, a New York man was arrested for laughing too loudly.  In his own home. [1] Yep.  Robert Schiavelli was charged with acting “in such a manner as to annoy, disturb, interfere with, obstruct, or be offensive to others,” after Daniel O’Hanion, Schiavelli’s next-door neighbor, complained to police that the man’s [2] laughter could be heard – gasp – across the driveway.

I’ve always assumed my driveway to be an impenetrable, almost sacred barrier protecting me from the giggles, chuckles, titters, tee-hees, chortles, and unrestrained mirth of my neighbors.  But…really?

I keep hoping to read a follow-up report, in which the complaining neighbor is arrested and charged with with acting in such a manner as to “in such a manner as to annoy, disturb, interfere with, obstruct, or be offensive to the non-douchebag population of America.”  But until that glorious day, there must be a way to find this woman and pay her to stand in front of Mr. O’Hanion’s.

 *   *   *

Son K turns twenty today. It seems like only yesterday I was screaming obscenities at the delivery nurses and threatening to castrate MH counting the seconds until I could hold my widdle cootie wootie snookums ookums in my arms.  Happy Birthday, my boy.  This Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan’s for you.

*   *   *

On Monday I did my first volunteer shift at Jackson Bottom Wetlands, where I will be helping collect data for a small mammal survey.  While I was there I saw at two groups of small mammals:  first graders [3] on a field trip, traversing the trails with their teachers and adult chaperones.  One of the adults walked ahead of her group, to where I sat (just off-trail) with my data cards and supplies, and asked what I was doing.  I showed her a data card and started to explain that I was helping with a biologist’s small mammal survey. She waved her hands above her head, exclaimed, “Kids, come here, it’s a scientist!” and then quickly whispered to me, “I’m going to say you’re a scientist, okay?

Not wanting to act under false pretenses, I made no dubious claims for myself, but did my best to don the veneer of a madman bent on world domination a friendly, responsible scientist.

science

I showed the students one of the tracking papers, upon which was imprinted the paw prints of voles and other rodents that had sampled the tracking tube’s bait. There were ooohs and aaahs for a minute or so, then their teacher led them down the trail, toward one of the wetland’s bird viewing shelters.  A little boy turned around as his group was leaving and stepped back toward me.  He made eye contact, smiled shyly, looked at his shoes and said, “Good scientist-ing!”  I returned the smile, and the compliment:  “And good student-ing to you!”

One boy and his father apparently stayed behind after their group had returned to their school busses.  I saw exploring the trails, just the two of them.  They came to where I was finishing up refitting the last of the tracking tubes.  I gave the boy an inside look at the contraption, and told him how we used an upended film canister was used to hold the bait.  As soon as the words had left my mouth I flashed a knowing glance at his father and said, “What am I saying? It’s a digital age – he probably doesn’t even know what a film canister is.”  The boy’s eyes widened and he started telling me, in the great and glorious detail that can only be provided by an enthusiastic six year old, about how he uses a film canister to hold his “special dice collection.”

*   *   *

I assume y’all have made your plans for Pi day? The symbol pi, from the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet, (π) is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  Pi is usually calculated to 3 digits, 3.14, thus Pi Day is celebrated March 14 (which also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday).  On the annual celebration commemorating the mathematical constant π (pi), you can eat pie, discuss the discussing the significance of the number π ,listen to the pi song…and have plenty of time left over to eat more pie.

In the past few years I’ve made special dinners on Pi day, serving different combinations of foods that are not necessarily pie but that are…well…round food.  I’ve no menu plan for next week, and haven’t yet decided how much thought I want to put into it.

When I can’t or don’t want to think too much about what to make for dinner, I have a fallback dish that I’ve come to think of as my Portlandia special:  put a bird on it.

http://www.ifc.com/portlandia/videos/portlandia-put-a-bird-on-it

Or, in this case, an egg.

