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The DMV I’m Not Suing

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My apologies to those of you wretched, lonely hearts devoted readers who have told me you look forward to sitting down with your coffee on Friday morning and reading my blog.[1]  Technical difficulties delayed its usual early morning posting.  Let’s just say I oppose the death penalty, except for those who create and distribute computer viruses.

 *   *   *

Dateline: Wednesday. Birthday coming up in less than a week.  Driver’s license renewal.  Fastest time ever at the DMV – in and out.  Worst. Picture. Ever.

Not this bad.

Not this bad.

“I need an override,” the woman at the camera station called out to her supervisor.

“What, my face broke the camera, ” I mumbled half-heartedly. The supervisor smiled, clickety-clacked on the computer keyboard and replied, “Only cracked it.”  After she left I asked Camera Woman, “No, really – what did you need to override?”

“When there’s a discrepancy with your past picture, the computer calls for a compare.”  It seems the DVS’s picture processing software is sophisticated enough to opine, “There’s no way this can be the same person…and even if it is, holy facial recognition software, do people have no pride?  She could have at least brushed her hair; oh yeah, lady, but it’s raining outside yada yada yada, nice try with that excuse….”

Really.  A bad picture.

Almost this bad.

Almost this bad.

*   *   *

That was no way to start a Wednesday, or any day, but especially the second Wednesday in December, which was my annual Ladies’ Lefse Party.  But, the day was soon redeemed

Returning home from the DMV, still pissed about the picture incident [2] I decide to play a word game to calm myself down before getting down to work.  It’s the little things that matter, you know?  Like the oh-so-special feeling I get when playing Jumble Jong and I get an AWESOME! message plus bonus points for using the available tiles to spell the word, smuttily.

Also, there was the lefse party.

Lady Marmalade, just some of the Lucky Ladies invited to the Ladies Lefse Party.

Lady Marmalade, just some of the Lucky Ladies invited to the Ladies Lefse Party.

*   *   *

Department of Pretend There Was An Artful Segue

Friend fellow writer and self-described reluctant homeschooler [3] SCM has had trouble “finding her tribe” as she put it… as so sharply evidenced by a local homeschooling list serve posting she sent me (to which she has since unsubscribed), which she titled, From the “I can’t make up this shit” files…

(my emphases)

Messages: Classic Literature I don’t let my kids read.
Posted by: (redacted)[4]
I had a frank discussion with my kids literature teacher after one of my own picked up Grapes of Wrath, which I’ve never read, and read it during our reading time, not outloud. Apparently there are some rather gratuitous love scenes in there or at least one. Never having read it, I’m kicking myself for having trusted the many “classic literature” lists that I’ve printed and clung to while shopping for books to build our home library with.

 I emailed their teacher my list and she went through it and marked the ones that were safe, the ones that weren’t, and the ones she either couldn’t remember or hadn’t personally read. What an eye opener! For starters, here are the ones we removed from our shelves because of such love scenes.

 1984
Candide
Grapes of Wrath 

I’m sure there will be others, but this is just a startling starting point. I don’t mind an occasional bad word or even a string of bad words.

It’s the erotic love scenes that disgust me when I think of my teenage son picking up and reading from material I HAVE PROVIDED! It’s sad to think about the books they’ll be missing out on because of unnecessary inappropriate scenes.

If you know of other not-so-classy “classics”; I would steer away from that are usually found on classics lists, please let me know.

advisorypng

Holy fucking inappropriate love scenes.

I mean, objecting to “love scenes”? In “classic” literature, that you yourself admit you’ve NEVER READ?

And, “Grapes of Wrath,”  really?

REALLY

For the love of butt-fucking pornography, I’m trying to remember what might be determined “inappropriate” about The Grapes of Wrath, a book which  was one of many triggers responsible for the awakening of my political consciousness….. Ah, maybe that’s it. That and, you know, all the scenes featuring poor people striving for a better life amidst political forces determined to keep them in their place.

“It’s sad to think about the books they’ll be missing out on because of unnecessary inappropriate scenes.”

