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The Wrong Number I’m Not Answering

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Department Of First Things First

Innumerable thanks to friend MB for sending me this cartoon by the immeasurably spot-on Roz Chast, under the subject of Happy Mother’s Day/Unappreciated Author’s Day:

 

 

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Department Of Wait A Minute – Did He Just Sing That?

One advantage of occasionally listening to an oldies station is occasionally having reminders of how much I loathed the songs of Gary Puckett And The Union Gap.

In the songs GP & TUG which were most known for – “Young Girl,” “Lady Willpower,” and “Woman, Woman” –  lead singer GP expresses a recurrent and overriding concern: girls and women should have sex with him.

 

There’s nothing like pastel, faux-Civil War uniforms to put the ladies in the mood.

 

In Lady Willpower he’s frustrated that Lady W won’t sleep with him. He promises he’ll be nice to her if she does, but warns their relationship will end if she doesn’t.  By Young Girl he’s been so successful in his entreaties that the ladies apparently want them some GP lovin,’ but one in particular…well…he doesn’t want to go to jail for statutory rape. In the power ballad  Woman Woman, GP has gotten at least one woman to sleep with him, only it’s not going the way he planned – he suspects she’s checking out her other options.  Woman Woman‘s claim to The Equal Rights Hall of Shame ® is its third verse, arguably one of the more patronizing misogynist set of lyrics of its time (and that’s saying a lot):

 A woman wears a certain look
when she is on the move
and the man can always tell
what’s on her mind
(lyrics from Woman, Woman , written by Jim Glaser and Jimmy Payne,
recorded by Gary Puckett & The Union Gap)

Of course, the years those songs were popular (late 60’s – early 70’s) was a time when rock music – and just as important, rock radio – was experiencing a new freedom in terms of what bands could sing and DJs could play on the air. Translation: a lot of sexuality, implied and overt, was being expressed – and a lot of it was really good.  Remember subversive delight of listening to the Kink’s Lolaand figuring out what was between the lines, so to speak (and celebrating the face that the Kinks had snuck one past your parents, the radio censors – The Establishment in general)?  In fact, gems like Lola  (along with the saucy dialog from early movies, from Mae West to the Marx Brothers) are one reason I’m in favor of something admittedly controversial – not censorship per se, but certain general “decency” guidelines for art. I truly believe that such lines-not-to-be-crossed inspires or even forces  artists to greater heights of creativity, in that they must  find ways to cross those lines and cleverly imply what they cannot overtly say or show….

Which is a subject worthy of its own day/post.  Digression over. Returning to subject:

GP & TUG were not the only ick offenders;  it (lovelorn/horny guy trying to get his girl to have sex with him) was a popular topic of the times.  Even a group like Bread, known for its soft rock hits (“If,” “Baby I’m-a-Want You,”  [1]  “Everything I Own,”Sweet Surrender,” “Guitar Man”) had a song called “Let Your Love Go,” their all-but-forgotten early hit, which I liked at the time (and still do   [2] ), as its melody and catchy rhythm outweighed (for moiself) the leering silliness of its girl-you-need-to-have-sex-with-me-right-now-trust-me-it’ll-be-good-for-you lyrics. 

 

 

Moiself is aware of the pitfalls judging the art of yesterday by the standards of today, but that’s not what I’m doing here: I strongly remember thinking the GP & TUG songs ick-creepy at the time of their release, no matter what my peers thought.   [3]  Don’t take my word for it, look up the GP & TUG sons yourself, if you have no life the time and are curious. They are unintentionally hilarious in a way that transcends time and social norms. Also, the band’s costumes are just plain goof-worthy.

 

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Department Of My Favorite Wrong Number

I answered our home phone other day and it was a wrong number…which almost never happens anymore. What with the various forms of telephone screening available, I bet that rarely happens to you, either.

Moiself (almost) never picks up the phone if I don’t recognize the number/if caller ID doesn’t tell me who it is. The Other Day ® was one of those occasions that puts the almost in almost never: I was expecting a call from someone and didn’t know how their business might be identified.  Usually when I make that kind of exception – answer the phone even though caller ID can provide no specific information – it turns out to be or one of those annoying sales or political robocalls which somehow managed to attach themselves to a legitimate business number.  [4]   

But the call I received The Other Day ® was an actual wrong number!! Dialed by a Real Live Person ® !!  Whom I got to inform (after asking the number they’d intended to dial) that this was indeed a wrong number as they had transposed two digits in the number they’d intended to dial!!  And for some reason, this made me happy!!

And for some reason translation:  This Brain of Mine ®  reacted to the event by recalling the story of My Favorite Wrong Number.   [5]

 

Please, do tell.

 

One evening, a long time in a galaxy far, far away, [6]  I answered the telephone in the rental house I shared with two other women.  The caller, whose voice indicated she was an elderly woman with a black urban/southern accent, asked to speak with Raymond.  “I’m sorry,” I told her, “There’s no one named Raymond here. You must have dialed a wrong number.”

Instead of apologizing for her misdial, the woman insisted that I put Raymond on the phone. I told her there was no one in the house named Raymond; she refused to believe me.  She had dialed Raymond’s number and wanted to speak with him. This back and forth continued for about four rounds of There is no Raymond here/you dialed the wrong number from me, and This is not the wrong number and I want to speak with Raymond from her. Why did I keep the exchange going? I’m not sure – I do remember getting some petty pleasure from her obstinate refusal to concede her error…or perhaps I just didn’t want to hang up on an old lady. Finally, my amusement faded to annoyance, and the approximate conversation took place:

Moiself:  Okay. Why don’t you tell me the number you meant to dial?

Caller: I know I dialed 415-8671!

Moiself:  Ah, here’s the problem: our number is 415-8617. You transposed the last two digits.

Caller (huffing with indignation): I did no such thing! I’ve been dialing that number for years.

Moiself:  Well, tonight you dialed it wrong.

Neither of us spoke for several seconds, during which I anticipated a sheepish apology followed by a quick hang up from the caller.

Caller (after a dramatic pause): If this is a wrong number, then why did you answer?

For a moment there, she stunned me into silence by the sheer existential WTF-ness of her accusation-framed-as-question.  Yeah…so…why did I answer a wrong number?

Moiself (sputtering with astonishment): Look, lady, you called me!?!?!?

 

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Department Of Is CBD A BFD?

Is it just my imagination, or is it inevitable that every store in Oregon,  [7] from those selling hair gels to orthotic shoe inserts, will soon be offering CBD products for sale?

