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The Yoga Pose I’m Not Practicing

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Among the many reasons the short story is my favorite fiction format: it is one wherein questions are raised, but not necessarily answered. Unlike the novel, which may take you through a character’s existence from cradle to grave or present a life survey from A-to-Z , [1] a short story often drops you in the middle, say, in segments M-Q, leaving – or allowing – you to fill in the befores and afters with the clues the writer has presented.

A well-crafted short story leaves you wanting to know more, and even frees your imagination to provide your own details.  I admire the art of lyrical songwriting, in that a song can sometimes be the perfect short story. The first time I heard The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby I was blown away by how a song could be at once so sparse and evocative.  But wait – how did those lonely people get to be so lonely, and where did they come from? I must know.

 

 

 

billie Jo

 

 

 

 

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, someone asked me who my favorite contemporary short fiction writer was, and I answered, “Bobbie Gentry.”

Arguably one of the greatest short stories of the twentieth century was penned and sung by Bobbie Gentry .  Her Southern gothic ballad, Ode to Billie Joe, was released 50 years ago this month, when Gentry was a mere 22 years old.

The song, which never reveals why Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge, has been described as suggestive, haunting, enigmatic, poignant, disturbing, mystifying, etc.  But to the grade school moiself who, after a first listen, had to listen again and again and again, it was then and remains now merely and monumentally…cool

Congratulations on the anniversary, along with a Tallahatchie River’s worth of admiration, to the classy Ms. Gentry, who had always refused to explain “the meaning” of the song.

 

*   *   *

Department Of You Never Know What Fun Awaits While Running Mundane Errands

Dateline: Wednesday, noonish:  I would like to thank the Mystery Person(s) ® who left this pair of  –  guardians?  greeters? mascots? ninja warriors in disguise? on a curb in the grocery store parking lot.

 

 

grocery guardians

 

 

 

After I took that picture I stepped back about thirty feet or so and hung around for awhile, watching the people who walked to and from the store – people seemingly oblivious to the mini public art display at their feet.  The only reason I saw it was that I happened to look down at just the right moment when I was passing by – no doubt it was my karmic reward  [2] for what had just previously transpired outside the store (is this a segue, or what?).

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yes I Do I Blurt Things Out To Total Strangers

As I exited the (previously mentioned) grocery store, two young girls, looking to be about four or five years old, ran past the store’s entry door, each giggling and turning to glance over their respective shoulders. I looked in the direction of their glances: thirty or so feet behind the girls was a rather impatient-looking woman (whom I took to be the girls’ mother), resolutely pushing a shopping cart.

Impatient Mother called out to the girls,

“You are not running away from me!”

Which caused me to smile and say, in what I thought was my best/supportive, I’ve-been-there voice,

Actually, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Impatient Mother threw me a bit o’ stink eye and then called out again to her daughters, this time using their names.  I got a kick out of the fact that one of the girls has the same (non-blog moniker) name as my daughter.  And there was much rejoicing.

 

 

 

 

 

Was I that easily amused when I was younger?

 

*   *   *

They’re here!

 

 

harpandfuchsia

“All together now: “Harp and fuchsia, ahhhhhhhh.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is One Big Celebration

 

Dateline: Monday My Swenadian [3] friend recently returned to the ‘hood after spending six months in Sweden. I visited her, bringing welcome-back goodies, and we played catch-up with each other’s lives. She, too, has traveled to Ireland and loved it and would like to return someday.  [4]  After telling her about MH’s and my trip to Ireland and the recent arrival of the Harp and Fuchsia pattern [5]  tumblers we’d ordered from Dingle Crystal, I returned home with the sudden urge to take whatever I had in the frig and turn it into a meal an Irish person would enjoy. Plus, there were those mahhhhhvelous gin and tonics we’d had in the town of Dingle, made with Dingle Gin, which would be lovely to serve in the tumblers…but what are the chances of being able to find a Hillsboro Oregon liquor store which stocks a spirit from a small Irish distillery in Oregon?

 

 

Dingle2

 

 

 

My mission was to find something comparable, so I told the clerk at Hillsboro Liquor Store that I was looking for Irish gin (not even thinking to mention the specific distillery, as it is so small) but realized the likelihood of finding it was slim, so did he know if a Scottish or British gin would be analogous? The Friendly and Helpful Clerk ® checked his register computer and said, “What about Ding –” he couldn’t even get the word out of his mouth before I shrieked, gobsmacked with delight, “You have Dingle gin?!?!?”

That night I informed MH that our Irish butter-poached steelhead salmon, cabbage/potatoes/mushroom colcannon and fresh spring peas feast was to celebrate the arrival of our crystal and the memory of our Ireland trip, the return of our beloved Swenadian friends, my acquisition of Dingle gin, and…

I searched my mind for another reason to justify spending $50 on a bottle of gin.

…”and oh yeah, this morning someone farted quite loudly in yoga class” (despite the fact that the class was *not* performing pawanmuktasana, which translates as “wind-relieving pose”).   [6]

 

 

wind

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you continue to wonder why
Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge;
May you, via gin or crystal purchases or berry encounters,
have the opportunity to say, Dingle;
May all of your poses, yoga or other, bring wind relief;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

[2] Plenty of doubt, actually, as I do not believing in karmic or any other/similar of reward.

[3] She is Canadian, her husband is Swedish.

[4] She worked and lived there one summer, during her student days.

[5] A design unique to Dingle Crystal, representing Ireland (Harp) and West Kerry (fuchsia).

[6] Yes, there is such a pose.

The Suspicious Behavior I’m Not Reporting

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Department Of How To Answer A Stupid How-To

jetlag

 

Answer: I don’t need to read further; the solution is obvious. Never fly out of your time zone.  Duh.

If this blog post makes even less sense than usual, I have the downside of going on holiday to blame. Yep, I’ve been whacked upside the head by the jet lag zombie.

 

 

 

zombie sleep

 

 

 

 

The previous week’s posts, in which I alluded to my being on a blog sabbatical, were due to MH and I being in Ireland.  I’m still not sufficiently recovered to write about the trip, which was great craic  [1]in so many ways and only El Sucko in a few ways (as any overseas traveler knows, being there is lovely; the logistics of getting to and from there is horrid).

And then, a day and a half after our return, we got up at 4:30 am to take our son K in for jaw surgery, to fix a jaw malformation/misalignment which year$$ of orthodontia was unable to correct. [2]

Thus, the blog subject potpourri continues.

*   *   *

 

MH and I used public transport to begin our Ireland vacation.  We “took the train,” which in Portland Metro Area Speak ® translates as we rode the light rail (aka Trimet or The Max) to the airport. As we took our seats (‘way back on May 25), I listened to an automated alert which played as the train began to move – an alert which, for some reason, struck me in an unusual manner (read: I paid attention to it). Just for a wee moment I considered taking action, after looking around the train, when The Automated Voice Of Authority reminded passengers that we are requested to “stay alert and report any suspicious objects or behaviors.”

Hello, Trimet? I’d like to report suspicious behavior: there’s this one person on the train who is NOT looking down at his cellphone.

 

 

cellphone

*   *   *

Department Of Travel Odds And Ends

A few Wee Observations from the tour part of our trip (MH and I arrived a couple of days early in Dublin, had a few adventures on our own, then joined a Rick Steves tour of the island).