No, ladyass, it’s sad to think about the books your kids will be missing out on because their mother has a frigid, rigid, prude-drooling fear bucket where her brain should be.

I’m trying to imagine her and others of her ilk, going through her books [5] and marking which ones are “safe.”

NOVELS AREN”T SUPPOSED TO BE “SAFE” – THAT’S THE FUCKING POINT.

And that message of hers sparked replies – a back and forth from fellow home- obscurants schoolers who seemed to be almost bragging about the fact that they have lists of “Classic Literature I Don’t Let my Kids Read.”

I just feel like kicking something.

ignorance

*   *   *

Department of, awwwww…..

A week ago this afternoon, at the invitation of a staff member, I did a reading of The Mighty Quinn followed by a Q & A session [6] at the Hillsboro Boys and Girls Club.  The group of kids attending would be in the 4th – 8th grade age range…or so I was told.  The kids seemed younger; the coordinator explained that, just before she made the announcement to gather in a meeting room for the reading, someone else announced that a movie was going to be shown in another room, and most of the older kids went to the movie.

Well, yeah.

After the reading (and a Q & A session seriously in need of some mediating [7] ) the event coordinator took a picture of me and the kids, and then dismissed the kids to their other activities.  One girl, who had been one of the most enthusiastic Q & A participants, approached me with a shy gleam in her eye.

“Here,” she said, holding out a coin.  “This is for you.”

I must have had a confused look on my face.  “It’s a nickel,” she explained.

Actually, it was a quarter.

Of course I had to take it.  For two reasons

  1. You cannot refuse such an act of generosity from a child.
  2. Have you seen my last royalty statement? I think she may have.
  3. I said, for two reasons.

*   *   *

The Return of the Santa Hats

As a part of our household’s seasonal décor, anything that can be classified as art, that has a face, must wear a miniature Santa Hat. Don’t ask for an explanation because I don’t understand it myself (and I’m the one who insists on the practice). This has made for a whole lotta Santa hat-making as the years go by and we keep collecting specimens for our Wall of Faces:

This image represents less than 10% of the faces. Be afraid; be very afraid.

This image represents less than 10% of the faces. Be afraid; be very afraid.

 *   *   *

May your days be merry and bright, may you read the classic books and fight the good fights, may your Santa hats fit you just right, and may the holiday hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Yep, I’m talkin’ you, BOM.

[2] And then more pissed for being so petty as to care about a driver’s license picture.

[3] With a near genius child, no money for non-public school options, living where the public school choice is in the lowest 15% of everything (and sends out how-to-keep-your-grade-schooler gang-free info)

[4] Or should I say, retarded. Which I would, if I thought I could get away with the (now) non-PC epithet.

[5] Or, worse, yet, taking some other patsy prig’s  word for it, as she doesn’t seem to be familiar with the books she criticizes.

[6] “Meet a REAL author, who lives in Hillsboro…and you can ask her why the heck she hasn’t moved to Portland!”

[7] At least these kids didn’t ask me how much money I made, but they did ask why I wasn’t giving them free copies of the book.

The Accordion I’m Not Throwing

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As we dive into the holiday season, that time of year when some members of the human race strive to hold charitable thoughts for all members of the human race, I can’t help but reflect upon the fact that my nutmeg grater resembles a Star Trek shuttlecraft. [1]

 

shuttlecraftnutmegshuttlecraft

*   *   *

Chappy Chanukah [2]

Truly, the FSM has touched me with his noodly appendage. I felt his presence – what other possible, earthly explanation could there be for my good fortune? – while searching for Hanukah-themed bling décor for a friend’s upcoming party.  What unbridled joy, to stumble upon a holiday-themed kitchen gadget that incorporated one of my favorite words: [3]

Gentlemen and Ladies, start your latkes.

Gentlemen and Ladies, start your latkes.

*   *   *

While We’re on the Holiday Theme:
Department of Not Passing the Holiday Breathalyzer Test

Fruitcake for the Holidays:  A Special Recipe  [4]

 

Ingredients:
– one cup each of water and white table sugar
– four large eggs
– two cups of dried fruit
– one teaspoon baking soda
– one teaspoon salt
– one cup brown sugar
– lemon juice
– nuts
– one bottle of whisky

Instructions:
Get out a large mixing bowl.   To ensure whiskey is the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.   Repeat.

