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The Song I’m Not Editing

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Life’s a beach

Dateline: Sunday morning, seven a.m., walking at Seal Beach, CA.  Was it just yesterday morning that we (MH, Belle and moiself) arose way too early to catch a flight from PDX to Long Beach? And will it be just another ten hours until we fly back to Oregon?

We came down here to attend the wedding of my niece, the second of three daughters of my older sister.  I’m exhausted from the combination of yesterday’s 3:30 a.m. wakeup call [1] and getting little sleep last night.  But, we’re staying at the beach, which energizes me, and I’m up at six.  I can’t stay in bed knowing there is an ocean two blocks away; the sunny-salty air is calling.

The boogie boarders and surfers are out, and also a good many other early risers.  Standing at the base of the pier I see booths set up on the sand just north of the pier.  The booth’s banners advertise a Beach Cleanup event, sponsored by the Surfrider Foundation.  One hundred or so yards from the booths, forty Speedo clad bipeds, looking both eager and groggy, are lined up at the back of the lifeguard headquarters, which is a rather drab, blue-gray brick building adjacent to the pier.  Ocean Beach Lifeguard Tryouts April 13 7:30 am reads a sign posted on the headquarter’s garage door.

From my viewpoint on the pier, the lifeguard candidates, at first glance, seem to be very young and very fit, and very white and male.  Upon further scrutiny I notice about eight women among them, two of whom are not blond, and a couple of non-blond male Lifeguards of Color ® . A couple of the boy-guard wannabes are carrying extra poundage; the group as a whole does not exactly resemble Baywatch [2] material.  Of course, the Baywatch boys and babes in no way resembled the kind of people you’d expect would be capable of rescuing you if you were drowning (although at least two of the show’s female lifeguards – namely, Pamela Anderson’s chest – could evidently be used as emergency flotation devices).

Baywatch

I walk out on the pier. Looking to the south I see a series of solitary beach walkers, and a group of nine people standing in a circle in the sand.  The nine are all dressed head to toe in white flowing garments, and several of them also wear some kind of white cap.  In the shadow of an unoccupied lifeguard station ~ thirty feet behind the Group of Nine, a women dressed in colors other than white is performing tai chi-ish movements.

A trawler-style boat, whose wake I can trace to an offshore oil rig, is docking at the south side of the pier.  I am close enough to hear snippets of conversations from the boat’s passengers, what appears to be a group of rig workers who have been ferried from their shift.  And I realize, in all my years of hanging out at the beach, I’ve never seen a boat use one of those under the pier docking stations.  This excites me, for some reason.  My work here is done!

Or, maybe not.

Out near the end of the pier a pelican soars overhead, performing its leisurely, circling survey of the ocean beneath.  The morning light shines off of a salmon-colored streak on its beak.  I always thought pelicans were beautiful birds, somewhat ungainly on land and thus underappreciated.  I imagine a person watching a pelican gliding over the ocean for the first time. If you hadn’t seen a pelican’s fishing technique, its sudden, awkward plummet into the sea could take you by surprise.  Uh-oh, massive flight fail – look, honey, that big deformed goose just had had a heart attack!

PELICANjpg

On the north side of the pier a life guard is piloting one of those ski-doo watercraft thingies. A passenger on the back of the craft begins placing a series of orange buoy markers about 30 feet apart, as the craft turns and runs parallel to the beach approximately a quarter mile from the shore. I’m assuming the markers are for the lifeguard tryouts.

In the hazy distant north I can see the various docking rigs and equipment associated with the Long Beach harbor – an ugly sight, but if I look forward, to the pier’s end and the open sea, or to the right, or behind me to the beach, I can pretend it’s not there.

rigs

 I think I’d have to do a lot of pretending, to return to Southern California, where I was raised.  I used to tell myself I could live in So Cal, but only at the beach, where you can pretend the rest of it [3] isn’t there or doesn’t involve you. But I know the rest of it would not be worth it, for me.

