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The Friend I’m Not Praying For

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“If you talked into your hair dryer and said you were communicating with someone in outer space, they’d put you away.  But take away the hair dryer, and you’re praying.”
-Sam Harris

prayer

I seeing miss my sweet, witty, intelligent, compassionate, bawdy, hugs & sloppy kisses friend, HUL.  She gets back here (she used to live in Oregon) to visit when she can, and although it seems like there’s no distance between us when we phone or email or text, she lives 1300 miles away.  And she is having surgery today.  I will be thinking of her, and talking to her after the surgery as I’ve talked to her before and after her cancer diagnosis, commiserating about the shitty situation and brainstorming treatment options, colorfully cursing the brusque and clueless medical personnel she’s encountered and lavishly praising the smart, kind and competent ones.

I will not be praying for HUL. Nor will I be

* burning special incense for her
* anointing her head with oil
* finding a faith healer to perform a laying on of hands
* doing a Wiccan or Tibetan healing chant
* performing a Haipule [1]or smudging ceremony [2]
* sacrificing a child
* using crystals to balance her energy
* casting a voodoo healing spell
* sending her to a Hakim (traditional Muslim healer) for Unani medicine [3]

Or singing her favorite soccer team’s fight song….or performing any of the rituals many human beings once somehow (and, sadly, still) thought might cause the gods/spirits/cosmic energies to look upon them with favor and cure their maladies.

What the heck. I could pick one of those things, or cover the bases and do ‘em all, as they have an equal likelihood of affecting the outcome of HUL’s surgery and subsequent prognosis.

HUL, righteously religion-free babe that she is, is not asking me, or anyone, to pray for her.

Not even moi?

Not even moi?

Her first surgery will be done in a Catholic-run hospital. HUL told me the only activity resembling praying that she might do is to beseech the friend who’s picking her up after surgery to refrain from vandalizing crucifixes and the like, should said friend spot any Catholibilia [4] in HUL’s room.

HUL will not be posting the news of her illness and surgery on any social media sites.  She wants to control access to this information and maintain a modicum of privacy.  She also wants to avoid the jaw-clenching, energy-sucking vibes produced by People Who Mean Well ® and who express their sentiments, even to those of us whom they know are religion-free, via the hackneyed expression [5] ,  I’ll be praying for you.

praying

She and I – and just about every atheist-agnostic-Bright-humanist-skeptic-freethinker on the planet – have commiserated over this phenomenon.  We realize the expression is a kneejerk, cultural/social, nicety response, and that not everyone who says “I’ll pray for you” literally intends to do so.  It’s similar to the way “How are you?” is used as a greeting – as a substitute or equivalent for Hi or Good morning.   If you take that “How are you?” query/greeting at face value and actually talk about how you are,  [6] you may be surprised by the WTF expression from the one who has greeted you and who now acts like they want to leave skidmarks as they flee from your discourse.

When it comes to being on the receiving end of I will be/I am praying for you, Those Of  Us Who Think About Such Things mostly grin and bear it, with various degrees of enthusiasm and anemia.  Here’s what we’re likely to say (even as this is what we’re likely thinking):

Well-Meaning But Ignorant Person:  “I am so sorry to hear about your upcoming hammertoe surgery! I’ll pray for you.”

Us: “Oh, okay. Thanks for thinking of me.” (You’re going to pray…uh…yeah, knock yourself out…but…really…WHY? Am I supposed to thank you for doing…well, nothing…when what I could use is a casserole, or for someone to mow my lawn while my foot is in a cast?)

I know, I know, IKNOWIKNOWIKNOWIKNOW.  People “mean well” (I’m trying to remember that great Lily Tomlin quote, something about thank goodness for kids, they never mean well).  But those of us who are fond of reality don’t just shelve it in times of crisis.  We we know about the efficacy [7] and therefore futility of prayer, to any one’s deities, for anything, and our bafflement at the announcement of the practice is often hard to disguise.

answered prayer

Skeptics more articulate than moiself have pointed out that while many religious people claim to truly believe that prayer can cure a variety of illnesses and injuries, they only pray for maladies that are generally self-limiting (and thus, they can attribute the cure to miraculous intervention).

