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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…

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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…”

 

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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.

 

 

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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.