 

 

Nope; looks like it’s not just me:

The flood of CBD products has become so overwhelming that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently stepped into the fray.
The agency has whipped out a flurry of warning letters to companies marketing CBD products, telling them to stop making unfounded health claims for the substance.
Companies have falsely claimed CBD can stop cancer cells, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, ease nerve pain and fibromyalgia, and curb withdrawal symptoms for people undergoing substance abuse treatment, the FDA letters state.
(The Controversy Over CBD Oil Health Claims, Newsmax Health)

Across the nation there are growing concerns re the overblown claims of the health or medical benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) – which, BTW, due to what medical school professor Marcel-Bonn Miller calls “the legally murky status of marijuana,” is produced without regulation as to strength or quality.  (“It really is the Wild West,” Bonn-Miller said. “Joe Bob who starts up a CBD company could say whatever the hell he wants on a label and sell it to people.”)

When it comes to marijuana-related products there is much exaggeration from all sides, and it is hard to weed out (sorry) the possible help from the probable hype…but most of what I’ve read and seen has raised my instinctive, “miracle cure” antenna. This happened most recently on Tuesday, when I was driving past a pet shop in downtown Hillsboro whose signboard suggested pet owners stop in and check out their “CBD oil for pet pain relief.”

“Say what?”

 

For a moment, I was tempted to delay my errand, park my car, enter the store, point to the signboard and ask the clerk if their CBD oil would work for reptiles in distress.  You see, RuPaul, my red-tailed boa constrictor, appears to be in pain from an abcessed tooth.  I would wait for the inevitable, “Oh, of course…” sales pitch, which I would interrupt with,

“So, you’re saying you have no qualms about selling me snake oil?”

 

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Department of Epicurean Excursion   [8]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

 At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen by Amy Chaplin

Recipes:

* Creamy Cauliflower and Celery Root Soup With Roasted Shitakes
* Steamed Greens with Zesty Flax Seed Dressing

My ratings:

For the soup: I liked it enough to give it the standard two thumbs up, but the recipe’s addition of a topping of roasted sliced shitakes elevates the rating to:

 

 

For the greens:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

 

Recipe Rating Refresher   [9

          

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Department Of Remember This?

Aka Department Of You Can’t Make Up This Shit

Headlines along the lines of, Prolife Congressman Resigns In Disgrace After Revelations He Asked Mistress To Abort Pregnancy had their 15 minutes of media attention ~ 18 months ago, when Pennsylvania Republican congressman Tim Murphy’s text messages with his extramarital lover were leaked, revealing that he’d asked her to “take care of” her pregnancy by him.

A politician actively working to block all women’s access to a medical procedure while he covertly suggests his illicit lover seek out the same procedure? Imagine that.

 

 

Rep. Murphy gave the customary weasel-worded, non-apology resignation statement (my emphases):

“After discussions with my family and staff, I have come to the decision that I will not seek reelection to Congress at the end of my current term.  In the coming weeks I will take personal time to seek help as my family and I continue to work through our personal difficulties and seek healing. I ask you to respect our privacy during this time.”

 

 

I know, I know.

Holy crap – bickering five year olds on the schoolyard playground know the rules. Gee, Congressman Murphy Pecksniff,   [10] let’s make a deal: we’ll respect yours if you’ll respect ours.

How does this lying, cheating, turdsack of hypocrisy have the shriveling oblivious cojones to ask for privacy for himself, when he supports the government having the right to stick its nose in a woman’s uterus very personal healthcare decisions?

I was thinking of the Congressman Murphy stinkbomb as per what’s going on those inbred backwater shithole states – yeah, Alabama, excuse me, TALIBAMA, I’m talkin’ to you –  whose legislatures are working to restrict or ban outright abortion.  This is as much as I have the stomach for right now.  There will be more, yes, much more about this, in next week’s blog.

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May you be WTF wary and check the FAQ about the OMG claims of CBD;
May you have a Favorite Wrong Number story (and if you do, share it with moiself);
May our paths never cross at a Gary Puckett and The Union Gap Karaoke Fest;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] I’m a what?

[2] It’s on my Fun Songs playlist.

[3] One male friend said he thought the GP & TUG songs “romantic.”

[4] The most recent one I received, which turned out to be a partisan political survey, was identified on my caller ID as “Hillsboro Clean Water Services,” which is an actual city service.

[5] Real phone numbers disguised to protect…something.

[6] Palo Alto, CA, circa 1987

[7] and the other 29 states which have legalized either recreational or medical marijuana products.

[8] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[9]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character from The Office who would eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[10] A slang term for a hypocrite. Is that a great word, or what?

The After-Life I’m Not Discounting

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Dateline: Sunday, May 5. A gusty but magnificent spring afternoon in the Bay Area, on the grounds of the stunning Filoli Gardens . In a gathering which mutual friend MM as so accurately described as “heartbreakingly beautiful,” friends, family, and colleagues gathered to pay tribute Dr. Sarah Elizabeth Hawley.

Heartbreakingly beautifuljust like our memories of Sarah, I thought later.

Sarah is whom I wrote about earlier this year – the “…remarkable young woman whose life was recently and unexpectedly cut short .”   [1]   Iin several posts (including here, here, and here) I mentioned the horror, grief, overwhelming shock, and gob-smacked confusion felt by her friends and family when Sarah was murdered on January 27.

As is my usual policy re this blog, I do not use the full names of people who have not chosen to live their lives in the public eye (e.g., politicians or celebrities).  In previous posts I referred to Sarah using her initials. I will use her name now, because her name and her life – the way Sarah lived, not the way (or the fact that) she died –  deserve to be known.

Filoli Gardens near Woodside, CA

It was difficult to find the right words to compliment Sarah’s family on the memorial gathering they organized for her. Certainly, one’s ability to host any kind of funeral/celebration of life gathering for your loved one is a skill no one wants to employ. Still, it was gracious and lovely event, and a moving tribute to Sarah (as well as, I imagine, an emotionally exhausting – and yet necessary – milestone for her family to have passed).

We gathered to honor and remember Sarah’s life.  The tributes to her, from childhood buddies to medical school friends and colleagues (even the Dean of admissions of her medical school!) were articulate, heartfelt, inspiring, filled with warmth and good humor…and also mind-boggling (for moiself at least), in that they made me consider how Sarah, in her way-too-short lifespan, managed to amass such a large and brilliant group of people who cared so much about her.

Sarah, like her family and mine,   [2] was inspired to do good and walk joyously in this life because of life itself – her worldview was humanity/humanely-based, and religion-free. Sarah believed in living and loving and doing what you can to make life better for others in the here and now, and few people have done it better.  Whether or not you hold ideas/beliefs “going to heaven” or other mythological/supernatural/post-mortality destinations which no one has seen or proved to exist, there is one afterlife we’ve all experienced, whether or not we recognize it as such: how we remember those we know, after they die.