☼  Our tour guide was a proud native of Belfast. As such, her accent was more Northern Ireland/Scottish than the brogues we Americans struggled to translate  got to hear and enjoy in the towns of the Irish Republic. I was able to figure out some of what she and her Northern Ireland compatriots were doing with certain articulations. For example, in words containing ow and ou  letter combinations, the vowel sounds morphed into something resembling a long I (i.e., town became tine; the British currency, the pound, was a pined).

Some of our guide’s vowel-tweaking ventures proved to be especially entertaining. My favorites included one afternoon when, while traveling by bus to our next adventure, she began telling us about films she recommended we see – movies which included scenery we’d just visited and/or illustrated some part of The Irish Experience ® . She was giving a brief plot summary of one such film during a time when I was feeling the effects of the previous night’s revelry and was starting to doze off.  I was gobsmacked into alertness when I heard her say that a certain film’s main character ended up committing suicide by firearm – however, what with the guide’s accent, I heard her say, He ended up shitting himself to death.

Lynn was a good sport when I pointed out what it was I’d thought she said…and the raucous laughter of my fellow tour members indicated it wasn’t only moiself who’d had that impression.  [3]  Then, just a day or so later, when she was describing the certainty of another grand adventure we were going to have, she used the phrase, “Sure As Shootin.’ “  Guess what the rest of us heard?

☼  Our guide alerted us to her N. Ireland heritage, which she blamed for her prolific usage of the modifier, wee.  Nothing in Ireland was little, [4] but you will stop for a wee bit to take a wee break in a wee town for a wee cup of tea…and then may find yourself looking for a wee room (we – sorry – tour members thought that was what she’d also referred to as the loo).

☼  A few days after we (not wee) had left Dublin and were on our way to the charming town of Dingle, MH mentioned to moiself that we’d passed through a (wee) portion of County Limerick, without having heard nor recited even one of the region’s eponymous poems. Guess whose wheels started turning when presented with that observation?

The next night, at a group dinner, MH and I lauded our intrepid bus driver (Stephen) and our guide with a Limerick for Lynn:

 

We toasted dear Stephen and Lynn
with six rounds of tonic and gin.
As we finished round three
Lynn giggled with glee,
“To stop now ‘twould be a wee sin!”

 

 

 

menu

 

 

 

 

☼  The food. We had some amazing meals in Ireland (and yep, potatoes every which way), especially those featuring seafood.  One night at a pub, in the mood for something green other than mushy peas, I saw nachos listed on the menu.

 

 

 

peas

Mushy peas, or guacamole? Enquiring tastebuds want to know.

 

 

 

 

I was intrigued, and also cautious.  How bad could it be; I mean, what can you do to nachos? I said to moiself.  Guess what? I found out.

It seems the Irish get their avocados from Spain and their guacamole recipe…from your Midwestern aunt who thinks the height of haute cuisine is to put a dollop of mayonnaise on a chunk of withered orange Jell-O and call it a salad.

☼  Apparently, when I enter a pub, a hitherto invisible neon sign lights up on my forehead – a sign visible only to old Irish men, drunk or sober, married or single, amply-toothed or dentally-challenged –  which reads, TALK TO THIS WOMAN SHE REALLY WANTS TO HEAR ALL OF YOUR STORIES.

 

 

Portrait of old irishman in pub, Killarglin, Ireland.

“Oh and then have I told you about my dear wife Mary, departed from me these past five years, what a beauty she was, and shall we be lifting a pint to her, and do you dance?”

*   *   *

Department Of Gratuitous Ethnic Humor

 

So, an Irishman walks out of a bar….

Nah, just kidding.

 

 

pub

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Travel Warnings

MH’s reaction to reviewing our Irish tour schedule, which included a three day/two night stay in the picturesque town of Dingle:

Whatever you do in that town, don’t eat the berries.

*   *   *

 

Before I travel to an exotic land  [5]  I like to read up on the history of the place, and also partake of a sampling of its regional fiction. When it came to the latter, I quickly tired of the inevitable and seemingly unceasing themes of contemporary Irish fiction: the relentless poverty; the sexual/gender/intellectual repression and retardation of the mind and spirit in that religion-burdened society….

Still, I’m glad I dipped my toes into the (depressing yet filled with spurts of black humor) waters, as I encountered arguably [6] the greatest image-provoking sentence in literature, re Dan Egan and his best friend who, suspected by British Black and Tan constables as being IRA sympathizers, were arrested, interrogated, beaten, and bound together:

“And when Dan Egan had to do number two they were still tied together and that made them buddies forever.”
(Edna O’Brien, A Pagan Place)

 

*   *   *

Department Of Do You See What I See  [7]

 

Apropos of nothing related to Ireland, do you see the alien in the coat hook?

 

 

 

coathookJPG

“Fear not; I come in peace. Place your earthling cover garments onto my arms, and I shall watch over them.”

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Nothing To Do With Travel

Content warning: fake cowboys and authentic smoking actors

I was recently delighted to encounter, via That Odd Radio Station I’ve Been Listening To ®, yet another theme song to a TV show I hitherto had no idea ever existed (Lawman). Yet another reason to go on living – life is replete with unimagined treasures.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Petty Pleasures

Division Of Making Lemonade from Lemons

Dateline: Tuesday, 6/13, 5 am-ish, at a Portland Hospital, awaiting K’s jaw surgery.  Exhausted and jet-lagged and questioning the wisdom of my having driven under such circumstances, I dropped off MH and K at the hospital’s main entrance while I searched for a parking space. After making several loops of the lot, I espied a car pulling out of a prize spot (so close to the entrance!) and steered toward it. I departed and locked my vehicle and prepared to scurry away to join MH and son K in the pre-op waiting area…then noticed a white and red sign on the wall behind the parking spot.

It was quite satisfying, after the initial frustration of noticing the Reserved For Chaplain sign, to hear moiself  sputter, oh godfucking dammit.

 

 

 

clergy

 

*   *   *

May you feel as if Life has given you a reserved parking spot;
May you always talk with old Irish men in pubs;
May you always try the berries in Dingle;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Excuse the Irish slang…there may be a lot of it forthcoming. Look up this particular term – in English it is pronounced crack, but don’t be thinking you know what that means when your Irish buddy asks you where in the USA can she find some great craic.

[2] The surgery was scheduled before we left. It was…let me just say that I am amazed at how quickly gruesome procedures can be performed nowadays. K is well and is recovering at our home, on the Mushy Foods Only Diet, ® which is thought to be SO COOL when you are a kid – ice cream, pudding, Jell-o and milkshakes, for every meal! – but which is actually quite tedious when you are an adult.

[3] Several tour members exchanged suspicious glances and traded comments along the lines of, “Well, I’ve heard you could die from embarrassment, but that one’s a first.”

[4] Which they pronounce as LIT-ul.

[5] E.g. Slovenia, Croatia, Ireland, Utah….

[6] Were I to argue with myself. And win.

[7] And if so, when was the last time you saw your ophthalmologist?

