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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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*   *   *

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

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

All together now: “What a gooooooood daughter.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rudolph car

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

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

Well, of course it is.

*   *   *

But I digress.  I was walking.

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

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

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

pdxelk

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

Hilarity ensues.

Happy Holidays nd Thanks for stopping by.

Au Vendredi!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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