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The Baby Stroller I’m Not Buying

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Peach at the Beach [1]

Everyone should periodically have the opportunity to be reminded of words like enchanting, which come to mind while watching a seven year old girl splashing in the waves, joyously oblivious to the bone-chilling water temp, chasing flocks of gulls and exclaiming over the profound Mystery of the Broken Sand Dollars [2]  – what happens to the other pieces?

 sanddollar

 *   *   *

Twenty Five Years.
Really.

Lest you think I have fallen from the Cliffs of Insanity, check for yourself and you will discover that it has been twenty-five years since the release of One. Of. The. Best. Movies. Ever. Made.

I am of course referring to The Princess Bride.

All together now:
Inconceivable!

*   *   *

Buy Patrick Stewart A Baby Stroller

Sir Patrick Stewart said he doesn’t fit in in his neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, because he’s the only one without a stroller. We knew what we had to do.

Somehow, for reasons that escape me (other than the obvious coolness factor), I contributed money to this campaign.  The fact that it was organized by the mahvelous singer-songwriter-comedian-actor-Broad Comedy guru, she of the multiple slash-talents, Katie Goodman – and her equally lovely and talented husband, writer-director Soren Kisiel [3]– may have something to do with it.

Please...make it not so.

Please…make it not so.

*   *   *

And Now I Know

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, is neurologist Oliver Sacks’ absorbing and compassionate case-study-book that deals with how human brains process and understand music, and how music shapes and transforms human beings’ understanding of their world, and themselves.

I’ve been a fan of Sacks’ work for years (you really must read The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat – trust me, you’ll never look at brain deficits and altered perceptions in the same way again [4]).  A friend, [5] after discovering that she and I share a similar neurological “condition,” recommended Musicophilia to me.

When I wake up at night, I immediately hear music; i.e., a song. This is not because mischievous elves have crept into my bedroom and turned on the Various Music Playing Devices. The song I hear does not awaken MH, because the song is in my head.  The song varies; it is never classical music, never instrumental – there are always vocals. [6]  Genre-wise, it is more commonly a rock/pop/folk/soul/alternative song than country or heavy metal; it will occasionally be a show tune or Broadway musical number; it is never (so far)  rap or Emo, thank the FSM.

 

"You're welcome."

“You’re welcome.”

Sometimes there is a logical explanation for whatever song is on my brain’s nocturnal playlist – I’d heard the song earlier in the day, on the radio/my phone as I was driving/exercising/out for a walk.  And sometimes it’s just a mystery or even embarrassment to me as to why Joan Jett’s I Hate Myself For Loving You or Aretha Franklin’s Think or Bobby Sherman’s Hey Little Woman [7] is bouncing between my ears.

Thanks to reading Musicophilia, I know that this musical tic of mine is likely a brainworm – a perceptual construction analogous to visual afterimages but “created at a much higher level (than visual afterimages and other sensory system effects) in the brain.”

Either that, or I’m just fucking daggy. [8]

 

*   *   *

Me, Too

listsirony

*   *   *

May the music between your ears (or whatever forms the soundtrack of your life) warm the cockles of your heart, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The delightful nickname of delightful friend SCM’s delightful daughter.

[2] Sounds like a Nancy Drew title

[3] The driver in Hummer Driving Man.

[4] I’m assuming you already had opinions about brain deficits and altered perceptions. Which may be a sign of my own altered perception.

[5] Who would be the afore-mentioned SCM.  Wow – TWO footnotes, way to go, S!

[6] There is no footnote #6. Move along, folks – nothing here to see.

[7] Yes, that one would be the embarrassment.

[8] Aussie/New Zealand slang for crazy.

The Frog I’m Not Kissing

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 “Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street….”
Joe Jackson, “Is She Really Going Out with Him?”)