Still, walking on the beach, hearing the gentle crash of the surf and feeling the salt air in my lungs, makes me feel…  I don’t know.  It just does.

corona

 I’ll never forget the sight of my father, and especially my more reserved mother, shaking their groove thangs [4] on the dance floor at my younger sister’s wedding reception, some 27 years ago.  They just couldn’t resist joining in the fun, when the DJ played a certain song, after they watched all “the young folks” having a good time.  My father requested the DJ play that song – what he and Mom came to call “The Yahoo Song” – at least five more times that evening.   Chet and Marion Parnell looked at the other dance floor denizens and mimicked the moves, raising their hands and shouting Yahoo! during the chorus of Kool & The Gang’s “Celebrate.

 We gonna celebrate and have a good time
  It’s time to come together
 It’s up to you, what’s your pleasure?

 Everyone around the world come on!
  Yahoo!
 It’s a celebration
 Yahoo! 

A year after my sister’s wedding MH and I announced our intention to marry.  One of the first things my father said to me was, “You have to have dancing at your wedding reception, and tell the DJ to play The Yahoo Song.”

At my request the song, dedicated to the memory of Chet Parnell, was played at my niece’s reception.  I may be somewhat biased, but I think it was the most enthusiastically-participated-in dance of the evening.

All over the country, parents of college-bound high school seniors are exhaling (and possibly retching) as the college notifications arrive.  Belle’s choice [5] turned out to be the college she fell in love with when she saw the campus several years ago.

UPS

 Next year Belle will join her brother, K, at, The University of Puget Sound.  K is currently a UPS junior, studying what he and others in his major refer to as “Tiny Bio” (Micro and Cellular Biology).

There are several advantages to having your child go to a college you already know how to “navigate.”  One perk in particular stands out.  When Belle gets homesick, and by that I mean catsick, [6] she’s just a 3 hour train ride away from seeing her beloved if brain-damaged intellectually challenged buddy, Crow.

CROW

Animal-related segue: or, a pet peeve apropos of nothing

I really, really, get my butt frosted by those oldies radio stations that rev my motor by playing the iconic, pounding, five-note intro to Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4…until two minutes into the song I realize that they’re playing the abbreviated version.  NOOOOOOOOOOO!  The fact that they EDIT OUT the amazing electric guitar solo – which features a wah-wah pedal by Chicago guitarist Terry Kath , about whom Jimi Hendrix said to another Chicago band member, “your guitarist is better than me,”  – is a waterboard-worthy offense.

May those who listen to the soundtrack to your life clamor for the long version, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] It was bad enough that 4:30 am was the set wake-up time, and then MH’s alleged “smart” phone did a dumb thing and decided to wake me up earlier.  MH, of course, slept through it.

[2] A cheesy ’89-’99 TV series about an improbably nubile group of lads and lasses who patrolled the beaches of LA County, keeping the beaches free of crime, drowning, and less photogenically endowed inhabitants.

[3] traffic, pollution; congestion; overpopulation of what is, essentially, a desert; Orange County Republicans….

[4] Or the AARP-approved version of such.

[5] made easier by the four year academic scholarship the school dangled in front of her.

[6] MH and I have few illusions as to which household member Belle will miss the most.

THE SELF I’M NOT PROMOTING

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I’ve recently added a new cardio CD into my workout rotation.  Because, reasons (change is good; bored with the old jumping around….).  This new routine is one I’ve become quite fond of, although its “soundtrack” (the various workouts are choreographed to hip-hop music) has leads to several awkward parent-child moments…

embarrassed

…when those too-damn-catchy tunes stay in my brain after I’m done exercising. I will come downstairs, oblivious to what I am humming only to myself (or so I think) and find son K and/or daughter Belle giving me the what-the? eye. Eventually, one or both will ask me why I am singing just-loud-enough-to-hear-what-they-don’t-want-to-hear-their-mother-singing:

Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?

Cue the violins:  writers complaining.  Chapter 576 in a never-ending anthology.