I’ve never heard of religious believers petitioning their god to cause the boy with 3rd degree burns to grow new skin overnight (or even over the course of a few months), although I have heard them pray that the boy’s skin grafts will take.

An illness that gets better over time (and most do), a mood that improves, believers can and often do attribute these events to a “miracle” or divine intervention.  But hard physical evidence – the burnt, necrotizing flesh, the amputee’s stump– is a slap in the face to the “power” of prayer.

My theory is that deep down inside, even the most fundy believers have reality check neurons (besieged, but not extinct), which occasionally whisper to them, “Now, let’s not get carried away, you know this stuff is just mumbo jumbo.”

How else to explain the fact that, while believers fervently and publicly ask their god to heal the spirit and speed the recovery of the Iraqi war veteran whose leg was blown off by an IED, or of the diabetic who lost a foot to gangrene, they do not pray for their god to regenerate these sufferers’ limbs. In the case of Christian believers, their scriptures are filled with stories of “miraculous” events and healings performed by their god, including restoration of sight to the blind and movement to a paralytic, instantaneous curing of leprosy and healing of a soldier’s amputated ear and so on. Why should the production of new skin or a new leg be so difficult for an omniscient, omnipotent, responsive-to-the-heartfelt-petitions-of-his-flock deity?   Especially considering the fact that several species of our fellow animal inhabitants of our planet, including skinks, sea stars, conchs, and crayfish, can regenerate amputated appendages, and (presumably) do this without prayer.

"Oh great and merciful Poseidon, We beseech thee on behalf of our orange sister, that she be made whole again!"

“Oh great and merciful Poseidon, We beseech thee on behalf of our orange sister, that she be made whole again!”

Check out this site, for a more entertaining (and thought-provoking) examination of…well…of why this question is – or should be, to any sentient being – so important:  Why Won’t God Heal Amputees.

I get it; all of us who smite even the idea of prayer get it:  in times of adversity it’s often hard to know what to do or say.  Bad news makes everyone uncomfortable. You hear about someone’s misfortune, you care, you want to do something…but, think about it.  That “something” you do, if it’s praying (or just saying that you will pray), is more about making you feel better than about what prayer might actually accomplish.  Praying may provide you with the comforting illusion of having done something, but in fact you’ve done Absolutely. Nothing. Of. Substance.

If you really care, do something. Praying, or the secular version –  “holding a good thought for you” – doesn’t count.  Talk (and thought) is cheap; actions speak louder than – oh, don’t make me type it.

getwell

When HUL told me about her disease we cried and laughed and raged and cried and laughed some more. Here is what I will do for you, I told her, if you will let me, and if you need me to.[8] The list is a work in progress, based in part upon what other kind friends, neighbors and co-workers have done for me in times of need.  Like all such lists, it will and should be modified to fit the situation.

* Be there before, during and after surgery [9]
* Bring you healthful meals

"Get well soon, or more spam casseroles will be delivered to your  refrigerator."

“Get well soon, or more spam casseroles will be delivered to your  refrigerator.”

* Clean your house, hold your hand, feed your cats (and scoop their litterboxes)
* Donate to reputable, efficacious [10] cancer research funds
* Send you links to really bad jokes and visual puns and baby sloth videos
* Rent you some DVDs for a Daniel Day Lewis film festival [11]
* Encourage you to document what you are going through…

About that last one.  Although not a professional author, HUL is a pithy, articulate and entertaining writer, and I’ve urged her to record not only the logistics of her disease but her attitudes and reactions to it as well.  However, I have promised to refrain from referring to her dealing with cancer as if she’s on some kind of spiritual excursion.

I just can’t help it: when I heard phrases like, “Tell us what you’ve learned from your journey with pancreatic cancer,” it makes me want to kick Oprah in the ovaries.