The Neighbors I’m Not Entertaining

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Department Of Can You Hear Yourself When You’re Talking?
Because The Rest Of Us Can

Sometimes, during my early morning walks, I speculate about the entertainment value I provide to my neighbors, should they happen to look out their windows/step off their porches to retrieve their newspapers at the moment when moiself, reflective gloves clutching my walking poles and speaker wires dangling from earbuds to the phone in my jacket pocket, strides past their houses. Do they wonder about the middle-aged woman snorting in derision and/or motioning as if to slap one of her Exerstrider ® poles against her forehead in WTF? astonishment?

I confess to indulging in a wee bit o’ face-palming during last Friday’s walk, when I was listening to a podcast of the radio show Fresh Air, of host Terry Gross‘s recent interview (May 10) with writer/director Jill Soloway.

Soloway is best known for creating the Amazon Original TV series Transparent. The Fresh Air interview was ostensibly about Soloway’s new project, another Amazon series, the mahhhhhvelously titled, I Love Dick[1]

I Love Dick is about a self-identified feminist woman, a maker of independent films, who puzzles over her attraction to Dick, a macho, swaggering, dismissive, self-absorbed artist. However, Soloway seemed determined to scurry past publicizing I Love Dick in order to promote the subject most dear to her heart: I Love Talking Dick About Myself.

Early in the interview, Terry Gross played an excerpt from the show, then questioned Soloway about how the ILD characters unintentionally skewer their own as well as the art world’s pretentious, often nonsensical,semiotics jargon-babble and aesthetic and “cultural theories,” via the dialogue Soloway writes for the show’s characters.

Terry Gross: So…do issues like “does trauma need aesthetic” and language about the materiality of death transferring to the living, does that kind of, like, cultural, aesthetic, semiotic kind of language mean anything to you?

JS…That’s funny to me ’cause I don’t even know what that means, does trauma need an aesthetic. I laugh at that joke because it’s 100 percent nonsense to me. I’m not an academic at all, so we’re just kind of, you know, splashing around in these words.

As the interview went on [2]  it became face-palmingly hilarious to moiself how totally un-self-aware Soloway was regarding her own splashing around in a related set of these words.  Solloway took every opportunity to preach use her own particular jargon-babble, re her recent embrace of a nonbinary gender queer non-femme-presenting status-life – what she described as “my own evolutions.”

…I think I’ve always had that struggle my whole life of feeling a little bit more gender neutral, feeling more comfortable as a creative person when I’m dressed like a boy – when I’m dressed more masculine.

…So if I’m working, I like to…feel kind of masculine because it makes me really focus on what I’m doing. It puts the work first, which is odd to even say that and even realize that little codes and cues – like, I don’t need to be looked at…I don’t need to be pretty – allow me to be more creative. I mean, just that sentence is totally fascinating. And I’m only realizing it right now.

…I’ve become more queer and more gender-nonconforming and basically gotten rid of everything that one would consider femme-presenting in my life.

…what I was talking about was gender dysphoria or gender fugue or something that’s very common for people who identify as nonbinary.

…So I’ve evolved a lot…. And yeah, I’m so much more comfortable now in my public presentation of myself.  I never dress femme at all… I identify as queer now and nonbinary.

And for me, having met so many nonbinary people, met so many genderqueer people and realizing that another way you can move through the world is to be neither male nor female, has been so inspiring.

 

 

bitchplease

Apologies for the femme-specific/binary snark.

 

 

 

I’m a cradle to grave feminist, appreciative of the reality of nuanced apprehensions of gender and class presentations. That said, I thought I was listening to a freshman student in a Sociology of Gender Studies class. You know the kind: an enthusiastic yet ultimately tone-deaf (despite touting her own “evolution”) intellectual neophyte whose earnest proclamations make you cringe in embarrassment for her as she prattles on without the modicum of introspection it would take for her be embarrassed for herself as she engages in the oratorical equivalent of a six-year-old waving her hand and yelling, Look at me! I’m so special!  [3]

(Soloway) And I think my evolution became not just about being queer and not just about being a lesbian, but really being willing to look at my own gender. And identifying as genderqueer [4]  felt even more like I was getting to something….

 

makeitstop

 

 

Terry Gross, gracious interviewer that she is, jumped on the boat Soloway obviously wanted to float.  When Soloway gave a specific example of one of the dilemmas her evolution/genderqueer identification hath wrought, TG offered to help role play possible responses:

Soloway: …once I start to see myself as nonbinary, if a host at a restaurant says, right this way, ladies, I just, like – I start to get really angry ’cause I’m like, I’m dressed like a man. What is making him say lady? Like, where is the lady that he sees when he’s bringing me to this table?

TG: So do you say anything to the person who’s saying, right this way, ladies? Or do you just get angry to yourself?

Soloway: …I haven’t quite figured out how to do it. Should we practice? Do you want to say – “Right this way, ladies” – and I’ll practice?

During the ensuing role-play I was disappointed that Terry Gross played it safe; i.e., that she did not reply with some version of what an actual restaurant seating host might be thinking…or of what I probably would have said, had I been given the role of the host:

I’m sorry to have inadvertently offended you. I’m just trying to do my job, which is to escort you and your friends to your table so you can have a nice meal. I didn’t know you were going to practice your dissertation on me.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Lest You Think I Did Not Enjoy The Afore-Mentioned Interview

 

I Love Dick. 

 

martha

 

 

Being reminded of the new series’ title brought back a fond memory for me – one of those , Proud Parent Moments, ® shall we say.  [5]

Dateline: circa five or six years ago, when son K was on his high school’s Cross Country team. One day after practice the team’s coaches made an announcement to their runners: Liberty High School’s XC team was going to participate in the local Adopt-a-Road program. Seeing as how the team regularly practiced on the series of gravel roads which traversed the farm country north of the school, it was fitting that they would adopt one of them: Dick Road.

After the coaches made the announcement, K raised his hand and suggested that the XC team have custom tee-shirts made, imprinted with a slogan proclaiming their commitment to the project:

Liberty Cross Country Loves Dick

K told me he also shared his suggestion with one of the school’s track team coaches, who was a personal friend of our family, and that when he did so the coach growled, You are your mother’s son.

 

 

 

myworkhere

*   *   *

The Astoundingly Negligent SoCal Escrow Company I’m Not Naming

 aka

Department Of You Had One and Only One Job To Do…
And You F***ed It Up

Imagine you are at a grocery store which has a curbside carry-out service. [6]  After paying for your groceries you are given the receipt; the store employee who bagged your groceries is also given a copy of the receipt, and asks you to confirm the make and model and license plate of your car and what parking stall in the grocery pickup area you will drive to. You give this info to Grocery Bag Boy; GBB transfers your bagged groceries to a cart and begins to push the cart out to the pickup area, while you exit the store and go get your car.

When you drive you car into the designated pickup stall, there’s no sign of either Grocery Bag Boy or your groceries. After waiting five minutes you go back into the store to find out why this simple transaction is taking so long. When GBB sees you he sheepishly confesses that he went to the stall as directed, but another person claiming to be you and asking for your groceries was already there, parked in the adjoining grocery pickup stall. Although this person had no receipt for your groceries and was driving a totally different car than the one you described car, GBB loaded the groceries in the other person’s car and waved to them as they drove away.

Now then, boys and girls. How do you think the grocery store would handle the situation?