“The thing is, it wasn’t always this way. Publishers used to do most of the marketing for the books they put out. The best an author could do was finish the last chapter and then show up reasonably sober for a tri-city book tour. The hope was that the book would eventually be widely reviewed, and then take off on the strength of word-of-mouth. But social media has crushed that seemingly innocent past… 

I also feel a mixture of contempt and sadness when I see other authors (often friends of mine) typing things like “Here’s my new book trailer!” or “I’ll be appearing at Barnes & Noble on Wednesday!” or “Win a signed copy of something so valueless I’m giving it away for free!” mainly because it’s embarrassing to watch their yearning for bandwidth slam against the indifference of a million kitten-occupied Twitter accounts.”

I am not so involved with social media as the author of the above observations, but I can identify with many of the points he makes in his thesis, Hell is self-promotion.

Thus, readers will be spared that particular hell from moiself. This week.

*   *   *

* The pathological homo-hatred of a certain Russian President

* A certain New York mayoral candidate’s ongoing, informal relationship with reality and his bizarre delusions of adequacy

* a certain Louisiana parish is arguing that it should not be held liable for the rape of a 14-year-old girl in a juvenile detention center because the victim “consented” to be sexually assaulted by a 40-year-old corrections officer at the facility.

* noted players and featured conference speakers in the skeptics movement engaging in sexual harassment of fellow conference speakers, attendees and co-workers

There are far too many candidates for AssHat of the Week

AHat

and/or the prestigious EatCatShitandDie Award

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But preparing a dinner party for dear Swenadian friends who have returned to the ‘hood after a summer in Sweden is a much more pleasant task than contemplating which of the abundant doofi [1] shall be awarded which particular prize – even the relatively benign Crabby Carrot Man – and so I shall open it to nominations.

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Your Name could be here!

Except, one thing: that list at the beginning, the fourth one isn’t all bad.  As per the linked article: Rebecca Watson, a major writer and speaker on the skeptic/atheist circuit wrote in Slate last year, the amount of sexual harassment aimed at women over even the tiniest suggestions of how to make the movement more female-friendly is absolutely stunning. Which is, of course, major bad.  But, as little Ms. Sunshine moiself is noticing, the fact that we are learning about this disgusting mess is because more and more women – and men – are speaking up, naming names and corroborating others’ stories, despite the very real and documented fear of personal and professional retribution .

A predatory snake-in-the-grass is a predatory snake-in-the-grass,[2] regardless of worldview.  I admire those with the courage to speak up about this “dirty laundry” more than I can say; thus, once again, graphics will have to suffice.  With apologies to my reptilian brethren and sistren for the snake-in-the-grass epithet, [3] I present all the truth-tellers with the soon-to-be-esteemed, Compassionate and Courageous Snake in the Pond award:

snake

Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite,
 and furthermore always carry a small snake.
(W. C. Fields)

Wishing you Fun Friday Flagons, ® and may the hijinks ensue.

Parting note: today would have been my father’s 89th birthday.  I think he would have enjoyed this blog; I know he would have, in his weekly calls to me, proposed nominations for Asshat of the Week.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Yes, plural of doofus.

[2] There aren’t nearly enough footnotes in this post.

[3] There should be at least three, don’t you think?

The Muse I’m Not Mastering

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Tonight, June 7, I’ll  be at Downtown Beaverton’s First Friday, the city’s monthly celebration of art and craft and live entertainment and food that takes place in Beaverton’s core downtown area.  Look for me (and two other local authors) at Beaverton Sub Station (12248 SW Broadway) from 5-8p, selling and signing copies of The Mighty Quinn, trying to be heard above the surrounding bands, or just chucking it all and joining the “improvisational, neo-tribal belly dance troupe” Mandala, who will be entertaining, educating and empowering the sisterhood of undulating torsos (and scaring the old folks barbequing at the Beaverton Masonic Lodge) from 6-7p.

