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The Motorcycle I’m Not Getting

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Department Of Should Auld Acquaintance Be Misspelled

I’d been in kind of a funk as the end of the year approached, [1] about a good many issues and subjects, from the personal to the political. [2]  Unlike in years past, as my December birthday approached, there were no birthday cards  (I typically get at least two before the day itself). I figured people had picked up on my less-than-enthusiastic response to my birthday and decided not to remind me.

 

 

camel

Like we’d let her forget!

 

 

Then, on the day, I received six cards, three of which contained notes and/or letters which were possibly the best, explicit, paeans to friendship I’d ever read…and they were addressed to moiself.  They contained the kind of prose which makes me think more profoundly of the writer than the recipient – sort of a “living eulogy,” as one of the senders lovingly and cheekily put it.

We say such kind and significant things at memorial services; we innumerate the qualities we appreciated in our families and friends…which is wonderful for the “survivors” to hear. But why don’t we let people know more often and in specific detail how much they mean to us when they are alive?

I don’t think my daughter Belle had any kind of living eulogy intention when she wrote her “gift letter” to MH and I, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. 

Along with her Christmas gifts to each of us (gorgeous, framed, original paintings and drawings!) MH and I received an amazing letter from Belle. It was written days before Christmas, and she had no idea how important would be the timing of her letter’s presentation. She wrote in specific and affectionate detail about the things she loves and admires about MH, and about moiself. It is something I shall cherish forever.

I read the note around 9 am on Christmas Day, after we had opened our stockings and presents. I had decided to hold on to the news I’d received earlier that morning, just before son K drove over [3] to join us, so that MH, K, Belle and I  [4] could have an hour of a laughing and loving, “normal” Christmas morning.

 

 

 

reaper

 

 

 

From John Glenn to Zsa Zsa Gabor; from David Bowie to Florence Henderson to Leonard Cohen to Prince to Morley Safer, Patty Duke, Keith Emerson, Gwen Ifill, Elie Wiesel, Gary Shandling, Pat Summitt, Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin, Robert Vaugh, Gene Wilder,  Leon Russell, George Martin, Paul Kantner, Harper Lee, Muhammad Ali and so many more….and now, Carrie Fisher? Hey, 2016 Grim Reaper – did you have to be so greedy?

During this last week of the year magazines, newspapers, websites and other news venues will be compiling End of Year Lists re the passing of “notables.”  Marion Alberta Parnell will make no one’s celebrity death list, but she was important to a few of us in her own teensy corner of the world.

Longtime readers of this blog may know that my mother has been in poor mental and physical health for some time – really, since her husband/my father, Chet Parnell, died in 2009. In the past week Mom went on a sudden downhill slide, and entered home hospice care (in Santa Ana, in her longtime home). Her four children scheduled rotating visits so that we could each see her before she died (but not all pile on at once, so to speak).

My older lives twenty minutes away from Mom and visited daily. My younger sister made it down on Little Christmas Eve (the 23rd); my brother, on Christmas Eve. My older sister’s children’s families were going to bring food and sing carols to their grandmother on Christmas Day, and my visit was scheduled for the day after Christmas.

On December 24 I sat at the dining room table with my family, enjoying our annual Christmas Eve lefse dinner – a tradition from my mother’s family.  I told son K and daughter Belle about the last minute trip MH and I had hastily arranged, for me to go see my mom. I filled them in on her status; it was entirely possible she would not be able to communicate with me (my older sister reported that Marion was mostly incommunicado/in and out of awareness during my brother’s visit, earlier that day), but I was going to tell her stories and give her foot and leg rubs and thank her for being my mother. I showed them what I was taking with me, to give to my mother and thank her for starting what has become a Christmas “decorating” tradition in our family – hiding a bajillion  [5]  little Santa’s Elves figures all over the house.

 

 

tomom

 

 

I found out early Christmas morning, right before K returned home over to open stockings and presents with MH and Belle and I, that my mother had died late the previous evening (My mother’s longtime, live-in caretaker wanted to spare us the inevitable but still sad news on Christmas Eve.).

My mother so loved Christmas; my siblings and I shared the sentiment that it was somewhat fitting for her to pass at this time.

 

Department Of But, I’m Too Old To Be An Orphan  [6]

 

We understand what you mean about becoming the oldest of a generation….. The circle of life. More like the moving sidewalk that you can’t get off once you step on.
(My friend KW, upon hearing the news of my mother’s death)

 

My mother was the youngest of four children, and the last of her siblings to die. With her passing, I realized, all of the family from both of my parents’ generation are gone. I don’t think I’m prepared to be part of the family’s oldest generation, I told MH. But, Life doesn’t ask you if you’re ready, does it?

“I’m sorry you’ve lost your mom.”

