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The Stream I’m Not Crossing

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My one solace after the George W Bush election debacle [1] in 2000 was reminding moiself that, if Shrub  [2] somehow didn’t manage to bungle his way into impeachment, the country would likely survive for four years. It seemed obvious to me that GWB would be a one-term president.

Then, September 11, 2001.

Still reeling from the terrorist attacks themselves and their wider implications, I remember watching GWB’s deer-in-the-headlights expression and demeanor, as he stumbled his way through his first extemporaneous comments to the nation, and I thought, He is so out of his league.

 

 

little debbie

This will make sense later on.

.

 

 

 

I, of course, had no prescience as to just how badly Bush and Cheney et al would outright lie and deceive the country, our allies and themselves mismanage the investigation into the attacks and muck us up in the quagmires of Afghanistan and Iraq.  Although I knew there was no way GWB was capable of handling the situation, I also knew that the horrific tragedy of the terrorist attacks and their impending political manipulation almost guaranteed that he would be elected to a second term.

Truthfully, that was one of my first, stomach-turning realizations. There is a mess; Shrub will get us in even deeper; he will be reelected – because there are enough people who, even if they don’t like the job he’s doing, will be swayed by that most bizarre of American adages.  

You don’t change horses in the middle of a stream.

Now, I understand the (intended) meaning of the proverb, when applied politically – that it is best not to change your leader or your basic position when you’re part-way through a project, be it a campaign or a war.

But, really, if you’re going to change horses for whatever reason(s) why not do it as soon as you realize it needs to be done? Why not do it in the middle of a stream?

 

 

 

 

Ahem – not in the road, in the stream.  Yet again, I digress.

Why would you not change horses in the middle of a stream? I try to imagine the reasoning:

*   If you’re in the middle of the stream, you’ve already got a wet horse.. Let’s keep as many horses dry as possible.

*  Yeah, but what if you lead the horse to water but can’t make it drink or cross the stream?

*  Or, what if you start to cross the stream and then the horse stops to piss in the stream – quick, move it along, get it out of the stream before it poops…oh great, now we have a horse pooping in the stream and our drinking water source is – of course! – downstream, so c’mon, get the fucking horse out of the stream, and at least then it won’t be a fish out of water…

*  …and while you’re at it, remember that the old gray mare she ain’t what she used to be, or maybe just forget about the horses and find a bird because a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush but if the early bird refuses to catch the worm, perhaps you can kill two birds with one stone and get another horse….

*  So you get another horse, maybe even a better horse, or just get out and cross the damn stream yourself, horse-less, especially if the new horse turns out to be a horses’ ass…

 

I’m all in favor of animal adages, but I really think we need to use less idiotic idioms to influence our political decision-making.

 

 

horsecrossing

I said we’re crossing a stream, not the ocean…can anybody bring me a new horse?

 

 

 

 

This digression brought to you by the dick fencing rabid rhetoric that has been exchanged the past couple of weeks, between two world leaders. How I pity Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau and Mexico’s Presdient Enrique Peña Nieto, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the various European presidents and prime ministers, and Japan’s Shinzo Abe, India’s Narendra Modi and the other Asian leaders, even including China’s General Secretary Xi Jinping – how I pity all of Civilization ®, really.  Not only do we have to contend with a mentally unstable world leader with borderline personality disorder and raging egomania, there’s that pesky Kim Jong-un.

 

 

 

deulingdicks

 

 

 

 

North Korea’s poster child for the intellectual and cosmetic dangers of inbreeding, Kim Jong-un (a Korean idiom which translates as Little Debbie) and our own #45 act as if they are competing on a Family Feud-style reality show for title of Craziest Uncle.

Sure, the North Korean leadership and anyone with an IQ over Kim Jong-un’s hat size the West (and The East, for that matter) have been rhetorically butting heads for way too long, and the idea of that unstable, deranged regime having and using nuclear weapons is…a nightmare, to put it ever so mildly.  As son K said the other night re NK’s dangerous and repressive regime (K had joined MH and I for dinner and the conversation turned to The Wacky World of Possible Nuclear Annihilation ® ),  the world’s leaders have just been kicking the can down the road for a long, long time.

Yep, I agreed, someone should have pulled a Zero Dark Thirty on Kim’s ass a long time ago… [3]   But, considering that there have been so many other instances of NK’s heightened belligerence and weapons posturing, why would the (alleged) leader of the USA ramp up the rhetoric at this particular time? What might it be that would cause him to put down his golf clubs [4] and start frantically waving his tiny hands, hoping that we will pay no attention to the man behind the curtain but, look, looky looky over there!

 

 

Mr.Rogers

Can you say distraction, boys and girls? I knew you could.