No, I don’t know why we’re doing this at a sub shop, except for the inherent connection in most people’s minds between fine sandwiches and fine literature.

more dandwiches

*   *   *

Department of Your Tax Dollars At Work

Unless in the past couple of days you have been driven mad by the cellular-disrupting touch of a Kalandan  or caught between dimensions in Tholian Web, it’s likely you heard or read something about the Star Trek parody video that the IRS produced for a 2010 training conference.

facepalm

I’m all over anyone producing any kind of Star Trek parody for any reason, but using taxpayer’s money?  And really, for 50k, couldn’t they at least have gotten a better Spock wig? [1]

*   *   *

 I am driven by a wonderful muse called alimony.
Dick Schaap 

An e-versation[2] earlier in the week with the delightful Desiree Bussiere, Scarletta Press’s Director of Publicity, was a spark for one of my I haven’t thought of this in years memories. Further fanning the spark was one of the questions submitted to me by a reporter for the Hillsboro Tribune reporter, who is planning to do a story on The Mighty Quinn.

Whether you’re a writer who does 20 interviews per month or one Q & A every ten years, you will, always and eventually, be asked some version of, “How do you write?” or “Can you describe your inspiration and/or writing process?”

The response to that kind of question, if answered truthfully, will likely be…well…not very interesting.  Writing fiction involves little drama, no wand-waving…how many cinema-worthy images are there of someone thinking, and then moving their fingers rapidly across a keyboard?  The translation of a story from imagination to page, while often exhilarating for the writer, is a snorefest to watch.  Thus, I think, the tendency to embellish the response.

I’d like to hitch a ride on a Star Trek-worthy time warp device of some sort that would transport me back in time so that I could slap the first pretentious author who decided to like the concept of the Muse with that of literary creation.  As in, a True Author one must follow The Muse, or wait until she Muse calls or “strikes” before one can be inspired to write.

For those of you needing a Greek mythology, primer, The Muses were the daughters of Zeus [3] and Mnemosyne [4], who presided over various arts and sciences.

muses

I was inspired to compose a list of alternative muses one day, after reading a precious interview with a precious author who complained of the agonies of being enslaved to the Muse and thus was unable to write, seeing as how Ms. Muse had not deigned to inspire him since he’d written his bestseller. [5]

Yes, a “real” author writes only “when the muse” strikes…and makes sure the Muse strikes every working day, just after breakfast.

Greek Muses

name of muse                                presides over the realm(s) of
Erato                                             love poetry & mime
Euterpe                                         lyric poetry
Calliope                                         epic poetry
Clio                                                 history
Melphomene                                 tragedy
Polyhymnia                                   sacred song
Terpsichore                                   dance
Thalia                                            comedy
Urania                                           astronomy

Robyn’s Modern Literary Muses 

name of muse                                presides over the realm(s) of
Callosene                                      hardened buttocks
Egonia                                           “no simultaneous submissions” policies
Emotia                                          romance novels
Ennuinia                                        free verse
Erratica                                         copy editors
Dyspepsia                                     the submissions process
Hyperbolene                                 writing workshops, seminars and “how to” classes
Monotonene                                  political correctness (anybody’s)
Polymorphia                                  M. F. A. programs in Fiction/Creative Writing
Twerpsichore                                writer’s support groups

Here is an icon of your muse:  a picture of your butt in front of your desk.  That’s what it takes.  Your muse is showing up and doing the work.  Park your bonbons in your chair (or better yet, stand at your ergonomic adjustable desk ) and get to it.  You are the Muse, you are the Master…hmmm. Does that make you what kind of master?

Whatever the realm over which you preside, may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] For a mere ten bucks worth of taxpayers blood, sweat and tears you can get a Spock wig with hair, not a plastic toupee, geesh.

[2] as in a conversation via email.  You knew that.

[3] El Queso Grande of the Greek Gods.

[4] The goddess of memory, a realm that must have sucked for the wife of a Greek God who loves them lady-gods – and select mortal women – every chance he got.

[5] The drinking problem he’d developed on his book tour had nothing to do with it.

The Bird I’m Not Putting On It

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

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

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

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

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

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

 *   *   *

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

*   *   *

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

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

science

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

Or, in this case, an egg.