It is sad when it is really over. She’s gone, “all of a sudden,” but not really. The truth is we’ve been losing her, bit by bit, for years. A cognitive and physical death by degrees…at least there is a modicum of peace, knowing she is free from the memory loss and confusion, and their attendants, fear and paranoia, which brought about the awkward conversations where I would have to “kill” my father for her. There were far too many of those phone calls, when she fretted and would not be distracted from asking where her husband was, how and when had he left her, and why people were hiding this information from her.

 

marionalbertaparnellcirca1953

Marion circa 1953. This was one of Chet’s favorite pictures of her.

 

 

chesterbryqanparnellcirca1953

Chet Parnell, circa 1953.

 

*   *   *

And Then There’s That

 

Moiself, to MH and Belle: “On the plus side, this – my mother’s death – means that I can finally get a motorcycle.”

Belle:  ?????

MH: “How do you figure?”

Moiself:  When I was in my twenties and interested in such things, my mom asked me to promise the following:  “Promise me you won’t get a motorcycle before I die, because if you do it will kill me.”

MH: “Uh…can I be the one with the veto, now?”

chopper

RIP, Mom.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you remember to love’ em while you got ’em;
May you love’ em while you got ’em;
And may you love’ em while you got ’em,
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] GEE, DO YA THINK?

[2] Holy Fucking Regime Change, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

[3] He lives about twelve minutes away from us, in a rental house he shares with four friends.

[4] And our kitties Crow and Nova, who REALLY enjoyed the catnip stuffed carrot and parsnip Santa MH got them.

[5] Closer to several dozen

[6] One of the many WTF remarks I made to MH, after hearing the news about my mom.

The Heritage I’m Not Claiming

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I’d given up on attending Christmas-themed theatrical performances – at least, the ones which (theoretically) are comedies. The disaster that was A Tuna Christmas has become legend in my family. Several years ago MH got our family tickets for a Portland performance of the play, at my request, as a family outing for my birthday. When intermission was announced and everyone in the theatre stood up to stretch their legs and find the bathroom, I turned to son K, who was standing beside me, and asked, “Would you be disappointed if we left now?”

Oh, Mom, K gushed, hugging me so hard I almost toppled out of the balcony, “I’m so glad you feel that way!” His enthusiasm quickly spread to daughter Belle and MH, who, as it turned out, were all equally unimpressed with the play. We’d each been sitting there, thinking the same thing (this play sucks), each of us thinking we were the only one who felt that way….

There are few worse forms of entertainment than unfunny comedies, especially those that present themselves as satire and/or farces. The series of Greater Tuna plays – set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas and described as satirical yet affectionate take-offs on small-town, Southern life and attitudes – are, IMHO, a prime example of that phenomenon.

I suppose…I can maybe imagine…how, in the early 1980s, the sight of two gay men portraying a play’s twenty-plus cast members, including elderly female characters, was considered to be thigh-slappin,’ boot-stompin’, side-splittin’ hi-larious. For some folks. [1]

Moiself? I found it dated, and, worst of all – take it away, Joanne Worley – 

 

 

joanne

BOOOOOORRRRRRING!

 

 

Last Sunday I decided to give the Christmas Comedy one more try, thanks to local theatre company Bag & Baggage.  Because nothing says holiday spirit like the description of their one time cabaret event, Drunk as the Dickens:

Five of our Resident Actors will start drinking at 5:00pm. We will pull as many vaguely Victorian costumes as our drunken hands can carry, and then head over to Clark’s Bistro and Pub where, at 8:00pm, we will make them pull their characters from out of Scrooge’s nightcap, hand them a 1 hour(ish) version of A Christmas Carol and see if any of them can read while hammered. What could possibly go wrong?

*   *   *

Speaking of Christmas….

 

Annual Holiday History Lecture Reminder To The War On Christmas Imbeciles Bunch

 

 

heathen

 

The more fundamentalist the believer, the more ignorant they seem to be re a fundamental truth behind their religious observances: “Christian” holidays, in particular the biggies (Christmas and Easter), began as pagan festivals. Christmas belongs to and was in fact originated by pagans. Christians just changed your own history and renamed the festivities. However, in the true spirit of generosity, we heathens are happy to share the jolly season with one and all. As per these self-plagiarisms excerpts from my previous blogs:

  The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”  [2]  Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681.  [3]

 

pagan-idol

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

Heretics/apostates non-Christians We happy heathens often hear this question at this time of year.  The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical.  This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.

 

 

santa

 

 

Who doesn’t like a party/celebration, for any reason? We who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with any religious folk – sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo — as long as they acknowledge the fact that the ways we celebrate this “festive season” predate Christianity by hundreds of years.

The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas tradition” that does not originate from Teutonic (German),Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism. [4]  A celebration in the depths of winter, at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north, is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties.  The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.

 But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season?

The reason for the season?  Cool story, bro.  Since you asked, actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season.  For all of the seasons.