 *   *   *

And Now For Something Completely Different

 Department of Making It All Better

When I serve a dish containing Brussels sprouts – to anyone, but mostly to MH and moiself – I also serve champagne.

sprouts

*   *   *

About Last Week’s Shirt

Receiving slightly less attention than the Rosetta mission’s landing of a probe on a comet was the PR meteor storm created by one of the project scientists.  This scientist dude chose “the most important day in spaceflight since Curiosity landed on Mars” – a day when he was slated to be speaking about the project on a worldwide live-stream – to wear a tacky bowling shirt covered in comic book-style images of half-naked women.

REALLY

Same dude also went on to describe the difficulty of the Rosetta mission: “She’s sexy, but I never said she was easy.”

facepalm

Read this, for one of the more coherent takes on this brouhaha, including the dude’s [12] apology, and the (surprise!) internet-troll backlash aimed at those people [13] who called out the dude on his astounding inappropriateness.

“If you think this is just a bunch of prudes, you’re wrong. It’s not about the prurience. It’s about the atmosphere of denigration….. If you think this isn’t a big deal, well, by itself, it’s not a huge one. But it’s not by itself, is it? This event didn’t happen in a vacuum. It comes when there is still a tremendously leaky pipeline for women from undergraduate science classes to professional scientist. It comes when having a female name on a paper makes it less likely to get published, and cited less. It comes when there is still not even close to parity in hiring and retaining women in the sciences.”
 (Phil Plait, Astronomer and “science evangelist,” from his Bad Astronomy blog)

Is that your comet probe or are you just excited to see me?

Is that your comet probe or are you just excited to see me?

*   *   *

May your choice of bowling shirts be workplace-appropriate and face-palm-worthy-free, may well-meaning folks have no reason to pray for your recovery, may your cruciferous vegetables always be champagne-escorted, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] A Hawaiian healing ritual.

[2] A Native American practice involving cleansing a person with the smoke of sacred plants.

[3] The use of food and herbs to reestablish balance, based on a theory of wet/dry, hot/cold humors in the body.

[4] Yeah, I made that word up, but you know what I mean: crucifixes, rosaries, framed pictures of Jesus and saints and John F. Kennedy….

[5] and seemingly obligatory Facebook response to bad news.

[6] Like many a bewildered newcomer to American culture has done, and discovered that the Howareyou supplicant  did not really want to hear about your latest triumphs and travails. Or, as one European traveler put it, “Why do Americans ask how you are when they don’t want to know? Why don’t they just say, ‘Hello’?”

[7] That would be: zero.

[8] Make sure your help is practical and actually wanted, and not yet another task for the afflicted to manage.

[9] HUL has friends lined up to help, and graciously deflected that offer…although she’s made me promise to fly out for her “Yay, I’m all better!” or “I need more treatment, so kiss my hair goodbye!” party – whichever one she throws.

[10] Check out any and all charities to make sure they are legitimate and use funds wisely (Charity Navigator and Givewell are just two of the organizations that provide such evaluations), and fuck the Susan Komen industry ’cause festooning your body with plastic pink crap made in China does not cure breast cancer.

[11] Do not underestimate the power of watching your favorite movies featuring your favorite, fine-looking actors – ’twas repeated showings of Last of the Mohicans, not the antibiotics, that cured my pneumonia, I truly believe, brothers and sisters (somebody say, Amen!).

[12] Nah, I won’t use his name. I don’t think he was evil or even (consciously) misogynistic, just incredibly puerile.

[13] Every sentient being with an IQ larger than their hat size and their heads out of the sand (and not up their asses) – which I assume is an accurate description for y’all.

The Pedi I’m Not Curing

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Eat, Hike, Kayak.

manzanita

Make that eat, hike, eat, kayak, eat, hike, eat, go crabbing, kayak, eat, walk along the beach. And did I mention, eat?