A long long, time ago in a galaxy far far away, I left a movie theater having just seen the latest rendition of one of the oldest fairy tale plot devices.  The movie was Roxanne, a modern re-telling of the Cyrano be Bergerac story. While I found the Steve Martin-Darryl Hannah vehicle to be somewhat charming, as I joined the après-movie queue [1] outside the women’s restroom I was also frustrated by the sameness of it all.

Why aren’t the roles ever reversed? I groused to myself – ah, timing – just as a Sweet Young Thing ® standing in line behind me began gushing to her companion about the movie’s “uplifting” message:

“It’s like, you know, how true beauty is what’s inside a person, and when people, like, look beyond the physical stuff and people are, like, transformed, and so people shouldn’t, like, judge a book by its cover, because the one with the lousy cover might have some really good stuff inside…”

SYT’s commentary went on for some time, increasing in both volume and vapidity, to the point that I finally reached my WTF point. We were standing in a piss line; I’d never see her again.  I turned around and addressed SYT.

BTW and yes, I am One Of Those People ® who will sometimes speak to a Stranger when we are both standing in the same line, particularly when a Stranger makes inane comments loud enough to intrude upon the brain waves of bystanders.  Dream scenario for this situation: the Marshall McLuhan scene in Annie Hall.

Ah, but I digress.

“Actually,” I smiled at SYT, “the point of that movie, and other stories like, is a bit more specific. The underlying message is not that beautiful people can learn to appreciate homely people. The message is that, if you are a man who is unattractive, even ugly or deformed, you can pursue the pretty princess; you the man-troll can make a beautiful woman look beyond your physical deficiencies to appreciate the goodness within you. Think about it: that storybook train runs only one way: ugly man to pretty woman.” [2]

She did not respond, unless you count her open mouthed, frog-like gaping.  Hmm.  If she’d been a guy frog, some hot babe could have kissed her and transformed her into….  Nah.

cyrano

Cyrano be Bergerac. The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Beauty and the Beast. The Princess and the Frog. Shrek. Ninety-nine percent of Woody Allen movies starring Woody Allen.

Art and literature teem with images and stories of unattractive schmucks who pursue and win (and are portrayed as ultimately deserving of) the hearts, minds (and bodies) of beautiful women.  The homely, rejected but deep-down-decent protagonists know what it’s like to be judged and ignored for their inadequate exteriors, even though they have so much “inner beauty” to offer. Why then do the stories not have these men seek out their homely but decent, kind and wise female counterparts – kindred spirits with whom they could find simpatico, and mutually beneficial relationships?

yeahright

When was the last (or first) time you had the opportunity to read your children the bedtime fable of the devastatingly handsome prince who finds happiness with the wall-eyed but kind-hearted, intelligent princess? [3]

What sparked this particular intellectual excursion, I cannot say.  Perhaps the OBFD (stay tuned for acronym explanation) has something to do with it.

*   *   *

Department of Awwwwww…..

Dateline: last week, after enjoying a sushi lunch with friend SCM and her seven year old daughter P, we three womenfolk got ourselves to the Streets of Tanasbourne, an outdoor mall, to attend to a serious errand.  SCM was in need of new lady undergarments, and while she shopped for them [4], P and I played at the mall’s fountain. That is, P and I attempted to play, as much as the fountain’s numerous warning signs would allow us to act in any way that might resemble frolicking.

“No wading in the fountain, no walking along the rim, no sitting on the edge…no furtive glances in the direction of the fountain, no no no no…”

The signs did not say NONONO re using the fountain as a wishing well, and P pointed out to me the plethora of pennies that previous well-wisher had left.  I doled out a handful of pennies, one by one, to P, who tossed them in the fountain one by one, and one by one [5] told me who and what she’d wished for.

fountain

For her mother, P wished for – surprise! – new underwear.  For her father, new trousers. For her various friends, a puppy, a pet, a puppy, a pet, another puppy. For my daughter Belle, a black kitten.

“This is for K,” P told me, as she tossed the last penny into the fountain.