For someone as spirited and beloved as Sarah was – as she IS – her words and deeds live on to impress, refresh, and inspire our lives, and will continue to do so.  Welcome to the after-life, Sarah.

As Sarah herself might have said, with the heel-clicking, jump-in-the-air enthusiasm she was known for…

 

  

Dr. Sarah Hawley was a strong supporter of women’s rights, particularly with regard to health care and reproductive choices. If you’d like to honor Sarah’s life and legacy please consider donating in her memory to the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, here.

The University of Utah, home of Sarah’s medical residency, has established a memorial fund focusing on Sarah’s interests of women’s health, pediatric care, and wilderness medicine. Donations to the Dr. Sarah Hawley Memorial Fund can be made here.

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Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Artisan Vegan Cheese, by Miyoko Skinner

 Recipes:

* Meltable Mozzarella
* Eggplant Parmesan (with homemade vegan mozzarella)

Interesting in having to first make a key ingredient (the plant-based mozzarella, to use for the second recipe) several days ahead. 

My rating(s):

For the cheese: taste was good, but texture…(it never quite “jelled.”).  I had to substitute for a main ingredient, which may have been the bugagoo.

 

For the main dish:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [4]

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Department Of Way Too Cool

Dateline: Tacoma, Wednesday and Thursday, visiting daughter Belle, who works at the newly opened McMenamin’s Elk’s Temple. A whirlwind, last minute visit (Wed-Thurs are Belle’s “weekend”), but after the weekend’s memorial trip…I just wanted to see my daughter, you know?

Trust me, y’all gotta get y’alls selves up/down/over/under, whatever direction works for you, and visit this place.  As with all McMenamin’s hotels it is a beautifully restored historical property with the McM magic touch, including at this location a Spanish tapas bar and cafe, a “secret” vault bar, a game room (with pinball!), an amazing ballroom (for concerts – there is music nightly), a doc’s bar, and…wait for it…a tiki bar to die for.  [5]

A much classier venue than the Disney attraction, and you won’t leave it singing
that damned song (unless, of course, you’ve had too many mai tais).

 

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May you, again and always, remember to love ’em while you got ’em;
May you persist in making the fun recipe even after you’ve mucked up a key ingredient;
May you remember that there are (arguably) never “too many” mai tais;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

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[1] She was twenty-seven when she died.

[2] As in, the “immediate” family consisting of moiself, MH, Belle and K.  My and MH’s our extended families have religious believers  as well as and those who are religion-free among their numbers.

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

 [4]

 * Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character from The Office, who would eat anything) would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[5] Just ask the bar’s stuffed cobra and mongoose and hyena, who apparently did so.

The Commandments I’m Not Keeping

Comments Off on The Commandments I’m Not Keeping

Department Of What Almost Makes Having Seasonal Allergies Worthwhile

That would be having an excuse not to tackle the enormous dandelions (with the size and temperament  [1]  of a rabid Rottweiler) infesting our yard.

 

I’d love to do some weeding, honey, but (sniff sniff sneeze wheeze….)

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Department Of Don’t Believe Everything You Think

Dateline: Monday; morning walk; circa 7:05 am; listening to the latest This American Life podcast. The episode begins with the host listing of the variety of ways “The Ten Commandments” label has been used to brand lists of qualities, suggestions, actions or requirements considered essential to certain professions and/or activities:

* The Ten Commandments for Gold Miners
* The Ten Commandments of Umpiring
* Ten Commandments of Tractor Safety
* The Ten Commandments of Cell Phone Etiquette
* The Ten Commandments of…Bilingual Blogs; Working in a Hostile Environment; Communication with People with Disabilities; Being a Math Teacher….

As with all TAL episodes, this intro segues to stories which will be related to the episode’s theme/title. This particular episode’s stories illustrate, as the host says, situations “…where people are grappling with these old, primal rules for life. With that in mind, we’re devoting today’s program to the Ten Commandments, the real ones.”

As soon as I heard the phrase, the real ones, I realized moiself was in for a hair-pulling moment. Is it too much, I wondered, for me to expect the show to at least mention if not genuinely address the fact that there are no “real ones” when it comes to (what people think are) the so-called  Ten Commandments?

 

“Yes, that is expecting too much of a culture which has supported 23 seasons of ‘The Bachelor.'”

 

 

“Now different denominations attach different numbering schemes to the commandments, to which commandment goes with which number, though the commandments are always the same….”
(Ira Glass, narrating This American Life podcast The Ten Commandments)

 

 

WRRRRRRRONG!

Now then.  Ahem.  I realize this particular show’s premise is not The TC per se; rather, the TC is meant to be a unifying theme to the wacky stories presented within.   [2]  Still….

Ira, dude – your show has a staff of writers and investigators. You can do better than this. You could have at least given a nod to accuracy and reality, and said something like…

“There are in fact three different versions of The Ten Commandments found in the scriptures used by both the Jewish and Christian religions – and here they are ( either citing the biblical books and verses or reading them aloud)but for the sake of familiarity, we are going to use this particular set of ten.

…and continued on with your stories.

But, nooooooo.

 

 

There are three versions of the TC in the Jewish scriptures (referred to by Christians as The Old Testament) which are used by both Jews and Christians (all references here use the KJV translation).

It takes time to plow through this, but plowing through this is the point: the point being that almost no one actually plows through this, including religious believers – for how else to account for their ignorance what the TC actually say, or that there are different versions?

Version 1 is found in Deuteronomy 5:6-21

I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.

 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image,
or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath….

Etcetera, etcetera. This version is likely somewhat familiar even to those who are neither Jewish nor Christian.

Version 2 is found in Exodus 20:1-17

This differs slightly from the Deut. version, in phraseology and “explanatory text” (most evident in commandments #5 and #6). This difference, however, is ( or should be) highly problematic for those fundamentalists who believe and preach in their scriptures being the literal word of their god, for if that were true, there should be no textual difference at all. 

Then we have the gift to Skeptics, Freethinkers, and Atheists everywhere: Version 3.

 

Version 3, from Exodus 34, begins with the Hebrew god’s instruction to Moses:

Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.

Okay; a claim of straight dictation from the Almighty…except that these commandments are vastly – and in some cases, weirdly – different than the first two versions. Although, like the first two versions, the writing claims it is “the LORD” speaking.  Christ almighty, guess “the LORD” forgot what he’d said the other times?

It’s interesting – imperative, even – to note that this version of the TC is never cited when what I think of as the Unholy Trinity of Ps (priests, pastors, politicians) cite The Ten Commandments[3]   And yet this version is the only one referred to in scripture as the “ten commandments.” (my emphases, from the last verse. Have fun with the rest).

