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The Nest I’m Not Emptying

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It started early this summer. Subtle hints dropped, direct and dire predictions [1] flung (“Those were the best times of your life, when your kids were at home; oh, you’ll look back on those days and wish….”), and everything in between….

I’d tried not to give it an inordinate amount of brain wattage, but people kept bringing it up.

Yep, son K is back to college for his senior year, and daughter Belle begins her first.  On the drive back home to Hillsboro, after we’d taken Belle to her UPS freshman orientation, I said to MH, “It’s not like we just dropped her off for summer camp, is it?”

 Anyone know what this is?

Anyone know what this is?

The She Meant Well  [2] award re this situation goes to my maternal unit, as per our Tuesday phone conversation.  We talked about MH and I taking Belle up to college for freshman orientation last week, and how K would be returning to Tacoma this week.  My mother asked me if I was going to miss my offspring.  I said something like oh yeah, big time, already, even though K is still at home (he caught the train to Tacoma on Wednesday).

 “I find it interesting [3] that you think you’ll miss them” she said.

 “Uh…really? Why?” moiself responded. “I like them.”

 “Well, you always seem to have so much else going on in your mind…”

Oh.  Yeah, right. It’s not like I’ll even notice that, for the first time in over 21 years, my two groovy and much-loved children are not around.

What does she think I am, a honey badger?

Honey badger

 honey badger don’t care.

*   *   *

MH has a sabbatical coming up, and we will be doing some traveling. Good timing, I think (hope). What with Belle & K both in college, the Dueling Banjoes of our elderly parents’ health crises [4], and my professional mid-life crisis, I find myself…unable to even pin down what I’m feeling. Floating, for lack of a better word.

Wise compassionate counsel from wise, compassionate friend SCM:

One of my Oregon Attorney Assistance Program newsletters talked about transitions—good or bad, they will always leave you feeling uneasy, and to give yourself time to get used to them, and to be forgiving of yourself if you feel badly (even for good changes).  You’re transitioning with writing (or making some decisions about where to go next) and transitioning with parenting children to parenting adults. Those are both big life changes.

*   *   *

BFAST PLATES

These are the breakfast plates I purchased for K and Belle, a long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  One section for scrambled eggs and/or my special recipe whole wheat vanilla soymilk tofu (!)  [5] pancakes, the other for fruit (bananas, seasonal berries, kiwi… they both loved kiwi).

Don’t worry about me, I’m doing fine.  Just staring at empty plates. [6]

*   *   *

Something else on the plate.

C’mon out tomorrow to the Downtown Hillsboro Saturday Farmer’s Market.  Hillsboro’s seasonal open-air market is celebrating its 32nd year of operation, and features over 100 vendors and their fresh local produce food and garden products, flowers, baked goods, arts and crafts, live music, and more.

As for the more: wipe the fresh blackberry (mmm, yummers) stains off your fingers and stop by Jacobsen’s books for their summer author signing series, which is held during market hours.  This Saturday yours truly will be at Jacobsen’s, with The Mighty Quinn. I’ll be there from 9a – 1p, except for when I’m slipping out to one of the produce booths to sample some of the gorgeous fresh fruit, or drooling over the Pie Guy‘s wares.

The market is held on Main Street between 1st and 3rd.  Jacobsen’s Books is at 211 E. Main, on the north side of the street.

Be there, or …

SQUARE

*   *   *

 When I learn something new – and it happens every day – I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest.
Bill Moyers

May you feel a little more comfortable in your nest – or fledge quickly and crap all over the nest next door, whatever floats your boat – and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Mostly from my mother, with the implication that it’s all downhill after this.

[2] “Thank god kids never mean well.” – Lily Tomlin.

[3] The dictionary definition of interesting – “engaging or exciting and holding the attention or curiosity” – is not how my mother typically employs that word.  When she uses it, it is more along the lines of the apocryphal Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

[4] my SoCal mom has a myriad of physical and mental health problems; MH’s Floridian father is battling the progressive physical and cognitive deterioration of Parkinson’s Disease .

[5] One of those stealth-health things…and they loved them.

[6] It’s time for a lighter footnote. Pretend you’ve just read an outrageously funny fart joke.

The Petard I’m Not Hoisting

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This week’s Sunday haiku to my mother.

Morning is sunny;
another sweltering day
is in the forecast.

 Belle has her zoo shift,
and a friend’s birthday party
in her day’s schedule.

There’s packing to do,
for Orientation week
The countdown begins.

She is quite eager,
and at the same time, fearful
of what awaits her.

The future is calling
her heart and mind, as we watch
with proud, trembling hearts.

 

Sadie art

 *   *   *

During one recent Sunday Dinner With Friends ® the conversational topic veered to the health issues of aging parents. [1] When I shared my concerns over my elderly mother’s ongoing physical and cognitive decline, friend MW recommended the book Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s. Subtitled A Groundbreaking Approach for Everyone Dealing with the Disease, the book’s focus is not on the causes/origins of Alzheimer’s. Instead, author [2] Joanne Koenig Coste presents a practical approach – a comprehensive method called habilitation – to help family and caregivers enhance communication with those beset by a disease that progressively robs them of their ability to understand and be understood. The book offers practical tips on how to “step into their world” – interestingly, also a mantra of by improvisational theater groups [3] – as in, how to understand and relate to those patients who must live with their changing, diminishing sense of reality.

OLDHANDS

Although my mother does not have Alzheimer’s disease, my friend pointed out that my description of my mother’s difficulties are similar to those experienced by Alzheimer’s patients:

 * Short (or long) term memory loss
* Difficulty performing familiar tasks
* Problems with language
* Disorientation to time and place
* Poor or declining judgment
* Problems with abstract thinking
* misplacing things
* mood and behavior changes
* loss of initiative
* personality changes

I don’t need to scare you with the statistics, but sooner or later most of us are going to be dealing with some form of dementia, whether via a spouse or family member’s diagnosis, or just losing it after one too many Comcast customer service calls.

I was glad MW recommended the book. Moiself in turn passes on that recommendation to y’all.  I found the book’s advice compassionate, accessible, applicable – even somewhat Zen, in that it stresses learning to live in the moment and trying to understand the afflicted person’s reality.

 The Ticking Meter

My head feels like an old depot, worn by time and tears.
 No more locomotives passing through, café filled with tales and baggage.
 The old depot’s barren now.
 There has been a great brain robbery.
[4]

ALZ

*   *   *

The dementia train could stop at my depot; who knows what the future holds?  Until that time, I will stick with my philosophy:  the more you rant, the longer you live. [5]

Speaking of which:

 Department of Needs No Further Comment

Last week, Jorge Mario Bergoglio aka Pope Francis, leader of the largest Christian denomination in the world, whose headquarters in the Vatican City is a “sprawling financial empire” that holds billions of shares in the most powerful international corporations such as Gulf Oil, Shell, General Motors, Bethlehem Steel, General Electric, International Business Machines, and whose various museums house art collections of inestimable value,  embarked on his first tour of Asian countries, during which he urged Asian youth to reject materialism.