 

winter_solstice_diagram

 

 

Our names for the days of the week come from religions predating Christianity. The Greeks named the days week after the sun, the moon and the five (at the time) known planets which they’d named after their gods… then the Romans substituted their equivalent gods, followed by the Germanic, Norse and Celtic peoples. For example, Thursday comes from Thor’s-day, Friday from variants on Frigg’s and Freya’s Day, Saturday from Saturn’s Day….

The god Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.  [5]  My calling that day Wednesday doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship, or “believe in” Woden.  I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.

 

 

 

woden

“Go smite the sheisskopf who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”

 

 

 

The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22.  However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.   [6]   The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or around December 25 included HorisHuitzilopochtliIsisMithrasMardukOsirisSerapis and Sol.)   [7] 

When the Roman Catholics came to power and spread north from Rome, they encountered pagan practices that had gone on for thousands of years before the Popes decided to claim divine authority and subdue the illiterate masses by dressing like the bastard spawn of Elton John and Lady Gaga.

 

gaga

 

 

The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions.   [8] Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the (Christian) church. Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the son-of-god.

In other words, why are some folk concerned with keeping “the Christ in Christmas”  [9] when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?

 

saturnalia

 

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of Is She Or Isn’t She

I’ve lost track of the number of times it’s happened to me. In a lecture hall at college; in a restaurant; while riding public transportation; with fellow travelers in a rowboat on Lake Bled in Slovenia….

It’s a combination of my reminding people of someone else, and/or my saying or doing something that makes people suspect (or even hope) that I might be one of their clan.

Are you Jewish? You’re Jewish – right?

It (the questioned ethnicity/group of origin in question) is almost always not the case, and I can’t help but be fascinated by why it matters to the person asking. The default explanation presented to me (by someone who once asked) is that if you are in the minority, in any way or group, you tend to notice [10] who might be one of your kind, so to speak.

Hands down, the majority of identity inquiries I’ve received have been about my being a member of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Chosen People. But not exclusively. Other Are you _______?s have included gay/lesbian, Russian, Native American and – one of my favorites – Australian (hello?  Aussie accent, like, nonexistent?).

 

 

 

gday

We don’t claim her, mate, now G’day and bugger off.

 

 

 

Most recently it happened at a seafood bistro, during last week’s sabbatical-of-sorts trip to the Oregon Coast.  It was a slow evening for the restaurant, and my waiter and I had established a chatty rapport.  Near the end of my meal, before he frightened me with the dessert tray,  [11]  and seemingly apropos of nothing, the waiter asked if I or any members of my family were French Canadian, or Cajun?

I told him that, to my DNA analysis-deficient knowledge, the only thing French about me was the attempt by certain relatives on my father’s side of the family to downplay their indigenous heritage (this was back when it wasn’t considered “cool” for white folks to claim Native American ancestry) by reassuring my maternal grandmother than the purported Chickasaw/Cherokee woman who’d married a Parnell man was “maybe just French.”

The waiter chuckled; I asked him why he wondered about my heritage. He replied that, physically and mannerisms-wise, I reminded him of several relatives on his mother’s side of the family, and also, specifically, his mother.

The waiter was at least my age (several years older, I’d bet).  Nevertheless, I told him I would take that as a compliment, and he left verbal skidmarks assuring me that, indeed, that is what the similarity was supposed to be.

I did not order dessert, but left a good tip. Monetarily ,that is. I refrained from leaving him another good tip: never tell a woman who is older than twenty that she reminds you of your mother.

 

*   *   *

May you never be forced to endure a humor-free comedy;
May you acknowledge the old traditions before creating your own;
May whatever tribes or traditions you claim bemuse the hell out of someone;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

Happy Saturnalia and Solstice and Yule and Merry Christmas and Boxing Day and Hanukkah and Kwaanza and Festivus and….

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Like, say, your mildly homophobic grandparents.

[2] Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England (London, 1687).  See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday, New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

[3] Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.

[4] “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5

[5] Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.

[6] The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory,  the solstice was established on 12/22.

[7] The Winter Solstice and the Origins of Christmas, Lee Carter.

[8] In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship.

[9] And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.

[10] And in some cases/in some situations, it can be life-preserving to keep track of such things.

[11] Really, out of nowhere a ginormous dessert tray appeared by my side, and my being startled by it greatly amused my waiter.

The Questions I’m Not Answering

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Less than twenty-four hours prior to leaving for my sabbatical to Yachats (as per last week’s post (The Life I’m Not Rebooting[1] I received news of the passing of Davis W. Baldwin, M.D., my beloved former employer, mentor, and friend. Next week MH will travel to the Bay Area to attend his memorial service. While I was in Yachats MH forwarded me the link to DWB’s obituary.