For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

 Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;

 And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.

 Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.

 The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt.

 All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male.

 But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.

 Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in shearing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.

 And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.

 Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel.

 For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year.

 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning.

 The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.

 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.

 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

 

And some of y’all want to us in the 21st century to heed this Iron Age hog twaddle?

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                              Department Of Things I’m Supposed To Like But Don’t                                    

Take, for example, the Hulu series, Shrill.

Here is the show’s website intro:

From Executive Producers Lorne Michaels and Elizabeth Banks comes Shrill, a comedy series starring Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live) as Annie, a fat young woman who wants to change her life — but not her body. Annie is trying to start her career while juggling bad boyfriends, a sick parent, and a perfectionist boss.

It sounded promising to me: three names I associate with quality comedy, and the teasers I saw and read hinted about an amazing premise (for a TV show): a fat heroine who refuses to be fat-shamed…

Except that she doesn’t.

Half way through the first season (episode 3 of 6) I realized I’d been expecting/hoping for just a wee a bit more…empowerment? gumption?…from the protagonist.  And I was surprised by how…sad…it made me feel.  How long do I want to watch her flounder in an emotionally abusive relationship? Oh, yeah, that would be, NOT ONE MORE SECOND.

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I may be anthropomorphizing (vego-morphizing?) here, but a cauliflower always looks to me as if it is keeping a secret and can’t wait to tell you about it.

 

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe: 

The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters

Recipe:  Spicy Cauliflower Soup

My rating:

Recipe Rating Refresher   [5]

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

 

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Department Of Great Moments In Publishing

Dateline: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…  [6]   I am having lunch with a writer friend who is dissing the Twilight  book series, at least one of which she actually has read all the way through. She asks if I am aware of the series; I confess that although moiself is aware of their existence I’ve no idea who the author is nor what the books are about, other than…maybe…teen vampires in the Northwest?

Writer Friend giggles as she begins describing the books’ unbelievable sucky-ness.  She particularly loathes the author’s liberal use of adverbs (” ‘he chuckled darkly ‘ ?!?!?! “). Our ensuing conversation goes something like this:

Moiself“Okay, so they’re poorly written.  But, what are they about?  In a nutshell (which is where they probably belong), what’s the story?”

Writer Friend:  “Teenage girl falls in love with a hundred-plus year old vampire; lots of steamy scenes of longing but no sex before marriage as per the vampire’s wishes, so she marries him when she’s 18, gets pregnant, and gestating the half vampire fetus almost kills her but she refuses to have an abortion….”

Moiself (interrupting with derisive snort): “What is this – Mormon soft core porn?!”

Writer Friend (giving me an incredulous look): “Uh…the author is a Mormon.”

 

*   *   *

May you be aware of how many assumptions you make when you think you and another person are discussing the same thing;   [7]
May you never pretend to like the things you think you are supposed to like
(but which you in fact do not like);
May you anthro- or vego-morphize to your heart’s content;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Yes, dandelions can have a temperament. And if you take issue with this assertion you obviously haven’t spent enough time weeding.

[2] And the first one – about a Jewish boy attending Hebrew school who faces the dilemma of having one of the Jewish god’s alleged 72 names (the boy’s name is Shalom) and thus, according to his Jewish teachers, he cannot write his own name without “taking the Lord’s name in vain” – is quite entertaining.

[3]   You think they wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to use the phrase, “go a whoring,” or talk about the religion and political ramifications of boiling a kid (baby goat) in its mother’s milk.

[4] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[5] * Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character from The Office, who would eat anything) would like this.

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[6] Actually, circa 2008.

[7] See part about the ten commandments.

The Maturity I’m Not Developing

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Department Of Existential Questions That Cannot Be
(Or Perhaps Are Best Not) Answered

Why didn’t this song get more airplay in its day?  You gotta love almost anything by The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, one of the pioneers of psychobilly   [1] (and the writer of perhaps one of the most misunderstood love songs of that genre, “I’m Standing In A Trash Can (Thinkin’ About You).”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Adventures In Maturation
Sub-Department Of Better Late Than Never

Dateline: Last Saturday morning. MH and I are descending the (not-so) “secret” hillside trail in North Manzanita. He stops to take a picture of a flower, which takes several minutes; moiself continues on ahead of him. I hear fast footsteps coming from behind, step to the side of the trail, and look back to behold a man in his late 70s or so – older looking; very trim and fit – running downhill.  He is wearing something like this on his chest…

 

 

…which appears to be a runner’s hydration vest – a short, lightweight vest with two symmetrical water bottle pockets in the front. Olde Running Man’s vest looks akin to the contraption the above picture, only his has water bottles on both sides, giving him   [2] a glorious approximation of…well…of jiggling man-boobs.

As he passes by, I am ever-so tempted to say, “Nice jugs.”  BUT I DIDN’T.

You’re welcome.

Yes, maturity is a life-long journey for some of us. A few years ago (say, in my late 50s), who knows what moiself would have called out.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Realities That Are Almost To Dreadful To Contemplate

“As horrific as this president is, he is a symptom of much deeper problems. Even foreign influence plays on [national] wounds that we refuse to address: income inequality, racism, corruption, a willingness to excuse bigotry,” she tweeted. “He can stay, he can go. He can be impeached, or voted out in 2020. But removing Trump will not remove the infrastructure of an entire party that embraced him; the dark money that funded him; the online radicalization that drummed his army; nor the racism he amplified and reanimated.”
(From a tweet by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D- NY),
as reported in Newsweek)

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Mystery Solved
Sub-Department Of I’m Not Sure Why This Came To Mind, But It Did

So: in every photo I’ve seen of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II wherein she is making a public appearance, she is holding a pocketbook.  It’s always a discreet little handbag – not festooned with the Crown Jewels or anything equally ostentatious – but, still. Why does the Queen of England – the Queen of anything – carry a purse?

 

I have more pressing matters to attend to, but your query is appreciated.

 

She doesn’t pay for anything; she has no need to carry her id and credit cards in case she wants to visit an ATM, ya know? She has attendants to see to her every need, and it’s not like the dignitaries and various heads of state she meets for tea expect her to whip out her wallet and say, “I’ve got this.”

A couple of Curious About The Inscrutable Ways Of The Universe ® friends and moiself pondered this very question, several years ago. [3]   After applying due diligence, we came up with the only logical assumption: Pragmatic and experienced monarch that she is, QEII’s pocket book contains two items: a flask of Jack Daniels, and a six-pack of condoms.

 

Well, that might explain the enigmatic smiles.