Turn on the electric mixer; beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.  Add one teaspoon of sugar and beat again.

Make sure the whisky is still okay.  Cry another tup.  Turn off the mixer. Break two leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried furit.  Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets tuck in the beaterers pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the whisky to check for tonsisticity.  Next, sift two cups of salt.  Or something. Who cares?  Check the whisky.  Now sift the lemon juice and strain the nuts.  Add one table.  Spoon.  Of sugar or something.  Whatever you can find.

Grease the oven.  Turn the cake tin to 350 degrees.  Don’t forget to beat off the turner.  Throw the bowl out of the window, check the whisky again and go to bed.

Yet another victim of Aunt Erva's Holiday Fruitcake.

Yet another victim of Aunt Erva’s Holiday Fruitcake.

*   *   *

By the end of this day, publicity-shy moiself will have survived enjoyed another public appearance re The Mighty Quinn, this one involving a reading and Q & A session with thirty-to-forty 4th – 8th graders at the Hillsboro Boys & Girls Club.  If only I had some fruitcake to see me through the ordeal.

myfruitcake

*   *   *

The Department of Not Holding My Breath…

In this case I’m not holding it for an apology [5] from anyone else in the paranoid conservative talk show radio foghorns  media, now that the House Intelligence Report on Benghazi has been released.

Brian Joyce, one member of the talk show radio host contingent, wrote a persuasive and seemingly heartfelt apology. I wonder what we’ll hear from the rest of his colleagues?

We told you the President was covering up what happened in Benghazi. We told you the President didn’t have a “shred of integrity” on Benghazi. We told you the President was providing “cover” for the terrorists who killed four Americans in Benghazi. We told you that the President could have helped the four Americans who were killed in Benghazi, but instead ordered the military to “stand down.” Heck, we even told you the President’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, faked a concussion just to avoid testifying on Benghazi!

And after two years of trying our best to convince you that all these things were true, it turns out that we, the media, were the ones who were lying.

To those members of the media – specifically, the unmedicated, verbal crap-wiping legion of Fox News-parroting twitclowns – who created the nonexistent “cover-up” of the Benghazi attack, this Asshat of the Week award is for you.

AHat640

*   *   *

Dateline: Last week.  Scenario: offspring (Belle and K) are home for Thanksgiving break. Belle wanted me to run some errands with her after I was done exercising.  After completing my workout I showered and dressed, and as I exited my room, Belle eyed my shirt and gasped.

“Is that velvet?  Velvet and plaid?”

I nodded, and let her caress my sleeve.

“Oh, wow,” she said.  “It’s like the 90s all rolled into one.”

velvetplaid

*   *   *

Department of What If

What if the paper towel dispensers in public restrooms were not motion-activated, but rather emotion-activated?  It wouldn’t be enough to need to dry your hands – you’d have to really, really, demonstrably, want to dry your hands.

dispenser

*   *   *

As my birthday approaches, I’m going to step out of my comfort zone [6] and reveal something personal.  Not only have I never (successfully) played a musical instrument, [7] it has been said (by moiself) that you could inscribe my innate musical ability on the tip of my pinkie finger and still have room for the Declaration of Independence.

However….

Another little-known personal fact:  despite my lack of musical talent, I have demonstrated perfect pitch. I once threw an accordion in a dumpster, where it landed on a vuvuzela.

vuvu

*   *   *

 

May all your pitches strive for such perfection, and may the holiday hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] If you fail to see the resemblance, a little more eggnog might do the trick.

[2] Y’all know the rules, about the ch- pronunciation, right?

[3] That would be spatula.

[4] Too many people, most of them fruitcake recipe testers (hic), I imagine, claim credit for this recipe, so I’ll leave attribution to the Collective Consciousness of Christmas Culture.

[5] Or even explanation for their fear-mongering slathering passing as “investigative concern.”

[6] I hate that phrase – “comfort zone.” Just typing it makes me feel like a slimy mattress salesman with an ill-fitting toupee.