 

 

It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the FBI recently seized evidence from #45’s campaign manager as part of their investigation into the tRUMP’s campaign’s ties to Russia?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reasons You Don’t Want To Take A Weekend Getaway

Way, way up on the list would be to help your college age daughter, temporarily disabled after foot surgery, do a top-to-bottom cleaning and de-flea-ing of her house.  Which is how MH spent his weekend.

I get itchy just thinking about it.

 

 

 

flea

Pretend you’re looking at a picture of a baby sloth wearing pajamas, because this is just too damn disgusting.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Headlines That Make Life Worth Living

Monday morning, MH and I were gob-smacked by this breaking news item from the New Zealand-based Antarctic Heritage Trust: last week, their conservationists working in Antarctica found a fruitcake, wrapped in paper and in its original “tin-plated iron alloy tin” container,  which (they believe) belonged to the British explorer Robert Falcon Scott. The fruitcake was part of his provisions on his ill-fated, early 20th century expedition to the South Pole.

Lizzie Meek, program manager for artifacts at the trust, said in a statement that the cake was surprisingly well preserved.
“There was a very, very slight rancid butter smell to it, but other than that, the cake looked and smelled edible.”
(Fruitcake From Robert Scott Expedition Is ‘Almost’ Edible at 106 Years Old,
New York Times, August 13, 2017)

Moiself: “But, isn’t ‘almost edible’ a description of any fruitcake, no matter its age?”

MH: “It’s telling that they discovered the entire fruitcake – it hadn’t been eaten.”

Sadly, Scott (and all of his party) died in 1912, on their return journey from the South Pole. His death was “Almost certainly…due to chronic and extreme emaciation.”   [5]

The NY Times article included a picture of Scott with members of his British Antarctic Expedition, posing at the South Pole, with (my interpretation) forlorn, WTF did we risk our lives for when this herring eater got here first?!?!?! expressions as they stand around the tent left behind by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen[6]

The picture’s caption noted that “Scott died in 1912.”

I guess it was either that, or eat the fruitcake.

 

 

fruitcake

*   *   *

May you never have to choose between death or fruitcake;
May your weekend getaways never, ever, include either of the words flea or infestation ;
May your and your horse just stay out of the damn stream in the first place;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Yet another in-over-his-head amateur attaining Our Highest Elected Office without actually being legitimately elected.

[2] Shrub was the nickname given the Junior Bush by the late great, delightfully and acerbically observant, gone-too-soon, Texas newspaper columnist, author and political humorist Molly Ivins .

[3] But then, you can’t just take him out and leave – what would fill the void? And who wants the almost unimaginable responsibility of rehabilitating a paranoid, repressed empire of 25 million people?

[4] In case you are wondering, you can keep track of the number and length of golf outings of He Who Criticized Obama for Golfing  at the site trumpgolfcount, here.

[5] As per expedition researcher Dr Lewis Halsey, (The Telegraph, “Captain Scott’s team were ‘killed by slimming diet’ scientists claim” ).

[6] who’d beaten Scott to the Pole by 33 days.

 

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 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

Comments Off on The History I’m Not Reading

 

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.

*   *   *

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.”

*   *   *

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

*   *   *

 

 

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!

*   *   *

 

 

[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.

The Motorcycle I’m Not Getting

4 Comments

Department Of Should Auld Acquaintance Be Misspelled

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

 

 

camel

Like we’d let her forget!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

reaper

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

tomom

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

“I’m sorry you’ve lost your mom.”

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

 

marionalbertaparnellcirca1953

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

 

 

chesterbryqanparnellcirca1953

Chet Parnell, circa 1953.

 

*   *   *

And Then There’s That

 

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

Belle:  ?????

MH: “How do you figure?”

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

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

chopper

RIP, Mom.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] GEE, DO YA THINK?

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

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

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

[5] Closer to several dozen

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

The Genome I’m Not Sequencing

2 Comments

 

And, BTW, neither are you, even if you’ve forked over $199 to 23and Me, Family Tree, and/or the various other genetic testing organizations you can find online. Because…Science. Because…for reasons I’ll get to, soon. But first

 

 

No, not butt first....

No, not butt first….

 

 …a bit of background/digression.

*   *   *

Department Of We Hoped She Was “Just” French

I have a curious (to some people, myself included) lack of interest in my genetic family tree. More curious to me than knowing all about those who have occupied the various limbs of my family tree – aka, blood kin – is my lack of curiosity about the subject.

For whatever reasons, my bloodlines have never mattered much to moiself, in terms of my own self definition/image/worth, and also in terms of other bipeds whom I find interesting and acquaintance-worthy. [1]  Even so, I fully acknowledge, if not fully understand, the existence of a desire which motivates people to research their genetic history via ventures that, IMHO, run the spectrum from harmless interest to absorbing hobby to batshit bonkers obsession.

