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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 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 Stamps I’m Not Licking

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Department of Petty pleasures and Cheap Thrills

I miss the stamps.

Although literary and publishers have the (deserved) reputation for being resistant to change and slow to adapt to technology, the past few years have seen even many of the olde-time journals modify their guidelines.  Publishers and journals who only accept hard copy/snail mail queries and submissions have become, in my experience, the minority.

Being able to submit manuscripts and correspond electronically has significantly reduced business expenses for me and other writers. I enjoy the lowered postage and paper and toner costs, and increased efficiency of correspondence.  But, I miss the postage stamps.

I’m no philatelic by any stretch of the definition.  Still, on the increasingly-rare opportunities when I have to mail a manuscript, I enjoy choosing the stamps for the task.  A sixteen page story, plus cover letter and SASE, requires 4 ounces of postage, and as much as possible, I will “customize” choosing the various stamp combinations which will total the necessary $1.50 for the first class/large envelope fee.

My customization is idiosyncratic, peculiar, [1] sometimes admittedly petty, and until this daring revelation, known by and meaningful to only moiself.  It includes such “guidelines” as:

* When submitting to journals with all-male names on the masthead, I choose stamps featuring female authors and artists

woman stamp

* When sending materials to publishers located in southern states with a history of slavery and/or segregation, I go for stamps honoring African-Americans and/or civil rights.

jordan

* For journals whose guidelines have overt or implicit religious or spiritual overtones, I choose stamps honoring scientists or other secular achievers.

science stamps

And now you know.

*   *   *

I don’t often watch the network news or any TV news.  For a reason that now escapes me I turned on ABC World News Tonight earlier this week and saw, for the first time, substitute host David Muir.  Muir is apparently a legit reporter [2] and not a Chippendale’s model posing as a newsman on special assignment for Donald Trump’s latest reality show.  I was taken…aback?  affront?  a-sideways? by his nudge-nudge-wink-wink delivery style.  His sly glances, his way of slightly turning to the side and then looking directly into the camera made me think there was some off-mic photographer urging him on (in a heavily exaggerated fake Italian accent):

“Yes, yes, zer zey are, give zem more, you makealove de to de camera…”

Hmmmm.  Maybe it’s just me, I thought.  Or, it’s something to do with the specific story he’s reporting.  I changed channels for a few minutes, then returned to ABC.  There he was, on with another story, and those playful intonations and coy mannerisms.  Every man, woman, and golden retriever staring at their television set was receiving this unmistakable subtext: “Yes, it’s true, I know what you look like naked.”

A Google search revealed that Muir is considered something of an “info Hunk,” a category I heretofore had no idea existed, by both gay male and straight female news groupies devotees.  Ah, the joys perils of enlightenment.

*   *   *

Department of Sorry, Too Late:

Republican governor Bobby Jindal tells the GOP to “stop being the stupid party.”

*   *   *

Should the USA and its allies prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and thwart North Korea’s series of underground missile testing?  Can the Social Security system be reformed, or should it be gutted and redesigned?  How can renewable, non-polluting energy sources be developed in the face of ongoing budget crises and societal inertia?  The answers to these and a myriad of other pressing questions are complex almost beyond belief.  But, thank the FSM [3], there is someone willing to tackle one of life’s most insidious dangers:  demonic possession of used goods.

Y’all might need to get out the smelling salts for this revelation.  You know that hideous vintage Rudolph the Red-Nose reindeer Christmas sweater you got for next to nothing at the thrift shop?  Did you think you were being a smart consumer when you got that crockpot at a garage sale instead of buying a new one? A certain religious evangelist, whose thoughtful intellectual discourse is rivaled only by that of a weed whacker, has some news for you.

In the World According to Telewhackadoodlery,[4] not only do demons exist, but these evil spirits can attach themselves to inanimate objects.  That classic thesaurus you found at the Goodwill for only $1.50 – you don’t really know where it has been, do you?  You’d better  pray the second hand Roget away , lest it rise up in the night and unleash its demonic [5] powers upon you.