This week marked the end of Part I of MH’s and my sabbatical.  We spent four plus weeks at Manzanita, Oregon.  Disneyland, schmisneyland – Manzanita is, for me, (arguably) The Happiest Place on Earth.

Admiring MH's mussels, during a beach hike.

Admiring MH’s mussels, during a beach hike.

My time spent there was invigorating, relaxing, refreshing and reflective.  Unfortunately, despite my opening riff on a certain popular soul-searching/self-discovery title of a few years ago, there will be no book proposal arising from my experiences.

Alas, I am not a self-absorbed thirty-something woman seeking spiritual and emotional clarity after a nasty divorce.

( Y’all know the title to which I refer; it rhymes with Bleat, Bray, Shove. In 2006-2008 TSA employees detained any woman over the age of 21 who intended to board an airplane without carrying a copy of that book ).

Nor I am the local literary darling whose own spiritual-journey-memoir-flavor-of-the-month-book is soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture. Nope, I am not a woman devastated by loss who seeks deliverance from her dubious personal choices (promiscuity; drug abuse; the belief that using a symbolic surname as your non de plume confers hipness) via a solo wilderness trek.

I just don’t have that hook – in literary biz terms, some scandal-worthy and/or titillating personal details – which would give me a “promotable platform.” What I do have is a picture of a beautiful place MH and I stopped for lunch during our beach hike from Cannon Beach to Humbug Point. Okay, the tip of MH’s banana is visible in the picture – this is my nod to titillating.

beachhike

*   *  *

Department of What Being Married to Me Has Done To Him

I was informing MH of my upcoming schedule in the 1.5 days we have before we travel again, this time, to attend a family wedding. When I told him I planned on treating moiself to a pedicure, MH wondered aloud if that meant my feet would be subject to the ministrations of a pedifile?

Wanna see my BIG toe, little girl?

Wanna see my BIG toe, little girl?

*   *   *

Previews of Coming Attractions

While attending the Harvest Festival of Manzanita’s Community Garden, MH and I signed up for a trial paddling session with the Nehalem Bay Tiderunners, a local branch of the Wasabi dragon boat paddling club of Portland.  Newbies interested in learning about dragon boats joined the Tiderunner veterans in paddling a dragon boat up and down the Nehalem River one cool/gray Saturday morning.  I wish I had a picture of the curious seal whose bobbing head followed the boat during several practice runs.

The dragon boat paddling stroke is different from the kind of paddling one does in the recreational kayaking I have been doing for years.  The technique reminded me of when I participated in the Disneyland Employee Canoe Races, all those years ago.

MH and I had so much fun we stayed for a second session. I’d been considering joining a dragon boat team ever since I first saw several teams practicing in the Willamette River, but I’d always had scheduling conflicts with the various teams’ practice schedules (plus, there’s the drive to Portland and back).  This year, with the looming sabbatical travel, I didn’t want to make any kind of commitment I could not keep…. but when my schedule calms down, I’ll try to find a boat crew that will accept me. You have been warned.

dragonboat

*   *   *

Department of Trying To See Who’s Paying Attention

MH alerted me to an upcoming volunteer opportunity at the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve.  We both separately filled out online volunteer application forms for the event. The form’s first blanks requested first name, middle name, and title.  The form’s title options consisted of  Dr., Jr., Mr., Mrs., Ms., None, Sr.

Harumpf.  There was no option for me to choose or write in my preferred title: N.a.D[1]  Mature person that I am, I accepted the slight. There was, however, a fourth name-related blank: “preferred name, (nickname, etc).” All righty.  I typed, Boutros Boutros Ghali.

A couple of days after completing our application forms, MH and I received identically worded emails – except for the salutation –  [2] from the Volunteer Coordinator. Here was mine:

Hi Boutros Boutros Ghali,
Thank you for volunteering at the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve....

*   *   *

Just Because…

Oui, c'est vrai, je suis belle.

Oui, c’est vrai, je suis belle.

 Sometimes we all need to look at a proud & pretty Parisian Pigeon.