Join hands with the nearest sentient being and cue the Circle of Life. News of Dr. B’s passing should not have caught me off guard – he was 89, after all. Still, there are some people I think will live forever. And he’ll continue to live on, in the way that my father lives on for me, and in only way we all will: through the stories told and memories held by colleagues, friends and family.

I’m not ready to write much about him. One story would be too many and 100 would be not nearly enough. How can you not love a man who, when he tells you why he doesn’t like rhubarb pie, relates the story as if the WTF?!?!?! reasons for his rhubarb antipathy were the most logical consequence in the world?  (When DWB was a child he and his brother played outside during the summer, for as long as they could, running through the fields, and when the young DWB heard nature’s call he would ignore it for as long as possibly, and then finally he would pee in the neighbor’s rhubarb fields rather than take a time out to return home to use the facilities at home.  [2]  Thus, he associates rhubarb with an uncomfortably full bladder).

*   *   *

Department of Oh…So…The Trip Thing

My self-described/imposed sabbatical. My trip began a day earlier than planned due to inclement weather complicating my route to the coast, and was cut short due to the more inclement weather…plus yet another extended family concern.  [3]

While I was in Yachats I received a request for feedback from friend KW re a song he’s working on, “The Blue State Blues.” KW asked how my trip was going. I sent him yet another deflecting-sorrow-through-crass humor explanation, along with my suggestions for possible lyrics for his next musical composition:

I like the guitar!  A very heavy-angry, I-am-so-fucking-depressed/pissed vibe is essential to the song…. Cutting my trip short due to Life Happens, in the form of having to plan one memorial service trip to the Bay Area, for my former boss, mentor and friend Dr. Baldwin, and possibly coordinating hospice care for my mother, who has taken a drastic turn for the worse. How inconsiderate of others to mess up my plans, eh?

I guess I should stop complain about turning 60 on Friday, but I wanted to wake up on my birthday at the coast, not in Hillsboro. At least I’m not waking up in Alleppo….

♫  I organized a getaway
From daily cares I ran
There’s people sick and dyin’
Hell, that’s fuckin’ up my plan!
I got dem how-in-the-hell-am-I-sixty,
Cranky ‘bout my big-ass-birthday blues  ♫

singer

Sing it, sister.

 

 

*   *   *

 

Once again, I digress.

Sorry to disappoint longtime friend JWW and others who requested, re last week’s blog post, something ala “I hope you find and discover everything I’ve always wondered about in my own life. Then let me know about what you found out.”

I didn’t find Big Answers to the Meaning of Life ® for several reasons, including

(1) I don’t think there are any one-size-fits-all answers, Big or Small, to such questions;

(2) I don’t think such questions (e.g., “What is the meaning of life?”) are valid, relevant or translatable;  [4]

(3) There is no reason #3

(4) I didn’t find answers to “the big ones” because that’s not what I was looking for.

Here is one answer I did find:  how to pronounce the name of one of the many trails I hiked, The Ya’Xaik Trail.  I had no problem with “the” and “trail.” As for Ya’Xaik, when I say it properly (Yah’ khik)) I sound like…well, imagine a Chihuahua retching up the world’s biggest cat hairball.

 

 

dog

I resent cheap humor at my expense

 

 

 

The trip served its purpose: to either affirm or rebut what I’ve been feeling, for quite some time, about my work. My dissatisfaction reached critical mass this year, thanks in good part to the persistent, evidence-based (i.e. it’s ‘s not just my personal experiences and/or feelings)  – research and communiqués, from the Authors Guild and other professional writers advocacy organizations, on the state of /changes in the business of writing fiction.

What I was able to affirm is that I am done. I, simply but emphatically, don’t want to be part of that world, anymore.

*   *   *

Department Of There Must Be An App For That

A world I do want to be a part of, career/life work wise? There’s the rub. Preferably, I’ll find one where oxygen breathers can survive. [5]  More ruminations to come, dealing with another evidence-based reality:  while such dilemmas aren’t easy at any age, the simple truth is that one’s possibilities get narrower with age.

Whatever/wherever that world is, I hope it’s filled with opportunities to traverse trails with unpronounceable names and be impressed with and humbled by big ass rhododendron leaves.

 

bar

*   *   *

Department Of Assume The Guru Pose

Observations after hiking each day, every day, for a week: some of the most interesting trails, for me, are loop trails. Does this mean, you may say to yourself, she thinks her life is going in circles, or is she attempting some kind of it’s the journey vs. the destination – it’s the journey as well as the destination metaphor?  [6] 

Not exactly re the former; maybe/kinda re the latter

 I’ve come to the simple realization – be prepared to be whacked with the Stick of Profundity ®  – that when I’m not primarily focused on a destination (gotta make it to the spectacular viewpoint/the highest ridge) I pay more attention to the details along the way.