VATICAN GOLD

 *   *   *

To Hoist or not to Hoist

He was hoisted on his own petard.

I heard someone on the light rail use that Hamlet-ian expression last week. He was sitting behind me on the train; I only caught bits and pieces of his (you guessed it) cell phone conversation, so I’m not sure if he used the phrase correctly.

But, really – does  anyone use it correctly?  Even Shakespeare, who supposedly invented its modern usage?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been hoisted on or by my own petard.  It is, however, my dream to be hosted by Jean Luc Picard.

Please, do come in and join me for tea. Earl Grey, hot?

Please, do come in and join me for tea. Earl Grey, hot?

*   *   *

Happy (one-day-belated) Birthday to MH

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away (Palo Alto), with Christmas kitty, Sheena.

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away (Palo Alto), with Christmas kitty, Sheena.

The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.
Madeleine L’Engle

 *   *   *

May you keep all the ages you’ve been that you’d like to keep, hoist off the rest on the petards of your choice, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] After the requisite political rants and fart jokes.

[2] and health  care sonsultant, whose  husband died from early-onset Alzheimer’s.

[3] For teaching budding actors and comedians how to enter a skit someone else has started.

[4] From Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s.

[5] Or it just seems longer, to everyone around you.

The Generation I’m Not Talkin’ ’bout

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The PG (Parental Guidance) Post 

CHARD

Dateline: Monday evening, doing my own sous chef preparation before sautéing shallots and Swiss chard.  As I strip the ruby red chard leaves from their stalks, I remember how much my father loved Swiss chard.

*   *   *

 Band of Memories

 Chester Bryan Parnell, "These are the good times," 8-8-1924 to 2-11 -09

Chester Bryan Parnell, “These are the good times,” 8-8-1924 to 2-11-2009

I think of my father every day, and mention him often (an easy thing to do, as he was a special character), in part to keep his memory alive for K and Belle.  But when my family sees that I’ve brought out the Band of Brothers DVD box set, they know something extra is in the air.

Today would have been Chester “Chet-the-Jet” Parnell’s 90th birthday.  It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around that number.  I’ll let my heart do the binding.

Martin

When Chet wanted to relax he would haul out his old Martin guitar. He loved to serenade his kids.  Beautiful, Beautiful Brown Eyes, a traditional country tune covered by singers from Roy Acuff to Rosemary Clooney, was one of the songs Chet used to sing to me at night.

 *   *   *

 My mother is frail;
“I am winding down,” she says.
She is eighty-six.

Widowed five years now;
Her eldest child lives nearby.
I am second-born.

My two other sibs
Live in the Bay Area;
Mom is in So Cal.

SOCAL

Mom loathed to travel,
even when she was healthy.
And, now she cannot.

Twenty-three years plus
I’ve lived one thousand miles north
with my family.

Mom doesn’t do much;
there’s little to talk about.
Calls can be awkward

She always refused
to learn to use computers.
Her children conspired

We got a gadget:
“technically un-inclined”
is its user base.

TECHNO

A “one-way device,”
it receives and prints email
From select sources.

Pro: she gets no spam;
Con: she gets but can’t send mail
(which is fine by her).

I send her brief notes -
a small something for the day
In her morning mail

Mondays are for jokes.
Who wouldn’t like a giggle
To begin the week?

CAMEL

Tuesdays I phone her.
Her moods and health are falling.
Tuesdays make me sad.

Each Wednesday I send
a Word of the Day feature.
(I choose cheerful words).

Thoughts For the Day
from minds famous and obscure,
are Thursday’s items.

Fridays are for Quotes:
adages and citations
to spark mind and heart.

Saturday, poems:
I send different verse styles,
From Browning to Lear.

Every Sunday
I send my mother haiku,
Two verses, or more.

I write them moiself;
thus, they are not quote-worthy.
Silly, but heartfelt.

POETRY

*   *   *

 A Brief Meditation on Ways to Fail Your Children

Is that a buzz kill subject heading, or what?  If you’re looking for the feel-good post of the week, I suggest returning to the picture of the Swiss chard and using it for a gratitude meditation focal point.

I’m thinking about the many ways my father and mother succeeded, as parents…also, about those ways in which they, and parents in general, failed.

This digression is courtesy of one of my recent morning walk podcast sessions.[1] I was listening to the Freethought Radio interview with the president of a N.O.W. chapter, re activism resulting from the SCOTUS [2] Hobby Lobby decision. This topic was antithetical to the purpose of my morning walks, which are supposed to be somewhat meditative as well as invigorating.  The former purpose took a back seat to ruminative rage as I considered the seemingly unending, fact-free, conservative political and social balloon juice about a woman’s right to right to personal jurisdiction, and other issues that should have been settled so, so, long ago….

And I find myself thinking,

We failed.

We, as in, talkin’ ’bout my generation.

We have failed in so many ways, including imagination.

Thirty years ago, I couldn’t imagine we’d be fighting the same fights. [3]  Sure, a few dinosaur fossils would remain, but I’d hoped that the battle for equality and against sexism and misogyny (at least, in this country) would be history, as in, my son and daughter would learn about it the same way they learned about women’s suffrage (There was a time when women couldn’t vote?!  And it was less than one hundred years ago?!)

I realize that historical milestones are almost never confined to a single day or week…or even era. The campaign for women’s suffrage was not waged and won on August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified.  Nor was the amendment a one-time antidote to the festering, cyclic, boil-on-the-ass-of-human rights that is the tendency for groups of people to oppress those they view as The Other.

 

suffrage

*   *   *

Power shared = power diminished.

According to one Wise Old White Guy © I had the pleasure of knowing, [4] there is a widely held but false axiom behind bigotry and discrimination. That was the gist of what he tried to explain, one day in our Tuesday morning book group of yore. The group stumbled onto the continuing struggle for civil and women’s rights vis-à-vis religious institutions – a provocative topic for anyone who hasn’t downed their first cup of coffee by 7 am.  I brought up what I saw as the ultimate butt-frosting, teeth-grinding, bloomer-bunching irony: in order to acquire the rights and opportunities that you, say, a woman or African-American, are denied, you have to convince a majority of those in power – the very people who have been denying you those rights – to grant them. [5]

This prompted WOWG to share his “unfortunate observation” regarding human nature:

Few people anywhere have ever easily agreed to share power.

I knew what WOWG meant, but asked him to elaborate.  What follows is my (paraphrased) recollection of his simple but profound Walter Cronkite-ism [6] :

 Power shared = power diminished – this is what people in power believe. But power does not diminish when shared, it multiplies.  Small, stingy, fearful minds don’t understand that – they think power is finite, or is in limited supply, and therefore sharing power with you means there is less of it for them.  This is especially true for those who are (or who see themselves as being) on the lower rungs of the power and status ladders; e.g., some of the fiercest, most vicious criticism of the civil rights movement came from poor white southern men.