*   *   *

May your paddling stroke efficiently propel the dragon boat of your heart (sorry; I’ve been refining my treacle-laden wedding toast), [3] and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Which stands for, Not a Doctor.  You knew that, I know you did.

[2] His began, Hi _____ (his first name). Can you believe that?

[3] Which may lead to more footnote-worthy stories in next week’s blog.

The Age I’m Not Guessing

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Toto, I Have a Feeling We’re Not Twenty-Six Anymore

Although I vary the routes for my morning walks, more often than not I include a few laps around the tree-lined paths of a local park.  I see other “regulars” there – mostly dog walkers – with whom I’ve developed the nodding, I recognize you, acquaintance.

One of the Regular Park Walkers ® is a woman with big (as in thick), almost waist-length, curly, fading-red hair. Big Red’s hands are always busy: one pushes a stroller occupied by a vivid-red haired baby boy, and the other clutches the leash of what looks to be a Bernese Mountain dog.

Wednesday morning I saw Big Red at the park.  She’d stopped on a path ~ 50 feet ahead of me to adjust the baby’s blanket; I slowed my pace as I approached.  We exchanged good morning’ s, and I made a comment about her son’s adorable smile.

Grand-son,” she corrected me.  Her tone, furrowed brow and gawking eyes – it was as if she’d reacted to a non sequitur I’d made about her triplet chicken sweaters.

chicken sweaters

I generally refrain from guessing people’s ages, for several reasons.  One reason involves me doing my bit to raise consciousness re the pernicious effects of ageism. As part of this noble cause, I generally try to deflect or “reroute” that rare [1] comment-meant-to-be-a-compliment “Oh, but you don’t look ____ (whatever age you in fact are)” when it’s been flung my way after someone has guessed young about my age and I’ve corrected them.  Another reason is simply because I’ve never been good at it.

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, unless a person had drastic facial, verbal or postural indicators of either youthfulness or decrepitude, I thought everybody was more or less twenty-six.  When I myself was twenty-six, I was more or less correct about the ages of most of my peers, neighbors and co-workers.  It took many, many years, but someone [2] finally gave me the equivalent of a verbal face palm – How can you be so dense? He’s obviously twice/half as old as that! – and called me on my deficient age-estimating ability.

So. Yeah. Live and Learn. Nobody is twenty-six, anymore.  We’re all hovering around forty-four, aren’t we?

"We love being twenty-six!"

“We love being twenty-six!”

"So do we!"

“So do we!”

*   *   *

Department of They Meant Well

For the past few years hundreds of people [3] hoping for better economic and social opportunities make a dangerous crossing of Mediterranean, from spots along the North African coast, trying to enter Europe by boat.  Some of these boats capsize, and some of the migrants drown.

Last week I heard a BBC News radio story about one “side effect” of the sad situation.  The story concerned a wealthy couple who, while on a Mediterranean yacht cruise, became aware of the boat migrants’ situation and decided to get involved.  Their involvement has taken the form of spending over two million euros to purchase a yacht, outfit it with two dinghies and state of the art surveillance drones, and hire a crew which will patrol the seas near Malta (a common migrant destination), looking for boats in distress: 

When the ship comes across a migrant boat in international waters, the crew will contact the nearest authorities….. While they wait for instructions, they will use the dinghies to approach the boats, pass over food, water and lifejackets and offer medical assistance….. in case the boat is taking water or the number of the people [on board] is higher than should be, [the crew] will communicate that to the authorities and we will do what needs to be done. “If we need to take people on board we can, until Malta or Italy come to take them, and disembark them on land.”

This is one of those stories that make me feel good for a moment, until the wait a minute…. sets in.  Yep, I’ll be the curmudgeon who points out that short term acts of “heroism” often do nothing to alleviate long term misery and may even, unintentionally, contribute to the latter.