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

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

*   *   *

The SCM Department of Because I’m Petty That Way

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

*   *   *

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

rape

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

And let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


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

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

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

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

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

[6] Not a real food.

[7] Also not a real food.

The Car I’m Not Decorating

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Indeed, the season is upon us. If you need further evidence, let The Dropkick Murphys explain it to you.

Ah, but the season unfortunately includes you-know-what. I’ll get this rant out of the way. 

Ban assault weapons! No, ban violent video games! No, it’s the combination of mental illness and access to weapons! At least have the discussion about gun violence! Discussion, schmussion – arm every sixth grader in America!

The enormity of the Sandy Hook tragedy is almost beyond comprehension. Our society, for a slopbucket-load of historical and social reasons (that moiself shall not address at this time), is increasingly called to make even a few baby steps toward comprehension…and consistently fails to do so. Instead, we end up lobbing verbal grenades at one another, occasionally pausing for a moment of silence at yet another memorial service for “the ____ victims” (insert latest shooting locale).

And then of course, there’s Mike Huckabee[1], former Arkansas guv, part-time Republican presidential candidate, ordained Baptist minister and Fox News (surprise!) blowhole. Huckabee is highly regarded in scholarly circles for…well, for nothing. Nothing, that is, that has ever leaked from his lips, although he does get credit for jettisoning something like 300 lbs several years ago. Recent pictorial evidence shows that much of his bulk is returning to the mothership, and his recent rhetoric evinces that most of it is settling between his ears.

In his latest self-serving spewfest exploiting a national catastrophe pronouncement, MH attributes the “violence in our schools” to what he describes as the systematic removal of religion from our schools. Oh, Mike, Mikey Mike, you Hucka-hucka burning…something. The gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the brain train isn’t coming.

I suppose it’s just a matter of time before the Huckster and other religious righties brainstorm knock their empty coconut noggins with the NRA and come up with a plan to place AR15-packin’ preachers in every classroom.gunpriest

There has been much religious speechifying about the Sandy Hook shootings, to which my reaction is: ick, and ick again.  But, it’s more than just ick-worthy.  Many of us who are mythology-free find the public prayers/religious invocations that typically accompany such incidents to be almost as galling, and ultimately more perplexing, than the incidents themselves.  The rhetoric and rituals are so ubiquitous, oft times it just seems like background noise or white sound, like the distant rat-a-tat-tatting of automatic weapons fire.

Okay.  Perhaps another analogy might be more…appropriate? Perhaps not.

Of all the mumbo jumbo about “keeping the victims in our prayers,” “pray for the families of Sandy Hook,” “our prayers were answered when we found out ___ had survived the shooting…” most mind-bogglingly ridiculous to me is when the political talking heads called upon to Respond To This Tragedy ® end their statements with the seemingly obligatory[2] – what is it, invocation? plea? command? suggestion? – “God bless America.”

I do think God Bless America, ala Keep me in your prayers/I’ll pray for you, is one of those phrases that, like much public god-talk, is almost always employed without the benefit of reasoned contemplation. It is used as a reactive response to certain situations – the intellectual/rhetorical equivalent of Gezundheit.  But to those who would claim to employ GBA etc., in all sincerity, what are you thinking?  I don’t expect an answer, but, really: What particular, magical word combination or incantation do you believe will appeal to your celestial, imaginary friend, whom you apparently believe “is watching over us” and has the ability to intervene in human affairs (to “bless” you) and who may, somehow, someday, do that, despite the fact that if said celestial being exists, on December 14 it was watching over a madman entering a grade school and then twiddling its divine thumbs while six year old children[3] were being slaughtered?

Human beings – in the form of a sad/lonely/alienated/angry/deeply disturbed young man, with – God bless America! – access to high-powered firearms, carried out this vile act. Human beings in many forms – including the principal who died trying to thwart the gunman as he forced his way into the school, the teacher who hid her students in cabinets and cloakrooms but stayed visible to deter the gunman and told him her class had gone to the gym (after which he shot her, and moved on to another location), the teachers who risked their own lives guiding their students to safety, the emergency responders, the community who reached out to friends and strangers alike with generosity and compassion – human beings rushed in to help in whatever way they could.