  1. The store manager profusely and sincerely apologizes to you for the astounding negligence and incompetency of GBB, while other story employees, using your receipt, scurry around the store and stock a cart with the items which had been stolen from you. In addition to replacing your groceries down to the very last item, manager also offers you a store gift card and/or some free-of-charge service as an acknowledge of the inconvenience and loss of your time.
  2. The store manager, upon being apprised of the debacle, cowers in his office and sends the store’s attorney to speak to you. The attorney says, “I am sorry for the loss of your groceries,” and makes no offer to reimburse you in any way.

 

 

 

lawyer

 

 

 

Option B wouldn’t even occur to you, right?

There is no perfect analogy here to convey my family’s shock and frustration. How do you analogize the theft of a family’s home equity with…anything?

The Escrow Company I am Not (Now) Naming  [7]   is in the process of making things right. Or so they claim. A contact inside the company says that they regret their “panic” (such is their excuse), which caused them to hide behind their attorney’s too-bad-it sucks-to-be-you visage and not admit responsibility for their employee’s egregious dereliction of duty.  [8]  And although the escrow company is, of course, bonded and insured, they balked on reimbursing us for the stolen funds, thus forcing us to sue them.

Translation, short version: The escrow officer, despite having received and confirmed specific verbal and written/notarized/signed instructions from our family’s financial representative as to the transfer of funds from the sale of our parents’ house, fell for  [9] an email scam and transferred the funds to an entirely different/sham account of an entirely different financial  institution – this, less than two hours after speaking with our rep, and without even bothering to pick up the phone to confirm the (sham) changes with our rep…without even just reading the email carefully and noting the numerous red flags contained therein, including the fact that the message did not use our rep’s actual email address… [10]

Translation, long version : Names will be named, and all the embarrassing (to the escrow company) details will be provided, if the company does not Do The Right Thing. ®

 

 

 

incompetence

*   *   *

 

 

May you do your job right, no matter how many jobs you have to do;
May you have the opportunity to do a role play scenario with Terry Gross;
May you, too, come to appreciate or even love Dick (Road);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] The series is based on the 1999 novel of the same name.

[2] I was going to write, “progressed,” but…no.

[3] Read that last sentence aloud without taking a breath. Dare ya.

[4] So now the modifier queer needs a modifier?

[5] And if we didn’t say anything, at least I did.

[6] I’ve been to such stores and used such services a time or two.

[7] But will soon, by moiself this blog and by my family and newspaper business reporters and TV consumer fraud reporters, if they do not own up to their mistake and reimburse us.

[8] They fired the escrow officer who made the fraudulent transfer, which is an admission of guilt.

[9] Or abetted…I am still not convinced of the escrow officer’s innocence – it is easier to believe she could be in collusion than she could be that incompetent.

[10] Including the fact that none of this information had been previously supplied via email, due to our rep’s and the entire financial community’s (except, apparently, for one inept escrow officer) awareness of the prevalence of email fraud.

The Subject I’m Not Avoiding

1 Comment

 

…except that I almost sorta kinda am. It’s later in this post.

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Work Here Is Done

…is what I could be saying, if I only I had written that one certain…thing.

But, I didn’t.

I wrote other stuff, and am currently on a fiction writing hiatus, after having published sixty-one short stories, one theatrical play, three books, various essays and anthology works and poems and children’s verse  [1] (and one Country/Western-type song, which mercifully remains unrecorded  [2]  ).

And then, there’s that thing I didn’t write. Listening to the local ham operated radio station that has recently caught my attention, I heard a Dead Teen Song ® parody with which I was hitherto unfamiliar.

 

 

teen tragedy2

 

 

 

Y’all are familiar with the genre Dead Teen Songs ®, even if you might not instantaneously recognize the label. Also known as teenage tragedy songs, death discs, splatter platters and the like, these ditties had their radio play heyday in the late 50s and early 60s. DTS are defined by shared literary clichés, including doomed/star-crossed and eternally devoted teenaged lovers kept apart by disapproving parents or peers, and tragic accidents  (usually involving motorcycles and cars) befalling those same reckless teens….  Think Teen Angel, Leader of the Pack, Tell Laura I Love Her.

Some of the best songs to come from the DTS craze were those that satirized the genre. Including, the send-up to which I refer.

I would feel artistically and culturally fulfilled, I could leave this world with my head held high, had I only composed this tender ballad, the mind-numbing heart-wrenching lyrics of which include:

My Johnny, oh how I love him
but he is caught in a teen age trap
he couldn’t turn down any drag race through town
and now all I have left is his hubcap

Chorus:
Please Johnny please, stay in my tender embrace
Please Johnny please, I don’t want you to drag race

My Johnny, oh I can see him
coming ’round the last lap
handsome and brave, if only he didn’t wave
I’d have more of him left than his hubcap

My Johnny, oh how I’ll miss him
and although he and my dreams lay in scrap
I’ll do what he’d expect and wear it around my neck
My Johnny’s, my Johnny’s hubcap

(All I Have Left Is) My Johnny’s Hubcap, performed by The Dellwoods

 

 

 

teen tragedy

*   *   *

Department Of Why It’s A Good Thing I’m Not The Surgeon General
Nor Capable In Any Way Of Influencing National Health Care Decisions

Content warning: TMI

Las

t Thursday, after my routine annual physical exam, because I am Of A Certain Age ® my doctor suggested a screening colonoscopy. I bargained her down to letting me start with something less invasive, and thus I was sent home with the equipment to gather a sample for a Fecal Immunochemical Test[3] The next day, while out for my morning walk, I strode past a chunk of a dog’s bm, which an irresponsible dog owner had neglected to scoop.  My first thought   [4]  was, What if I pick that up, take it home and send it in – would the test be able to distinguish between canine and human fecal matter?

 

 

REALLY

*   *   *

 

I met Jim Olwell during my sophomore year at UC Davis. Jim was a freshman; we lived on the same dorm floor (the legendary 3rd floor Bixby), and he became my adored and admired friend even before I saw him in the Herbivorous Man costume he concocted for a Halloween party. We kept in touch through the years; his emails and letters  [5]  were always a combination of heartfelt and hilarious, even – and especially – during the last ten years, when he was beset with multiple cancers.  His “ride to beat Multiple Myleoma” ended early last Saturday morning, April 15.

Anyone who knew and loved Jim (and if you knew him, you loved him) realized that this was coming; still, the news of his death was a boot to the gut.  Dearly loved husband to his wife and devoted father to his three young adult sons; loyal friend and brother; much-admired community charity activist; motivating math teacher to thousands of high school students…he’d lived and done so much. He was only 58.  Some people leave a big hole to fill when they’re gone.  Or big shoes to fill. Jim would have preferred the latter metaphor, especially coming from moiself, as I used to tease him about his really big feet.

Another UCD alum, Robin E., wrote a tribute to him Jim on FB that is so eloquent and touching I have forgiven her (yet again) for spelling her name wrong. I found this excerpt of RE’s tribute particularly affecting, in that years ago I had also used the George Bailey character as a comparison when describing Jim to my children:

Have you met anyone in your life that you would genuinely, authentically, say was kind of like the George Bailey character in “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Someone who made a difference in SO many people’s lives, cherished by everyone, loved deeply by his wife and children, who would do anything for him, humble, hard working, always sacrificing and doing for others, always a smile on his face, even through the worst of it? I haven’t either. Except for Jim.