A recent casual comment made by someone who’d used one of the afore-mentioned DNA testing services testing made me realize I knew little of what the testing companies offer. I felt a brief…gasp…curiosity, re both the process of such testing, and the results. Could genome sequencing possibly shed light on a family mystery regarding a paternal ancestor? Specifically, a Chickasaw or Cherokee [2] who married into the Irish Parnells and whose new family tried to “pass” her (or him) off as white.

 

 Looks like someone else had a story to tell?

Looks like someone else had a story to tell?

 

 

 

Excuse my detour through what I feel compelled [3] to call The History of the Mystery.

From about age four onward – once I got over my blond phase – I heard, at irregular intervals, mildly teasing comments from both family and friends about my “Indian features,” which were attributed by family members to a Native American antecedent on my father’s maternal side of the family

I can’t remember how old I was when my father had told me there was a Cherokee or Chickasaw ancestor on his mother’s side. He also told me he couldn’t remember whether it was his mother’s great grandfather or mother, and that the family records on such matters were scanty and unreliable for many reasons, including the fact that “… people back then changed names and information they thought was embarrassing.”

 

 

Age three or four, as I was transitioning to my true hair color. Fortunately, no need for a separate bathroom.

Age three or four. I was transitioning to my true hair color. Fortunately, no need for a separate bathroom.

 

 

 

The she looks Indian comments became more frequent during my high school years, particularly when I wore my long hair in two braids. The observations didn’t impress me or make me think I was in some way cool or hip (I did not buy into the White People Think It’s Cool To Have Native American Ancestry mentality that seemed to flourish in the late 60s-70s), nor did they bother me. I mostly attributed the remarks to the general lack of imagination (long dark braided hair = Injun, Ke-mo sah-bee!) in what passed for humor [4] amongst my peers. And then, my maternal grandmother, “Bapa,” chimed in, one afternoon during my freshman year of high school.

According to Bapa, my Native American heritage from a great great grandparent  [5] was scant, yet evident enough that Bapa’s friend gave Bapa a warning. Friend of Bapa  advised Bapa to take down the framed picture of me Bapa had on her coffee table, because said picture emphasized my “Indian-features.”

 

REALLY

 

 

Yes, really.

Bapa laughed conspiratorially when she told me what her friend had said. I laughed in turn, then asked Bapa what she knew about the possible Indian-featured member of my family. “Oh, well,” Bapa sighed, “There isn’t much to know.” [6]

A few years after Bapa’s youngest child (my mother) was married (to my father) it was somehow revealed to Bapa [7] that there was Indian blood on my father’s side of the family (“It doesn’t show in your father, but you can tell by looking at pictures of his mother.”)[8] It was an Indian woman, Bapa thought, although one of my father’s sisters had tried to reassure the family that the ancestor was “maybe just French.”

I was able to question my father’s youngest sister (keeper of the family tree information) about our Native antecedent only once before she died  [9] . She said, in that lovely Tennessee twang of hers and totally sans tongue in cheek, that she’d “…heard from a reliable source that the story was unreliable.”  [10].  She then made a funny face, lowered her voice said that, yes, her Mama had once admitted to having some Indian blood “back there,” maybe Cherokee but “most likely” Chickasaw, but that “we were thinking” (the tone of her voice implied, we were hoping) “it wasn’t Indian,  just French.”

 

 

 

 

No, please, anyone but the French....

No, please, anyone but the French….

*   *   *

We Now Return You To Our Regular Scheduled Babbling Programming

 

I checked out a couple of genetic testing sites, and almost immediately lost interest when I read their come-on tags – teasers meant to exploit our culture’s wide-ranging celebrity obsession (Could you be related to someone famous?).

 

 

avengerstreejpg

 

Further interest was lost via having some of my concerns about the prematurity of the science of genetic testing confirmed when I listened to a recent StarTalk podcast.

The Promise and Peril of the Genomic Revolution is a fascinating interview with both a researcher in the field of genetic testing – bioethicist Robert Kitzman – and also someone trying to profit by popularize the testing among the non-scientifically inclined public – Anne Wojcicki, CEO and co-founder of the genetic testing company 23andMe .

You are made of cells. And the cells in your body have 23 pairs of chromosomes.
Your chromosomes are made of DNA, which can tell you a lot about you. Explore your 23 pairs today. 
Find out what your 23 pairs of chromosomes can tell you.
(from www.23andMe.com )

 

Wojcicki, of course, wants you to use her services, and thus touts how such testing is “empowering individuals to take more control of their own healthcare and to benefit from increased understanding of their own genome.”

Except that no genetic testing company allows you to sequence your entire genome, nor even come close to “understanding” it.  Dr. Kitzman brought up the seemingly little-known (amongst the scientific laity) yet major point that people who contract the services of genetic testing companies mistakenly think they are getting their entire genome sequenced.  