[7] Being the leader of my high school’s AWMKB (All Women’s Marching Kazoo Band) doesn’t count.

The Knockers I’m Not Upping

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They’re baaaaaaaaak….

Halloween was the harbinger. Now, the rest of the Holidays approach.  Or, as some jolly folks like to say, The Season’s Upon Us. Readers of this blog, you know what that means.

Don’t you feel better prepared now, for all the seasonal wretched inanity merriment that is to come?  I know I do.

*   *   *

Speaking of the holidays….

♫  Let Me Hang My Balls On Your Christmas Tree  ♫

Moo-oom!

“I am NOT making this up,” I would protest in vain, when Belle and K insisted I stop singing that Christmas ball song.  “Really, it was a holiday favorite from the Dr. Demento show…”

Still and of course, my offspring thought I was making it up.  Thanks to that nifty invention of Al Gore, I can prove it to them.  The song (actual title, “Christmas Balls” by Ben Light & his Surf Club Boys) made it to Dr. D’s Nifty Fifty for 1972 list, and I have Internet evidence.

Dead Puppies; Pencil Neck Geek, It’s a Gas, the Vatican Rag, Pico and Sepulveda, Shaving Cream.  If you are old/lucky enough, you may remember those songs from the Dr. Demento radio show, which my friends and I were fortunate enough to have discovered in high school.  Diligent scholars that we were, no trigonometry study party would be complete without the study break reward – listening to a tape of Dr. D’s latest show.

Dr. D

Dr. D’s show was not merely mindless entertainment.  His show helped us equal opportunity humor feminists to discover mentors like Rusty Warren, [1] the musician-comedian with a New England Conservatory of Music B.A. degree [2] who showed that the women could hold the stage with men when it came to the risqué humor and witty wordplay found in what were called “novelty songs.”

Warren’s Knockers Up was one of our favorites.  Another of Warren’s odes to empowerment began with a variation on a patriotic call to arms:

You know girls, it’s great to live in a democracy today, where freedom is everywhere. But girls, we often take this freedom for granted: freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of action…. So come on, fellow females of the 20th century! Be glad that you’re an American! Proclaim your freedom! Stand at attention! Pledge Allegiance! And…
Bounce your Boobies

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department of Also Somewhat Holiday Related

Every week since I gave MH the book for his birthday, MH and I have been doing a hike or two from Portland Hill Walks [3] . PHW is a guidebook that gives tours of Portland’s many parks, nature preserves and neighborhoods.  Each walk takes you through a variety of venues, from wooded canyons to its exclusive neighborhoods built atop ancient lava domes peaks, and the book provides historical, cultural and architectural background and idiosyncratic observations (guess who died in this old house?) for each route.

PHillwalks

On Tuesday we hiked a loop from the Leach Botanical Gardens to the Willamette National Cemetary. It was somewhat of a coincidence that we did that particular route on Veterans Day, and  I found myself reflecting upon – surprise! not favorably – the knee-jerk Soldier Worshiping currently infesting our public and political rhetoric.

Excuse me; we technically don’t have Soldier worshiping because we don’t have soldiers, marines, sailors or even GIs anymore.  Like Muslims who cannot mention their religion’s prophet without the appendage His Name Be Praised, we have created this all-encompassing entity:

OBI MAWU.

OBI MAWU is not the moniker of a minor Jedi apprentice from one of the interminable Star Wars sequels prequels. Rather, it is my scrambled acronym for a term we are all too familiar with:

Our Brave Men And Women In Uniform.

Y’all know the drill:  whenever addressing an OBI MAWU personally or referring to them in any context, we must also then add, “Thank you for your sacrifice.”

If you don't give us a better Jedi nickname we're going back to the sandbox.

If you don’t give us a better Jedi nickname we’re going back to the sandbox.

I did (and do) think about my father, grandfather, uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends, co-workers and others I’ve known who’ve served in the Armed Forces. [4]  My beef is not with (most of) those who choose military life.  Here’s the thing that frosts my butt: this blind uniform worship is…so….cheap, not to mention a tad self-aggrandizing (Look at me; I’m like, so considerate!  I expressed appreciation your service!).