People have offered sincere and kind words to me, for my loss of Jim as a friend, and also for what yet another loss represents. Even as I cherish these sentiments I realize that my loss is so little in comparison to Jim’s wife and sons and brothers….  I know it’s not a contest; nevertheless; Jim’s loss is anything but representational to his family.

I want to share more stories of him in this space, and I hope that I will have the energy to do so in the coming weeks, but right now, thinking about it makes me feel tired in ways I can’t quite express. Which is too bad, because Jim so loved to hear anyone’s and everyone’s stories. He was the best audience, ever.

 

*   *   *

May you find pleasure in novelty songs and their parodies;
May you never for one moment think of switching medical samples;
May you cherish the stories and memories of friends and family;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Ah, but who’s counting? Oh yeah….

[2] “If you Can’t Live Without me Then Why Aren’t you Dead?”

[3] Which consists of collecting a sample of just what it sounds like.

[4] Immediately followed by my second thought, Why do I think such things?

[5] Jim was a great letter writer, and, unlike so many others, did not eschew that form of communication once he discovered email.

The Friendly Skies I’m Not Flying

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Department Of This Never Would Have Happened On Alaska Airlines

Ah, United Airlines, where customer service goes to die.

Unless y’all have recently emerged from a persistent vegetative state, it is likely you are familiar with recent headlines along the lines of

* Two Girls Barred from United Flight For Wearing Leggings

* Passengers ‘shaky and so disgusted’ as United forces screaming doctor off a plane

 

 

united1

 

Once again, the internet comes to the rescue: satire wafts from the ashes of tragedy and shame, as per these new slogans people have suggested for United Airlines:

* United Airlines: You Carry On, We Carry Off.

* United Airlines: The Captain Has Turned On The No Passenger Sign.

* United Airlines: Other Flights Have Cabin Crews. We Have Bouncers.

* United Airlines: Board As a Doctor, Leave As a Patient.

* United Airlines: You Can Run But You Cannot Fly.

* United Airlines: Would You Like a Neck Pillow or a Neck Brace?

* United Airlines:  If We Overbook You’ll Catch a Right Hook.

* United Airlines: Now Serving Punch.

* United Airlines:  Tell Us Your Safe Word At Check-in.

* United Airlines: We Have First Class, Business Class, and No Class.

* United Airlines: We’ll Drag You All Over The World.

 

Years ago (decades, actually) I stopped voluntarily [1] flying United Airlines, due to what I perceived as their cattle-car treatment of passengers. As for the (latest) incident, it is turd-twirlingly mind-scrambling to think of how many ways United fucked up.

I recall standing in an airline’s boarding area, listening to the announcement that the flight is full, and wishing I’d hear a, We’ve-overbooked-would-anyone-volunteer-their-seat-for-the-following-compensation? announcement, because although it would inconvenience me it was the one time when I could have taken the free trip anywhere plus hotel voucher and rebooked for a later flight to my destination.

I can recall many more times when I have heard the, We’ve overbooked announcement but could not take the offer because I really had to be at a certain some place at a certain time. Being at a certain place by a certain time is why I had booked that particular flight – why 99.9% of passengers book any flights – in the first place.

 

 

DUH

 

 

 

Flying hasn’t been fun, or even a mildly pleasurable form of transportation, for years. Unless you can manage/afford to fly first class you’re basically boarding a bus with wings after having the write-home-to-grandma experience of the bus station employees giving you a body cavity search. People generally don’t book airline flights on a whim; they book a particular flight because they need to get to a particular place by a particular time. Thus, it is understandable that the United flight in question had no takers when the pilot or whomever announced that they’d overbooked the flight and needed four seats for their standby crew.

According to the news stories, the give-up-your-seat offer was $400 and a night at a hotel – no takers. United upped the cash to $800 – still no takers. Then a manager came on board the plane and announced that a computer would randomly select four people to be kicked off de-boarded.

Now then: why did United wait until the plane was already boarded to make the announcement/do the selection? We’re supposed to believe they didn’t know until the very last minute about the standby flight crew wanting a ride, or just didn’t announce it until later? Everyone knows you do the, We’re overbooked thing while passengers are still in the airport, impatiently milling about the gate – you do this BEFORE boarding the damn  plane, to save time/avoid hassle and embarrassment of having to de-board already boarded passengers. Major Fuckup #1.

Major Fuckup #2 – No takers on getting people to surrender a seat they’ve already paid for? You keep upping the amount until someone agrees to reschedule their flight. Sweeten the pot enough, eventually, someone will accept the offer.  By overbooking in the first place, you, the airline, have screwed this up, so you’re going to have to suck it up financially  in order to get someone to give up their seat.

Major Fuckup #3: random selection by computer may sound like the fairest option in a bad situation, but such measures will always need human triage, in the form of oversight and tweaking. What if the computer selects a single parent traveling with minor children, which would leave the children flying alone? Nope; move on to the next roll of the dice.  A person with a disability which makes boarding problematic, or a frail, easily confused elderly man flying with his attendant? Move on to someone else. A shell-shocked woman who is rushing to be with her mother after the sudden and unexpected death of her father,  [2] or a physician who has patients to treat…. The human components of reviewing circumstances and applying compassion must overrule random selection.

I’ll stop at that. In this era of instantaneous Twitter posts passing for reporting, the incident is already old news by now. Other minds more articulate and reflective than mine will continue to investigate and dissect the incident…but knowing this does not “un-rattle” me about what happened. It so Did Not Have To Be That Way. ®

 

 

united

May I show you our complimentary involuntary deplaning menu items?

*   *   *

Department Of That WooWoo That You Do So Well  [3]

Do you want to try something “woo” this Friday?

This is how I text-invited MH, last Wednesday, to an event about which I knew next to nothing. When I Googled What is a Crystal Sound Bath one of the first descriptions I ran across contained the advice to “…think of it as a woo-woo horizontal concert.”

The event, held at the yoga studio where I take classes, had the following description on the studio’s website:

“Come join us for an evening of sound healing and relaxation. A crystal bowl sound bath offers the participant the ability to completely release any stress or tension in the mind and body allowing one to relax, balance, and enjoy the peace and tranquility of a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
During this sound bath the participant will relax comfortably on their back, while the sounds and resonance of the pure crystal bowls engulf the room and move through and around you; feeling like an energetic massage from the inside out.”

It’s not like the crystal bowls resonate themselves…which you might wonder after reading that lacking-in-some-essential-details-description. There was a person, [4]  a self-described “musical artist”  [5]  playing the crystal bowls, and also drums and chimes and a few other percussion-type objects, while attendees were supine, eyes closed, on yoga mats.

I did find it a most pleasant and relaxing way to spend an hour. Bonus woo: the entertainment value of the “sharing” afterwards of participants’ experiences, wherein MH and I had an unspoken pact not to make eye contact when a very few other participants hopped the Woo Train and shared their experiences, including one person who claimed to have opened her eyes at one point and seeing – not imagining nor hallucinating, but seeing – “ethereal beings hovering” over the people in the studio…

 

 

 

beans

Ahem, ’twas BEINGS hovering, she said….