Thus, the return of the Horseradish-and-Batshit Crazy Yap Flapper award
goes to perennial award contender, Pat Robertson

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Last weekend MH and had lunch at PF Chang’s.  As usual, fortune cookies came with the tab.  MH opened his, and unlike many fortune cookies, this one contained an actual fortune; i.e., a forecast or prediction.[6]  He read his aloud, we both had a laugh, and I eagerly tore my cookie in half and discovered…nothing.  No fortune; it was empty.  Apparently, there is no future for me.

 The busy week: Monday, Belle and I had our last CAT volunteer shift.  Due to financial considerations, the feline-exclusive, no kill-shelter is closing a couple of its outreach adoption sites, including the one at the Hillsboro Petsmart, where we’ve volunteered since 2007.  We’re still in a bit of shock and mourning over this, and hope to be able to volunteer for CAT in some other capacity in the future.  The closing of one volunteer opportunity freed me up for another one, and on Monday, I fulfilled a long-time I-should-do-this goal and interviewed at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve.  I will assume weekly volunteer duties there starting next Monday, where I will be helping gather information for a biologist’s small mammal survey.  My new motto is:  I Love Voles.

This week also saw the beginning of high school track season, which means Belle juggles two hour daily track and field practices with an afterschool job, her Oregon Zoo Teen volunteer duties, and the homework that comes with taking a bajillion AP classes…and which means MH and I juggle the resultant teen conveyor duties.[7]  Where is the transporter promised by Star Trek?  Where is the Jetson’s Jetpak?  Dammit, the future was supposed to be here, by now.

jetpak

 Thursday night we had a most yummer dinner with friends, the lovely and talented couples MB & RB, and JR & DC.  After dinner we all attended the opening preview reception for the Celebration of Creativity, an annual art show that, this year, runs through Sunday 3/3.  This juried fine arts exhibit and sale features original works from 80+ artists in 15+ different media categories, from photography, jewelry, sculpture, fiber, glass, oils, wearables, acrylic, water color, pastels, garden sculptures, woodworking, pottery, mixed media….  Friend and artist LAH  has a variety of pieces in this year’s show.  MH & I have purchased many objects ‘d’art at the show (read: there is no more room on our walls), and look forward to seeing this year’s works.

As a patron of the arts [8] I often find myself thinking about the differences between fine art and fiction, especially when it comes to public showings or “sales.”  At an art show, the art is right there – it is immediate.  You see a painting or sculpture in its entirety.  You can walk away from it, or it can grab you by the throat right then and there, or come back to haunt you as you peruse the other booths but keep thinking, I really, really love that enormous cable fish. There is little or no leap of “faith” required in its purchase.

In my few experiences at book fairs, both as a buyer and an author, I’ve come to think of them as dicey ventures.  You walk by a table, there’s an author with a book, you see the author, you see the book and its jacket illustrations…but there are a whole lotta pages in between the front and back covers.  Perhaps you can scan the cover blurbs [9] , perhaps the author reads select passages from the work, but  you don’t know you’re going to like (or loathe) it until after you’ve bought it.

FYI, Cable Fish was rubber chicken-free at time of purchase.

 May your weekend be artful, and may the hjinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1]  And also limited by the currently available stamp selection. I hate it when they discontinue my favorites.

[2] which is probably no news to everyone except moi, who, as stated, does not kept up with TV news.

[3] Flying Spaghetti Monster.  Have you been touched by His noodly appendage?

[4] Saddle up the dinosaurs, in this world.

[5] (crazed; diabolical; fiendish; satanic)

[6]  Attention, fortune cookie makers: complimentary statements are not fortunes. “People like you,” is not a fortune.  “People like you are destined for disfiguring automobile accidents,” now, that’s a fortune.

[7] thanks to budget cuts, the bus doesn’t go where she needs to go at the times she needs to get there…and she still hasn’t taken her driver’s license test.

[8]  My definition:  I buy stuff.  Art stuff.  From artists whose works make me go, “Wooooo!”

[9] Hardly the place for objective recommendations. When’s the last time, after reading a mediocre novel, you realized you should have heeded the quotation on the book flap, which warned, ” Destined to become a classic the truth is, the prose is boring and derivative, the plotting is plodding. Get yourself a book of KenKen puzzles instead.”

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