Thanking someone for their service or their “sacrifice” is expedient, jingoistic lip flapping; it is a feel-good-do-nothing substitute for actually addressing the real concerns – alarming PTSD, suicide and unemployment rates – facing veterans.  Also, it has the side effect of elevating military service to that-which-must-be-praised-and-not-questioned, and thus becomes one more factor contributing to our reluctance to have difficult, intricate conversations about the consequences of the USA being willing to act as the world’s night watchmen.

Such a conversation might include considering the question, should there be a return to a military draft and/or other compulsory national service? [5] Do you think the Afghan-Iraq follies of the past 10 + – yep, that’s  TEN PLUS – years would still be sputtering on if everyone’s Young Men and Women had the potential (and involuntary) chance of becoming the OBI MAWU fighting these wars?

Also, this OBI MAWU veneration feeds the dangerous notion that everyone in the military is theoretically prepared to give “the ultimate sacrifice.” And thus it is unpatriotic to question military service.  When we hesitate to truly and vigorously debate the wisdom and morality of the causes for which our armed forces fight, we make another, perhaps not ultimate but no less crucial sacrifice – that of our own individual and national integrity.

WAR

*   *   *

My Proudest Moment
# 1666 in a (hopefully) infinite series

The trigger credit for this particular digression goes to my son K, who sent me a link to an article about Internet reaction to Disney’s releasing the name of the upcoming Star Wars VII movie.

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, [6] I saw The Empire Strikes Back on the first day it was released. I used vacation time and was able to wrangle a day off from work (I think it was a Wednesday), and found a theatre where I could purchase a ticket in advance for one of the first showings of the day.  Most of my friends and co-workers were also Star Wars fans, also were eager to see the movie, but were unable to take time off. They planned to see TESB on the weekend,  congratulated me on being able to see the movie on its release day, and sternly warned me to NOT drop any spoilers on them.

The theatre was a five screen venue, four screens of which were devoted to back-to-back showings of TESB, beginning in the early afternoon. I stood in line with other eager and elated Star Trek nerds fans, and was able to get into the second showing of TESB.

TESB

After the movie was over, I exited the theatre with my fellow moviegoers. We were filled with an amalgam of elation, shock, and anticipation (That was amazing…now we have to wait for the 3rd movie to find out what happens?!), and apparently, from the reactions of the people waiting in line for the next showing, we all sported similar, WTF?! expressions.  One boy standing in line with his parents gestured to the people leaving the theatre, tugged at his mother’s sleeve and asked, “What do you think they saw in there?

The line for the next TESB showing stretched from the theatre entrance around the block to where I’d parked. On my way to my car I walked past a group of four to five college-age guys standing in the line. One of them fixed his troglodyte sights on me, and began to spew the inexcusable/unwarranted [7], “Hey baby hubba hubba oooga chaka” come-on.

Like any female biped I was familiar with that dynamic, which I typically handled by ignoring the cretins’ catcalls.  But that time, on that day?  Nah.  Couldn’t let it go.

The realities of the situation and my options for response zipped through my mind in a nanosecond:  Dude, really?  You are of an age where you had to make special arrangements to be here, at this time, and on this day, to see this movie. You are in line for the movie you have long anticipated – the movie I have just seen. I have the knowledge, the power, and you dare to taunt me?

I actually, almost, felt sorry for the guy.

I did an about face and strode back to the line. Smiling seductively, I grabbed Mr. Oo0gaChaka by the collar and pulled him away from his comrades. Standing on tip toe so that my hot hubba hubba baby breath was close to his ear, I whispered the five words I deeply and sincerely hoped would break his heart and shrivel his scrotum:

Darth Vadar is Luke’s father.

Another 180, and I triumphantly marched away, to the soundtrack of…nothing, save for the sweet silence of a justice-filled universe.

The Force is strong in this one.

The Force is strong in this one.

*   *   *

May the forces prevailing against oogachaka be strong in you, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Special kudos to those who remember her immortal line, “Ladies you’re not marching!”

[2] A degree Warren referred to as the “Bawdy Arts.”

