What is a days-long festival that does not have its own soundtrack album but which smells better than 400,000 mud-wallowing hippies overdosing on acid?  Five gold stars and a Pretty Purple Toe for you…

…if you’re thinking, hmm, it’s not Woodstock….

It’s time for Portland’s annual literary festival, Wordstock . One of the largest such festivals in the nation, Wordstock events include author readings (from writers way more famous and articulate than moiself), exhibits, contests and workshops, and a book fair.  I will be doing two shifts at the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators booth, with The Mighty Quinn copies for display and sale and either a weary or I-am-so-not-worthy look on my face, depending on which indifferent guests and/or famous literati [1] stroll past.  If you’re so inclined to celebrate booky-stuff this weekend (or just want to get out of the rain) stop by SCBWI’s booth 1103 in Exhibit Hall D of the Oregon Convention Center in beautiful downtown (the Northeast side) Portland. I’ll be there Saturday 3:45 – 6p and Sunday 1:45 – 4p.

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Poor Belle.  When I asked her four months ago if she’d be interested in attending the FFRF’s  convention with MH and I, she gave an enthusiastic, Sure, that would be fun.  She had no idea how much homework she’d have, and her weekend mostly consisted of her sitting on the bed in the hotel room amid stacks of AP calculus and AP American Lit papers.  I did manage to get her to take a break on Saturday afternoon to cruise State Street, Madison’s (former) [2] answer to Eugene, at least when it comes to stores that carry Sixties paraphernalia and  tie-dye shirts.

Feelin’ the groovy vibes of Madison’s State Capitol building

Belle also seemed to enjoy the convention’s Saturday night banquet, as well as our after-banquet adventure.  While MH stayed to enjoy the après-dinner entertainment I accompanied my daughter to the hotel bar, where we partook of ginger ale (Belle) and Pinot Gris (moiself) and an outrageously tasty plate of fries, and she told me about her plans to start a Feminism/Gender Equality club at school.

Imagine if a boy showed up in his high school civics class wearing a Cool Story, Homie, now shine my shoes t-shirt. He’d be hauled in to the vice principal’s office for a lecture on offensive stereotypes, probably have to attend some diversity workshops, and, oh yeah, take the shirt off.  But Belle has seen too many “sandwich” t-shirts at her school go unchallenged, and it’s pissing her off


That is just one of the many reasons she’d like to start such a club – mostly, it’s about a way for like-minded kids to gather and brainstorm holding some contemporary events for a little old-fashioned consciousness-raising

I reminded her of the challenges she’ll likely hear, including:

* First Amendment issues re the t-shirt;
* First Amendment issues re cretins’ inalienable rights to practice public asswipery.

Belle reminded me of the fact that students do not have the same rights as adults, and schools regulate all kinds of issues that would fall under the First Amendment umbrella (e.g.,  banning that which is deemed gang attire or accoutrements).  And she already has a teacher sponsor lined up for the club, and several students interested in joining.[3]

A successful student club needs a raison d’être, and also some joi de vivre. You can’t just hold assemblies to try to raise consciousness (think of the many eye-rolling-inducing school assemblies you’ve complained about, I said).  You can’t just roam the halls looking for offensively-attired students to smite.  You can, however, roam the halls, [4] find an offensively-attired manchild, and while you’re helping said clueless dude to realize that men of quality are not threatened by women of equality, ask him,  “Oh, and would you like to hold this cute, egalitarian-affirming baby sloth?

Seriously, ladies and germs, I am so impressed by her willingness to confront the issues of inequality she sees, even as my heart aches and my butt frosts to think about

1.  The crap she’ll likely receive for engaging sexism and the F-word [5] in school;
2.  There is no reason #2;
3.  There are about fifteen other reasons, mostly variations of reason #4;
4.  The fact that we are STILL dealing with this bullshit.

Meanwhile, back in a hotel bar in Madison, WI, we return to our Spunky Heroine ® and her Adoring Mother ® .  Having deliberated the ongoing problems of misogyny and inequality, the two gutsy gals respectively order another round of ginger ale and Pinot Gris and chat up a gregarious lady and her “service dog” [6] who occupy a comfy sofa in the back corner of the bar.

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May you be well-tended by the service animal/companion of your dreams, who will alert you when the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Rumor has it Fight Club author/literary bad boy Chuck Palahniuk will give a free copy of his latest book to anyone who correctly pronounces his last name.

[2] It’s becoming – gasp – gentrified, or some of the aging locals complain.

[3] Including dudes, yeah!

[4] Hey, what happened to this footnote?

[5] It’s easier, for most of her peers and too many of her teachers, to think that feminism is just another civil rights issue that was settled, a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

[6] A very well-behaved Chihuahua, but, service dog?  Puhleese.