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*   *   *

Writing this week’s post from Southern California, I’m as close as I get to being a Foreign Correspondent.

Trust me, you do not want to spend several hours of your holiday-season birthday online, trying to book the last seat on a flight that leaves in less than 24 hours. But this is what you’ll find yourself doing if, after making a pre-birthday phone call to your elderly mother, you decide to do A Good Thing ® and surprise her [4] with a visit.

All together now: “What a gooooooood daughter.”

On second thought, hold your applause. I am hardly worthy of such magnanimous regard.

I had a (mostly) enjoyable childhood, growing up[5] in Southern California, to which my increasingly furrowed, sun-blotched skin now attests.[6] Still, I headed north as soon as I could. Although ’tis good to visit with the kinfolk, I get in somewhat of a funk when I travel to the Land O’ My Birth. There are a variety of reasons for this, some of which I may mention in a much later, much less sober post. For now, suffice to say I find the area to be crowded, grimy, desiccated.[7]

As per the latter, considerate Oregonian that I am, I brought some precipitation with me. The mere hint of a light shower elicits the obligatory, “Oh, we need the rain!” from the locals.[8]  Out for a walk on Tuesday morning, I experienced a mild epiphany of sorts: I find SoCal almost tolerable in the rain. Even a moderate drizzle functions ala Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak – it serves as a mask or shield, temporarily veiling the area’s aridity, and…well…dirtiness.  This place looks, feels and smells different (better) when it’s wet.

THE APOCALYSE IS NIGH, AND IT’S WEARING AN ELF HAT.

Oh, oh oh oh oh, before I forget – another story! Pick me, pick me!

As I returned to my mother’s house after my walk, I spied with my little eye a Hummer parked in her neighbor’s driveway.  My self-righteous, what kind of person still has that gas-guzzlin’, manhood-mocking[9] behemoth snort was diverted when I saw something that made me approach the vehicle for closer inspection.  The Hummer’s armor was fortified by what appear to be an oversized pair of Mr. Spock ears…no, they’re…elf ears?  Plus, an elf hat was wired to the Hummer’s grill.

Soooooooooooooo, I sez to moiself.  Last night was not a fluke.

rudolph car

I’d notified older sister NLM (who lives ~ 15 miles from our mother) about my spur-of-the-moment visit, and she’d graciously offered to act as my airport shuttle transport. As was pre-arranged, I called her when my flight touched down Monday evening. “Look for the car with the antlers,” she said, as I was headed for the passenger loading zone.  I stood outside the airport terminal, in the dark, repeating “What?” into my cell phone as she in turn repeated her auto antler identification spiel. Sure enough, a red Lexus with antlers attached to the passenger door windows and a red fuzzy nose wired to the front grill pulled over to the curbside in front of me.

“The grandkids love it,” she explained to me. “It’s Grandma’s Rudolph the Red Nosed….”

Well, of course it is.

*   *   *

But I digress.  I was walking.

Walking around my mother’s neighborhood, I crossed the bridge over Santiago Creek (as usual, the “creek” bed was totally dry, even after the rain), to do The Loop.  The Loop is a secluded residential circle, composed of two of the nicer (read: most expensive houses) streets in the city. It’s been several years since I’d walked the Loop, but little seemed to have changed. The house’s front yards were, as always, buzz-cut short and impeccably manicured (do lawns have cuticles?).  Leaving the loop via the bridge, I walked up and down a series of streets which had apparently been visited by one of those Neighborhood Holiday Beautification Czars, who had intimidated threatened extorted convinced each household to participate en bloc.  Every one of the curbside sycamore trees on Ladidah Lane had green plastic wreaths wired to their trunks. I rounded the corner to Decorous Drive, where every curbside pepper tree had oversized, red felt gift bows wired to their trunks.  The next street over had multi-faceted, red and green, mini disco glitter ball-style jingle bells affixed to red, green and white ribbons which were…wait for it…wired around the trunks of every house’s curbside Icky[10] tree.