I love my Portlandia dinner because it’s easy, tasty, healthy, and I can cuisine-it up or down:  Italian, Spanish, Indian, Mexican, Moroccan, pacific Northwest …. even Norwegian [4].  Gather finely diced onions; carrots; celery; garlic; peppers; ginger – whatever base your cuisine fancy requires.  Sauté your aromatics [5] in a large cast iron skillet.  Add other sliced and/or diced veggies, greens, whatever you have on hand, whatever spices fit the taste you’re going for, some cooked grains or leftover plain pasta you have in the frig.  Or you can skip the stovetop and go the roasting route:  toss everything together with some EVOO and stick the skillet in the oven.  When the veggies are done to your preference, add the eggs.  One egg per person; crack each egg into a small bowl, gently press down with the back of a spoon to make a “nest” for each egg in the pan, add the eggs, and return the pan to the oven (if on the stove, cover it and turn the heat to low) until the eggs are set.

Top it all with a light sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan if you’re going an Italian or Mediterranean  route, or a dollop of Greek yogurt thinned with lemon or lime juice (for Mexican or Indian flavors), or other cheeses, any fresh herbs, and a good grind of black pepper.

*   *   *

The SCM Department of Because I’m Petty That Way

Ah, the cheap thrill, remembering that feeling akin to schedenfraude…. How do I adequately describe the perverse satisfaction I received the other day when I was driving home from an errand and had to stop at the stoplight by an LA Fitness Club?  I looked at just the right moment at just the right place, and saw a young(er), moderately fit woman attired in fashionable exercise togs exit the club, pull a bag of Cheese Doodies [6] (not to be confused with Cheetos ®  [7]) from her purse, and begin noshing like a bulimic on death row.

*   *   *

It was a slow week for politics…oh, that’s a lie.  I just wasn’t paying attention.  Until this caught my eye.

rape

Karen, I’d advise you to aim the knife a good deal lower.

And let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Loud, uncontrollable laughter? It’s safe to assume he was not watching Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.

[2] Schiavelli, who suffers from seizures and neurological impairments, told reporters his neighbor often taunts him due to his disability.

[3] Of the curiosity and excitement level that is so cute as to be illegal in many repressive countries.  Or Michelle Bachman’s congressional district.

[4] As long as you hold the herring and lutefisk.  And please, don’t tell me where you’re holding them.

[5] If you really want to put the joi in the joi of cooking, why not try some acrobatics while you’re prepping the aromatics?

[6] Not a real food.

[7] Also not a real food.

The Lye-soaked Cod I Am Not Eating

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Had you been so fortunate to be a local lady friend of mine, you might have received an invitation like this:

Ladies Lefse Party
Wednesday December 12, 2012, 6:30 p – ?

Ladies hosting:
 -Robyn Parnell & Belle

Ladies Likely to be in attendance:
 -the lovely and talented you

Ladies Unlikely to make an appearance:
-The Lady (and the Tramp)
-Lady Marmalade
-Lady Antebellum
-Michelle Obama and Nancy Reagan, or other Past and Present First Ladies
-Ladies Home Journal
-The Bare Naked Ladies
-Lady Gaga

As always, your munificent, bed-bug-free hosts will provide lefse preparing accoutrements and serve lefse and Norwegian meatcakes for supper, in a festive yet pepper spray-free environment

*   *   *

I am half-Irish, tribally-speaking (as are both of my parents), but residing within approximately 25% of my genes is a lefse-loving Norwegian.  My mother’s full-blooded Irish mother married a full-blooded Norski. Perhaps it was the fabled Irish love for potatoes that was partly responsible for Bapa’s[1] love of lefse.  It certainly wasn’t her love of all things Norwegian.  Although she adored her husband, Al, she refused to allow lutefisk [2] in her house. Every December Albert J. Hole [3] succumbed to the pull of tradition and purchased a chumbucket load fragrant batch of lutefisk atthe Lutheran Ladies ® Christmas bazaar, and every December Bapa would send her husband outside, in the Northern Minnesota winter, and make him partake of the lutefisk by himself, on the back porch.