He ended with: We failed. Our generation didn’t fix that. Maybe it can’t be fixed; but now, it’s your turn.

 *   *   *

And now, a segue to make us all feel better.

I Am A Bad Person
#359 is a never-ending series

Making travel arrangements for an upcoming family wedding, my brain did that thing it does, and conjured up a memory from a friend’s wedding, several years ago.  I was talking to a teenager at the wedding reception. When I asked her about the rather sour look on her face, she complained to me about how “old people at weddings always poke me in the ribs and say, ‘You’re next!’ “

I told her she could get revenge by saying the same to them at funerals.

 

"I'm sure she meant, next in line for the buffet."

“I’m sure she means, next in line for the buffet.”

*   *   *

Spam subject line of the week:
IF  YOU  DON’T  READ  THIS  NOW  YOU’LL  HATE  YOURSELF  LATER !!!

I didn’t read it “now” (or at all).

It is later.

I don’t hate myself.

Ergo, it must be my turn for an all-caps-three-exclam-attack:


VICTORY IS MINE !!!

Mmmmmwwwwahahahahahaha !!!

Mmmmmwwwwahahahahahaha !!!

*   *   *

 

 

May you always be next in line for life’s buffet, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] During my morning walks I listen to podcasts of some of my favorite radio shows, including Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Freakonomics, RadioLab, This American Life, TED Talks, Fresh Air, and Freethought Radio.

[2] Which, yes, oft times seems as if it should be the acronym for Sexist Codgers (and not Supreme Court) of the United States.

[3] Only with different, and often troll-enabling – technologies.

[4] WOWG lost a brief but fierce battle with leukemia ~ 10 years ago.

[5] I remember, a long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, trying to explain to my kids, who were dealing with fledgling democracy concepts in school, how women couldn’t vote to give themselves the vote.

[6] “And that’s the way it is.”

[7] Wait a minute…there is no seventh footnote.

The Offspring I’m Not Embarrassing

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flyingmonkey

All Together Now:

 HOW IN THE FLYING MONKEY BUTTS DID IT GET TO BE AUGUST?

 *   *   *

Spoiler alert: there will be a running-around-naked story in this post.
But first ,[1] these important messages from your sponsor.

HOSTpng

*   *   *

 ҉    Let’s All Agree To Get Rid of This Word    ҉

A new feature, wherein we put aside our various political and other worldview differences, and unite to eradicate an unnecessary and doofus-sounding word from our vocabulary.

My first nomination is gubernatorial.

Say it aloud, if you haven’t already.  Don’t you feel as if you just dropped ten IQ points (and perhaps a couple of your incisors) into a bowl of corn mush?

The dictionary is, IMHO, of little help in raising the status of this most clod-hopping of political terms:

 gubernatorial  (ˌɡjuːbənəˈtɔːrɪəl, ˌɡuː-) ,  adj ,  chiefly  ( US ) of or relating to a governor [C18: from Latin gubernātor,  governor]

Really. That’s what it says.

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout…. [2]

I’m referring of course to Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonators of all ages and genders, who’ve just discovered that there is a Latin origin for Ahnold’s political nickname. Gubernātorwho woulda thunk it?

To Do List: 1. Fix teeth 2. Marry a Kennedy 3. Get a better nickname than Tappen die Frauen-ator 4. Run for political office

To Do List:
1. Fix teeth
2. Marry a Kennedy
3. Get a better nickname than “Tappen die Frauen-ator”
4. Run for political office

Once again (etiam, in Latin), I digress.

The word’s noble origins cannot extend a prestige umbrella over its yokel-evoking pronunciation.  Say it again. Better yet, try to act gubernatorial. Don’t you feel like you should be pulling straw out from under your denim overalls and kicking a moist cow pattie into a pig trough? [3]

 We-alls gonna enter dem gubernatorial races right after de hog-hollerin' contest.

We-alls gonna enter dem gubernatorial races right after de hog-hollerin’ contest.

We can – and most of us do – say, “governor’s race,” and everyone knows what we are talking about. There’s no reason for the continued usage of… that word.  I say we not only get rid of it, but we export it to a netherworld where cooperation and compassion and rational negotiation simply cannot abide.  Perhaps Secretary of State John Kerry would have more luck with the Middle East Problem ® if he’d just threaten to go all gubernatorial on their recalcitrant, sandy asses.

*   *   *

Don’t you feel better now?

I know I do.

You’ll feel even better if you join me and

Ditch the Dirty 100

Join the campaign against the one hundred entities that sued over the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act. If you’re squeamish when it comes to phone calls and letter writing kind of activism, it can be as simple as finding out who & what these organizations are and boycotting their products and services.

N.O.W. and other organizations have compiled a list of plaintiffs in the 100 cases that have been filed in opposition to the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act. As I scrolled down the list, most came as no surprise to me (Liberty University? Imagine that!), but, Eden Foods, WTF !?

My favorite maker of organic, salt free canned beans and other products… I had no idea the company’s president is one of Those Kind Of Catholic Nuts ® .  Before anyone jumps on the religious bigotry whine wagon, as one protesting poster on the company’s Facebook page put it:

 …And BTW, I do not mind that you are a Christian-based company. I don’t mind if you’re Catholic. I wouldn’t stop buying your products for those reasons. When you cross the boundaries, then we are also forced to cross those same boundaries 

Yeah, what she said.

BOYCOTTpng

And and and and and, does Eden Foods have a clue as to who be their target audience?  It ain’t the fundy-thumpers; it’s us liberal, MYOB, keep your theology out of my biology folks, that’s who.

*   *   *

☼  Happy Families are All Alike  ☼
Chapter 18:
Explaining to your children that, while you were indeed born at night, it wasn’t last night.

Earlier this week my two young adult offspring briefly joined forces in an attempt to dissuade me from doing something they thought I might regret. [4]

The occasion: I’d just found out that not only is Cards Against Humanity a board game, [5]  it is the game with the motto, “A party game for horrible people” and the descriptor, “The game is simple. Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with their funniest white card.”

An earthy cross between Mad Libs and Apples to Apples, eh? Sounds right up my alley (and I gather the game has a white card with a more vulgar version of up my alley).  Anyway….

“I can’t wait to play it,” sez I.

“I cannot play that game with you,” sez son K. “There are some terms on the white cards…I just don’t want to go there.”

I flashed a what’s-up-with-your-bro? look to my daughter Belle, who gave me a patronizing smile as she came to her brother’s defense. “Mom, we really don’t want to have to explain words like smeeg-ma to you.”

Ahem to the nth power:

Is there anything more satisfying than seeing the look on an eighteen-year-old’s face morph from pure patronization to horrified humiliation when her fifty-something mother enlightens her as to the correct pronunciation of smegma?