[3] If you live in or near Portland, you need this book.

[4] Most (seemed to have) served with pride, honor and integrity.  Others…well, twenty years of peacetime desk job service for a lifetime PX discount and free health care  – hell yeah!

[5] Something I would like to see, for the reason/question that follows.

[6] Okay, May 1980.

[7] Although not inexplicable, as it is seemingly related to the dynamic of a group of males spotting a lone female.

The Riposte I’m Not Stifling

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Department of I Just Didn’t Want To Go There

Dateline: Tuesday, on my morning walk.  Three blocks from home, I turned a corner and detected the stench of tobacco.  Fifty feet ahead of me, holding a lit cigarette in his hand, a boy who looked to be about 14 years old was checking a curbside mailbox.  As I crossed to the other side of the street to avoid walking through his smoke, the boy turned around to look at me. He gestured at my Nordic Trekking poles and called out:

“Why are you ski-walking?” 

“Because it’s more fun than regular walking,” I replied.

I’d stifled the riposte that sprang to my petty little mind – Why are you smoking? – but as I continued toward home, I found myself wondering, what if I hadn’t?  What would have been his reply?

“Because it’s more fun than regular breathing.”

smoke

*   *   *

Diamonds Are Forever [1]
But Porcelain Crowns Last Twenty Years, If You’re Lucky

 Aka, Department of Causing Your Dental Hygienist to Declare
“In All My Years, I’ve Never Heard That Answer Before.”

For some reason, Sean Connery had entered the rinse-and-spit conversation [2] between the dental hygienist and moiself.  A brief discussion of James Bond movies ensued as we waited for the dentist to finish up with a patient in the adjoining room.  The hygienist said she liked the Connery-era films but was not a fan of Roger Moore in the role. I told her I’d never been a much of a Bond movie fan, until the easy-on-the-eyes Daniel Craig was cast in the role.

When the dentist entered the room we exchanged our usual jest-filled chit-chat before he lowered the exam chair and began his inspection of my cheap whiskey and fine Cuban cigar-stained chompers pearly whites. [3]

“So, how are things going?” he asked. “Any complaints about your teeth?”

I raised myself up on one elbow, grinned at the hygienist and said, “Only that Daniel Craig hasn’t licked them.”

"About those fluoride applications...."

“About those fluoride applications….”

*   *   *

Department of, If You Have to Ask…

Prologue:
So, what do you do?

I’ve never liked that question, when used as part of an introduction or conversation starter, and try not to ask it myself when speaking with a new acquaintance.  One of the many things I’ve noticed and enjoyed in my [4] travels abroad is that Other Peoples of the World ®  (i.e., not Americans) don’t care so much what you “do” – they’d rather hear about who you are in terms of where you choose to live, where you’ve been and where you’d like to be (travel-wise), and what you think about _____ (insert favorite political or cultural interest).

Also, there’s the published author thing.  If I answer the what-you-do question truthfully, I often receive some chunk of cringe-worthy (and totally unjustified) adulation –   “OMG, you’re an AUTHOR!” [5] – accompanied by obsequious expressions of admiration…or, worse, the “Really!? That’s fantastic; you know, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Maybe you’d like to look at some of my story ideas?”

Friend/fellow writer SCM has suggested I answer the WDYD question with, “I’m an editor.”  Which would be a deflection but not technically a lie (I do edit my own work).

And now, the anecdote:

Last Saturday MH and I participated in an educational and tree-planting volunteer event at Jackson Bottom Wetlands.  Volunteers were divided into six units and given name tags stamped with a picture of our unit’s “mascot” – one of the many animals that can be found at the JB wetlands.  MH and I were sorted to unit #2, the Canada Goose group, which I accepted after some mild grumbling about the irony of having the mascot of the #2 group be the planet’s most prolific producer of…well… #2.

"You got a problem with that?"

“You got a problem with that?”

As we trudged over the muddy wetland trails on our way to the tree-planting area, a woman in our group made small talk with MH and I. She volunteered the fact that she is an OR nurse at a local hospital, then asked, “So, what do you do?”

Using my oft-times-literalist interpretation, I replied, “When?”