 

 

 

…while the sound of chimes engulfed the room.

Crystal Sound Bath.  I figured out the bath reference – one’s body is “bathed” in the sensation of sounds. Although when I first heard the term Crystal Sound Bath, for some reason I pictured moiself sitting in a really large bathtub with other participants and a guy holding one of those crystal bowls. Which, of course, took me right back to a tune from long ago.

Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub.
My how interesting – move over, boys.

BTW, if anyone can help me identify the novelty song  from whence those ever-so-lightly-naughty lyrics stem (a song played on the Dr. Demento radio show), you will have my eternal gratitude.  [6]   Thanking you in advance, I offer this Dr. D all time-favorite, for your listening pleasure:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes It Hits Me With No Warning

Dateline: Saturday morning. While exercising, I looked out at the window to our backyard, surveying the remnants of the wind apocalypse that hit northwest Oregon from the coast to the Columbia Gorge last Friday. Just for a moment, I thought, in the present tense, I can’t wait to tell Mom about this.

The weather – that most bland, mundane and seemingly impersonal of subjects – was actually one of the best thing to talk about with my mother in her later (Read: “declining”) years. Mom loved hearing about the rain, or the glorious autumn foliage, or first sunny day in Spring and the unexpected snowstorm to blanket the Portland  area. She in turn seemed to enjoy sharing details of the latest (read: ongoing) drought in SoCal, the same weather she’d told me about the previous week.

In her last two years, all conversational roads with my mother circled around and back to the weather.  It was her way of keeping grounded, of telling me how she was doing, when the simple, basic “How are you doing/what’s up with you?” conversational queries were no longer so simple.   [7].

When she couldn’t remember the names of my children; when she couldn’t remember her own age or how many children she had or the fact that she was living in Southern California and not Minnesota or that she was talking with me and not another of my sisters, or that her husband was not with her because he had died and not deserted her – or if she could remember just enough to know that she was forgetful ,and was physically and cognitively deteriorating, which made her fearful – she could still understand and appreciate the weather.

Oh, tell me about it! Do you think you’ll get more ____ (rain, snow, wind, sunshine)? We really need the rain down here, even though, as you know, I love the sun….

And so on Saturday morning, for the briefest of moments, I was happy thinking about my next phone call to her – happy to have a “safe” topic to share…followed by my brain’s gut-clenching reminder to my heart that I now have no obligation – nor opportunity –  to share the weather report with my mother, who died last Christmas Eve.

 

 

 

MarionatOliveSt.

Marion Parnell, in the days when she didn’t have to pretend to care about the weather.

 

 

*   *   *

May all your airplane de-boardings be voluntary;
May your sound baths be as woo-filled or wee-free as you like;
May you never lack for safe topics to share with your loved ones;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] I have flown United once since making that vow; on a flight booked by someone else.

[2] I have been that passenger, and can’t imagine the additional heartache of being “randomly selected” to be thrown off the plane.

[3] If you’re too young to get the Frank Sinatra lyrical reference, just keep that to yourself, okay?

[4] A yoga teacher and “healer” type person specializing in “energy work.” Yeah, MH and I cringed a bit, but he was quite nice.

[5] As in, neither true musician or artist?

[6] Could it be The Moustache Song  (sp?)?  Here is a sample, but where is the entire song?  a sample here…where is the song? And no, not the one from that A Million Ways to Die in the West movie.

[7] Such questions are not recommended – in fact, they can be (unintentionally) cruel – for people suffering from memory impairment.

The Toilet Seats I’m Not Believing

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‘Tis The Season

MH and I are hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Dinner tonight. I was going to use a certain Adult Beverage ®  as part of the glaze for the salmon I’ll be roasting; however, one of our guests has celiac disease and I wanted to make sure that by doing so I wouldn’t be poisoning him. I started to Google “can celiacs have…” and before I typed the e in have, the third choice that came up was my question:  can celiacs have whiskey. [1]

 

 

 

whiskey

*   *   *

About those snakes….

The first time I encountered the St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland legend was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (read: the Santa Ana neighborhood of my grade school years). One Sunday afternoon in mid-March, a neighbor boy showed me the Sunday School pamphlet he’d brought home from his Catholic church. When I laughed derisively and pooh-poohed the pamphlet – which presented the legend as fact – my friend retorted with the fact that there are no snakes in Ireland, and there are snakes in every other country on earth…So how did that happen, Miss Non-Catholic smartypants? How did that happen – prove it, huh? Huh? Huh?

My neighbor/friend looked for any opportunity to witness his family’s “one true faith” (Catholicism) to the ultimately doomed moiself, whose family attended a Lutheran church. He was an otherwise very nice boy (his proselytizing phase lasted only a few months in grade school), with whom I enjoyed playing games of cards and tag and turning our bicycles upside down and pretending their wheels were steamboat paddle-wheels. Also, we enjoyed having spirited discussion of adult issues, like politics (hey, it was the 60s) and religion.

When it came to the “miracles” of that carpetbagging harasser of pagans and druids St. P, I immediately and instinctively understood that my friend had his head up his ass [2] – I mean of course, I knew that my friend was mistaken in claiming that I was the one who had to prove that St. Patrick had not done something – the burden of proof weighs upon the person making an assertion. But I was all of seven or eight; concepts like epistemological fallacy did not just roll off my tongue…whereas concepts like stupid dumb-ass were familiar and handy, and I probably applied one or two of them to my friend and/or his argument.

Wearer of Big Girl Pants® that I now am, I know that there are no snakes presently living in Ireland because, herpetologists and their pets aside, there have never been any snakes living in Ireland. Because: Science. As in latitude, and weather.

 

snakesplane

This M*****f****** snake thinks this plane is headed for Ireland!

 

 

 

There is no evidence of snakes in Ireland’s fossil record. Snakes couldn’t get to the island nation because the climate wasn’t (and isn’t) favorable for them to migrate and then thrive there.  [3]

Faith and begorrah, but England ’tis an island, and it has snakes! Yes, but only three species, and snakes only slithered over to England in relatively recent geologic time – about 6,500 years ago.

As we all remember from 2nd  grade science class (or Sesame Street), over time, all plants and animals will migrate through and/or colonize suitable habitats. Cold-blooded reptiles need heat from their environment to survive, and The Ice Age made the European islands incompatible with  reptile migration until ~ 10,000 years ago, when the glaciers began retreating. The glacial retreat gradually exposed a land bridge between Europe and the island of Britain, and also between the isles of Britain and Ireland. Melting glaciers inundated Ireland’s land bridge ~ 8,500 years ago, but the land bridge between Europe and Britain’s persisted another 2,000 years after that. Thus; Europe’s intrepid snakes had more time to heed the reptile version of Westward, ho!

“Other reptiles didn’t make it either, except for one: the common or viviparous lizard. Ireland’s only native reptile, the species must have arrived within the last 10,000 years. [4]   So unless St. Patrick couldn’t tell a snake from a lizard, where does the legend come from?
Scholars suggest the tale is allegorical. Serpents are symbols of evil in Judeo-Christian beliefs—the Bible, for example, portrays a snake as the hissing agent of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace.
The animals were also linked to heathen practices—so St. Patrick’s dramatic act of snake eradication can be seen as a metaphor for his Christianizing influence.”