The Wealthy Yacht Philanthropists get the immediate satisfaction of assisting hungry and thirsty boat people – along with the irrational appreciation of alleged divine approval that only a misguided zealot would treasure feel-good-glow that comes from having a priest tell them they are on a “mission from God” [4] and present them with just what every boat rescue team needs,  “…a small bottle of holy water from Lourdes and a golden crucifix.”

"This should come in handy to anchor a child-sized lifejacket."

“This should come in handy to anchor a child-sized lifejacket.”

Meanwhile, the WYP inadvertently produce the possible (read: highly likely) side effect of encouraging more desperate people to make the hazardous journey (No worries, we hear someone with a big boat will rescue us and even drop us off where we want to go!).

How much better, IMHO, would WYP’s money, effort and influence be spent, were it to be invested in solutions to the economic, social and cultural problems that impel people to flee their homelands in their first place.  Pulling a few people out of the water and waiting for the next boatload to fall in – it’s like putting a finger cot on a wrist amputation.

*   *   *

Speaking of the dangers of the Mediterranean, here’s something you will never hear me say when I talk about my recipe for Mokh: [5]

“So now I do as Moroccan cooks do, and I think my brain salad dishes are better for it.”  [6]

Now Not Appearing in My Kitchen.

Now Not Appearing in My Kitchen.

*   *   *

Now Appearing in My Kitchen:

Cucumber avocado soup; quinoa, chevre, black bean, scallion and cilantro stuffed sweet red peppers.

YUM

Tasty distractions for getting used to having only two of us at the dinner table.

*   *   *

Empty Nest Chateau Report

My prudent admonition to my fledglings about dorm life – don’t expect or (even want) your dorm roommate to be a best friend; consider it gravy if you like your roommate or at least find him/her tolerable – is on the record.

Belle’s never been one for gravy.

K’s freshman dorm situation was benignly ideal: he and his roommate were considerate occupiers of the same space and socialized occasionally, but it went no further than that. They parted amicably at the end of the year; the roommate transferred to another college.

Belle adores her roommate, JFS.  Just loves her.  And (so far), so do we.  I know, it’s only been two weeks, but they are so cute together.

CUTEs

Really, almost this cute.

We met JFS’s family (parents and younger sister) on Friday of Orientation week.  I liked them immediately.  The UPS Orientation week organizers suggest that parents take their freshman offspring out to dinner on Saturday, and then, essentially, get lost go home and let the students dive into Orientation week activities.  Since Belle & JFS seemed to be getting on so well we asked Belle to pass along our suggestion that both families do the Saturday dinner together.

I felt comfortable enough around Belle’s roommate’s family to confess, during our mahhhhhhhvelous dinner at the Europa Bistro in the Proctor district of Tacoma, that I hoped Belle’s & JFS’s mutual admiration society wasn’t just part of the honeymoon stage and that soon they’d be fighting like siblings.  I shared that hope when JFS’s mother said that her daughter had been talking nonstop about how much she liked Belle.  I in turn told her that Belle had praised JFS to MH and I.

Belle and JFS stayed for a little over an hour at the bistro, then left to go back to some dorm social activity.  JFS’s parents, sister, MH and I stayed for almost another two hours, getting to know one another and sharing stories.

 

creme

The bistro was crowded with UPS families and service was a bit leisurely, [7] but we were having such a pleasant evening we really didn’t notice or mind.  We finished dinner, hadn’t ordered yet dessert, and out of the blue our waiter set two gorgeous ramekins of crème brûlée on our table.  He gave us the compliments of the chef and apologized for making “such nice people wait so long.”

JFS’s parents and sister exchanged mirthful looks and laughter.  JFS’s father explained to MH and I that crème brûlée is JFS’s favorite dessert, and oooh, just wait until she finds out what she missed by cutting out on the old folks!  Why wait? said moiself  At my urging, JFS’s father took a picture of the crème brûlées and texted the photo to her with a brief message about what she was missing.  He guffawed at his daughter’s one word reply, and hesitated only a moment before he showed the text to MH and me:

 

FUCK

 

This is a good match, I said to myself. Everything is going to be okay.