I found it touching her last penny was used to make a wish for my son. “And what is your wish for K?” I asked her.

P paused for a moment.  “Someone to keep him company.”

*   *   *

Department of Ahhhhh…crap.

Readers of this blog may remember my post from last week, wherein I mentioned daughter Belle’s plan to take the train home for a visit – along with seven of her dorm friends who wanted an adventure/escape from college for a few days – this weekend.  The visit is still on…in a different scale.

Belle’s friend MGN has been given a final countdown in her long battle with renal failure.  Assuming MGN makes it to the weekend, Belle will be spending most of her time “home” in the hospital, visiting MGN.  Belle’s college friends, once they heard the news, kindly and graciously backed out of the trip (“I won’t be any fun to be around,” Belle warned them), and Belle will be coming home alone.

MH and I were in Astoria when Belle texted me with the news.  We drove up the steep, winding, road to the Astoria Column and climbed the 164 steps to the top of the column.  I launched a small balsawood glider [6] from the column’s observation deck, in honor of MGN. It was a windy, pre-rainstormy day, and the flimsy glider rode the drafts like a tiny raptor, circling downward until it came to rest in a grove of fir trees.

astoriatreeJPG

Best wishes for MGN…and for her grieving friends, like Belle. The mortality of your peers in your face is just not something we imagine our children facing at age eighteen.

Morgan

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The Return of the Old Boyfriends Dream

Scene: A university lecture hall. Standing at the dais is a man who is much too young to be James Watson[7] yet that is who we lecture attendees are supposed to think he is.
Looking around the crowded venue, I spot another young man.  This one, I know. He is standing off to the side, leaning against the lecture room wall, exchanging glances and smirks with his younger sibling, both of them trying to look professorial….

Old [8] Boyfriend Dreams ® . They’re baaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

I’ve had them before, and have noticed a pattern.  An old BF’s appearances in my dreams – typically in supporting roles, sometimes in brief, “walk-on” parts – coincide with times in which I am facing a current or imminent, significant, change in life circumstances.

When I wake up in the morning (or middle of the night) and my first thought it, Yo, dude, why were you (former bf) running amok in my subconscious?, my second thought is, Oh, okay…it’s this, again.

The OBFDs first made their appearance during my pregnancy with K. Those OBFDs also coincided with a desire to listen to my old Led Zeppelin albums, go figure.

A brief donning of my amateur dream interpretation hat is all it takes for me to figure it out.

Not quite as powerful as the Hogwarts Sorting Hat.

Not as awesome as the Hogwarts Sorting Hat.

 

I understand that those dreams signify my concerns for What Is To Come vs. What Might Have Been.  The old BFs represent The Road(s) Not Taken; they symboloize how every opportunity, every fork in the road, every major decision to be made, involves choosing certain paths and thus (by default if not intention) rejecting others.

The reason now for such dreams to be happening now, as in, again, is no surprise.  It’s Transition time.

"Oh, no - not another learning experience!"

“Oh, no – not another learning experience!”

My husband’s workplace offers employees a period of leave every seven years. Employees may use the time for purposes at their discretion (Travel? Classes? Eight weeks of couch surfing?).  As of last Saturday, “We” are currently on MH’s sabbatical.  “We”as in, when MH takes his sabbatical I get one (or have to take one, depending on POV issues), too. [9]

As much as I am fortunate to be able to do this, sometimes the timing is…problematic.  The previous sabbatical came at a time where I was in the middle of what would become The Mighty Quinn, and I was not in the place to be able to put that and other writing projects aside. [10]

FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS ALERT – Of course, I felt guilty for even having such resentments, and was glad I did take the opportunity to make wonderful, life-long memories of travel adventures with MH, K and Belle (and even if Belle hasn’t forgiven me for the holding-my-hand-over-the-still-steaming-pile-of-bear-shit incident, she’s got a great story to tell).