(“Snakeless in Ireland: Blame Ice Age, Not St. Patrick,” National Geographic News)

St. P) snakes

 

 

 

“Over the centuries a number of legends have grown about St. Patrick, e.g., he drove the snakes from Ireland and used a three-leaf clover to teach about the Holy Trinity. These popular legends have endeared the saintly man to the Irish. The monks who wrote such dramatized stories about St. Patrick “were guided by their knowledge of what popular taste demanded.”
(“Knowing St. Patrick,” Our Sunday Visitor, A Roman Catholic weekly newspaper)

Although there were never any snakes for St. Patrick to “drive out” of Ireland, the dominant church and religious authorities never had a problem crediting a man they would go on to canonize as St. Patrick with a “miracle” that never occurred.

Good thing stuff like that never happens today!

 

 

creationism

*   *   *

Department Of More Petty Things About Moiself

 

I curse at ants  [5] before I crush them with my bare fingers.

 

 

ants

Oh yeah? That murdering bitch should hear what we say about her in our last gasps….

*   *   *

Department Of The Simple Pleasures Of Spring

My family lived in Southern California during my childhood, and one of our favorite camping destinations was the relatively nearby [6] Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. At a very young age I came to have an appreciation for the desert other school kids found difficult to fathom (“What’s the big deal? It’s hot,  it’s a desert –  there’s nothing there!”). Those lucky friends who were invited along on those camping trips became converts to desert appreciation, if not upon arrival then soon thereafter, usually during one of our hikes to the Palm Canyon.

My favorite time of the year to go to the desert was during spring break, which usually coincided with the brief but spectacular desert wildflower bloom. This year, I almost thought about flying down spur-of-the-moment, but even if I did so I probably wouldn’t be able to get near the place: wildflower and desert lovers and sightseers have descended en masse to witness a “super bloom” – Anza-Borrego’s most spectacular in over 20 years.

A super bloom is a user-friendly term to describe what is, essentially, a wildflower KA-BOOM. (I’m sure there is some official botanical term to describe the phenomenon).

Southern California deserts, after experiencing one of the worst droughts in the area’s history, are experiencing the wildflower show due to a variety of reasons, including the due to recent heavy and steady rains. Anza-Borrego, an area which usually gets only 5 inches of precipitation per year, has had  7 inches of rain in the past 8 months.

As ephemeral as a seemingly rational policy statement from a #45  [7]  cabinet member, the super blooms will likely last no more than a week.  Enjoy it while/if you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Lady Or The Tiger Or
The Door To Yet Yet Another Bullshit Misogynist Fairytale

A book of fables containing The Lady Or The Tiger was presented to me by my 4th grade teacher, as a reward for finishing first in a reading contest. [8]  TLOTT was the only story I remembered from the book. I thought the story was of ancient origin, and that thought was reinforced when I encountered TLOTT again, in a 5th or 6th grade English class. The story was so…primitive…it had to have come from The Ancients. Only later did I find out it was a (relatively) contemporary short story, published in 1882.

In case you’re not familiar with the plot, it involves a nasty king, his daughter (the princess), and her suitor. A lower-class (i.e. non-royal) subject falls in love with the king’s daughter and attempts to court her. The king is offended by this, and sentences the man to a devious punishment: he will be taken to an arena where he will be forced to choose between two doors behind one door is a beautiful lady; behind the other, a hungry tiger. If the man chooses the door with a lady behind it, he will have to marry her, and if he chooses the door with the tiger behind it, he will be mauled to death.

The princess schemes within the court to find out which door has the lady behind it. She doesn’t want her suitor to have to marry someone else, but she loves him and doesn’t want him to die. At the auspicious moment, she signals him to choose a door….but the story ends as the man opens the door, and readers are left to ponder what choice she led him to make.

TLOTT was presented the ultimate allegory of a tough decision, but my grade school click! radar (aka the feminist eureka moment) came to the fore.  Excuse me, but “The ultimate allegory of a difficult decision?” You people (read: adults, teachers) gotta be joking. To even make the argument that there could be another choice, other than let him choose the other woman and live…

 

 

 

WTF

 

 

 

I didn’t think in WTF speak back then. Nevertheless, I argued strenuously that there should be no suspense as to what happened – she loved him! She directed him toward the lady, not the tiger.  He would live…the real suspense would be how the princess and her suitor could find another way to be together, away from her asshole father.

My various teachers pointed out what they said were the flaws in my argument, with what was, at the time, totally acceptable, totally sexist, “reasoning.” Looking back, their analysis was astonishing for its matter-of-fact assumptions of female pettiness: a woman’s sole or ultimate motivation must be love and security; women are jealous of other women; she’d rather see him dead than with another woman – who by definition must be her rival, because women can’t be friends with other women; if-I-can’t-have-him-nobody-else-can ….

TLOTT, besides being a shitty story, sparked one of the first of what would be an ongoing line of feminist inquiries and realizations: This is how the world is supposed to view women?  This is what women are supposed to think about themselves?

*   *   *

.

Department Of But Why Wouldn’t I Believe Them – Do They Have A Reputation For Telling Lies and/or Spreading Misinformation? 
(And If So, Why Aren’t They working For The Current Occupant Of The White House?)

Subject line in an email caught in my spam filter:

You won’t believe these three toilet seats.

*   *   *

 

 

 

 

May you believe the toilet seats that must be believed;
May you never be too young or too old to call out fairy-tale horseshit;
May the luck of the Irish be better for you than it has been for the Irish;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

[1] According to the NIH’s Celiac Awareness Campaign, the answer is yes, for whiskey or any distilled beverage, even those derived from wheat, as the distillation process removes the gluten proteins.

[2] I wonder if he saw any snakes there?

[3] Other islands that don’t have (native, non-introduced by human) snakes include New Zealand, Hawaii, Greenland, Iceland, and Antarctica.

[4] Nigel Monaghan,  keeper of natural history at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

[5] Ants that get inside the house. Free range ants, I have no problem with ’em.

[6] From our home in Santa Ana it was a 2 ½ hour drive – which for Southern Californians, is just around the block.

[7] Aka The Cheetos Hitler. I try not to say his name in my house, unless quoting someone with a stronger stomach.

[8] Looking back, I hate to think that I was given that story to read as a reward of any kind.

The History I’m Not Reading

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Content warning: Yes, content follows. Y’all been warned.

Plus (or bonus, depending on your POV), juvenile fart reference.

 

*   *   *

Department Of First Things First

Happy (almost) Birthday to the Queen of Hats!  [1]   This chapeau is for you.

 

 

 

hat

*   *   *

 

“For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.”  [2]

MH and I are traveling ’round Ireland in the late spring.

 

 

happy sheep dance

 

 

Thank you! We’re excited, too.

I try to read up on the history of places I’m going to visit, and also sample the destination’s contemporary art (in the form of fiction and films). As per the former endeavor, I am currently and once again reminded of why I loathe reading history: because war and religion, two of the most despicable human enterprises, IMHO, almost always figure so prominently. And in Irish history, the combination of the two is a feckin’ load of ballsch to curl your clackers.  [3]

I cannot recall the source of the nailed-it! quote I ran across, several years ago (I believe it was from an Irish novelist, not a historian), which went something along the lines of this:  Ireland’s cultural and political woes can be attributed to the fact that the Irish are “a twice colonized people – first by the Catholics and then by the British.”