 

 

guru

Aren’t you glad there’s no subscription fee for reading this trite verbiage — er,  insightful principle?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Making New Friends

Last Saturday early eve I went to a wine tasting at Yachat’s only wine place. [7] As I opened the door to the small shop I saw eight people, each cradling a wine goblet in their hands, seated around a rectangular table in the middle of the shop. These folks were regulars at the shop’s tasting events, not visitors such as moiself …or so I judged from their palpable familiarity with one another.

A jingle bell on the shop’s door handle announced my arrival. Sixteen pairs of eyes turned toward me; affable, anticipation-of-greeting-a-friend expressions quickly morphed to who-is-this-newcomer?

After one or two beats of silence, a man seated at the head of the table lifted his glass as if to toast me, and said, “Welcome to Yachats’ Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.”

I waited another beat, then replied, “Worst. Wine. Shop. Ever.”

 

*   *   *

Department of Today Is My Birthday

 

 

party2jpg

Please, try to contain your excitement.

*   *   *

The Old (er) People I’m Making Happy

Someone is here!

I heard the gasp before seeing the source of the enthusiasm: a mid-seventies [8]  woman who scuttled out from a supply closet at the Waldport Visitor’s Center. She didn’t seem to mind that my rain hat, coat and boots and I were dripping/tracking water all over the foyer. I was, at 3:30 pm, the only visitor the center had had that day.

I had similar encounters at other coastal town Visitors Centers, and also with at least five  [9]  volunteers at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport.  Would you like me to show you around? Remember, if you’ve any questions…. The urgency in their voices made me realize I needed to ask them some questions. Legitimate or otherwise. (Please, validate my existence. Besides, you’re the only one who showed up in the pouring rain.)

The Visitor Center at Yachats was manned by an overly enthusiastic and chatty Older Man Wearing An Unfortunate Bill Cosby Sweater ®.  I checked the guest register which, OMWAUBCS assured me, every person who walks into the Visitors Center must sign. If that indeed was the case, I’d been the only visitor to the center in three days. And, gosh golly gee thanks, OMWAUBCS, but truth be told, I’m not really interested in the Come Meet Santa! gathering at the community hall (“Great fun for families and all – young and old everyone is invited.”), and I’d rather trim my nostril hairs with a weed whacker than sit through a two hour Community Christmas choir and hand bell concert at the Presbyterian church….

It didn’t hurt me to listen to the various guides and volunteers. And so I did, with mild/faux enthusiasm, each and every time.

 

My work here is done.

*   *   *

 “There ain’t no answer.
There ain’t gonna be any answer.
There never has been an answer.
There’s your answer.”
(Gertrude Stein)

*   *   *

Department Of The Petty Pleasures I Live For

One day on my trip, between courses at a seafood restaurant, I was checking my email on my phone. The subject line in one email was about a fundraiser for the Children’s Cancer Association, but the organization, due to space constraints, was abbereviated, Children’s Cancer Ass.

 

grannyshock

*   *   *

Department Of Secrets Of The Great Outdoors Revealed

Note to all ye who walk your fearful/unfriendly yippy dogs on hiking trails:

When I approach to pass you on the trail you try, unsuccessfully, to stop the machine-gun barking and leash-tugging and other aggressive behaviors your dog displays at non-threats such as moiself. I smile and greet you, then speak in kind, soft, non-threatening tones to your frantically vocalizing dog, even as I am thinking, Why can’t you do us all a favor and leave that miserable, yowling mop rag of a mongrel in the RV?

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy each and every petty pleasure;
May your patient if faux interest make a volunteer guide’s day;
May you remember to leave your yipster in the RV;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] about my thinking-things-out, week-plus “sabbatical trip” to Yachats.

[2] Or defile your own family’s field.

[3] The declining health of my mother, who is being evaluated for hospice care.

[4] Except in Monty Python films.

[5] After the recent election debacle, I have my doubts as to my fitness for my home planet.

[6] Stop talking to yourself, or people will think you’re daft.

[7] Which carries  the astoundingly apt name of The Wine Place.

[8] Mid-Seventies as in my guestimage of here age, not that she was dressed indisco-area attire.

[9] “Senior,” once again.

The Life I’m Not Rebooting

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At some point during childhood, a well-meaning adult asks, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up? What I like about this question is that it embraces the idea that work is an expression of who you are as well as who you want to be. Yet that question takes an odd turn when you become an adult. “What do you do for a living?” is what we typically ask each other. Gone is the inquiry about what you aspire to “be.” This shift in emphasis from “being” to “doing” focuses you solely on the external activities and behaviors that you perform for your work, rather than on your intrinsic values, strengths, and motivations.
(from Inner Compass, mindful magazine,  December 2016

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Yachats. It’s pronounced  yah -hots, and it is the name of yet another gem of a town on the Oregon coast. The name comes from…different sources argue over the origin. It is likely a term of the Siletz or other indigenous peoples,  [1]  and has something to do with “dark water by the foot of the mountain,” which may refer to the estuary where the Yachats River enters the Pacific Ocean, the remarkable view of which I have from the apartment I’m renting for a week.