The timing of this sabbatical is more fortuitous in many ways.  It comes at a time when I’ve already taken a philosophical and mental sabbatical of my own, from my work. It comes at a time when significant family concerns (including elderly parents’ health crises on both sides of the family, and K and Belle leaving our nest) are bracketing my slow-dawning realization that I have chosen to devote decades of my life to what seems to be, for me, the wrong profession.

Cliff Notes version:  WTF do I do now?

Not the most convenient realization to have at my age, when my chronological peers are anticipating and planning for their retirements. Sigh. I’ve always been a late/backwards/sideways bloomer.

It’s time for Act Three. There are bound to be more rumination on his subject…or maybe I’ll just spare y’all and extend that particular sabbatical.

forkroad

*   *   *

May your roads, taken and not, be navigable and scenic, and may you know joy that comes from hearing a seven year old’s earnest wishing well announcements, which will surely help the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Four stalls, in an eight theatre multiplex?

[2] No, that’s not quite a verbatim transcript (Roxanne came out in 1987).

[3] Cinderella doesn’t count.  She is beautiful; her deficiencies are not physical but situational, in the form of poverty and an abusive step family.

[4] At a store, the name of which may or may not rhyme with Shick-gloria’s Meek-fret.

[5] I feel a theme coming on.

[6]  You can purchase the gliders for $1 at the gift shop. On previous visits to the column, I always thought it a cheesy thing to do…and it probably still is.

[7] One of the two scientists credited – mistakenly – as being the “discoverers” of  DNA.

[8] Old as in former, not old as in age seventy-three.

[9] His leave is paid.  Mine is not.

[10] Indeed, returning from the sabbatical, I felt as if I were starting from scratch.

The Questions I’m Not Answering

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҉     The Opening Rant   ҉    

I recently received the following correspondence, which caused me to invoke the smiting powers of the FSM before I got to the email’s second sentence.   Forthwith and in all due haste I forwarded the misbegotten missive to SCM, a fellow writer and kindred snarky misanthrope keen-eyed observer of the human condition, with whom often I commiserate about The State of Publishing.

darkstormynightjpg

Oh, yeah, the email:

 (name redacted)

Subject: author questions

 hi, my name is (name not capitalized), I recently became an author and found your name under a list of oregon  authors and i wanted to get in contact with someone to see if they could answer some questions of mine  I  completely understand if your  too busy, but if you could take a little time and possibly answer some questions that would be great.

 How  did you get published? Im  currently using createspace to publish my books.

 How  did you market your book? Did  you have a marketing team or did you self market and what did you do if you did?

 do    you have any tips you could give me for helping my book along.  currently  im  going to faires   and trying to sell them there, but im    open to pretty much anything to help my book along. its  already on amazon, and the createspace marketplace, but I  would love some help as to how to get it moving better into peoples  hands.

compshock

 

Oh, oh, oh, (name not capitalized). Where do I begin?

For one thing, take the time to learn the difference between your and you’re and plurals and possessive plurals – as well as what and when to capitalize (name not capitalized, you are no e e cummings) and how to spell and punctuate – before you plan on soliciting time and advice from a “fellow” author.

If such frank advice (which you solicited, remember) makes you confused or surprised or hurts your feelings in any way, not to worry.  After all, you have it together enough to have learned to use the apps from Amazon and createspace that allow you to claim, “I recently became an author.”

And yes, I am too busy to help you, although I do appreciate the email as a worthy addition to my Exhibit A collection illustrating why I do not want to mentor anyone who intends to self-publish….

*   *   *

Deep, cleansing breath, y’all. I did not say any of those things to (name not capitalized). I did not reply to the email. I could not do so and respect myself without being honest, and really, I’m not that cruel (read: helpful).

If for some reason (name not capitalized) stumbles across this blog posting, I will leave this one piece of advice: one of the most important things a person should to do to “become an author” [1] is to develop a thick yet permeable skin; that is, a hide that can stand up to and appreciate honest criticism and that is porous enough to let seep through a realistic assessment of your innate talents and willingness to learn a craft.