There are many ways to interpret history, and two “sides” I keep encountering, each which urges the reader to keep in mind either (1) “History is written by the winners,” or (2) “History is written by the literate, whether or not they were the ultimate winners.”

 

 

spockskeptic

And your point would be?

 

 

 

Whatever. In either case, and especially with regards to reading Irish and European history, it’s the nomenclature, for lack of a better term, that gets to me. Consider the many, many, many – and did I mention a whole lotta? – pages devoted to the various invasions of “The barbarians.” Some of these pages are contained in a book I recently finished, the presumptuously titled, How The Irish Saved Civilization. HTISC, by it’s very title, presents a (dubious, in some critics’ eyes) supposition as fact. The book essentially argues for the elevation of the importance of the Irish Catholic clergy in preserving Western culture after the collapse of the Roman Empire, when western Europe was “…being overrun by barbarians” (aka the Huns, and the Visigoths and other Germanic tribes).

So. We have the entrenched residents, whose beliefs and actions I would not hesitate to call barbaric, whose priests waged wars and inquisitions to subjugate, torture and kill “heretics” (defined however they chose, from those who simply disagreed with official policy, to philosophers, Jews, “Witches,” Protestant reformers, and other fellow Catholics, the various factions who slaughtered each other over nuances in theology)…  But it’s these guys coming over the hill, they are the barbarians, because….uh…because they are illiterate and thus can’t cite their magic holy books to justify their atrocities.

Pot, meet kettle.

 

 

 

potkettle

 

 

 

My impression and subsequent summation of centuries of Irish history, after reading 600+ pages (and more to come!) in various books, is almost Tweetable  [4] in its brevity:

The ____ (civil articles; treaty; king; bishop) promised religious toleration; the _______ (king; landlord; bishop) saw no advantage in a peace now that victory was secure; the Gaelic infantry was slaughtered.

Lather; rinse; repeat.

 

 

 

irishproverb

*   *   *

Department Of And Then There’s This

Slogging through the pages of history, I am occasionally rewarded with a gem hidden in the festering bog. Such as this sentence, from a passage about kinship ties between Gael lords and the Catholic clergy:

“One sixteenth-century bishop of Clogher was eulogized on his death as ‘a very gem of purity and a turtle dove of chastity,’ this despite his leaving behind at least fifteen children.”
(Ireland: Land, People, History, by Richard Killeen)

 

 

 

turtledove

Not tonight, dear, I’m the turtle dove of chastity.

*   *   *

To those dear readers who enjoy such things, pretend there is a clever and apropos segue right here, perhaps one related to the Irish history of being both immigrants and emigrants. For the rest of y’all:

 

Department Of For Your Consideration

The answer to xenophobia cannot be xenophilia.
( James Traub, The Hard Truth About Refugees )

Apparently I’m not the only one who cringes with you-are-so-naive discomfort when I hear Ill-Informed But Well-Meaning People ®  spout the trés liberal, All refugees are innocent victims and we should welcome everyone! stance.

International affairs journalist James Traub, in his recent New York Times op-ed piece (cited above), offers up a smorgasbord for thought on the issue. He uses the Swedish idiom asikstkorridor (“opinion corridor” – i.e., things considered taboo not only to say, but to think) as a metaphor to reflect upon his visit to Sweden during the refugee crisis in 2015. His observations that  “…refugees from conservative Muslim countries, especially poorly educated young men, may not integrate into Swedish society as well as, say, relatively secular and prosperous Iranians or Bosnians,” and “polls find that Muslim immigrants are vastly more conservative than native Europeans on matters of sex, family and the role of religion in public life” are outside the liberal asikstkorridor.

Traub asserts that the truth about refugees and assimilation is complicated. As for the 2015 wave of largely Middle Eastern refugees to Sweden and other northern European countries, the jury is out as per how well refugees from countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria will integrate. How much will they – will they at all – accept and support the extremely secular, extremely progressive cultures of their respective asylum countries?

He argues that liberals’ knee-jerk claims that all immigration has positive effects and that refugees will fit easily into European society are as unsupported as Trump’s knee-jerk claims that refugees are terrorists. Furthermore, the naive embrace of the premise that “…vast numbers of new people on our doorstep is an unmixed blessing, and that those who believe otherwise are Neanderthals” is the perfect door-opener for xenophobes who can point out facts that indicate otherwise. Thus, anti-immigrant/right-wing politicians can “parade their prejudice as truth-telling courage,” which helps spur the rise of leaders like the USA’s Trump, Geert Wilders (aka “the trump of the Netherlands”), and the French National Front president Marine Le Pen.

 

 

 

Swedish-Democrats

Ya, we’re all one big happy family.

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Any cretins out there who are still opposed to women in combat,  [5] please listen to this Fresh Air interview with helicopter pilot Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart medals, and author of the new memoir, Shoot Like a Girl. An (edited) excerpt:

Terry Gross (Fresh Air interviewer): What are the arguments that have been used against you and other women being in combat?

Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar: “…They range from concerns that are very legitimate to concerns that are absolutely ridiculous. I think that the number one thing is…whether or not women are physically strong enough to be in combat…. First of all, we’ve already disproven that that’s an issue because there are women serving successfully in combat.
…yes, you have to be strong…but it’s not always the person who has the most brute strength wins. It’s…who is the best with their weapons, who is the best tactical thinker, who’s the best team player, who is the best leader, those types of things – who holds their composure when the bullets fly, because I’ve seen 200-pound men curl up in the fetal position and call for their moms…

I’ve seen firsthand that the warrior spirit is not directly proportional to how many pull-ups you can do. So the physical standards question is important, but the way that you answer that is…you keep the standards very high and you maintain one standard. There shouldn’t be two standards for women and men. There should be a standard for this job, for – to do this job, you should have to do these things. And those requirements should be job specific and not arbitrarily high in order to specifically keep women out.

 

 

 

siryessir

“Sir yes Sir that sexism makes your ass look big Sir.”

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Department Of Sorry But That’s The Way My Mind Works

I am ¾ of the way through an eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program. The program requires participants to commit to weekly Thursday night meetings, daily “homework” assignments, and one longer session – a six hour Silent Retreat – which was held last Saturday.  My monkey brain, of course, kept referring to it as the Silent But Deadly Retreat.  I had to use all of my still-nascent mindfulness skills to stop myself from wondering aloud about who would be the first to break (ahem) the silence?

 

 

iknowwhatyoumwan

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May you always know what I mean;
May your silence be mindful and not deadly;
May your history not be a boring read for others;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] Aka SCM, in this blog.

[2] From The Ballad of the White Horse, by G. K. Chesterton, English Critic, Essayist, Novelist and Poet, 1874-1936.

[3] For the Irish slang impaired, feckin’ = fucking; ballsch = rubbish; clackers = testicles.

[4] If I were a Twitter kind of person, which I am not.

[5] Make that, still opposed to women getting proper credit for serving in combat, because that is what your opposition amounts to, seeing as women have served in combat  in every war since those “barbarians” came over the hill.

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