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

The Arab Table: Recipes and Culinary Traditions, by May Bsisu   

Recipes:

* Musaka Betinjane (Eggplant in Pomegranate Syrup)

*Salatat el Malfoof (Shredded Cabbage Salad)

* Mudardara (Warm Lentils with Rice)

My rating:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

See footnotes for Recipe Rating Refresher.  [5]

 

           *   *   *

May you carry only the essentials in your royal handbag;
May you never even think of commenting on what is on an old man’s chest;
May our frightening political realities inspire you to do something other than go through your cookbooks;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Psychobilly, as per Wikipedia’s explanation, is “…is a rock music fusion genre that mixes elements of rockabilly and punk rock.”

[2] In my observant mind, at least.

[3] Yes, we were sober. And employed.

[4] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[5] * Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin would like this (Kevin, a character from The Office, would eat anything.)

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

 

The Poop I’m Not Scooping

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Content warning: this is going to be a crappy post.

 

It may even qualify for the coveted Golden Turd award.

 

But first…

*   *   *

Department Of How To Make Your Dentist Guffaw   [1]

Answering truthfully usually works for me.

Dentist: “So, are there any teeth that are bothering you?”

Moiself: (emphatically and enthusiastically) “Yes! The entire Kennedy family – it’s been bothering me for years! What is it with their teeth?! Those massive front incisors – it’s like one of their ancestors mated with a beaver…”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Calling All Dog Owners – What’s Up With This Shit?

Dateline: last Friday, ~ 8 am. My post on Facebook, along with the following picture.

This dog waste receptacle, provided as a convenience, is filled to the brim, and it is locked. Locked as in, Don’t add any more, there is no room, it needs to be emptied. So what have people done? They’ve continued to leave their dog’s poop bags on top of it and some of the bags fall off and burst open. Dog owners, take your bags home with you. It is *your* dog.
Unbelievable.

 

 

 

What is it with (too many) dog owners?  Yep, I shouldn’t generalize. And I’m fortunate to know kind, responsible and respectful dog owners who are equally angry at/frustrated with capricious pooch poop pitchers who seem more than willing to just drop their doggie’s droppings anywhere and let others deal with it.

A beach friend of mine is a proud and conscientious owner of two cute canine companions. She shared my post on her FB page, commenting that that  (irresponsible canine feces discarding) is one of her pet peeves.   [2]  The post also caught the attention of the Manzanita Visitors Center, which shared it on their FB page…and took it down 20 or so minutes later, after some man made an emotional (and inaccurate) comment about how my original post was typical of “dog haters.”

I didn’t see Emotional Inaccurate Man’s remarks – MH brought it to my attention, and before I could check it out, the Manzanita Visitors Center had removed the post.  Guess they didn’t want to start a comment war?   [3]  Moiself likely would have responded, with something like this:

Dear Emotional Inaccurate Man,

When you come across statements that get your knickers in a knot, you should re-read such statements several times before responding to them.

I am not a “dog hater,” and there is no evidence of such in my post. I do not mention dogs as being accountable in this matter – dogs are not the responsible agents.  When animals gotta go, they gotta go. I do specifically criticize those dog OWNERS who do not properly dispose of their dog’s droppings. So, because I call out the actions of dog owners who are disrespectful of public spaces by fouling said places with their pets’ waste, you make the leap to, I am a dog “hater”?

Re your comments to my post, not only did you resort to using an ad hominem fallacy, you failed basic reading comprehension.

One more thing, Emotional Inaccurate Man. About those “Pet” waste bag receptacles (read: dog waste receptacles – they have a picture of a dog on them, and it’s not like people walk their llamas or cats or ferrets on the beach): they are not a “right,” they are a convenience supplied by the city (or state park or other municipalities). Translation: the bags, disposal containers, and workers who empty and maintain the containers are provided by us, your fellow taxpaying households, only 38% of which own dogs and more than 43%  of which   [4] own no pets at all.  So, how’s about a humble thank you?

If you’re incapable of that acknowledgement, just be responsible for your own shit: take it home with you and put it in your own trash can if you can’t dispose of it properly when you and Fido are outside your home, ok?

 

*   *   *

Department of I’m Not Quite Done with Dung….

Stories, that is.

One of my favorite family stories involves my father’s lifelong war on dog shit – a noxious substance which he (with one notable exception) more genteelly referred to as, “dog dirt.”  Specifically and oh-so-understandably, Chet Parnell could not abide dog dirt that was not from one of our dogs but that somehow ended up on our property. He could not understand how neighbors could let their dogs poop on someone else’s property with impunity.

One day many years ago, when I was visiting my parents at their SoCal home, I asked about the latest neighborhood news. I received the following story, separately, from both Chet (my father) and Marion (my mother).  Their accounts (save for certain exclamations and sound effects) were almost identical.

A bit o’ background: for several months prior to the ensuing narrative, someone had been walking their dog in my parent’s neighborhood and letting it defecate on their property. My father was determined to catch the culprit, but who was it? He’d seen many dog walkers in the ‘hood – some he recognized as living nearby; there were others who probably lived several blocks away but included my parents’ street in their daily walks. Some kept their dogs on a leash, others let their dogs walk off-leash, and my father noticed how the off-leash dogs would walk all over people’s property while their owners just stood by. Chet was a friendly guy; if he was outside he’d greet the dog owner and, depending on the situation, either praise the owner for their handsome, well-mannered dog, or kindly request that they keep their dog on leash and not let it roam on his lawn and under the shrubbery, etc.

But he’d not been able to espy the Phantom Pooper.  My parents’ guess was that it was someone who walked their dog either early in the morning or in the later evening. It seemed to be one specific dog leaving the mess, as the “evidence” was always the same color/size/consistency (my parents expressed regrets for the fact that they had become experts in dog poop identification).  Whatever dog it was, it was obviously a large creature, from whose cavernous rectum would drop massive “links” the size and shape (but, unfortunately, not the consistency) of a bunch of brown bananas.  Chet and Marion had found piles of that distinctive dog-do on their front yard, their side yard, their sidewalk, their driveway, under the trees by the kitchen sink window….  Most egregious of all, one morning when Chet went out to water the new flowers he’d planted in the kitchen sink windowsill flower box, he reached under a hydrangea bush for the hose spigot  and plunged his hand into the pile of freshly “applied” dog poop which covered the garden hose.

 

That illustrates why one must always insist the servants do the gardening.

 

Now Chet was really on the warpath.  He increased his vigilance, and he finally spotted her.  Chet was up early one morning, washing the dishes which were left over from the previous night’s dinner. When he looked out the kitchen sink window (which faced their side yard) he saw a woman walking an enormous dog.