Alas, I didn’t capture that look on camera. Trust me, it was as satisfying as gazing upon a baby sloth in a box:

 

slothinbox

*   *   *

My Mother’s Favorite Streaking Story
#1 in a Series of One

Dateline: Spring Break, a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

My friend RR spent the vacation with my family, camping at Joshua Tree National Park. One evening RR and I strolled through the campground, admiring and commenting on the park’s isolation, the stark beauty of the unique desert topography, the canyons and rock formations. RR made what she thought was an offhand comment.

“This would be a great place to go streaking.”

JOSHUA

 

“WOMAN ! [6]  You know I’ve always wanted to go streaking! We’ve got to do it before the fad fades, and instead of streaking we’d be weirdoes running around butt nekkid, and here we are, camping with a bunch of strangers – people who will never see us again – oh, this is perfect, we can do it tomorrow….”

RR blanched when she realized I was serious.  Her me-and-my-big-mouth expression soon faded, and she helped me plan our escapade with unadorned (ahem) enthusiasm.

After we agreed on the logistics, we realized we needed an accomplice: my younger sister, who for this story shall be monikered as YS.  YS had a mini-snitfit when I refused to let her join in the running-naked part, [7] but she agreed to abet us.

RR and I weren’t satisfied to be just another couple of streakers. Oh, no.  We came up with a theme. It was Easter week.

Our streaking route included a circular portion of a hiking trail that was oh-so-cleverly named The Wilderness TrailThe Wilderness Trail originated at one end of our campground, and meandered by or through most of the sites in our campground before heading up into the surrounding rock formations.  We chose our time (six pm, when most campers would be at their campsites, firing up their grills), and with YS’s help, we gathered our “equipment” without my parents or brother suspecting anything.

A few minutes before six pm, RR, YS and I headed for a small rock formation in the desert that was ~ 100 yards from our campsite.  Crouching behind the rocks as YS stood lookout, RR & I stripped off our clothing.  Once we were naked except for running shoes and socks, [8] we began to accessorize:

* we donned jingle bell collars around our necks (from my father’s and brother’s Indian Guides ceremonial costume paraphernalia I’d found – ohjoy! – stashed in the camper);

*  we knotted long pieces of twine around two balled-up white athletic socks, and tied the twine around our respective waists so that the socks approximated rabbit tails;

* we used zinc oxide sunscreen ointment to paint the end of our noses white and draw white rabbit whiskers across our cheeks. [9]

Kinda like this, only naked. 

Kinda like this, only naked.

YS giggled, You look great!”  before she ran across the desert with our clothing.  And RR & I had a moment of sheer, unadulterated, side-splitting panic.  There could be no chickening out – we had to streak to the rendezvous point to get our clothes back.

RR: “I can’t believe we’re doing this.”

Me: Do you realize we are standing here, naked ?

We doubled over, convulsed with laughter.

Me: I am laughing so hard I could pee my pants, BUT I’M NOT WEARING ANY!

We somehow managed to calm ourselves.  RR & I took several deep breaths, and on the count of three we hauled ass as ass has never been hauled in Joshua Tree National Park.  All the while we were running, we sang a song we had written, especially for the occasion:

(to the tune of “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” [10] )

Here we come in our bare tails
Streaking down the Wilderness Trail
Hippity-Hoppity, Easter’s on its way 

Look at us and you will see
Streaking’s come to Joshua Tree
Hippity-Hoppity, Spring is here to stay!

We were not quite finished with the first verse before a group of kids riding bicycles on a ridge overlooking the campground yelled, “SSTTRREEAAKKEERRS!”

STREAK

It could have been worse. Much, much worse.

It took us three or four run-throughs of the song before we reached the rendezvous point (an area behind an enormous rock formation a safe distance from the campground).

The run itself is mostly a blur to me now; we were speedy, to say the least, as we did not want those kiddie cyclists to catch up to us.  Still, I have two strong memories of our dash to destiny:

(1) passing one campsite just as a man was transferring a burger from his grill to a folding table, and he dropped his jaw – and the burger, in the sand – as we sailed past him;

(2) passing an outhouse just as its door opened, and the occupant yelled “whoa!” and nearly fell back on his can;

(3) occasionally glancing sideways at my brave buddy RR, seeing her sock bunny tail (and nothing else, scout’s honor) bouncing jauntily.

Okay, three strong memories.

Breathless and euphoric, we met my sister at the rendezvous spot. We shed the bells and sock-bunny-tails and donned our clothing…and discovered we’d forgotten an important detail:  a clandestine return route.  That is, the spot where way we ended up in the canyon left us no choice but to retrace our steps in order to return to our campsite.

We gathered a certain amount of  are you the ones? looks as we casually (or so we thought) strolled back through the campground.  No one said anything directly to us, save for one middle-aged gent who asked, as we passed by his campsite, “Are you the young ladies (thankfully, he did not use finger quotes) who just went streaking by?”

RR and I may have been temporary exhibitionists but we were no liars.  We nodded our heads in the affirmative. The man nodded his in return and said, “You looked all right.”

At the time, RR and I found that comment cringe-worthy.  Looking back, I wish I could have seen us, then.  RR was (and still is) blonde, and gorgeous,[11] and while I was nothing in the va-va-voom department, we were both seventeen, on several school athletic teams, and in excellent physical shape. I daresay we looked rather… fine…to anyone who’d have been able to get a good look.  Did I mention how fast we ran?

(An explanatory pause for my offspring’s generation: the reason RR & I would even consider such an escapade was because it was a time before cell phones and hand-held camcorders; i.e., we’d no reason to fear that our youthful exuberance in the springtime could come back to haunt us.)

password

 

That evening, after dinner, RR and I played the board game Password (based on the TV game show) as a team, versus my parents, as YS and my younger brother looked on.  RR and I had arranged to have certain cards come up for us (RR distracted my parents during dinner while I flipped through the clue cards, a technique colloquially known as cheating).  Our clues all had to do with running and/or movement, and we kept giving “streaking” as clues.  My father finally asked what was going on.

Sister RA squealed with pride as I ‘fessed up, and she regaled our parents with the story of her being our accomplice. My brother considered several reactions to our story before quickly settling on a combination of mild annoyance and fraternal embarrassment.

My parents’ reactions were typical of their respective characters. My father thought it was hilarious, and said he couldn’t wait to tell people (co-workers, neighbors, churchy people – he told them all).  My mother laughed weakly, then begged, “Oh, please don’t ever do it again.”

And then, this week, thirty-something years later, during our phone conversation, my mother begged to hear the story.  She said that as her health fails she’s been recalling the good old days, and that my streaking adventure was One of my favorite family stories.

Really? I reminded her of her less-than-enthusiastic reaction at the time, but of course I retold the story. I was grateful for the reminder, as I hadn’t thought of it in years.  I also told her about my attempt to plan a follow-up adventure. After doing the streaking thing, I’d wanted to find a place to kaerts.

Despite how it sounds, kaerts is not a Yiddish term for a person with a Vitamin A deficiency; [12] rather, it is streak spelled backwards.  I figured that streaking backwards would involve walking very slowly, fully clothed, through a nudist colony. My Kaerts-ing venture never worked out for a variety of reasons, including that my research revealed that nudist colonies are located on private, gated properties, with access restricted to colony members (ahem…ahem).