If I have the privilege of needing/recognizing/taking a control-alt-delete [2]  sabbatical, it might as well be here.

Also, I just like having an excuse to say Yachats.

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My mini-sabbatical was originally scheduled for December 8-16. Then on Tuesday of this week MH pointed out the latest weather forecast: a winter storm, carrying snow but more problematically freezing rain, was scheduled to hit the coast and the Portland Metro area on the 8th, which would make traveling over the Coast Range dicey….so maybe you might want to consider leaving a day earlier? [3]

Negligent moiself hadn’t re-checked the forecast since…since when the storm wasn’t expected to hit until Friday (today), so all of a sudden on Tuesday it was do everything in one day (packing-wise, for  a weeks+ getaway, plus getting the car ready for winter storm contingencies  [4] I was planning on doing ion Tuesday and Wednesday, plus adding on figuring out a different, less-likely-to-have-icy-roads route, plus practice putting on the tire chains on the car I’d be driving, [5] plus finding a place to stay somewhere near the place I’d already reserved but which wasn’t expecting me until the next day….

Plus…then checking messages at the end of all this planning – early Tuesday evening, about 12 hours before I’d be leaving, and discovered sad news…which meant that three days after I return from my think-about-what-the-hell-to-do-in-Act-3-of-your-life getaway trip I will be flying down to the Bay Area to attend the memorial service for a beloved friend, mentor and former employer of mine, who had recently finished his own Act 3.

Anyway and so, I am here.

Yachats. Say it like you mean it.

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As per my post of October 28:

Long Story Short: I have a significant birthday coming up in few weeks, and have had a significant Act 3 Career & Life Crisis ®  going on for a few…years.  I shared some recent downturns regarding such things [6]with friend SCM who, wise counselor that she is, offered this wise counsel:

It’s obvious you need a control-alt-delete from life right now….She advised I take a trip, to…anywhere.  “… you need a break from real life.”  I’d been thinking along similar lines – a meditative kind of vacation, not a trip involving lots of activities, which is what I’d usually want. I need to go alone, to have contemplative opportunity away from distractions, from the familiarity of work, routine, home and family…the kind of trip where you are forced to chill, where my main activity would be a combination of taking it easy, taking stock, and…dare I hope…figuring Things Out ® .

Initial plans for my getaway didn’t work out, but now, this week on the Oregon Coast seems fitting. Blustery (almost) winter weather should be good for contemplative ventures, right?

Unless….

Unless it becomes yet another entry in my To Do list. Eight days away is not likely to provide the magic AHA!!! answers to years of career/life balance questions, and I don’t want the pressure to find solutions [7]  to Life’s Really Big Questions ®  to diminish what this trip may turn out to be: a week’s vacation, composed of simple pleasures (I get to sleep in/not get up to feed cats/read for pleasure/hike every day/see some ocean spray stuff and pretend it was whales spouting….)

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Department Of The Sacrifices We Make

One casualty of my mini-sabbatical, is the cancellation, this year, of my annual Ladies Lefse Party  — an event I’ve been hosting for ( is it over twenty-five years?) a long time, as mentioned here and here and here and…. You get the idea.

I will still have to find time, in the brief space between returning from this trip and then going down to the Bay Area for the afore-mentioned memorial service for He Whom I Am Not Quite Ready To Talk About In This Space, to make lefse for our family’s Christmas eve dinner, lest there be rioting among the troops.  [8]

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Department Of What’s The Fucking Point

If I were a young(er) person looking for civic involvement motivation, after the two recent presidential electoral debacles (George W Bush and now the PuJu [9]) which resulted in someone losing the popular vote yet attaining the presidency due to our country’s  antediluvian and bigoted Electoral College system…why would I even bother?  How dare we, as USA citizens, criticize one goddamn thing about any other county’s elections?

As longtime friend and journalist SH put it on Facebook, re the vote count as of 12/2/16:

So now the margin is 2.5 million votes that don’t count for squat, because 80,000 votes in three states mattered more. But I guess Trump did better than W, who won because 537 Floridians mattered more than 540,000 of their fellow Americans. 
Pretty effed up….

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Department Of I’m Wondering If You’ve Noticed…

…that there are hardly any pictures in this week’s blog post.

Analyze the significance; ponder; discuss; yawn; dismiss.

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Department Of U-Turn Segues

It was a very nice hotel I stayed in – the last minute/extra night lodging I had to find due to starting my trip a day earlier than planned. Still, I wondered about the hotel’s welcome info in their Guest Information folder which was on the coffee table in my room. In the folder’s introductory, “who we are” paragraph, the owners touted their commitment to caring for their guests’ needs and running a responsible business. I so enjoyed the typo contained therein I decided not to bring it to the front desk clerk’s attention, lest the folder be corrected, which would rob future guests of the opportunity to derive similar enjoyment :

While we are completely committed to making your stay the best possible, we are committed to an unprecedented level of stainability.

stain

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May all your stains be precedent-setting ;
May you notice when something is missing;
May you find out whatever is the fucking point;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] That is, those before the whale watchers took over.