As devoted (or at least sober)  readers of this blog know, I have ooooooooooooooooooodels of complaints about the traditional publishing model and industry.  And yet.  Past and especially recent experience reinforces the need for gatekeepers.  Thanks to the rise of self-publishing services, not only are the barbarians at the gates, they are scaling the fences and crossing the moats, using copies of their young-adult-fantasy-steampunk-speculative-Fifty-Shades of Vampire-murder-mysteries as makeshift ladders and rafts.

Without gatekeepers the entire literary marketplace becomes one big slushpile, deluged by a monsoon of unaudited, unedited work .  Today, someone like (name not capitalized) can “become an author” and “publish” via a few strokes of a keyboard and an EFT to a publishing app vendor.

yourbookhere

 

I don’t care if I rarely showed up to practice, didn’t bother to learn the fundamentals of the game and sucked at defense – I was on the soccer team, my name is on the roster, and dadgummit, I’m going to get a trophy for participating.

When anyone who wants to do so can be a “published author,” where is the merit in being published?  If any (name redacted) can “publish” as long as (name redacted) has the funds to produce a paperback or e-book, having a book published isn’t any more noteworthy than downloading your story and illustrations to a thumb drive and having Office Depot’s Document Printing Services department  run off and bind some copies.

badauthor

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҉   The Middle Section’s Short but Heartwarming Family Anecdote    ҉   

 The Upside of the Empty Chateau

What with K and Belle gone to college, MH and I get to feed Andy (ball python) and T’Pol (corn snake).  No grocery list is complete without a reminder to stop by the pet supplies store and stock up on small and medium-sized frozen feeder mice.

T'Pol relaxes at the day spa.

T’Pol relaxes at the day spa.

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҉   The Brief Contemplation of a Contemporary Phenomenon    ҉   

 Both Sides Now [2]

sunnycloud

To be described as having your head in the clouds is, by and large, not a flattering assessment of one’s character. The phrase’s various idiomatic meanings include being out of touch, unrealistic, naive, impractical and inattentive. Thus, it strikes me as odd – and, okay, just a teense ominous – that we [3] have adopted The Cloud as an umbrella term to refer to Internet software and services, and that we increasingly entrust our documents and applications to this ethereal location.

Just thinkin.’

stormcloud

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҉   The pun-not-intended Pet Peeve    ҉   

I use Nordic trekking poles during my morning walks, for a variety of reasons, and have discovered that, along with increasing the workout and simply giving your arms something to do, they have the unanticipated benefit of protection.  On more than one occasion I have used the poles to fend off an aggressively postured dog.

Yep, a 120 lb canine, ears laid close to head, eyes narrowed and challengingly fixed on mine, lips open and drawn back to expose teeth bared in a snarl, hackles raised and tail fluffed and extended straight out from body, approaches – and is off leash, of course – as its owner calls out to me, “It’s okay, he’s real friendly – DON’T MAKE ANY SUDDEN MOVES!”

You, of course, are not now and never will be this dog owner. [4]

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      ҉   The Department of Apropos of Nothing    ҉   

Due to a precipitating incident I cannot now specifically recall, longtime friend JRC once gave me a year’s subscription to National Review .  This was during our sophomore or junior year in college, when JRC was attending UCLA and I, UC Davis.  During one of our periodic phone calls, wherein we chewed the fat about everything in general and nothing in particular and The Big Issues of Life, JRC, an intelligent, witty, creative guy [5]who held inexplicable/WTF [6] conservative political opinions, said he thought I needed to expand my news sources.  At the time I worked in UC Davis’ Periodicals room and regularly read a variety of news journals – certainly more than JRC, I taunted him – including the Wall Street Journal.  But that wasn’t enough for JRC, who said he thought I’d appreciate William F. Buckley’s wit and way with language. I retaliated repaid JRC’s generosity by gifting him with a subscription to Mother Jones Magazine.