*   *   *

JR always has the best Lefse Ladies Party hat, which she custom designs for the occasion.

JR always has the best Lefse Ladies Party hat, which she custom designs for the occasion.

When I was a young–un my family’s one nod to honoring ethnicity or keeping The Olde Country Traditions ® was serving lefse and meatcakes for Christmas Eve dinner.  The feast would be prepared by Bapa and her eldest daughter, my aunt Erva,[4] who fled Spokane every year to winter in Southern California at Bapa’s house.  Although my mother loved lefse she never acquired the knack of making it.  Her children[5] have continued the lefse dinner tradition with their own families, though none with the panache and sartorial elegance as the lefse events hosted by yours truly, if I dare say so moiself.  And I just did.

*   *   *

Speaking of lutefisk and other things that stink like an eel monger’s morning breath, Oregon has once again garnered another fifteen minutes of the national news tragedy spotlight, after the mall shooting earlier this week.  TV media coverage of the tragedy saw the local stations engage in their typical, nuance-free, breathless blathering treatment (TERROR AT THE MALL!!!!) of anything they call a “breaking event.”  The news anchors’ and on-sight reporters’ desperation to fill air time, to say something (even when it’s just been a few minutes after the 911 calls came in and no one really knows what’s going on, therefore there is nothing to say) would have been comical, save for the subject matter.

An interesting sign of the times, methought:  a number of phone calls were made to TV news reporters from people who’d been inside the mall and had fled when the shooting started. Apparently, their first thought upon reaching saftey was to whip out their cell phones and share their story with the talking heads.  Several callers stated they’d seen the shooter, before they realized he was The Shooter ®.  The callers each described a young man wearing a load-bearing vest and a white mask, holding something long and rectangular (a semi-automatic rifle), running down a mall corridor.  Uh…didn’t that seem alarming, or at least noteworthy? the reporters asked the callers. “Sure, but this is Oregon,” one caller replied, “and you see a lot of strange things in Oregon.”  Another caller said he assumed the Masked Dude was running “…to join a flash mob,” or similar happening. Yep.  If you see something bizarre, assume the Portlandia crew (or Leverage or Grimm ) is filming nearby.

*   *   *

About ten years ago there was a series of events that got Oregon in the national spotlight.  There was the vacationing California family, on their way to the Oregon coast, who were stranded in the Siskiyou National Forest after the husband/father made the fatal mistake of trying to “shortcut” through a mountain range, driving a non-off road rental car on unfamiliar backcountry roads, in winter, in the snow[6]. Then there was the incident involving nine climbers on Mt. Hood who fell into a crevasse (three killed, four critically injured).  A military rescue helicopter, which had successfully plucked two of the injured climbers from the mountainside, returned for a third, tricky pickup at an altitude of over 10,000 feet.  The helicopter began wobbling – the wind had suddenly shifted, and the copter’s rotors clipped the edge of the mountain. A news crew covering the rescue operation shot spectacular the video footage, which played over and over on the national news (and which was later featured in a National Geographic Amazing Moments special), of the copter plummeting into a snow-covered ridge and tumbling down the mountainside.

By the third event, which I cannot recall, more than a few friends sent me teasing emails to the effect that my MH and I were raising our children in a hazardous territory (“what’s going on in that wacky/dangerous state of yours?”).  This prompted our son, K, to come up with a new state slogan[7]:  “Oregon – come for the thrilling recreational opportunities, stay for the rescue helicopter ride.”

*   *   *

There are several recipients deserving of the AssHat of the Week, in particular, yet another knowledge-free man in a position of power, this time a fucking judge, for the FSM’s sake.   Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson , who evidently thinks that eating paint chips is a required judicial practice, said that a rape victim whose attacker threatened to mutilate her face and genitals with a heated screwdriver didn’t put up a fight during her assault, and that if someone doesn’t want sexual intercourse, the body “will not permit that to happen.”