[2] Innumerable thanks to SCM for that metaphor.

[3] I loved the way he phrased it: “I’m not trying to get rid of you, but…”

[4] Nothing like a Canadian friend nagging – I mean of course carefully advising – you in this regard.

[5] It had been years since we needed to do this. Guess what? Time passes, and putting on chains still sucks.

[6] The abridged/mostly censored synopsis, for you Reader’s Digest Fans:  holy FSM it’s a cliché to feel this way and I know it’s “just a number” but it’s a big one I’m facing and HOW THE FUCK DID I GET HERE?…And if he (MH)even attempts to throw my a surprise 60th birthday party I swear I will take out my bow and arrow and use his ass for target practice.

[7] Whether to Life’s really Big Questions or what to do with moiself

[8] H and son K and MH would miss it; daughter Belle, not so much; the kitties just keep shedding, no matter what.

[9] My son has chastised me for the immaturity he sees in my using the moniker PuJu (as in Putin Junior) rather than using the soon-to-be-president’s name.

The Natural Beauty I’m Not Protecting

Comments Off on The Natural Beauty I’m Not Protecting

 

“I hope you’ll display it as a reminder of the natural beauty you’re protecting.”
(Note on a card sent,  along with a paper Christmas ornament, by The Nature Conservancy, in a three page won’t you contribute? solicitation.)

MH and I give a lot of thought to which charities we support. We donate to organizations we deem effective, whether on a local or global scale, in supporting our “favorite” causes. Over the years we’ve added some causes/organizations and deleted others, the latter action usually taken due to what we see as a misuse of our donations. For example, if we received waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many requests for additional contributions, including being dunned for “annual” dues/membership fees starting at seven months before the end of when our membership expires year, it’s buh-bye to that one.

One such charity was Nature Conservancy. We supported them for years, and then we didn’t. They do some really, really good work – who isn’t for preservation of natural lands and restoration of habitat for endangered species? – but the constant appeals for more, accompanied by trinkets we neither wanted nor asked for, including their latest we’d love to have you rejoin appeal, [1] remind me of why I decided our conservation $$ would be better spent elsewhere.

 

 

 

ornament

 

An unsolicited holiday ornament wrapped in plastic, made in China. Now, there’s some mighty fine stewardship of the earth’s resources.

 

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Department Of Every Cart Tells A Story

My computer calendar gave me a pop-up reminder: time to change out the emergency water supply in the garage. [2]  Two days later I was standing in the unusually long line at the store,  [3] bored outta my gourd, checking out the items in other people’s shopping carts. I began a game I’ve played for years: concocting a story about strangers, my fellow shoppers.  Their age, jobs, educational and marital status, state and/or country of origin, likes and dislikes – even their political opinions – I make up a profile of them, based on what they have in their shopping carts.

Before long I considered the thirteen items in my own cart – twelve water jugs and a stick of antiperspirant – and wondered what would my story be, to someone playing a similar game?  [4]

This middle-aged, sweaty white woman is very, very thirsty.

 

 

 

cart

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Department Of Things That Give Me Hope Re The Resilience Of The Human Spirit

The good folks who gave us that most refined parlor game, Cards Against Humanity, have now given us yet another reason to go on living: they dug a really, really big hole, into which money was thrown. Check it out at https://www.holidayhole.com/

 

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Department Of Shoot Me Now And Get It Over With

Forget water boarding – if you ever want to see me with my spirit totally broken,  [5] force me to sit through a Singing Christmas Tree ® performance.

And yes, I have been to such a thing. Twice, when I was young. Whenever I had to picture the concept of hell (a concept adults seemed to believe in, or at least find useful, but which I thought was rubbish), I flashed back to those horrifically perky, Lawrence-Welk-on-Quaaludes-and-acid, holiday “concerts.”

 

singing-tree

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Department Of And Then There’s That

Hoping for the best the best doesn’t exclude ignoring reality.

Specifically, I refer to my pondering (read: dreading) what will happen after January 20, 2017. Many Democrats and select Republican non-trolls have been making noises re working together with a PuJu [6] administration on what might be considered nonpartisan, everybody-wants-this-done issues.

Now, I’ll be one of the first to commend the actions of everyone involved in finding ways to, say, fix our crumbling bridges/update our infrastructure and reform/simplify our tax code, etc. Still, any such accomplishments will not erase the fact that we’ll have a boorish, narcissistic, knowledge-incurious, unrepentant racist and misogynist as head of state.

 

 

disappointed

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We have reached the seventh circle of the hell I don’t even believe in.