Just as I was starting to get creeped out by the uniformity of the arboreal embellishment I received a text from Belle: Goooood morning!! And by the way – it’s snowing!!

Snow is a rare and generally appreciated weather wonder in the Portland metro area. I phoned my daughter, anticipating the delight I would bring to an old woman when I returned to my mother’s house with the news that it was snowing in Hillsboro and Belle had a day off from school…except that a somewhat disappointed Belle told me that it was a light dusting of snow and school had not been cancelled.

pdxelk

My mother, who spent the first 18 winters in Northern Minnesota, has a kneejerk response whenever I share news of what typically happens after a snowfall in Hillsboro. She trots out a litany of scornful clichés concerning the wimposity of those who let half an inch of snow close the schools and paralyze the freeways and major roads of a major metropolitan area.  Every time she launches into her spiel my knee jerks in response, and I trot out my Litany of Justification (LOJ):

a. Unlike Minnesota, snow is not a regular/seasonal occurrence in the major metro areas west of the Cascades Range (Portland & Seattle).

b. Because of (a), the cities and towns of said NW metro areas cannot justify the expense of having and maintaining fleets of snow removal equipment.

c. Due to the geography/altitude and other climatological conditions that make (a) our default winter weather, it is not consistently cold enough in the Portland Metro Area to maintain snow, as snow, on those rare times when it indeed does fall. It will typically either rain a bit after a snowfall, or warm up enough to cause a brief melt, the temps drop overnight…

d. and we wake up to ice. Not fluffy powdery, stomp-worthy snow, but a slick, traction-resistant, accident-causing, coating of ice. Over everything.

And every time I do this my mother reacts to my LOFJ as if hearing it for the first time, and concedes the points I make in our area’s defense. The next time we participate in this ritual I should mention the upside to (d), which is that the phenomena of a thin but determined coating of ice makes for jolly entertainment for so many of us wimpy Pacific NWers.  We cup our hands around a warm, foo-foo beverage of choice, huddle by our TVs, and enjoy the petty, smug pleasure that can only be found by watching the local news channels air footage of the idiot hapless drivers whose vehicles are spinning out and sliding down the hills on The Sunset Highway and other major roads leading in and out of Portland.

*   *   *

Dateline: just about now.  Back up in Oregon.  I counted at least seven more variations of the Rudolph/Santa’s elf – decorated vehicles while I was in So Cal.  I’ve yet to see one up here.  Maybe I just need to get out more?

Hilarity ensues.

Happy Holidays nd Thanks for stopping by.

Au Vendredi!


[1] Rhymes with Fuckatree; how portentous is that? Must be a sign from a god.

[2] For American politicians, lest they be perceived as commie/atheist/homo-loving/socialist/Kenyanappeasers.

[3] Many of whom, if they came from religious families, were likely calling out to their god(s) to save them even as they were being gunned down.

[4] and your husband, and children, and Mastercard balance

[5] Or just living. The “growing up” part is still up for debate.

[6]  Waaay too much time spent at the beach. Before the concept of SPF.

[7] A years-ago trip to see my folks, our plane descends toward the Orange County airport, K and Belle have their noses pressed against the windows, their eyes widening in alarm: “What’s that brown stuff we’re flying through?” K asks. “Down here, they call it ‘air,’” I explain.

[8] Although it’s obvious they resent the need, or any interruption to their cloud-free, brown/blue skies.

[9] Nothing says overcompensation (read:  I have a small penis) like an oversized vehicle. ..or firing guns at a group of children — make that firing guns at anyone, any thing.  Except a block of wood.

[10] Mea culpa, botanists –  no fauna is in fact “icky.” Since I can’t remember the name/genus of these trees whose prolific, tiny, elliptical leaves are shed year-round, I resort to the moniker bestowed upon them by my Aunt Erva  (“they make such an icky mess all over the sidewalks.”)

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