But all that all that lefse has put me in a more generous mood, and I’d rather salute something positive.  And so, without further ado or cursing, I promise, the Big-Hearted Big Nose Carrot Man award goes to Scarletta Press, whose awesome Director of Publicity, Desiree Bussier, is interviewed by Publisher’s Weekly about the publisher’s new emphasis on children’s literature, which will include my novel, The Mighty Quinn.

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*   *   *

The new nametag’s here!  The new nametag’s here!

Several years ago, MH received a particularly glowing annual performance review from Intel [8]. As happy as I was for him when he shared the news, it left me with a certain melancholy I couldn’t quite peg.  Until I did.

One of the many “things” about being a writer, or any occupation working freelance at/from home, is that although you avoid the petty bureaucratic policies, bungling bosses, mean girls’ and boys’ cliques, office politics and other irritations inherent in going to a workplace, you also lack the camaraderie and other social perks that come with being surrounded by your fellow homo sapiens.  No one praises me for fixing the paper jam[9] in the copy machine, or thanks me for staying late and helping the new guy with a special project, or otherwise says good on you, sister. Once I realized the source of the left-out feelings, I came up with a small way to alleviate them…sort of.

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About the nametag.  You’re at your office party, or a fund raiser for an animal rescue organization, or a neighborhood potluck, your spouse’s family reunion – you’re at an event that is primarily social and so the guest’s professions are irrelevant, and there are a bunch of people who probably aren’t acquainted with one another, so the hosts greet you with those Hello-my-name-is nametags and felt pens at the door. Summon your Andy Rooney voice for this next sentence.  Have you ever wondered, when you’re at the kind of party I just described, why some people just can’t leave their credentials behind?

Since I don’t plan on suing the guy who took the last cheese doodle from the appetizer platter, why do I need to know that you’re a lawyer?  Yes, you probably worked hard for your degree, as the other guests did for theirs, but in this venue your LL.D. is no BFD, and appending your name with those initials only serves to give the impression that your main credential is that of I.m.D. (imperious dickhead).

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not one of those attorney-haters.  Some of my best friends are lawyers.[10]  And while the legal profession is much (and often rightly) maligned and thus I chose an easy target for my example, in my experience doctors are the worst when it comes to the afore-mentioned nametag faux pas.  If the party has no relation to medicine, not even remotely, and I don’t plan on having a pap smear right here by the punchbowl, why do you think I need to know you’re a doctor?[11]

Hello, my name is

Dr. Pomp O’Ass

or

Richard Head, Ph.D.; M.D.

I custom ordered my own nametag from a local office supplies store, and it’s finally here!  As you can see, it reads Robyn Parnell, N.a.D.

As in, Not a Doctor.

Bring on the next party.  I am so ready.

Hijinka ensue.

*   *   *

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] My maternal grandmother, so nicknamed by my older sister, who couldn’t properly say “grandma” until she was in her late forties.

[2] Some ethnographers believe the preponderance of lutefish in the Norwegian diet was largely responsible for the Norwegian migration to America in the early 1800s.

[3] Yes, Hole. I wonder why my mother never considered keeping her original surname.

[4] I had an Aunt Erva.  So did you, although yours may have had a different name. Everyone has had an Aunt Erva.

[5] Her 3 daughters, at least. My brother, I dunno. Yo, bro, are you a Lefse Dude?

[6] The father died of exposure after setting out to find help. The mother and their two young girls were found alive, days later, by a helicopter pilot.

[7] Oregon’s state slogan used to be, “Things Look Different Here.” The Higher Ups ignored K’s suggestion, and in 2003 changed the slogan to, “We Love Dreamers.”

[8] He doesn’t actually work there, but they’d heard he was a good guy.

[9] Always left by the previous user, who loudly wonders who did this evil thing?!

[10] Okay, I have one lawyer friend. If only she were a lawyer-of-color, or lesbian.

[11] I like doctors, too. If only that friend of mine were a doctor, as well. A biracial, bilingual, pan-sexual, multi-cultural doctor and lawyer.

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