So. All these years later, I have streaked, but I have never kaerts-ed.

“Oh well,” my 86 year old mother said. “You still have time.”

*   *   *

May we have all the time we need for those things that need to be done, [13] and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Really bad pun – butt first – so, so not intended.  Trust me.

[2] Two plugs of chewing tobaccy for those of you who got the Casey at the Bat reference.

[3] I come from a long line of cow pattie kickers, so I do have literary license to fling the stereotype, a privilege which is related to the socio-politico reasons why Chris Rock can tell old black men jokes.

[4] Hello, I gave birth.  Twice.

[5] I thought they were a set of really snarky greeting cards, like, for the sociopathic Hallmark crowd.

[6] One of my many nicknames for RR.

[7] My parents were good sports; still, I didn’t want to risk being held responsible for corrupting a 13 year old.

[8] We’d no problem with running bare-bunned, but barefoot over a cactus-and-rock-strewn trail?  We weren’t that stupid.

[9] You damn well know which cheeks.

[10] I got an A in my college calculus class, and today I could not do a calculus equation if you put a gun to my head, but I can recall the exact lyrics to our improvised streaking song.  Long term memory has its priorities.

[11] (and, as my mother reminded me, “RR was quite busty.”

[12] Or maybe it is. I don’t speak Yiddish and I made up kaerts.

[13] SCM – it’s a new footnote record!

The Composer’s Ass I’m Not Kicking

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But First, The Sporadic Self-Promotion 

We’re one week away from the next Bards & Brews.  Bards & Brews is a last-Friday-of-the-month literary event, co-organized by Jacobsen’s Books and hosted by the downtown Hillsboro restaurant/wine bar/retail shop, Primrose & Tumbleweeds:

Join us for a celebration of the written word! Local authors of every flavor will gather for Bards & Brews to share their works in a series of talks and readings, while you enjoy a meal or a beverage from the world’s largest collection of Oregon wines and beers. 

“By every flavor” refers to fiction and nonfiction, literary and genre, young and old.  “Share their works in a series of talks and readings” means, at least as pertains to moiself, that I’ll do read a brief excerpt from my selected book and be available to talk afterward. [1]  Here’s the slate (author and book title) for this month’s event:

 *  Robyn Parnell (The Mighty Quinn)
*  Caitlin Claire Diehl (First Daughter)
*  Tammy Owen         (House of Goats)
*  Paula Stokes            (The Art of Lainy)
*  Paul Gerald (60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’d rather be home trimming my nostril hairs with a weed whacker than do author appearances, but since the nose hair situation is under control and my name is on the list – how did that happen? – I’ve no excuse but to show up.

If I can do this, so can you. I hope to see your friendly faces (perhaps made even friendlier by the beverages?) next Friday.

 Bards & Brews, Friday July 25, 7 – 9p
Primrose & Tumbleweeds
248 E Main St.
in old town Hillsboro, one block north of the Hillsboro Transit Center

Bards___Brews_Art_1_

*   *   *

And Now Without Further Interruption We Return to the Ass-Kicking Portion of Our Show 

Silent lacunar infarction (SLI) is one type of silent stroke which usually shows no identifiable outward symptoms, thus the term “silent”. Individuals who suffer a SLI are often completely unaware they have suffered a stroke….  While dubbed “silent” due to the immediate lack of classic stroke symptoms, SLIs can cause damage to the surrounding brain tissue (lesions) and can affect various aspects of a person’s mood, personality, and cognitive functioning. A SLI or any type of silent stroke places an individual at greater risk for future major stroke….

While Belle and I were on our Paris trip my mother took a much less enjoyable trip of her own: another [2] fall requiring hospitalization/observation. My sister NLM passed along the results of our mother’s head CT, which indicated that Mom has had several of the above-described “mini-strokes.”

One more loss; one more thing my mother is dealing with.  One more thing her grown children – we of the so-called Sandwich Generation – have to deal with.

sandwich

In the past hundred years or so we, as in We, The American Culture Personified  – have had this thing for coining generation labels.  There was the post-WWI Lost Generation, the (so-called) Greatest Generation, the Boomer Generation, Generation X, and the Millennials (aka Gen Y). Those currently being born, whom sociologists and demographers have yet to stereotype categorize, are broadly referred to as Generation Z.

As per both my date of birth and life circumstances, I suppose I’m a member of the Boomer Sandwich generation. On whole wheat, hold the mayo, extra mustard, please.

Once again, I digress.

Silent lacunar infarction.  One part of my brain reads that as silent lunar infraction – you know, what you’d call some Ruskie secretly landing on the moon and making off with Alan Shepard’s golf balls.

MOONGOLF

And there is that other part of my brain (FSM forbid it should ever be subject to a CT) that really, really wants to make Silent But Deadly jokes.  That might be a tacky thing for me to do, what with recently finding out that I’ve a SLF-inflicted mother. But y’all? Feel free to share your favorite SBD jokes [3] with moiself.

What with MH’s father’s health concerns [4]  and those of my mother and of my peers’ aging parents, I keep imagining this barely audible but increasingly creepy, “Circle of Life” chorus that is threatening to become the musak of my generation.  And it makes me want to KICK ELTON JOHN’S ASS from here to the nearest assisted living center.

Okay. As a writer I should know better than to (entirely) blame Elton John. EJ is the composer and Tim Rice the lyricist for that song.  Nevertheless, having seen EJ in concert I can safely guestimate that his ass would be the bigger target.

Exhibit A.

Exhibit A.

 *   *   *

Can We Agree to Stop This, Now?

I refer to the ongoing obsession with playing with photographing yourself. Yeah, I know there’s another word for it.

selfies

In the past few weeks I’ve noticed a growing number of self-described selfies posted on various social media and regular media sites, but instead of the usual mug shot variation, the pictures feature the smiling visages of more than one person.  There are two, three, four or more – even a crowd shot, and it is not always discernible as to who’s long arm is holding the cell phone or camera.

So, can we do away with that most narcissistic[5] of neologisms? Selfie, schmelfie.  It’s called taking a picture, folks.

*   *   *

*  When I paint a person, his enemies always find the portrait a good likeness.
(Edvard Munch)

*  A man’s manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait.
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

*  Sending your selfies to NASA doesn’t make you a star.
(Anonymous)

*  A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks.
Richard Avedon)

 *  I bet Medusa used to take selfies and send ‘em to people she disliked like:
“Surprise, you little b*tch!”
(Anonymous)

Do these snakes make my head look fat?

Do these snakes make my head look fat?

*   *   *

May your infractions be silent, your self-portraits slimming, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Each author is limited to 10-15 minutes, during which they may read selections from their book and/or talk about their “writing process.” I can’t speak for the other authors, but I promise to engage in none of the latter unless requested.

[2] There have been at least five the past dozen or so years. At least no broken hips or vertebrae, this time.