Another concern…there are 3 billion letters (in a human genome). 23andMe is not looking at all 3 billion letters. What they’re doing is looking at one out of every several hundred thousand letters. Imagine a wall of books…what they’re doing is saying we’re going to take one book, we’re going to give you the first letter on every three pages. So the first letter is A, three pages letter the first book is a C, three pages later the first letter is T…you don’t know what kind of book you’re reading… What 23andme is now doing is just giving you one one-thousandth of the information that’s there, so there are going to be false positives, false negatives, there are going to be problems understanding it….”
( Robert Kitzman, StarTalk, 4-29-16 )

The literary analogy: well, then. What do you have, and how can you tell? Are you previewing Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking? A surah from the Koran? A Quentin Tarentino script (no, lawdy, take me now)?

As to such testing’s application to healthcare  [11] : the science, while amazing, is still in its relative infancy, and, as the podcast warns, there are real and serious “…limitations of what we do and don’t know at this very early stage in what is proving to be a much more complicated process than we used to believe.” Given the dangers of false positives and false negatives, tread lightly, y’all.

So. Having my genome sequenced, for whatever reason? I’m not ruling it out; perhaps, Someday For Some Reason ®. But for now, I’ll be content with letting that Cagey Chickasaw Chick – I mean of course, Furtive French Femme – lurk in the not-too-far-distant background. Or, my braids, if I ever have them again.  [12]

 

 

cclown

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Department Of Moments That Scream, Inspiration

I recently finished reading a book about the history of Los Angeles punk rock. The book is composed of twenty-four chapter length stories and essays about the infamous west coast scene (circa 1977-1982) by ~ fifteen narrators/participants of that era. I came away from the read with three impressions:

(1) I found it appropriate that the book’s chapters were as varied (read: uneven) in competency and coherency of their prose as the punk bands described therein were as per their musical talent and artistic vision.

(2) Vying for Best Musical Trivia Ever ®  is the following passage from the book, on how the band The Germs got their name:

They were proudly wearing their new mustard-yellow band T-shirts, emblazoned in velvet iron-on letters GERMS. The shirts had been made at a store where they charged by the letter, and their first choice of band name, Sophistifuck and the Revlon Spam Queens, simply wasn’t affordable.
(Chapter 5, Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History of LA Punk )

(3) There is no impression #3.

 

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Department Of Combinations That Call For Consuming Anti-Vertigo Medications

After finishing When Breath Becomes Air, the profoundly moving memoir of a young physician’s journey into what-makes-life-worth-living-and-what-the-heck-is-life-anyway territory after he receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, I couldn’t start another book for several weeks. Then when I did, I ping-ponged between the afore-mentioned expository of the LA Punk Scene and Secular Meditation: 32 Practices For Cultivating Inner Peace, Compassion, And Joy.

 

 

punkmeditation

 

 

 

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May you be able to include Spam when naming some venture in your life; [13]  
May that blip on your genome turn out to be just French,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] I’m not going to be predisposed to like a person, or find them more or less interesting or valuable, just because we are supposedly “related.”

[2] Chickasaw or Cherokee – I’ve heard/read different attributions.

[3] By the spirit of the love child of Jesse Jackson and Johnnie Cochrane.

[4] I never took the comments to be insulting, regardless of the commenter’s true intentions. One time there was an implied derogation:  a friend (who had a German last name) called me squaw, as if flinging an epithet. I informed him of the origins of his surname and called him a Nazi. Ah, the compassionate maturity of youth.

[5] Or more…not sure how many great-greatss, as the available family tree info is less than helpful.

[6] Despite her protestations, she’d obviously known enough of something to tell a friend about it.

[7] Bapa was sketchy on details, and like the rest of my family’s older generation, was reluctant to talk about it.

[8] Make that picture, singular. Like the rest of our family, Bapa had seen only one picture of my father’s mother: a tiny, grainy shot of my father’s mother and father and their brood, lined up against their ramshackle tenant farmer’s shack. I don’t know how you could “tell” anything from that picture, except that my father’s mother was a poor farm woman who had too many children.

[9] So difficult to get those pesky dead people to cough up any details.

[10] Mere words cannot describe how much I loved her phrasing, nor how difficult it was to keep a straight face when she said that.

[11] The more nobler excuse/rationale for such testing, versus the self-aggrandizing, gossipy Find Out If You’re Related To Royalty! ego-appeals.

[12] The pix is of from my high school’s senior award for Campus Clown. I am biting down on a doll’s arm, which I found at the beach the summer before my senior year and then wore on a chain around my neck for the rest of the year…because I could.

[13] As long as that venture isn’t a child.

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