It was a warm SoCal morning; the woman was dressed in pocketless shorts and a tee shirt and carried no purse or any other object in which there might be implements to scoop and contain her dog’s poop. Her dog was on leash, and it sniffed around the sidewalk past my parents’ driveway, then around their birch trees, then led its owner to the grass by the curb, then back to my parent’s lawn, where it paused and assumed the CPE (Canine Poop Ejection) position.

“Hey! Chet pounded on the kitchen window. “Stop that!” he yelled to the woman.

The woman looked around, as if she didn’t know where the voice was coming from.

Chet opened the kitchen window and yelled again.  “Get your dog off our property! Right now!”

The woman just stood there and let her dog continue to do…what it was starting to do.

The commotion attracted the attention of my mother who, still in her nightgown, scurried into the kitchen just as my father ran out the back door which led to the driveway. Looking out the kitchen window, Marion saw her husband stride toward the woman who, frantically pulling on the leash, attempted to drag her dog – still in squat mode and beginning to expel one loop of what was sure to be a massive poop strand – away from our house.

“Lady, you get back here and CLEAN UP YOUR DOG’S SHIT!” Chet snarled.

The woman’s eyes widened at the approach of My Father The Crazed Poop Vigilante . She began to run, dragging her dog with her. The dog continued to drop hunks of poop, leaving a trail from my parent’s lawn to the sidewalk to the street to the house across the street…until the woman and her dog turned the street corner and were out of sight.

Marion was mortified.  [5] She called out through the kitchen window, imploring Chet to come back inside and not chase the woman. “Oh, what will she think of us?” she gasped.

Moiself was bemused by that part of the story, and wondered aloud to my mother why she (or Chet…or anyone) should care about the opinion of a person who flagrantly and repeatedly let their dog crap on someone else’s yard?

As for Chet, he (of course!) got a kick out of telling me that story. He said he wanted that disrespectful person to think that he was a madman, and was proud of the fact that she was apparently so rattled by his confrontation that she altered her dog walking route. My parents never saw her (nor had to clean up her dog’s poop from their yard) again.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just One More Story And I’m Done With This Shit

Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (make that Northern California, 1988). I lived in a rental cottage on one of the residential streets of downtown Palo Alto, just a block away from a street bordering the winding San Francisquito Creek . Another block away from my abode was a high rise condominium building which, at that time, housed wealthy/elderly retirees.

During my morning walks around the streets by the creek I would often see a certain woman either exiting or entering that condo building. She was waif-like thin, ala Joan Didion…

 

 

…and when I saw Wafer Thin Elderly Woman she would always be walking her equally thin, equally elderly dog, which appeared to be some kind of Chihuahua mix. Every time I saw WTEW she was dressed as if headed for a tea party, wearing nylon stockings and closed-toe heeled pumps, the color of which matched her slender, fitted, pocket-less woolen (winter) or linen (warmer weather) pastel skirt and suit jacket, and carrying a (color-coordinated) petite clutch purse.

One morning I was returning home from my walk when WTEW was beginning hers. Her dog stopped on someone’s lawn, its quavering legs barely holding itself up as it paused to squat.  WTEW carried nothing save for her ubiquitous, teensy, snap-open clutch purse.

 

Similar to this, sans the rhinestone affectation.

 

As I approached I saw no evidence that she carried doggie waste procurement and disposal equipment of any kind.  Oh dear, I fretted to moiself, Am I going to have to shit-shame an old lady?  [6]

WTEW patiently waited for her dog to complete its business. She then opened the snap top of her tiny purse, from which she removed a thin tissue. She leaned down, delicately plucked her dog’s poop balls from the lawn, dropped the tissue and its contents into her purse, snapped the purse shut, and she and her dog continued on their way.

*   *   *

Department Of, To Use One Of My Father’s Favorite Expressions….

“Well, that’s enough about that.”

*   *   *

 

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [7]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe(s):

The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent,  by Jessica B. Harris

Recipes:

* Irio (Stewed vegetables – Kenya)

* Mashed Eggplant a la einab (Sudan)

It – both recipes – well, I found them to be just…blah.

My rating:

 

 

 

(See Footnotes for further ratings info  [8]  )

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

*   *   *

May you appreciate a good dog poop story;
May you never be the subject of someone else’s bad dog poop story;
May you not let successive poop stories ruin your own Epicurean Excursions;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Nine out of ten doctors agree: nine out of ten dentists prefer guffawing to laughing, chortling, cackling, tee-heeing or roaring with glee.

[2] Pun oh-so-appreciated, intentional or otherwise, CK!

[3] Or have outsiders think that, gasp, their lovely beach village has a poop problem? Ah, the things that pass for controversy in a small town.

[4] As per the American Veterinary Medical Association, which keeps statistics on such things.

[5] It’s hard for moiself to come up with stories involving my mother’s husband and/or middle daughter that would not include the phrase, Marion Parnell was mortified…”

[6] Good Citizen that I was, I was determined not to let it pass without comment, if she with impunity let what her dog passed remain on someone else’s lawn.

[7] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[8] Recipe Rating Refresher
* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (from The Office) would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

The Challenge I’m Not Setting

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“I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and say to myself, “Well, that’s not going to happen.”
(Rita Rudner, American comedian)

Similarly to Ms. Rudner, I do read recipes/cookbooks, but in manner akin to how I watch PBS travel shows: for inspiration more than for go-there-and-then-do-this-while-you’re-there advice. I tend to peruse cookbooks as if they were novels/short story collections, more than as a set of how-tos. It is something of a garbled, quasi-literary approach: I “read” through a new cookbook to get an overall feel/feeling for whatever the author is promoting,  [1]  then I put the book down and see if MH feels like being my sous chef.

Except in baking – a culinary discipline moiself and others more knowledgeable and experienced than moiself distinguish from cooking   [2]  and where precise measurements and techniques are called for (to work the chemistry of leavened breads, for example) – I rarely cook from a recipe or follow one   [3] step-by-step, from start to finish.

Counting (and likely missing some of) the books I’ve either lent out or have transferred to another location, moiself currently has somewhere in the vicinity of 60+ cookbooks. At least that many more have been relegated to the retired list.  [4]   The other night, while reaching for the cord to plug in our Dinner Party Festive Lights, ®  I almost knocked one of the books off its shelf.  I felt a twinge of regret to see it there, teetering above the kitchen sink, the dusty volume looking bereft from my neglect.   [5]  

 

 

That was the incident which gave birth    [6] to a project I have set for moiself.

Welcome to the first edition of my Epicurean Excursion. This EE is meant to be a  recurring feature of this blog, from this week on until I complete (or tire of) it, wherein moiself will go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook one recipe from one book.