[3] I already know the one about the elderly lady in the doctor’s office.

[4] He’s been battling Parkinson’s for years, and that most progressive disease is indeed progressing.

[5] Although admittedly highly descriptive of the LOOK AT ME mindset that produced such a term.

The Birds I’m Not Strangling

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I am, really and truly, trying to keep shiny happy thoughts in my head about our neighborhood’s avian inhabitants. But they start singing outside my bedroom window at 4:10 in the morning, and WTF’s with that, tweetie pie?

♫ I know you're in there.  Get up and feed the cats. ♫

♫ I know you’re in there. Get up and feed the cats. ♫

 These Kids Today

Dateline, July 3:  The University of Puget Sound  sent its Class of 2018 students a list of dorm supplies the students need to bring with them.  Belle asks me if I would go with her tomorrow to shop for items on the list.

Moiself:  “Sure. But remember, tomorrow is July 4th.  Have you checked to see if the stores you want to visit are open?”

“Why wouldn’t they be?” Belle looks confused.  “It’s not as if it’s a national holiday or anything.”

Huh

SPOCK

*   *   *

Total Surprise of the Week
aka, Mum’s the Word

I’m sure you were as shocked – shocked! – as I was to learn that another conservative politician [1] who champions Abstinence-Only “education programs,” and also opposes the ACA’s contraceptive mandate, now has to do the I-supporter-my-daughter-who-will-be-facing-many-challenges tap dance; i.e., the announcement of his 17 year-old (unmarried) daughter’s unplanned pregnancy.

"That, like, so never happens!" 

“That, like, so never happens!”

When I worked at Planned Parenthood, some of us snarky experienced clinic worker bees had a term for the Abstinence Only gals. We called them MUMs [2] in the making.

 *   *   *

It’s Still Working

The sound of footsteps at the front door is accompanied by the sound of muffled voices in consultation, followed by the sound of…nothing.  Yet another knock and/or ring of the doorbell was averted.  I can only guess that they, who/whatever they are, saw The Sign.  And they took The Sign as a sign, and did the right thing. [3]

I work out of a home office, and have come to loathe the interruptions from door-to-door salesfolk, proselytizers and petitioners.  Even so, I never wanted to post one of those NO SOLICITING signs by the front doorbell.  This is FAVOR, [4] including

*  such signs seem hostile, or at least unsociable, and I want my neighbors to feel welcome to stop by;

* several friends and neighbors who have posted No Solicitors notices told me that their signs are often unheeded; [5]

*  in My Ideal World ® , such signs should be unnecessary.  Why should I deface my house because some presumptuous blowholes think my family needs their opinions as to which imaginary friend we should worship and/or which political issue we should support?

MH and I vowed that we would not harass our neighbors when it came to underwriting K’s [6] and Belle’s school and extracurricular activities.  I can count on the fingers of one finger the times we allowed either of them to participate in those dreadful fundraising drives.  Suffice to say, we were not the most popular family amongst the school fundraising organizers. I discretely but firmly explained to a series of teachers, administrators and PTA Nazis (make that presidents) that while we while we supported ___ activity (if, indeed, we did support it) and would contribute the expected per child amount for our own child to participate, we would not send our children door to door, imploring our neighbors to purchase toxic-to-pets-and-infants, Go Team USA! made-in-China plastic water bottles and unrecyclable gift wrapping paper to finance the school’s lacrosse team mouth guard fund.

nosoliciting

Many other families apparently held no such sentiments. Thus, over the years there were a series of disappointed kiddie solicitors leaving our porch.  We were kind to the children, even as we were irritated to be put in the position of honing our gracious, “Oh, sorry, no thanks” response on wide-eyed eight-year olds. [7]

I wanted to get the point across, firmly and directly, but with humor.  My first solution, several years ago, was in the form of a topical Non Sequitur comic strip.  I was so pleased when I saw it (this is perfect!) I contacted the strip’s syndicating organization and paid the fee to receive a copy of the panel, which I laminated and posted under the doorbell.

The panel has long since been destroyed by the elements. I can’t find a copy of it online (how can this be?!?!?!?), so a description will have to suffice.  It was a single panel comic: a couple of solicitors pause on the sidewalk, outside of a house which has a sign on its front yard gate. The sign, which read something like, “Welcome, we love solicitors! Please, do tell us why your religion is better than ours!” is posted above an iconic coroner’s chalk-mark on the sidewalk that outlines where a body has lain.

After we posted the comic strip sign we let certain families in the neighborhood know of our policy (and the rest, I think, caught on). For families we actually knew/liked/recognized, [8] their children were welcome to pitch us their fundraisers, and we would support the activities if such activities were in line with our interests and values (e.g. nothing in which plastic swag was involved, nothing promoting religion or divisive politics, nothing where money would be funneled through non-legit “charities,” and nothing just plain lame-ass stupid).

As mentioned previously, I work at home, and used to get a lot of visits from the door-to-door crowd.  The comic panel sign worked…but only for about 50% of solicitors. The rest would smile broadly as I opened the door, and would immediately point out that sign and say, “That’s great!” or “That’s really funny/cute!”

To which I would respond, “And you think it doesn’t apply to you, do you?”

Most people would sheepishly and graciously retreat at that point. However, some did not, and would attempt to get in their spiel about how they were not actually selling anything – oh no! – they were giving away good news, for free!  I was surprised by the sheer lack of self-awareness and brass balls persistence of those who believe they have something their gods/political gurus/10,000 Friends of Oregon want them to share to people who have specifically and repeatedly said, no way/go away.

So.  I came up with the following.  The graphics, used with permission (and even encouragement) are the logo for The Brights. The text is my own.  And, it works. [9]

brights_icon_100x100

Welcome, friends and neighbors!
All others:  No doorspam, please.

Translation: No soliciting.
Nope, none at all, be it
political, religious, or otherwise.
(Yes, this means you)

*   *   *

The Future Is In Their Hands

This week Belle and five of her high school friends (two boys, three girls) [10] went on their first no-adults overnight trip. [11] They drove up the Columbia Gorge, stopping at Multnomah Falls and Hood River before crossing the Columbia to head for their final destination, a cabin in the mountains belonging to one of the girl’s parents.

Belle was quite conscientious about providing MH and I with Required Parental Details ® , including the names of the cabin owners, [12] the location and phone number of the cabin, the names of the other attendees, their departure and return plans and time frame, and the description of the vehicle they’ll be riding in.  Belle didn’t know the vehicle’s license plate, so when her friends arrived Tuesday morning to pick her up, I went outside to say hello/goodbye/have fun, and wrote down the license number.

Contemporary, non-vanity Oregon driver’s licenses consist of three numbers and three letters. “You’ve got an easy one to remember,” I said to the driver and another passenger, who stood outside the vehicle while Sadie squeezed her duffel bag between back seat passengers.  I pointed to the minivan’s license plate.  “DDE – those are a president’s initials.”