I was listening to a podcast of a Freakonomics radio show, the 11-16-16 episode, How To Make A Bad Decision. The hosts and guests were discussing a research paper, Decision Making Under the Gambler’s Fallacy.   The paper’s authors analyzed decision-making within three different professions – baseball umpires, loan officers, and asylum judges – to see whether those professionals were likely to fall prey to the gambler’s fallacy.  [7]  

The podcast included an interview with professional baseball umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, who talked about the application of technologies such as the PITCHf/x system [8] and instant replays of close plays as ways of checking an umpire’s calls. Not all umpires are enamored with the technologies and the resultant second-guessing/undermining of their authority, but Wendelstedt was a supporter:

“… these pitch systems got into place, it’s been a great educational tool for us….it really helps us become a better-quality product for the game of baseball.

 

 

really

 

The world is indeed ending not with a bang, but with a whimper.

I completely lost interest in the rest of the podcast after hearing that quote.  I beg of all sentient beings:  Never, ever, refer to yourself, or any other human being, as a product.

Unless in your case the human being thing is just an act and you actually happen to be a can of Cheezey-whiz.

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The Toes I’m Not Spreading

Balance; calm; equanimity, toe envy….

Wait a sec. Of all the elements one might pursue or experience in a yoga class, envy of any kind – well, it’s just not yoga.

Still, there I am, in my yoga class, glancing around to see my fellow yogis seemingly effortlessly widen their lithe, long, supple little piggies when the instructors suggests we spread our toes to help us balance in tree pose. Meanwhile, my puny, span-challenged podiatric digits spasm with the effort.

Stub toes [9]  is just one of the milder epithets which have been applied to my toes over the years.  Some folks have refrained from outright name-calling, but still have obviously noticed my phalange deficiencies. One afternoon in high school,  the dance teacher substituted for our field hockey coach (who was called away for some emergency) during warm-ups. Dance Teacher decided to teach us hockey ladies some exercises which, she said, would increase our flexibility. DT asked us to remove our shoes and socks, stand barefoot on the gym floor, feet approximately 18 inches apart…

“Now, everyone spread your toes…” DT patrolled the rows of smirking field hockey players (we needed stamina, not flexibility, so why weren’t we doing our warm-up laps?), checking everyone’s deportment, berating this girl’s posture and that girl’s stance. She came to me, looked downward, and scowled.

“Widen your toes!” DT insisted. She then pointed to the feet of the girl standing beside me, as if to inspire me, for that girl’s lengthy, prehensile toes looked as if they would enable her to hang upside down from a tree branch.

“I am,” I replied. “This is as wide as they go.”

DT bent over, reached her hand down toward my foot, and made a clucking noise of patronizing sympathy. “I see, she sighed, and moved on down the line.

Flash forward to a couple of years later: I am in an athletic footware store, to purchase a new pair of running shoes. I am a regular customer of the store and know what size I wear, but the store’s new (to me) salesperson insists I remove my shoes and socks and step on the store’s shoe size measurer-thingamawhoowhooy-gadget. [10]

 

 

shoesize

You know, this thing.

 

 

Wow,” he gasps, as I comply with his request, “your toes are really short!” He crouches for closer inspection; I resist the urge to suddenly feign a spasm and kick him in the teeth.

“You know,” he looks up at me earnestly, “if your toes were normally proportioned to your feet, your shoe size would be one or even two sizes larger.”

Guess which salesman didn’t get that commission?

BTW – I rock at tree pose. Stub toes and all.

 

 

treepose

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May you rock at your balance poses;
May your cart tell a noteworthy story;
May you dig a really big hole for any reason you chose;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] What could their financial/donations manager possibly be thinking? “Sure, they left us five years ago, but this paper ornament will bring them back!”

[2] Every six months I buy 12-one gallon jugs of water, swap them out with the supply already in the garage, and use the older supply for watering plants, etc.

[3] It’s the Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend; these people are already out of leftovers?

[4] Whom am I kidding – like anyone else would be playing that game, or looking up or around or anywhere but down, for that matter. Everyone else in my line, and in all the adjacent lines (Yep, I checked) was looking down at their cellphone…waiting for it to hatch a rare three-toed pygmy sloth dragon, or something equally significant, judging from the rapt expression on their face.

[5] If you did desire such a thing, that would make you a miserable little shit, wouldn’t it?

[6] aka Putin Junior, as I cannot bear to type his (allegedly real) name.

[7] The Gambler’s Fallacy is an erroneous  understanding of probability – the belief that the chances of something happening with a fixed probability, i.e., rolling 10 even dice in a row, become higher or lower as the process is repeated.

[8] A pitch tracking system which tracks the velocity, movement, release point, spin, and pitch location for every pitch thrown in a baseball game.

[9] Thanks, Mom!

[10] There must be a name for that device.