Knowing moiself, I’ll tend to treat any “rules” (even if they are totally self-defined and imposed) as guidelines. There will be time outs for travel, vacation, etc.  

What to call it?  I considered cookbook challenge, but it’s not so much a challenge I’ve set for moiself, more like…a suggestion?

Excursion
a short journey or trip, especially one engaged in as a leisure activity.
 (“an excursion to Mount Etna”)
synonyms:       trip, outing, jaunt, expedition, journey, tour;

 

EE nights will be either Monday or Tuesday; I shall catalog the experience on Friday.   Let me assure those of y’all who do not consider y’alls’ selves to be foodie fanatics, – the majority of my blog posts will continue to be devoted to my usual slavering spew thoughtful and erudite commentary on current/events/culture/feminism/politics/religion.

My EE reviews will not be extensive. There are other cooks, professional and amateur, with experiences more vast and palates more refined and adventurous than moiself – you can Google the late great chef Anthony Bourdain for his take on eating roasted warthog anus,   [7]  if that’s what poles your gondola.

 

As a matter of fact, I pole my own gondola…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

 

I’ll just tell you the name of the cookbook I used and the recipe I made, and the rating I’ve assigned to that recipe.  My eight scale rating system will be as follows:

* Two Thumbs Up:  Liked it.

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it!

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin would like this recipe. [8]

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing My Nose: I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

           

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion

The Inaugural Voyage
(chosen by luck of alphabetical listing in which titles beginning with a number go first),

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

 

15 Minute Vegan, by Katy Beskow

Recipe: Smoky Chickpea Soup

I’m a sucker – a slurper, more accurately – for any soup or stew with a mélange of Moroccan/Mediterranean spice flavors, and this one was a sensory delight.

My rating:  Two Hamster Thumbs Up!

 

 

Mere words cannot describe how bang-on  [9] delighted I am to be able to use that rating for my first outing with this project.  But words aren’t necessary when you have a picture of hamster thumbs.

 

*   *   *

May you find a reason to enjoy some classic Rita Rudner standup routines[10]
May you never take your I’ll try anything once motto or reputation so seriously that
you find yourself eating roasted warthog anus;
May life favor you with an abundance of Two Hamster Thumbs Up experiences;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] A specific cuisine; their family recipe collection; the Netflix cooking show deal they hope to land….

[2] It sometimes gets simplified into cooking = art and baking = science or cooking vs. science…although that distinction tends to imply an adversarial relationship, and there is much overlap between the two.

[3] Except for those I’ve written down moiself, after learning to at least try to do so on a regular basis, after having made something yummers and then trying to recall what was it that I did?

[4] As in, permanently given away, or recycled (think: Goodwill store), due to issues of space or just lack of interest or relevance. For example, a plant-eater don’t need no Barbecuing Big Beef Bones tome.

[5] Yes, books can have facial expressions, and other human attributes as well. They have spines, don’t they?

[6] Fortunately, without the cursing which accompanied the births of my two children.

[7] No matter how much I wish I’d made that up, I didn’t.  See a previous blog post, The Delicacy I’m Not Sampling, about Bourdain’s NPR interview in which he described that experience.

[8] Kevin, a character from The Office, would eat just about anything.

[9] Irish slang for very much, spot on, or accurate.

[10] Especially those that deal with marriage/family life.  Sample: Rudner’s take on being child-free and trying to understand babies; specifically, the atrocious noise a friends’ newborn son makes – a raucous cry her friend explains away with, He’s hungry :  “I thought, that’s the noise he makes when he’s hungry? He’d better pace himself. What kind of noise is he going to make when he gets audited?”

The Label I’m Not Understanding

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Department Of Grief And Relief

I’m thinking about my friends, JWW and MW.  MW’s mother, Molly (a lovely Irish name for a lovely Irish-American lady) died last Monday, after a long physical and mental decline.  Molly was never officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but had significant memory and cognitive problems over the past decade. After her husband died she lived with MW’s sister for several years,  then came to stay with MW and JWW.

 

 

Molly was a sweet woman, and maintained her gentle and loving disposition (she was a favorite at the Memory Care center MW & JWW eventually found for her, in a nearby town), and did not seem to descend into the fear and anger that can affect people with memory problems. It was sweet, watching MW and JWW interact with Molly, showing her unqualified patience and love. But as is often the case with an elderly parent who can no longer live independently, love cannot conquer all. MW & JWW realized they could not provide Molly with the safe, 24/7 care she needed, which was made evident to them in many ways over many months, particularly on the day when JWW came downstairs to discover that Molly had removed her favorite polyester shirt from the dryer, put it on, and realized it was still damp. It seemed perfectly reasonable to Molly to finish drying her shirt – while she was wearing it – by holding her arms over an open flame on the stove…which is how JWW found her (fortunately, before Molly set herself on fire).

Now, MW & JWW find themselves in that odd life stage, as I was with the death of my own mother: between grief and relief.  Such a strange feeling, also – to find yourself feeling both sad and somewhat amused by the fact that you feel like an orphan in your 60s.  All the orphans of classic literature were way younger, right?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Tricky Questions, Trickier Answers

Developmentally delayed.

Dateline: earlier this week, doing an am workout in our family room, listening to a podcast story.  The afore-mentioned description – developmentally delayed  –  was used in the podcast to describe the podcast story narrator’s brother, who had a broad list of cognitive and emotional impediments.  MH entered the room just in time to hear the term DD. He paused for a moment, then posed a question (to the universe, as much as to moiself), “What does that mean?”

He was not exactly being rhetorical.  I knew that he knew what DD meant…then began to think beyond what I thought I knew…and, really, what does it mean?

I told him a few of the emotional and cognitive defects (of the narrator’s brother) which had been mentioned in the podcast ,and offered my opinion that the DD label, in the particular case of that podcast and in what has become its common usage, is it meant to replace an older term which has now entered the retirement home of words-not-to-be-used-due-to-derogatory-potential: “mentally retarded.”

 

 

The concept and label of mental retardation was widely used, by both laypersons and medical professionals, up until relatively recently.   [1]

In the 1950s the word retarded was progressive, an improvement over feebleminded, imbecile, moron. It shares a root with ritardando, a musical term meaning a gradual decrease in tempo. Think: the musicians’ fingers letting the moments stretch between their notes.
To retard, to slow down. As in: Your baby’s growth is retarded.
But retarded soon came to mean dumb or incompetent. As in: I just lost my phone. I’m so retarded.
(from “The R-Word,” by Heather Kirn Lanier, The Sun )

 

MH and I began to wonder aloud with one another (one of our more frequent conversational formats) about the fact that although the term developmentally delayed may be less open to derogatory usage by laypersons, it isn’t very helpful in the way that all terminology is supposed to be: by being specific or descriptive.