As far as I know, JRC received a year’s worth of Mother Jones issues.  I read each National Review that came to me, and although it would have cost me nothing to continue to receive them, I cancelled the subscription after six or seven months.  I tried, I really tried….

It wasn’t the magazine’s conservative slant that bothered me – for crying out loud in a Ronald Reagan film festival, I was born and raised in Orange County – it was the overt, obnoxious, patronizing, dripping with disdain, East Coast chauvinism.  The magazine’s writers oozed a snide, barely disguised contempt when addressing anything having to do with the West Coast.  I felt complicit even reading it.

 

"I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe that scientists have discovered culture west of Boston."

“I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe that scientists have discovered culture west of Boston.”

I am still in touch with JRC, who holds the dubious distinction being the person, other than my siblings, with whom I’ve had the longest peer-type association.  From grade two through high school we shared at least one class.  Imagine all the embarrassing things we might be able to recall about one another, were we not now so decrepit we can only remember the good stuff…right? [7]

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      ҉   The Amusing Send-off    ҉  

Friend JWW presented me with a gift when she came to Sunday dinner. Mere words cannot descript my utter bewilderment joy when I beheld the…object; this, pictures will have to do.

JWW said that this gift was to help me with that pesky Empty Nest thing.  I thanked her for the addition to my Rubber Chicken crew. She said it wasn’t just another rubber chicken, and told me to squeeze it.  So, I did, and the chicken laid an egg…sort of.

Yes, I took a video of a rubber chicken’s hinterland. Before you judge me too harshly, remember that you just voluntarily watched a video of a rubber chicken’s hinterland.

*  *  *

On the subject of judging someone, harshly or otherwise, let us all remember the timeworn admonition, an aphorism that uses Shiny Happy treacle to mask a morsel of inadvertently wiseass advice:

Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.

Go ahead, put on the shoes, and then pass judgment.  If the man gets pissed off, well, you’re a mile away and you’ve got his shoes.

angrybarefoot

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May your footwear of choice give you comfort over the miles to come, and may the judgment-free hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] That is, assuming the magical snap of a finger “There, you’re an author!” is intended to last for more than one book fair weekend.

[2] Three cheers and a big yellow taxi ride for those who get the Joni Mitchell reference.

[3] “we’ as in They, and perhaps you, but not me.

[4] And if you were I’d slap you upside the head with my trekking poles.

[5] And awesome blues guitarist.

[6] IMHO, considering JRC’s family’s impoverished circumstances and resultant need for the much-decried-by-conservatives, social welfare services.

[7] BTW, JRC, I never told your mother that you lied to her about how you broke your leg after you fell while swinging from a tree (which she’d forbidden you to do), although I think you ‘fessed up to her yourself after she didn’t fall for your story about tripping over a bbq grill cover .

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.

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 ҉    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.

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☼  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 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 Trip I’m Not Bragging About

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Pomp and Circumcision

Belle graduated from high school. And as the closing strains of “that song” – arguably and most famous/recognizable processional in the world – wafted through the auditorium’s sound system, there was a momentary catch in my throat.

Closing strains. Oh and yes, I and Belle’s family and friends, all twelve of us, caught only the closing strains of P & C because we were seated in an “overflow” area, not in the gym where the ceremony was held.  We had to (or got to, depending on your POV) watch the ceremony via closed circuit transmission to a screen in the school’s auditorium, “we” being we who had arrived before the ceremony started but could not find a parking place and had to circle the school and park a bazillion miles away and then be bussed back to the school….. There were over one hundred of us we’s in that situation.  So, who gave out more tickets than the place could hold?

Oy vey.  Our peanut gallery seating did have its charms, as we got to make snarky comments about it the ceremony because there was no one to object and no one to embarrass (what with Belle being on stage with the other valedictorians in the gym).  While the audio transmission was (unfortunately) adequate, the video took colorful license, and we were treated to the sight of the various speakers, musicians and vocalists turning from green (“Martians!”) to blue (“Breathe!  Inhale!”) to yellow (“Jaundice!”) to red (“OMG, the diplomas are being handed about by munchkins!”).