The two girls looked at me blankly, their eyes only lighting up in comprehension when I followed up with, “Eisenhower – Dwight David Eisenhower.  You know, the WWII general; the one with the ‘I like Ike’ campaign slogan?”

“That poor man,” Passenger Girl laughed.  “His parents probably named him Dwight David ’cause they thought, ‘Who could ever make an embarrassing nickname out of that?’, and he ends up being called, ‘Ike.’ “

*   *   *

 May your nicknames be campaign-worthy and your proselytizers be mock-worthy, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] This time it’s Bill Cassidy, state congressman, Louisiana.

[2] More Unmarried Mothers.

[3] i.e., they left skidmarks as they fled our porch.

[4] For A Variety of Reasons.

[5] The proselytizers say, “Oops, I didn’t see it until I’d already rung the bell….”

[6] Our kids turned out to be like-minded, imagine that. One of the first intentional profanities I heard son K utter had to do with his declaration that he wasn’t going to do any of that “@#!& fundraising #$!?^.”

[7] And had we said yes to a mere fraction of the solicitation the financial outlay would have been substantial.

[8] It’s amazing, how many of the kiddie funraisers were not from our neighborhood, but trucked in from miles away. Yep, I asked if I did not recognize the kids, and yep, they told.

[9] Except in the case of about 4-5 people who have said, as I opened the door, that they were going to leave  when they saw the sign but really wanted to tell me how much “I really love the term ‘doorspam,’ ’cause you know exactly what that means, and I’m leaving now, I promise….”

[10] Revealing the mixed gender makeup of the group prompted a totally unsolicited reassurance, from Belle to her bemused parental units, that there was no kind of romantic interest amongst any of the parties.

[11] They’re all eighteen, so legally adults, but…really. How many adults take Disney animated movies with them to sleepovers?

[12] Who will not be there, as it’s a kids young adults-only vacation.

The Pictures I’m Not Taking

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I didn’t take a camera on Belle’s and my trip to Paris. However, I am — bien sur! —  equipped with the intelligent communications device that is mandatory for all sub-arctic dwelling bipeds. Thus, I managed a few shots…none of which had me in them. This seemed to annoy some people (“You’re not in them – you didn’t take even ONE selfie?!”).

Cruising up the Seine River, I am somehow not in the photo.

Cruising up the Seine River, I am somehow not in the photo – quelle fromage!

A long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I learned that, for me, photographically documenting key moments of travel – or key moments of anything – often spoils the very thing I’m trying to authenticate.  Another way to put it is that taking pictures gets in the way of my experience of what is in those pictures.  I want to have those so-called Kodak moments to remember. I don’t need to be “in them” if I was truly in them.

*   *   *

What follows is a series of snapshot impressions of our trip.

 Truth in advertising.

flyingisjustabuswithwings

On our return flight from Paris, while looking over the airplane’s safety info sheet, I realized I’d never appreciated the suitability of the name chosen by that European Airplane manufacturing company.  Unless you can afford first class, travel par avion has lost whatever comfort and glamour it once had. These days, flying is like riding a bus with wings.

*   *   *

* “Paging passenger shithorse to gate B…” This was heard, over the Toronto airport’s PA system, by both Belle and I. Granted, we were a bit tired and punchy after an 8 hour flight from Paris, [1] during which a distressed toddler screamed for 7.5 of those hours.  But, really, that’s what we heard. Repeated several times.

I hope Mr/Ms. Shithorse made his/her flight.

*   *   *

* What’s with the pigeons in Paris?  They are plump, shiny, big as ducks…they are…beautiful.  HOW CAN THIS BE?

I’ve had to revise my opinion of pigeons, a breed of bird I heretofore would never have associated with the word beautiful. [2]  Belle and I decided that the regional pigeon pulchritude was related to the Parisian love of picnics.  You will not find a ten foot square plot of grass, or even cobblestone walkway by the Seine, that is not occupied by a Parisian couple or family sitting on a small blanket, reaching into their basket or bag to retrieve baguette sandwiches, cheeses, patés and wine. And where there are picnics, there will be, intentionally or otherwise, scraps left behind. Parisian pigeons are well fed.

A pigeon's destiny fulfilled.

A pigeon’s destiny fulfilled.

*   *   *

* We saw less beggars and/or “street people” in Paris than in Portland, but noticed that, just as in Portland,  a beggar with a pet seems to get more positive responses (read: donations, or even a kind word of acknowledgement) than those soliciting alone.  A Roma-looking woman with an amazingly friendly, one-green-and-one-blue-eye white cat got all of our change, [3] as did an older gent with a bunny-on-a-halter leash.

* Ditto re spotting and encountering mentally ill street people.  We saw almost none, and we did a lot of street walking.  Uh, that is, we walked a lot.  You know. On the streets.

The one behaviorally challenged chap we did see was quite memorable. We encountered Crazy Wheel Man on a street near Place de Bastille, where he was shouting orders, loudly but with a big grin on his wild-eyed face, at select people and objects.  He hollered something at a few cars that whizzed past; he ignored Belle and moiself as we passed him, but hassled the woman walking next to us who was pushing a stroller.  He went after some bicyclists, then stepped out in front of an oncoming bus, raised his hand, and began to shout advice or admonition to the driver.  CWM was so dubbed by us when I realized he was yelling at the stroller, not at the woman pushing the stroller.  What the objects of his hollering had in common was that they were all wheeled contraptions.

Crazy Wheel Man would not have yelled at this.

Crazy Wheel Man would not have yelled at this.

*   *   *

Miscellaneous cultural highlights

* I actually heard a French person exclaim, “Ooh la la!”
* I finally had the occasion to use one of my favorite French Survival Phrases ® , “Il n’ya pas de papier dans les toilettes.” [4]

oohlalapng

*   *   *

* Our base for our trip was an apartment in the Bastille District. The first step in entering our apartment was to input a security code at the outer (street level) door.  The code consisted of five units – two numbers and a letter, followed by two more numbers.  The code was a snap for us to memorize once we realized the code was Belle’s bra and cup size, followed by double her bra size.

Ooh la la.

Sadie@13RuedelaRoquette

*   *   *

 Vive l’egalite!

I love it when I espy some men who dress as ridiculously as some women, and Paris people watching afforded several such opportunities.  Sitting at a sidewalk café with Belle, appreciating a really fine lunch on a really hot day and while the really hot Parisians parade past us was a daily activity.  On one such day, within ten minutes I saw three different men, dressed fashionably head-to-toe…but they blew it when it came to the toe part.  These men wore what I call “elf shoes.”  Sort of like flat (“bad word”) pumps for women, these men’s shoes taper to an almost stiletto point; alien anthropologists, finding such footwear in an archeological dig, would assume the wearer had only three toes, with the longest one in the middle.

TOE

What with no actual human foot being able to occupy the toe box, and with no weight occupying it (as the wearer’s real toes are crammed together about three inches back in the toe box) the end of the shoe curls slightly upward.  You know, elf shoes.