Close-to-the-heart example: My friend FP is blind. FP once told me about her scornful objection to the term visually impaired.  In FP’s experience, some Well-Meaning People ®  think the word blind is somehow insulting. One WMP actually corrected FP when FP described herself as blind: “Oh, you mean you’re ‘visually impaired?’ “

 

“Hell no, I mean, I’m BLIND.”

 

To FP, “blind” is merely, vitally factual:  I’m not simply “impaired,” I’m blind, and that is important for people to know. It’s not that I just see things dimly or unclearly – I don’t see them at all, so when I ask for directions to the bathroom and you tell me it’s ten steps ahead but don’t tell me that there is an ottoman in the way I will trip over it and break my #*%!? nose.

Delay, in its various noun/verb/adverb/adjective forms, involves actions or objects that are postponed and hindered. But delay also carries with it the possibility of catching up.  In describing people as having developmental delays, the term is so broad/vague as to provide little functional information: I have heard it applied to a 4th grader with mild dyslexia as well as to a young adult born with such severe brain deficits he has never been able to communicate, much less toilet, feed and care for himself and thus has required 24 hour professional/institutional care since his toddlerhood.

The scope of conditions categorized under the label intellectual disabilities is broad, and with early intervention the outcomes for many developmentally delayed children (who is the past may have been labeled mentally retarded) is much brighter than in decades ago. But it’s not as if, say, the boy with Down Syndrome is merely delayed academically when compared with his older sister, who is taking calculus as a junior in high school.  It’s not as if, Sure, he’s behind now, but he’ll catch up one day and do higher mathematics – it’ll just take him a few years longer.

What would be an alternative, more accurate label: developmentally compromised ?  It doesn’t seem like there could be any term that would be acceptable to all, or even most people   [2] …and maybe that’s the point.  Here’s a realization worthy of a Hallmark Channel movie: treat everyone as individuals; no one label can tell you all of the strengths or disabilities (excuse me, challenges?   [3] ) facing a particular person.

Still…today’s “She has a developmental delay” isn’t ultimately more informative than yesterday’s, “He has a mental retardation.”

And of course, Things Being What They Are ® , MH and moiself both felt somewhat… awkward…even discussing the issue, just the two of us, no language cops in sight.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Headline That Is So Evocative Why Bother
Reading The Newspaper Article – Just Use Your Imagination
Because Whatever You Come Up With Is Bound To Be As (If Not More)
 Entertaining Than The Real Story

 

“Children Removed From A Facility That Limited Tampons”

(The Oregonian, 3-29-19)

 

This has nothing to do with the headline, but imagine a picture that did?

 

*   *   *

Department Of No April Foolin’

Yet another story inspired by a story I was listening to – this one on April 1, courtesy of NPR’s All Things Considered:  How Vanity License Plates Are Approved and Denied in California.

Dateline: sometime in 1980; moiself is down in SoCal, visiting my parents. My mother shows me a newspaper clipping, about an employee of the newspaper (The Orange County Register) who had recently won an “argument” with the California DMV.  “Don’t you know this guy?” my mother asks me.

I scan the article. “Peter?!” I burst out laughing. “Yeah, I know that Schmuck.”

 

Peter looks nothing like a baby sloth in pajamas, but I don’t have a recent photo of him.

 

I went to high school with He Who Was To Become sportswriter/columnist Peter Schmuck. He graduated the year before me; we had mutual friends (mostly the high school journalism crew) but didn’t know each other well. Moiself, like some of his peers, I’d guess, initially pitied then almost immediately admired or at least respected Peter, for having to deal with a first-last name combination considered redundant. Many of us who knew him attributed Peter’s sense of humor and in-your-face attitude – a combination of sarcasm and assertiveness sometimes bordering on aggression  [4] – to having grown up with that name.  It seems PS would at least partially agree with that sentiment, as per his interview with fellow journalist Steve Marantz:

“I‘m the only person in the world who thinks it was a big advantage to grow up with the last name Schmuck.. I’m pretty sure the distinctiveness of the name has helped me throughout my career. It also has given me a thicker skin – in a ‘Boy Named Sue’ kind of way – in a business where that isn’t a bad thing to have.”

I am not wandering off on yet another digression. Here comes the newspaper article/DMV story tie-in:

In 1980 Peter (or, his girlfriend at the time, as Peter has said) applied for a vanity license plate with his last name on it. That was the subject of the newspaper article my mother showed me: Peter Schmuck had been denied the vanity plate SCHMUCK because, in a letter the DMV sent to Peter, the DMV claimed schmuck was a Yiddish indecency.

I found that whole incident to be wonderfully WTF-ish to the nth (thank you, NPR, for the memory prod).  I still smile to picture a state government flunkie whose job it was to tell a person that the person’s given/authentic/legal surname was indecent (Dude, you’re the DMV! Look up his driver’s license, IT’S HIS NAME).

As well as his first 15 minutes of fame, Peter Schmuck got his license plate. Yes, the Good Guy prevailed in The Great License Plate Indecency Skirmish. I saw it on Peter’s car (which, if memory serves, he referred to as the Schmuckmobile).  Following his stint at The Register, Peter moved East and landed a long-time gig as a sports reporter and columnist for The Baltimore Sun.  I forgot to ask Peter, when I saw him at a Baltimore Orioles home game oh-so-many years ago, whether he got the state of Maryland to issue him a new plate.

 

Or, in a hitherto unknown (to moiself) assignment, did Peter spend some time covering the great sport of Iditarod?

*   *   *

May you, when it is your turn, find a graceful way to navigate between grief and relief;
May you be careful with your labels and also patient with those who use them;
May your choice of vanity license plates bring joy to the simple-minded masses;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] In 2010 President Barack Obama signed “Rosa’s Bill,” (approved unanimously by Congress), which required the federal government to replace the terms “mental retardation” “and “mentally retarded” with, respectively,  “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in policy documents.

[2] And trust me, when you get rid of “retard/retardation” it is replaced by turning the supposedly gentler term into a pejorative: “What are you, a special needs” kid?” which I heard, pronounced with multisyllabic sarcasm, along with “learning disabled” et al, on my childrens’ school yard playgrounds. Never doubt the ability of a grade schooler to turn the most well-intentioned label into a slur.

[3] Another adjective I’ve heard both embraced and mocked, and by people supposedly on the same side of the disability rights movement.  “Intellectually Challenged” – that’s me, trying to follow a chess match.

[4] Translation:  in high school, I thought him somewhat of an asshole. I figured he likely held the same opinion about me. Later on, I came to be, and still am, quite fond of him.

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