 

roommates

*   *   *

May your matches be picture perfect, your crème brûlées complimentary, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Well, rare for me.

[2] I cannot recall the name of the person who enlightened me, but whoever you are, I’m sure you look fabulous…for your age.

[3] An estimated 1600 people in 2013.

[4] A god who apparently can’t be bothered to help the migrants walk on water, or do whatever he might do to alleviate their situation.

[5] And this is because I am never going to make Mokh.

[6] Spiced Brain Salad with Preserved lemons. From Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco.

[7] Or, as I like to say, European.

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 (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)

 *   *   *

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!

 *   *   *

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 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!

The Doves I’m Not Angering

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Sight of the Day

Thursday afternoon: returning from New Seasons market, I was entranced by the sight of our two resident, usually docile mourning doves, who swooped down from the tippy-top top of our deodora cedar and engaged in a coordinated attack upon two much larger crows.  The crows flew nonchalantly, even as the doves chased them to our rooftop, from where one crow safely launched itself up and away from the doves.  The other was chased off of the roof and then down the block.  The doves took turns dive-bombing the crow, forcing it to fly lower and lower until it found shelter in a neighbor’s shrubbery.

Protecting their nesting site?  Impressive courtship display (“Oh baby, you know how I love it when you harass the corvids)?  Or just feeling bodacious?  Whatever the reason, I enjoyed the doves’ aerial show.

angrydoves

*   *   *

WTF, SCOTUS?

I’d like to send some angry doves to Washington to peck some sense into a certain group of chickenhawks.  The SCOTUS’s four Resident Retrograde Catholic Assholes [1] were at it again, and were joined by swing asshole Justice Kennedy in their latest yep-we-done-lost-our-shit 5-4 ruling, this one involving Christian prayers at government meetings.  I’ll sum up the majority reasoning rationalization: You see, boys and girls, violating the Constitutional, if someone has[2] been doing it for years, ceases to be a violation and becomes protected “tradition,, “history” and/or culture.

PRAYHYPOCRITES

Now that they’ve reamed the First Amendment a new one, let’s all go out and have our way with the others.

Yessum, Mr. U.S. Attorney, we-all in Bunnyboner, Mississippi kinda heard ’bout that Fourth Amendment  prohibiting warrantless searches and all, but our Sherriff’s department been bustin’ into houses and ransacking shit for decades – it’s our law tradition.

*   *   *

Another religion-politics face palmer was brought to my attention by MH, this one involving Monica Wehby, the Portland doctor who’s thrown her neurosurgeon’s cap into the political ring for Oregon’s Republican Senate primary race.  Wehby is apparently not conservative enough for her party’s wingnuts, who’ve criticized her stance on abortion, which is a teense too prochoice for their tastes. Oh, yeah, and she’s identified herself as a Catholic.

We’ll likely never know if Wehby is a practicing/believing Catholic or merely a “cultural Catholic.” Or, she might be the kind of self-identified RC (as I suspect many politicians are) who no longer practices and/or believes the tenets of her religion, but who doesn’t want to rock the ark and does want to claim a label that (used to) guarantee a bloc of votes.  As reported in The Oregonian, in an early primary debate, when the subject of abortion came up, that’s when she played her RC card:

Wehby said abortion should be a woman’s choice – although she’s also quick to emphasize that she’s a Catholic who is personally pro-life. 

Some of us would like to quickly emphasize that the proclaimed Catholic Wehby is divorced, and is sympathetic to gay marriage [3] and that, like abortion, both divorce and gay marriage are ginormously big no-nos in the Catholic religion.

Some of us would also just as quickly prefer never to have to think about a politician’s supernatural beliefs, never, ever again.  We are a secular democratic republic; we elect people to be our political leaders/servants, not priests (or doctors, or…).  But Wehby dragged her religion into the public arena, so her hypocrisy, or at least inconsistency, is fair game.  Because, really, Roman Catholic-influenced thought and strategy of any kind is just what we need to bring justice, evenhandedness and stability to our halls of government.

abortion-hypocrisy

(Threatened with a lawsuit for failing to perform potentially life-saving abortion, a Catholic hospital’s defense was: life begins at birth, not at conception – a complete reversal on the Catholic church’s long standing anti-choice position that human life begins at conception.)