"Class of 2014, turn your tassles!"

“Class of 2014, turn your tassles!”

Re my comment as to the unfortunate audio clarity:  no one really needs to clearly hear yet another painfully botched rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.  Why it is played on such occasions (why it is played at all, anywhere) is beyond me.  When I am anointed Grand Bahoobie of the Planet, the only person allowed to sing the SSB will be Aretha Franklin.

And the speeches.  There should be no speeches, by the adults, unless they are under one minute and include fart and/or elephant jokes.  Okay, let one of the Vals do a brief speech for/to/about their class – I suppose you have to have that.  But keep it short; get ‘em graduated and out of there.  Just ask those around you, as I did: who ever talks about – who ever can remember anything about – the speeches given at their graduation ceremonies?

Ah yes, the grad speech thing. If you’re the poor schmuck lucky student chosen to give it, say a few kind and funny things about your fellow students, but not at the expense of the elders in the audience. As we were leaving the school – after the ceremony, after the graduates and their families and friends shared congratulations and took  pictures before the grads were whisked off to the all-night grad party – I ran into BTY, the girl who’d given her class’s commencement speech.  BTY was one of Belle’s fellow valedictorians, and I knew her and her parents from when she and Belle had been on the freshman volleyball team.  I congratulated them all, said BTY must be proud of her accomplishments, and complimented BTY on her speech…which, I added, I can’t resist picking one nit with it.  That part where BTY commented on how their class’s parents and grandparents misunderstood and mislabeled their generation, and about how “our parents and grandparents don’t understand our technology”?  Ahem.  Your parents INVENTED THAT TECHNOLOGY.

I got a laugh and a wink from her father and a high five from her mother.

GRAD

Q: How does every French joke start?
A: By looking over your shoulder.

*   *   *

 We are Americans in Paris, and that’s no joke.

By we I mean Belle and I.  There is, of course, a story behind this.

Most college bound high school students take two years of a foreign language, to meet the minimum college entrance requirement. Five years ago, the summer before she was to enter high school, I made a deal with Belle.  If she stuck with one language for all four years, after her graduation she and I would travel to a major city in a country that spoke that language.

She’d been thinking of taking Japanese, which Liberty High School offered at that time. But budget cuts be praised,[1] the school no longer offered Japanese.  She decided to take French.

Despite a slew of AP classes and other responsibilities Belle stayed with French up through her Junior Year, and signed up for French 4 her senior year, even after finding out her favorite French teacher, the one she’d had for French 2 and 3, was to be transferred to another school (that damn budget thing again) and thus French 4 would be taught by the teacher she had for French 1 – the same teacher who taught both French and German, the same teacher who, three years earlier, had announced to her French 1 class’s parents on Back to School Night that she really didn’t enjoy teaching French, and that her first love was her German classes. [2]

NAZI

Mais oui, I digress.

Day 1 of Belle’s senior year: the students pick up their class schedules, and Belle finds out that there will be no French 4.  The look on her face when she returned home that afternoon with the news….

I assured her that she had fulfilled her end of the bargain, and, quelle fromage! she and I were going to Paris in June 2014.

And so, we are here, having more fun than you can possibly imagine [3], or possibly lying in some Parisian alley, sleeping off a baguette and brie hangover.

This très peu message was written in advance, assuming I would not have time to post, what with being busy with all things French, including appreciating ces romantiques français hommes.

Bon voyage, mesdames et messieurs, and may the hijinks ensue.

  Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Something I never thought I’d find myself thinking…but I had no desire to travel to Japan.

[2] As you might imagine, MH and I were less than impressed.  I think I may have muttered some “____ nazi” comments under my minty breath.

[3] Go ahead, cyber-slap me.

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