ELF SHOES

*   *   *

* About those fashionably dressed Parisians, whose physical appearance Belle and I found both enchanting and intimidating: my enchantment level was increased when I realized I hadn’t seen one pair of saggy baggy clown ass sweats or jeans sliding down the derrières of those gorgeous French men.  Not one.

You will not see this in Paris. Are y'all ready to relocate? 

You will not see this in Paris. Are y’all ready to relocate?

*   *   *

* Belle: “I feel that France is better at natural selection than we are. They pick all the hot ones to breed and let the rest die out.”

 *   *   *

* Belle and I wanted to bring back some truly authentic souvenirs for our friends – none of this made in China, plastic Eiffel Tower key ring jive.  We soon realized that if we wanted to bring back something that truly said, this is the essence of Paris, we’d have to check suitcases full of skinny French men and women wearing skinny jeans who would smoke skinny cigarettes on your porch. [5]

SMOKE

*   *   *

* The native Parisians and other French folk we encountered were, by and large, not large at all. Certainly their level of activity has a lot to do with it.  Paris is a walking city – you’d have to be either suicidal or a fool to drive or bike in the urban areas [6] – and most residents use a combination of walking and riding their public transit to get from points A to B and everywhere in-between.  You can get quite the workout merely navigating the Metro stations themselves. And yes, those fashionably thin Parisians do partake of their incredibly delicious, rich French food, but, judging from what we saw and were ourselves served, the portions are so much more reasonable/realistic than that which we in the over-developed world have come to expect.

Also, les homes and femmes, they all smoke cigarettes.  Copiously.  The waiter brings the plates des jour, and after a few minutes of fashionable lingering and laughing and puffing at the outdoor tables [7] their food might as well be served in an ashtray.  Which may explain why the Parisians we observed never would have qualified for membership in the The Clean Plate Club – yet another reason they stay slender.

SoleMeuniere@LesGrandMarches

 Ash-free Sole Meunière at Les Grande Marches

 *   *   *

Random Louvre thoughts

* Much to Belle’s delight, we saw a surprising amount of paintings featuring cows.

* Much to the delight of moiself, I saw a surprising amount of statues of people with expressions I consider representational and realistic, more than artistic or impressionistic.

 Louvre, schmouvre, I am soooooo over these gawking tourists....

Louvre, schmouvre, I am soooooo over these gawking tourists….

* In the Louvre’s statuary garden Belle demonstrated the knowledge acquired during  her four years of Art and AP art classes, and I truly appreciated her insights and explanations when I asked about certain aspects of the magnificent objects d’art we were viewing.  Then, out of the blue, I heard her exclaim, “Look at him beating up that horse!”

In Belle’s first glimpse of a statue of a Roman soldier restraining a bucking stallion, she failed to notice that the soldier’s clenched fist was not in fact about to cold clock the stallion’s jaw; rather, his hand was clenched around the horse’s reins.  I sooooooooo relished being able to point out that detail [8] to my otherwise well-informed and observant daughter.

 *   *   *

* Paris has 37 bridges (“ponts“) that cross the Seine River. On Sunday June 15 it took 29 verses of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” for Belle and I to walk from the Pont Royal to the Pont Senghor bridge. [9] We’d started our bridge walk on the west side of the city, by the Eiffel Tower, and kept going until we found just the right one (according to Belle) of several of the bridges that are festooned with “love locks.”

LOCELOCKBEIDGEpng

We had each purchased two padlocks to commemorate our loved ones, and added them to the Senghor Bridge. Belle’s locks were for her friend ALX, and also for friend MRG, who has always wanted to travel abroad (but is unlikely to do so, as she is battling a fatal renal disease). My locks were for Belle and I, in honor of our trip, and my favorite hommes, MH and K, and my late great dad.

lockforchetSenghorbridge

 *   *   *

 * Most Parisian shopkeepers, restaurant staff and other businesspersons will admit to speaking English – IF you follow the protocol greeting ritual (which is strict, expected and courteous).  The few we encountered who (claimed that they) did not speak or understand English seemed rather haughty about, or even proud of, that fact.

While Belle and I found most Parisians to be quite helpful, we also learned that they help with what is specifically asked, and no more.  For example, early on in our travel week, as we were discussion what we really wanted to do/see in Paris (as opposed to what everyone says you should do/see), I reminded Belle that

(a) if she desired to see the Versailles Chateau or a certain shopping district, I would leave the planning of that to her, and

(b) she should be sure to plan carefully as some sites/shops are closed on some days.

Yes, I should have followed up, after that.

On our Monday trip to the Versailles Chateau, many, many Parisians along the way, including those at the TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER, HELLO, gave us directions and helped us find the proper metro to the proper train to the Versailles Chateau, without adding just un petite helpful comment, that, BTW, the chateau is closed today.  The Versailles Chateau is always closed on Mondays, the guards outside the chateau’s closed gates told one group of visitors after another.[10]  But then, we didn’t actually ask anyone, “And is the chateau open today?”

 

*   *   *

* It completely slipped my mind that a thick mustard, or any condiment, would be considered a security threat or a possible bomb-making component subject to the carry-on liquid limit. And so the Charles DeGaulle airport’s dour security man searched my bag and removed the 6 oz jar of moutarde de citron I’d intended to bring home to my mustard-loving son. [11]

A simple, “Madame, zees is over ze limit” would have sufficed – it was an honest mistake, the mustard did not pass muster, I get it. Just confiscate it, okay?  But, nooooo.

Dour Security Drone held the jar up to the light, seemingly puzzled by the contents.  “It’s mustard,” I helpfully offered, pointing to the jar’s moutard label.  He made motions as if he intended to unscrew the lid and sniff it, which would have been fine by me.  But he didn’t.  He continued to scrutinize the jar, turning it this way and that.  Then he put it up to his ear and shook it.  It took all of my self control not to feign alarm and gasp, “No – don’t do that, you’ll arm it!”

Finally, he signaled to two of his comrade and passed the mustard jar to them. He told me I could gather my things and go, but that the mustard must stay.  “Fine,” I said. “Enjoy your sandwiches.”

The one that made it through.

The one that made it through.

*   *   *

May your condiments be TSA-friendly and mustard bomb-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] And facing two more flights to get us back to the Portland airport.

[2] Aka, airborne rats.

[3] Which, in Euros, adds up.

[4] This was upon emerging from a boulangeries’s WC, and warning the next woman in line about how the room was lacking a vital accessory.

[5] My friends got chocolate, coffee, pasta  and fruit paté instead.

[6] Although there seemed to be no shortage of both.

[7] Smoking is banned indoors, but if you sit at an outdoor table, everyone around you will be smoking.

[8] And bring it up several times later the same day.

[9] After two or three verses I sang the rest under my breath, out of respect for Belle, who was becoming somewhat perturbed by my enthusiasm.

[10] We were far from the only out of town visitors who didn’t get the schedule right.

[11] A smaller jar made it through, vive la liberation!

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