*   *   *

When politics is too effin depressing, and writing coherently about it would involve – nay, require – way too much profanity, it’s time to think about art.  Specifically, the theatre.

MH and I are season subscribers to two local theatre companies, Portland Center Stage and Hillsboro’s Bag & Baggage Productions.  This gets us typically one to two plays every four to six weeks, but an unusual set of circumstances/reschedulings have us attending three plays in eight days. [4]  Last Sunday we saw the PCS production of The Last Five Years, a two-person musical that depicts the story of a New York City couple’s relationship in an unusual, innovative way (the woman’s story is told backwards, while the man’s is told chronologically.)  Tonight we’ll take in B&B’s version of Noel Coward’s Private Lives, and then Sunday we’re back at PCC, for Othello .

Our seats were just three rows back from the stage for The Last Five Years, and the actors’ prodigious saliva slinging reminded me of being in the splash zone at the Sea World Shamu [5] shows.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve no phobia about being pelted by thespian bodily fluids.  In fact, I proudly claim to have been showered with the saliva of many theatrical performesr, including twice on two separate occasions by Lily Tomlin. [6]

splash

*   *   *

bye-bye goodie boxes..for now

I sent the last care package of the academic year to son K, to mark his last week of classes at UPS , which stands for the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma and should not be confused with that other UPS, which is my favorite method for shipping packages to…that other UPS.

Several of the employees in the local Office Depot’s copy/print/shipping department have come to know me the past three years, and they prep a computer monitor for their shipping system as soon as they see me enter the store.  One of the employees, herself a college student, chats with me about the latest Star Trek: TNG episodes she’s seen [7]  while I type in my answer to the contents of package question on the shipping form.  I love listing the package contents as “junk food,” although, really, Pepperidge Farm Milano Mints should not accurately be described as junk.

Finals week survival rations. 

Finals week survival rations.

Good news from K this week included learning he’ll be home in two weeks, gainfully employed for the summer [8], and that he got a research grant for his senior year!  The grant entails helping a chemistry professor do…something.  Like, chemistry-researchy stuff.

Good news for Belle included surviving AP hell week.  She had Advanced Placement tests three days in a row, starting with AP Calculus on Wednesday.  This weekend she’s blowing off steam by attending her high school prom.  There may be prom pictures posted on this blog next week, a sentence I could never have imagined myself writing several years ago.  Also next week, Belle is having another I-could-never-have-imagined-myself-writing-about adventure, for which photographic proof will definitely be needed .  That’s all I’m allowed to say about it, for now.

*   *   *

Department of Hey, Nice Try

Although I have a rule to never donate to panhandlers, I wavered when I saw the sign held by a man in Portland, who was standing by the 16th St. entrance to the freeway.  Just for one moment I thought that the originality was deserving of reward:

Ninjas captured my family.
Need money for karate lessons.

*   *   *

“Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.”
(Lily Tomlin as Trudy, from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. [9])

May your reality be stress-free, and may your hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito.

[2] It is really, really, way past time for those old white (and one black) men to die. Too bad they have the best health care our money can buy.

[3] (“I don’t have a problem with gay marriage. … I think it’s not a government decision. I think it’s a personal decision”) – from the same debate.

[4] Three Plays in Eight Days – sounds like the premise of an off-Broadway satirical revue.

[5] Yep,  I’ve seen Blackfish, and even before that, had sworn off seeing animal shows for ethical reasons.

[6] During her one woman play, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.

[7] She and her boyfriend are going through the entire seven year series.

[8] And there was much parental rejoicing.

[9] Written by playwright/director and Tomlin’s longtime partner, Jane Wagner.

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