She looked at me blankly.

“Well, at this moment I’m volunteering at the….”

“No, I mean, as in work.  For money.”

I momentarily considered using my friend’s suggestion, but our fellow volunteer seemed nice and level-headed, and I bailed. “I’m a writer.”

Her eyes lit up like a venti-chugging lemur.

Kind of like this.

Kind of like this.

“A writer!? she gasped.  “What kind of writer?”

“Mostly fiction.”

“Are you famous?”

(Ay yi yi). “Are you?” I replied.

Her blank look resurfaced.

“You know – when you walk into the OR, do the other people there say, ‘I know her!’ “

"If that woman is famous, the terrorists have won."

“If that woman is famous, then truly, the terrorists have won.”

*   *   *

Department of Bright Ideas

The Brights are an international internet constituency composed of individuals who have a naturalistic worldview.  This is the organization’s logo:

brights_icon_100x100

Their motto: “Illuminating and elevating the naturalistic worldview.”

I was stuck for pumpkin-carving inspiration this Halloween, until I got a Bright Idea.  I emailed a picture of my creation to the directors of The Brights, along with my best wishes for a “Happy Halloween from a Bright (if not so talented) jack-o-lantern carver.”

"Illuminating the natural world...and the porch, for trick-or-treaters."

“Illuminating the natural world…and the porch, for trick-or-treaters.”

*   *   *

My Work Here is Done

On Wednesday I received the following email from daughter Belle:

“Happy post-election day!
Don’t forget to set your clocks back 40 years in honor of the new senate!”

While we’re on the subject, the following is suitable for a few laughs, even if not quite SFW:

*   *   *

 

May your teeth be white and your celebrations Bright, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The last of the original James Bond films to star Sean Connery.

[2] As in, is he still alive, or what?

[3] Which, while neither whiskey nor cigar-stained, are not even close to being pearly white. In case you were wondering.

[4] Comparatively or relatively few (at least, compared to some people I know).

[5] Sometimes accompanied by squeals of excitement. Really. The squealing…it’s just…embarrassing.

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

*   *   *

҉   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.

*   *   *

҉   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

*   *   *

҉   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]

*   *   *

      ҉   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]

*   *   *

      ҉   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

*   *   *

 

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 Generation I’m Not Talkin’ ’bout

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The PG (Parental Guidance) Post 

CHARD

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

*   *   *

 Band of Memories

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

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

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

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

Martin

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

 *   *   *

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

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

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

SOCAL

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

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

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

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

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

TECHNO

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

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

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

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

CAMEL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POETRY

*   *   *

 A Brief Meditation on Ways to Fail Your Children

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

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

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

And I find myself thinking,

We failed.

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

We have failed in so many ways, including imagination.

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

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

 

suffrage

*   *   *

Power shared = power diminished.

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

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

Few people anywhere have ever easily agreed to share power.

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

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

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

 *   *   *

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

*   *   *

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

I didn’t read it “now” (or at all).

It is later.

I don’t hate myself.

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


VICTORY IS MINE !!!

Mmmmmwwwwahahahahahaha !!!

Mmmmmwwwwahahahahahaha !!!

*   *   *

 

 

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

[6] “And that’s the way it is.”

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

The Offspring I’m Not Embarrassing

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flyingmonkey

All Together Now:

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

 *   *   *

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

HOSTpng

*   *   *

 ҉    Let’s All Agree To Get Rid of This Word    ҉

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

My first nomination is gubernatorial.

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

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

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

Really. That’s what it says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

Don’t you feel better now?

I know I do.

You’ll feel even better if you join me and

Ditch the Dirty 100

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

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

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

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

Yeah, what she said.

BOYCOTTpng

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

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

“I can’t wait to play it,” sez I.

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

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

Ahem to the nth power:

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

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

 

slothinbox

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

JOSHUA

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kinda like this, only naked. 

Kinda like this, only naked.

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

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

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

We doubled over, convulsed with laughter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

STREAK

It could have been worse. Much, much worse.

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, three strong memories.

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

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

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

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

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

password

 

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

Sister YS 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!

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